Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Bagpipes and Captain Cook

This Saturday, the 9th March, is International Bagpipe Day, which this year is being held at the Pitt Rivers Museum. 

A bagpiper was on board during Cook's second voyage - a recruit who played bagpipes and one who played the violin were requested by the Admiralty Secretary in a letter to a Colonel Bell in Plymouth, asking that they be held in readiness to embark on one of the ships fitted out for making discoveries. 

George Forster mentions this bagpiper in 'A Voyage Round the World', in an entry for August 1773, when the expedition had reached Tahiti.  He writes that 'a highlander, who was one of our marines, was ordered to play the bagpipe, and its uncouth music, though almost insufferable to our ears, delighted the king (Aheatua, said by Forster to be the king of O-Taheitee-eetee-Little Tahiti) and his subjects to a degree which we could hardly have imagined possible.'

A few days later, in Matavai Bay, 'our Highlander performed on the bag-pipe to the infinite satisfaction of all the Tahitians, who listened to him with a mixture of admiration and delight.  King O-Too (the king of O-Taheitee-Nue, Greater Tahiti) in particular was so well pleased with his musical abilities, which I have already observed were mean enough, that he ordered him a large piece of the coarser cloth as a reward for his trouble.'