Rothbury and Coquetdale History Society heard that hollowed bone pipes have been played since early times.
It is assumed that in the eighth century a bag made of animal skin was added.
Bagged pipes were certainly ubiquitous across Europe and North Africa, and over time they gradually filtered north, arriving in Scotland last.
Each county and region developed its own version, each of which produced their own distinctive sound.
Over the years a reed, various drones, bellows at the waist and different keys and scales were added.
The Northumbrian smallpipes have developed to one chanter, four drones and, unusually, small fingering holes, with a stopper on the end.
They have no pipe to blow and require quick staccato playing.
They are quieter than other smallpipes and can be played silently – good for practising!
By using CDs and smallpipes, Kim Bibby-Wilson was able to demonstrate the different sounds and music.
For centuries, bagpipes were used at court, with a rich development of the music, including complicated versions until they were declared to be agents of the Devil!
But many famous composers and musicians are remembered from that time.
Today they are instruments of the folk tradition, with many fine players past and present.
The Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum was developed from a collection first given to the Society of Antiquities in Newcastle by Wm Cocks, of Ryton.
It is the biggest collection of bagpipes in the world and contains anything and everything to do with the pipes, including very old recordings and manuscripts, to recent pipes and recordings. It is a mecca for anyone interested in the instrument and the music and is open to the public.
With loss of funding, the concern is to teach the next generation of players. To this end, the Northumbrian Pipers Society and the Northumberland Group of Pipers and Ranters, are going into schools and teaching where they can.
One of the problems now is supplying the instruments to lend and buy since there are not so many smallpipe makers around any more.
The next meeting is on December 21, at 7.30pm in the Jubilee Hall, Rothbury, when Thomas Tokely will give a talk on Musings of a Country Joiner and Undertaker. All welcome, visitors £2.