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Although there are many Irish pipe bands in America, we believe we are the only band outside of Northern Ireland that plays Brien Boru pipes. The main reason for this is the difficulty of finding the keyed chanters and baritone drones. We were fortunate to obtain some instruments from the late Billy Roleston of Annalong, County Down when the band was forming. There are a few suppliers (largely of Pakistani-made pipes) that can be found through some diligent internet searching. It is our hope that the increasing connectedness of musicians throughout the world via the internet will increase the demand and supply for our pipes. Below is a brief history of the Brien Borus:

Pipes made by Billy Roleston

A three-drone set of Brien Boru pipes.

Uillean and highland pipes are well known to music lovers in Northern Ireland, but there are Brien Boru pipes which are less familiar. Mr. Billy Roleston who came from Belfast and now of Annalong is both a maker and player of Brien Boru pipes, and an enthusiastic recorder of their history.

These chromatic bagpipes were the idea of artist William O'Duane from Dungannon, who persuaded the renowned flute maker Henry Starck of London to develop and manufacture the pipes in 1906. These fantastic bagpipes are mouth blown and have up to fourteen keys on the chanter.

The Brien Boru pipes (this name given to the pipes by O'Duane) were taken up enthusiastically by the London Irish Rifles, the Royal Irish Fusiliers, and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers which played these pipes up until they were disbanded in 1968. They were known in the army circles as the "pigskin pianos." At one time there was quite a number of Brien Boru pipe bands in Northern Ireland. They were used in America and Australia from 1908.

Mr. Billy Roleston with some friends in the trade, manufactured these pipes after Henry Starck retired to ensure supplies to existing and new bands, but his real interest lay in developing bellows blown smallpipes. Quite a number of those smallpipes with keyed chanters are in use in Northern Ireland, Australia and America. Billy also makes a Scottish version of smallpipes. Keyed chanter models are pitched in A. Scottish models pitched in A, C and D.

Information courtesty Billy Roleston.

Billy Roleston in his workshop, 1996

A collection of keyed chanters.