Posted by: travelrat | September 8, 2015

More Mediaeval Music


Old Sarum: 31st August 2015.

As you may already know, I sometimes do a shift at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre as an English Heritage volunteer. Sometimes, when they have a historical re-enactment at the castle at Old Sarum, I go down to lend a hand with the stewarding.

It isn’t a very onerous task. All I have to do is answer the odd question (or point them at somebody who knows the answer, if I don’t), deal with the odd lost child and ensure nobody puts themselves in harm’s way by crossing the Official English Heritage Tape. Otherwise, it’s just walk around, talk to people and show the friendly face of English Heritage.

Although I don’t get paid, it is work, and I don’t feel it’s really appropriate to haul a DSLR around with me. But, I do slip the GoPro into a pocket, in case I come across something I really want to record.

The latest occasion was the mediaeval music of ‘Blast from the Past’. Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer (  perform on some really interesting and unusual instruments. In the first part of the clip, Vicki is playing the pipes. Not the Scottish bagpipes we’re all familiar with; she’s not blowing into them, but working a kind of bellows under her arm. Such pipes are sometimes called ‘Small Pipes’ or ‘Northumbrian Pipes’, and have a sweeter, mellower tone than the Scottish bagpipes.

I didn’t stay to long, for there was stewarding to be done, but I did pass by the tent later, and heard a foot-tapping tune played on what sounded to me like an Irish fiddle.

It wasn’t! Vicki had changed her instrument for an extremely complicated looking affair, which was played with a bow, but held like a guitar.

‘It used to be fairly widespread’ she explained ‘but the last place it survived was Sweden. So, we use the Swedish name’


Now, isn’t that a beautiful word? One you can roll around your tongue and savour. It’s a bit difficult to drop it into an everyday conversation, though!

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