For decades, Northumbrian pipes player and maker Colin Ross was at the forefront of traditional music in the North East.

Also a fiddler, he played in the High Level Ranters folk band based at the Bridge Hotel in Newcastle, and took a leading role in the revival of Northumbrian music from the 1960s.

From his home in Monkseaton in Whitley Bay, he made more than 300 sets of pipes which went right around the world, to the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and across Europe.

Colin, regarded as the best Northumbrian pipemaker of the 20th century, died last year and now his extensive collection of instruments is to be sold on Tuesday, March 3, by Newcastle auctioneers Anderson and Garland.

Northumbrian Pipes up for auction
Northumbrian Pipes up for auction

The collection includes 20 sets of Northumbrian pipes, six of Scottish and Border small pipes, plus Breton and pastoral pipes, 37 pipe chanters, five drones and three bellows which together are expected to fetch around £11,000.

Also for sale are five of Colin’s violins, two clarinets, and a concertina, banjo, mandolin, guitar, viola, horn fiddle, auto harp, and flute.

Born in Donkin Terrace in North Shields, Colin took a sculpture degree at Kings College, now Newcastle University.

He became curator of the bagpipe collection of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle at the Black Gate Museum, which later moved to the Chantry in Morpeth.

Colin also served as chairman of the Northumbrian Pipers’ Society from 1968 to 1980, and again from 1992 until 2010.

In 2008 he was awarded the Gold Badge of the English Folk Dance and Song Society for his outstanding contributions to folk dance, music or song. It is the highest award the society confers.

In 2010, the Northumbrian Pipers’ Society marked his contribution to piping with a concert in his honour at the King’s Hall, Newcastle University, when most of the performers were playing pipes made by Colin.

The High Level Ranters formed in 1964 and specialised in the music of Northumberland and the Borders, playing to enthusiastic audiences at the Bridge Hotel folk club.

Northumbrian pipe maker Colin Ross, working in his workshop
Northumbrian pipe maker Colin Ross, working in his workshop

One of the most influential groups of the Folk Revival, the Ranters recorded tracks such as Shew’s the way to Wallington; The Lads of North Tyne; Blanchland Races; The Wedding at Blyth; Geordie Ha’d the Bairn; The Bonny Pit Laddie; Stanley Market; Swalwell Lasses; Bellingham Show and the Fair Maid of Whickham.

In 1977, each of the Ranters was given the chance to produce a solo album and Colin collaborated with various other musicians to produce Cut and Dry Dolly, an album of early Northumbrian music.

He became a full-time pipemaker in 1978, and also taught a pipemaking class at Killingworth.