In the autumn of 1997 I browsed through my copy of O'Neill's Irish minstrels and musicians and noted that in the years between their arrival in New York, 1872, and their deaths in 1892 and 1893, Billy and Charles Taylor were reputed to have made only thirty or so sets of uilleann pipes. Intrigued by this somewhat small number, apparantly no records have survived and the Taylors didn't sign their works, I started to wonder just how many Taylor pipes and chanters have survived to this day. So I set myself the project of attempting to find out. I must add I live in Sweden and had never seen an instrument by the Taylor's in real life before July 1998. However, with the help of the aforementioned Irish minstrels and musicians, some back issues of An Piobaire, and the invaluable assistance of uilleann pipers and pipemakers via the uilleann list, notably Malcolm Sims, Tom Wilsbach, Craig Fischer, Ken McLeod, Pat Sky, Pat Mitchell, Kevin Rietmann, Wally Charm, Eion O'Riabhaigh, Kieron Concannon, John Walsh , Rolf Knüsel, David Quinn & Michael Dooley. 29 sets and 15 chanters have been located so far. I believe the Taylors must have made more than thirty sets. Billy Taylor was said to have been been an excellent piper and the Taylors seemed to have had a passion for experimenting with the uilleann pipes, as regards both construction and the type of materials used. The chanter pictures are of a Taylor chanter I saw in the piping workshop at Miltown Malbay in July 1998. It is in excellent condition and does not seem to have been interferred with in any way. Alan Moller made a sucessful reed, but the only way to get C-natural was by using the C-nat key.
The list of Taylor pipes below is not a static list. It's largely a result of questions asked via the internet during the winter of 1997-98 and a visit to Miltown Malbay 1998.
May 2019: I've started to update this page as sets of pipes have changed hands since 1998, new information was come to light, new photos, new information about the Taylor brothers too
Bill Ochs of New York: 1 Taylor set purchased in 1976 previously
owned by two collectors and unplayed for many years.
Old set of tiny narrow reeds possibly original. Long chanter 14.625
inches (14 and 5/8 in), mellow sound.
John Walsh of Canada: 1 Talyor set previously owned in all probability by P.E. McCormack of San Francisco, and later by pipers Paddy O'Neill of San Francisco and his pupil Denis Brooks. Bass drone reed of elder.
Willie Clancy of Milltown Malbay, Co. Clare: 1 Taylor set. In safekeeping in Ireland
Mark Hillman owns a 3/4 Taylor set, originally made for A.J. Mullin with his name inscribed on a silver plate on the stock, that had belonged to Mike Gallagher who died in 1972. Kevin Rietmann: "Mark Hillman's pipes have a chanter with keys in blocks. Mike Gallagher made 2 78 rpm records in the 20's or 30's, one solo, one with chanter and piano backup" This set was for sale in April, 2008 on the Uilleann obsession web site for $16000. "I sent the Taylor chanter to David so he could measure it or whatever. I got the set in the late 80's along with an ivory mounted Rowsome set. Both sets were completely disassembled and in a cardboard box. The woman happily took $400 for both". This set was sold by Mark Hillman in 2008
Anonymous owner of Paddy Fitzpatricks Taylor set. Kevin Rietmann: "The reg. holes on the Fitzpatrick pipes that Standeven gave to his student had sliding holes like the Kildare pipes mentioned by Craig Fischer"
Gene Frain. of Watertown, MA.: 1 Taylor set in excellent condition.
Sean McKiernan of Galway: 1 Taylor set that belonged to Patsy Touhey. After Touhey this set was then owned by Michael Carney and then Tom Busby of Fermanagh who emigrated to New York and became a pupil of Carney's. On the 28th of March 1997, Kevin Rietmann wrote: "Tom told me neither he nor Carney ever made new reeds for this set after Touhey died, and that McKiernan was still playing them too. Some of the reeds were by Carney, I'd guess, but others may be original by Taylor, making them prehaps 110 years old. Tom also said Touhey played the same middle regulator reed for 25 years-it probably was busted accidently."
Billy McCormick of K. Ireland: 1 Taylor set with an extended tenor regulator with an E key purchased for 180 punt duty. This set was made for Eddie Joyce of Boston, a pupil of Billy Taylor who died in 1897. The set was purchased by William (Billy) McCormick of Chicago, a Waterford man. Billy McCormick and Jim McKillop, the whistle player, both from Belfast, were busking in Dublin, and fell into conversation with an Irish-American nun, a relative of the Chicago Billy McCormick. A strange coincidence that the nun who heard Belfast Billy McCormick play had a grandfather with the same name. After discussion with other relatives in Chicago the nun sent the pipes to Billy McCormick in Ireland
Felix Gallagher of Leitrim/Leeds, England: 1 Taylor set with originally four regulators sent to Felix Gallagher 50 years ago by his brother then living in America. In the article by Peter Gallagher of Leeds in An Piobaire (2001) it appears that the set was sent from America to Felix by John McKenna's sister during the 1940's. The tenor regulator was already missing when Felix recieved the set. The chanter has conventional keys in blocks. It was in bad condition according to Charles Roberts, the Sligo pipemaker. This set was for sale in 1997 for 4000 pounds, but was judged to be in need of renovation at a cost of a further 2000 pounds. The set was sold in March/April, 2001 to Jim McGuire a piper in Chicago. The Gallagher set was again offered for sale by Jim McGuire in 2002 after he acquired another Taylor set.
Ireland: I Taylor set that belonged to James Early. Kevin Rietmann informs that James Early's pipes were willed to Michael Dunn, the chief of the Fire Dept. of Millwaukee,Wisc. Dunn's daughter owned the pipes afterwards but never played them. Early also willed a Coyne set.
Rolf Knüsel of Munich, Germany: Possible early Taylor set made in Ireland before the Taylors emigrated. Found in Ireland. John Pedersen told Rolf that the set is quite similar to the Kerrigan set, which was the first set the Taylors made after they emigrated. The bass, double bass, and original stock made out of rolled sheet metal. The set is believed to have been a left-handed set originally, altered to suit a right-handed player using the original stock. Rolf wrote to me that the set is only 75 cm from the top of the mainstock to the end of the bass drone. Sold to Rolf in 1994? by John Pedersen of U.S.A. An article about this set appeared in An Piobaire, III, March 25, 1996.
(photo cop. Rolf Knüsel)
Joe Shannon of Chicago: 1 Taylor set with double chanter and normal chanter (judging by the cover of Pat Sky's tutor). Originally sold to John Beatty in the 1880's for 500 dollars. Played by Eddie Mullaney on the radio, WCFL, during the 1930's. Up to 17 reeds. Pat Sky who has played and examined the Shannon set wrote: "There are 4 regulators each using 3-4 reeds." "The regulator reeds are very small even smaller than a normal tenor regulator reed. "Barry O'Neill states that two of the regulators have a seperate bore for each note, that is four bores each with it's own reed." Kevin Rietmann writes "Joe Shannon's pipes have 4-bore tenor and baritone regulators; some of the toneholes are on the bottom of the pipes, and use a "double key" action, the key on top opens the key on the bottom. Also there is a long E key on the baritone reg's bottom which comes out of the stock's top (this was a feature on some Taylor's, including the set Pedersen sold to Knüsel (see photo). It's key is gone though. The bass and double bass regs use but one reed. The double chanter has 7 keys, including ones for high E and F-natural or F-sharp". Joe Shannon a patron of NPU pased away in 2004
Ireland: 1 Taylor style set, made in all probability by Anderson, in the National Museum in Dublin. Four regulators, with one (bass?) regulator playing only the E. Pipemaker Johnny Burke only made one Taylor copy, and modelled it on the the Taylor set owned by Michael Dooley. Michael informed me that photos were taken of the Dublin museum set during a one day visit in 1975, but the detailed measurements were taken from his set. The Burke Taylor style set is owned by piper Joe Doyle of Blackrock, Co. Dublin.
John Hughes of Ireland: 1 Taylor boxwood chanter, two keys. Kevin Rietmann writes that: "Hughes' chanter also has block mounts. The notes are strange, C-natural and high D."
Christy O'Leary of Edinburgh & Orebro, Sweden?: 1 Taylor set that belonged to Mike Hanafin (probably William F. Hanafin's pipes) who died before 1920 of influenza. The set was passed on to O'Leary by a relative of Hanafin. John Walsh wrote: This set still had the original reeds and the drone reeds were made of elder -
Alain Froment commented that the chanter reeds were halfway between the old flat-set reeds and the modern ones, narrower staples like the old ones, blades more like modern ones.
Eoin O'Riabhaigh of Cork, Ireland: 1 Taylor set that once belonged to Canon
Goodman and was disinterred by a Mr. Phair (Alderman Phair the Cork piper?) circa 1900. Michael O'Riabhaigh owned them, then passed them on to his son Eoin who plays them now using an Alian Froment chanter with the set. Eoin believes the pipes were made in the early 1860's. Eoin also owns a Taylor double chanter in C sharp. Michael Dooley says "Unlike other Taylor doubles I've looked at this one is two separate pieces bound together by ferrules". Michael O Riabhaigh can be heard talking to Bill O Herlifhy about the Taylor set and how he acquired it on an RTE program called Newsbeat that was first aired on 29th of March, 1966:
Ted Anderson of San Francisco: 1 Taylor set, double bass regulator and a straight bass regulator bar, and 1 double chanter originally owned by John Cummings of San Francisco? From Kevin Rietmann: "Ted Anderson's single chanter also has these keys in block mounts (C-natural and high D). It was said to be Patsy Touhey's spare; Touhey presented it to Cummings in 1915 when he was in San Francisco for the Pan American Exhibition". A Dan Sullivan of Co. Cork who lived in San Francisco is also believed to have owned this set. These pipes were acquired from Seattle piper Bill Heaton for the sum of 1300 dollars a number of years ago.
Ted Anderson wrote on the C&F Uilleann forum thread: "Pipes in the closet" 25th August, 2003 "Ivan Donaldson was a fisheries biologist at the Bonneville dam and lived in Stevenson since the late 30's. He ordered and got a concert set from Leo Rowsome in the 50's. He did not learn to play it and it showed signs of work by M. Kennedy of Cork. Sean Folsom, and most west coast pipers, tried to obtain the set from Ivan. After I had bought the Prof. John Cummings Taylor set from Bill Heaton, (who had gotten them from Dan Sullivan), I contacted Ivan about the Rowsome set. He had seen the Taylor set during a visit by Bill Heaton and was keen to have them. He explained that he had a terminal illness and had only a year or so to live. I worked out a trade with him that gave me the Rowsome set and enough money for a Wm. Rowsome set which was available from Denny Hall. I was given the option to buy back the Taylor set after Ivan passed away. Meanwhile he ordered a C set from Geoff Wooff, a musette, and a set of smallpipes from John Addison, to pass on to his son. These were later sold, after Ivan passed, and I got the Taylor set back. The Wm. Rowsome went back to Denny, who sorely missed it. I sold the Leo R. set to Tom Creegan, who claimed right of first refusal, as Rolf Kunsell in Switzerland had offered considerably more from the set than I ended up selling it for to Tommy. I still have the Taylor set. Kevin R. told me about the double chanter and parts which I bought. The double chanter went to Mark Walstrom, and the boxwood Coyne 5 note barit. reg. went elsewhere. I still have the fruit wood 5 note baritone reg. and the drone bits. Thus ends this saga of UP trades in modern times on the west coast of the USA, at least the ones Kevin R. knows about. There are others as well."
Rick Lines: Present owner of the John Cummings Taylor set having purchased it from Ted Anderson. Rick plays the set together with a Patsy Brown chanter made in 1930. Photos of this set can be seen on NPU's website: John Cummings Taylor set
Rick Lines playing the John Cummings Taylor set in 2018
Bill Heaton of Seattle: 1 Taylor chanter
Sean Folsom of Bragg, California: 1 Taylor style set. Kevin Rietmann reports: "His set has bass and double bass regulators. The other two regs use two bores, two reeds. Double regs. It may be a very well made copy." This set is thought to be made by Patrick Hennelly. Some words by Sean Folsom about the set "Taylor OR Tayloresque? That IS the Question.....I have seen several sets of Patrick Hennelly's Pipes, and there are certain features on my set, that diverge from his style of pipe making. I think somebody better post some pics of P. Hennelly UPs and you be the judge. I find that the shape of my regs, especialy on the spoke-shaved touches on the bottom of the regs, a small detail you say Hmmmm....Jim McGuire and I have gone around and gently around on this: points we agree on are 1. The chanter is not Taylor 2. Taylor sets never (?) used brass, so the tenor and baritone piggy-back tubing, point to another maker. 3. The Mother-of-Toilet-Seat pearloid on the Drone sliders point to P.H's manufacture. There was more of it, wrapped around the mainstock, that I removed, Damn me, it WAS ugly. Does this mean that Patrick made the whole set? Or did he REFURBISH this set? In Joe Shannon's opinion, P.H. DIDN'T make my set. Was Joe was probably trying to merely compliment me, or was he a disinterested party? Jim McGuire, bless his heart, did cheer me up with the idea that my set belonged to Tom Ennis, and that Ennis NEVER FULLY PAID P.H. for them! Jim suggested I contact the relatives to make restitution....Well how much was a P.H. set made for, in 1930's USD? I neither affirm, or deny, that my set is a Hennelly, merely a Taylor/Tayloresque......AND I stand on the 5th Amendment! ALL of this caviling aside....this set is sounding really good these days, I 've backed off the stiff reed pressure as I get older (I'm 56 now), AND I Don't CARE who made the set, as long as it sounds good. I do wish I had gone to Chicago in 1976 (when I bought it from Mickey Zekley), while Patrick was alive, and got the truth. I had been calling him on the phone on and off, for 2 years, 1st in 1973, when I published the UP PIPERS in the USA list, and the phone just rang and rang. Then in 1974, a disconnect message "at the customer's request". Oh well! " (Ref.: Chiff & Fipple: "Photos of Taylor pipes" thread- 21 November, 2005)
J. B. of Peekskill N.Y.: 1 Taylor set owned. The bottom of the bass drone was built by Michael Carney.
Barry O'Neill of New Haven, Conn. U.S.A.: 1 Taylor set. The James Scanlon Taylor set. The set has five regulators, bass, baritone, tenor regulators plus a double bass reulator, and a regulator that only has an E note There are two drones. The set has been reeded by Benedict Koehler. Kevin Rietmann wrote that this set has tenor and baritone regulators with double bores and reeds like Sean Folsom's set. A video clip of Patrick d'Arcy talking about, and playing this set can be seen here:
Patrick d'Arcy talking and playing this set
G. B. of Pittsburg: 1 Taylor set. Found in a garbage can, and sold to B. for around 700 dollars about four years ago. Information recieved that this set is not a the same as Joe Shannon's set
Mickie Zeckley, U.S.A.: 1 Taylor set
Vancouver, Canada: 1 Taylor set owned by a former student of Tomas Standeven. Standeven passed on the set together with another chanter (Taylor?) but kept the original ivory chanter.
Tomas Standeven U.S.A.: 1 Taylor chanter made of ivory. This chanter is fully keyed with padded keys covering even the fingerholes that would normally be open.
Thomas Downes, U.S.A.: 1 Taylor set
Gregg M. of Boston, Mass.. 1 possible Taylor chanter in it's original box with believed regulator reed. Brought in 1997 very cheaply. A music store in Boston acquired a box of odds and ends including this Taylor chanter. Thought to be a strange kind of flute, Gregg was notified, and purchased it. Michael Dow of York, ME, U.S.A.has tried to trace the rest of the set through the name and address of the original owner found with box. Descendents were found, but not the rest of the pipes yet. This chanter is in very good condition and was reeded after much effort by Alan Moller at Milltown Malbay in July 1998. The chanter is very like the chanter belonging to Rolf Knüsel's set.
Taylor chanter in the piping workshop at Miltown during Willie Week 1998. Waiting to be reeded by Alan Moller. It took Alan two days (he worked on other chanters too) to get a satisfactory reed tuned to this chanter. They could only get C-natural by using the key. Gregg mentioned that a reed was in the Taylor's box when found, supposedly a regulator reed. Maybe it was an original chanter reed. This chanter is owned by Gregg M. of Boston Mass.
Jim Lunt. New Hampshire: Complete Taylor set with 2 chanters in standard D and C and a blackwood double chanter with popping valve. "reasonably mellow, although built at a higher pitch than today's concert D, sharp about a semitone. It was well reeded but the upper reaches of the second octave proved inaccessible on both bores". (new information from Tom Wilsbach). These pipes are said to have the orginal crate marked "Taylor Bros.". Michael Dow of York ME has worked on this set
Michael Dow of York, ME: "1 full set made in the 1930's by Patrick Hennelly of Chicago. Made for Martin Beirne, a New York musician. When Martin died they came to Tom Standeven, who passed them on to Richard O'Shea of Brooklyn, N.Y. Richard sold them to Michael Dow 2-3 years ago (1996-1997). Michael uses a Dow Quinn chanter as he is not satisfied with the chanter reed in the Hennelly chanter". (Information from Tom Wilsbach)
Tommy McCarthy of Clare: 1 Taylor chanter
Mercer Museum in Doylestown, U.S.A.: I Taylor set and pipemaking tools in the Mercer museum. When the Taylor's passed away their pipemaking equipment was taken care of by Robert Hutton, who in turn sold the tools and other equipment, including a set of pipes, to a collector, Henry Mercer of Doylestown, Pennsylvania. The set of pipes were sold to Henry Mercer for the sum of $124. This set belonged to William Taylor and was sold to Robert Hutton, a pipemaker, by Charles Taylor. Two photos of the set by Sara Good with information about the set by Carol Jones can be found on pages 24-25 of An Píobaire, vol. 10, no. 5 Nollaig/December 2014.
Kevin Henry, U.S.A.: 1 C-flat Taylor chanter. Henry says the Taylors made only five C-flat chanters. 1 possible Taylor double chanter (nickel silver, silver?). Passed on to Henry by Pat Hennelly. Kevin Henry says the chanter was originally made for a Chicago politician.
Edinburgh, Scotland: 1 C-flat Taylor chanter in museum.
Patrick O'Leary's grandson of Adelaide, Australia: 1 Taylor set taken to Ireland in the 1970's to be renovated, but has never been seen since? This Taylor set was played during the 1930's in Melbourne, Victoria, by Patrick O'Learys uncle. O'Leary was a correspondent of Francis O'Neill and emigrated from Ireland to America and Australia.
Kildare, Ireland: 1 Taylor set with two different pitches of chanter plus a fully keyed double and four regulators, the toneholes of which were on adjustable slides with extensible keys. The owners great grandfather brought them new from the Taylors.
This description is by Craig Fischer, April 1998. (Possibly the B.M. set, Thomas Johnson)
Michael Dooley: Dublin, Ireland: I Taylor set in D, four regulators. This set was advertised in the Roscommon Herald in 1927. Jim Coady, Tipperary, & piper Willie Reynolds, Walderstown, Co. Westmeath, travelled to Roscommon, evaluated the set, and Jim Coady purchased the set for 36 punt. Leo Rowsome claimed in 1927 that the set was a "waste of time"., however Michael Dooly was able to show the set in full playing condition at the 1975 Bettystown Tionónl. Regarding the soldering of Taylor sets, Michael had this to say: "I'll bet the main soldering is hard silver solder and soft stuff is used to fill in where complex joints are made - between the foldover reed cap on bass reg and the reed carrier tube or between the return joint on the double bass reg." Regarding Taylor reeds "The Taylor Brother thread is interesting (this refers to a discussion thread on the uilleann pipe list) and shows how little serious study has been done. Most of the comments are inaccurate and probably based on little info/examples/measurements. First Taylor reeds. The examples I've seen range across the full spectrum of sizes and shapes and only a few had wide heads. This is similar to Leo Rowsome reeds which astonished me by the range of sizes. Leon Rowsome told me his father rarely measured and mostly made reeds by
feel. Some Taylor chanters played OK but rather loud and these almost all seem
to be wider bore and from later years - I think they made 'loud pipes' by request in later years. Most of these later years chanters have bigger tone-holes - almost as big as many modern D chanters. Even these examples conform to a large extent to the acoustic principles I found in earlier narrower bores. In examining a Taylor narrow bore D and comparing with a normal bore Taylor D I found an identical acoustic design excepting only the bottom D bell. These are two of the best chanters I have ever had in my hands. A few interesting observations from Matt Kiernan (who began making pipes 1920'ish - not long after Taylors) - Taylors had a set of master reeds and each chanter had pilot tone-holes drilled before being fitted with the master reed. This explains oval tone-holes and accurate tuning. It seems also that Taylors adapted chanters to fit the playing style - Matt suggested that some apparent mis-tuning (mostly B and G) on some Taylor chanters was attributed to the chanter being set up for a tight player." The above very interesting information is from Michael Dooley
Jim McGuire: 1 Taylor set
NPU library, Dublin: Nicholas Burke's Taylor set. Owned by Mullen of Pittsburgh, a relative of Matt Malloy. Matt Molloy donated the set to NPU in February 2019. The set is on display in the library. There is an article and photographs of the set in the May, 2019 issue of An P’obaire. The set has five regulators, two drones and one wood and one ivory chanter, together with the original leather carrying case
Nick Whitmer: O'Donnell Taylor set. This set has five regulators and has been restored. The set was purchased by Nick Whitmer in 2013 from Audrey and Brian Crotty of Long Island. Bill Ochs told Nick about the set as the couple had contacted him about a bagpipe that had been in their basement for 30 years. An article about the set was published in An P’obaire February, 2014. Nick Whitmer said this about the set: "A word about the O'Donnell set. It plays in D, at or perhaps just a bit sharp of concert pitch. The chanter is good example of the Taylors ribbon-key style. The reedcap is ivory with a stop key. There are two drones, tenor and bass. The tenor drone is likely not by the Taylors, and a non-Taylor tenor drone part is in the earliest photographs, so the original has been missing a long time. There are six regulators. Tenor, baritone and bass. The double bass regulator is all metal, and may indicate the set was made earlier rather than later in the Taylors career. There is a one key E regulator. Last but not least, a two key regulator which probably plays the notes C natural and B flat. The key touches sit between the D key on the baritone reg and the G key on the bass reg. I think it unlikely the set was made for Ed O'Donnell; he was 15 years old or younger when the Taylors stopped making pipes". Photographs of the set can be seen on Nick Whitmer's site: http://www.whitmerpipes.com/o'donnell_photos_set.html
Total 31 sets plus 8 chanters in D, 1 chanter in C, 2 C-flat chanters, and 6 double chanters.
The Taylor brothers of Drogheda and Philadelphia by Brendan Matthews
This is an very informative article about the William and Charles Taylor by Brendan Matthews and can be read online on Na P’obaire Uilleann's site under Resources: An piobaire no. 4 vol. 14, November 2018, pages 30-39.
More on the Mercer Museum material
Another informative article by Caiomhin MacAoidh concerning the Mercer Museum, Henry C. Mercer and the Taylor brothers. Can be read online on Na P’obaire Uilleann's site under Resources: An piobaire no. 5 vol. 15, February 2019, pages 33-39.
Any information about Taylor pipes, their owners and their whereabouts, will be gladly received and included here.
All photographs on this page, unless otherwise stated, are copyright Thomas Johnson
Thomas Johnson: 1998 04 05: Updated 9th February, 2021
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