Irish Uilleann Pipes

Uilleann Pipes

The Uillean pipes, are known as the national pipes of Ireland and they were originally known as the Union Pipes.

The Uillean pipes have a system much like the bagpipes, however the bag is inflated by a set of bellows which are strapped around the waist and right arm. The bellows relieve the player from having to make the effort of blowing into a bag to maintain pressure, and they also allow mostly dry air to power the reeds. Some pipers may need to concentrate on playing the pipes, however there are some who can sing or converse while doing so.

Apparently the first bagpipes used in Ireland were very similar to the pipes in the highland area of Scotland. They are known as the “great Irish war pipes”. In Irish and Scottish Gaelic the instrument was called píob mhór, meaning ‘great pipe’. “The Warpipe”, was well known on the battlefields of France, however the Pipe vanished in Ireland, because playing it was outlawed by the English.

These Irish pipes would have been about the country around the beginning of the 18th Century, and they have been recorded in history through carvings and pictures.

The earliest surviving set of Uilleann pipes dates from the second half of the 18th century however the dates are not yet officially correct due to lack of evidence. It has only been in recent years that historical and scientific research has paid attention to the instrument, and a lot of the pipes history is still yet to be uncovered.

The Irish bag pipes have many different techniques for playing, so it can produce many different sounds.

Bagpipes are often played at Irish weddings, funerals, other formal services, they are also played, “ in honour”, as were the bag pipes which were always played in great battles.

They go right back into Ireland’s history and have brought music to the ears of people here for centuries.

This article was first published on 11-09-2014 and last modified on 19-03-2017.

About the Author

Róisín Anraí
Róisín Anraí was born and raised in Ireland. She loves to travel in her spare time but also enjoys learning local history, telling ghost stories, and sharing her favorite Irish recipes. She has no problem telling stories with those who are willing to listen. Róisín is a regular contributor and author for