These pipes are not played in our pipe band but are an important part of the history of bagpipes in Ireland.
In contrast to the Great Highland Bagpipes, the bag of the Uilleann pipes is inflated by means of a small set of bellows strapped around the waist and to an arm. There is no blowing into the bag via a mouthpiece as is done when playing the Great Highland Bagpipes. The Uilleann pipes have a different harmonic structure, sounding sweeter and quieter than many other bagpipes. These pipes are played indoors and usually played whilst the musician is seated.
There is some speculation as to the origins of these Irish pipes. It is believed that in medieval times the Irish pipe was more like the Scottish smallpipe, called the Chuisleann. This was a bellows blown bagpipe with a cylindrical bored chanter and two or three drones in a common stock.
The distinctively Irish form of bagpipe, the Union or Uilleann Pipes, is believed to have originated somewhere between the 16th and 18th centuries.
During the mid 20th century there was concern that this instrument would die out due to the modernisation of music. The 1960s and 1970s saw resurgence in popularity of the Uilleann pipes thanks to several traditionally based Irish musical groups that had foresight to record and tour.