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Penny Whistle - what's this then

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Bob 12 Dec 98 - 02:09 PM
clansfolk 09 Dec 98 - 05:52 AM
Bob Bolton 08 Dec 98 - 08:26 PM
Bob Bolton 06 Dec 98 - 06:58 PM
Clarkie 06 Dec 98 - 12:47 PM
Anthony Rankin 06 Dec 98 - 05:38 AM
Clansfolk 05 Dec 98 - 02:43 PM
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Subject: RE: Penny Whistle - what's this then
From: Bob
Date: 12 Dec 98 - 02:09 PM

Hi Pete

We met at Fylde Festival in Sept...

I'm coming up to Blackpool for Xmas so will call in at the Falcon either on the 16th or 23rd..... Please bring the Tin Whistle for me to see and play.... Cheers,

Bob Buckle

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Subject: RE: Penny Whistle - what's this then
From: clansfolk
Date: 09 Dec 98 - 05:52 AM

Many thanx to the response - so far both here and via e-mail and on our site, I will be updating the details (as requested) of the whistle and add a few more pics asap.

I will also gather all the details given of other whistles and start work on a Penny Whistle reference guide.

Anyone with details or pictures they would like adding to the reference work can snail mail them to me at:-


or email, or add to this or our discussion board.

I think I might have set myself quite a task - but I think it will be worth it - in the long run!

Thanx again and keep the info coming in.

Pete (clansfolk)


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Subject: RE: Penny Whistle - what's this then
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 08 Dec 98 - 08:26 PM

G’day all and Pete, I have had a look at my brass whistles and these are some more accurate observations:

Ex-Herb Gimbert Whistle: Lacquered Brass, Lead Fipple, Generation, Key D (actual pitch is ~20 cents flat of Eb), 283mm x 12.85mm. Label is a red decal, now almost totally obliterated. Pitch is not stamped, so I presume it was included in the decal, as in modern Generation whistles.The use of a decal does not necessarily indicate a modern date, as decals had such a vogue in 1862/4 that my Shorter Oxford Dictionary lists the word Decalomania ... although it does not list Decal.

Ex-Sally Sloane Whistle: Lacquered Brass, Alberts, Key F (actual pitch is ~10 cents flat of F#), 236mm x 12.0mm. Label is a soldered-on brass band, 6.5mm wide at the back, bearing an oval 31.5mm high and ~25mm wide with the words: THE BOOMERANG FLUTE above a boomerang and below: ALBERT’S SYSTEM. There is no country of origin marked, but construction and decoration (narrow turned bands on the brass barrel) are quite similar to the Generation whistle.

The pitch (F) is stamped into the barrel directly below the label with a precisely positioned, nicely made, serif-style letter.

The third whistle of this type is currently on loan to the Music Museum at Kurnell, so I cannot check its exact details. My Flute database shows it as being stamped D and doesn't mention other markings. (Maybe I imagined the stamped brand!)

The question of the persistence of this pattern really depends upon where you look for examples. During the late 1970s or early 1980s, I bought several brass whistles, presumably made in India, constructed of light brass tube ... fabricated by soldering a seam in what appears to be rolled up brass shim.

These are all branded with a brass band in the shape of an oval; approximately 13mm high and 45mm wide with joining tabs. This is marked KUMAR FLUTE with one word above and one below the larger word MADHURBANS - contained in a rectangular border. This may or may not be the same as the town Madhurbani to the north-east of Patna. They are decorated with the same style of narrow turned bands around parts of the barrel as the older whistles.

The fipple on these whistles is made of more brass shim - shaped into an open sided box (with a cut-away for the curve of the mouthpiece) and soldered into the squared-off whistle end of the instrument. I would have to suspect that they are probably not soldered together with lead-free, food-vessel solder!

All these whistles are about 20 cents flat of the semitone above their marked pitches of low G and A so that they are almost in Ab and Bb. When I needed a whistle in A for a radio programme some years back, I carefully cut an A whistle about 50mm below the whistle end and lengthened the tube (by about 15mm) with a fabricated tube (about 73mm long) of brass shim, with a carefully formed, stepped overlap. The whole affair was neatly assembled with epoxy resin. This was surprisingly successful, but I find my Susarto in A rather more accurate ... if a little uncooperative at times.

This persistence of this particular design reminds me that, in the 1960s I bought some Hohner Whistles (in the keys of low G, Bb and C) of similar design, except that these were made of heavier, factory-extruded brass tube, and were nickel or chrome-plated. These also had the fipple constructed of a complicated box form and, sadly, never delivered a really good sound ... and were between 25 and 40 cents sharp of concert pitch. I have not seen these instruments advertised by Hohner in recent decades.

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Subject: RE: Penny Whistle - what's this then
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 06 Dec 98 - 06:58 PM

G'day Pete,

I have a few brass whistles that are similar to the one on your web-site. I know the provenance of two, the third being from an antique dealer and all were obtained here in Australia. They are all cylidrical, made of brass tubing and have (or had) lead fipples.

One was passed on to me, along with some other material, by the daughter of Herb Gimbert (a traditional player who lived in Sydney in his later years) after he died. I have played it and found it sounds quite sweet. I understand that the heavy lead mouthpiece is an important factor in this ... but not too good for your health (despite which, Herb lived to 88). I placed a piece of plastic 'shrink-fit' tubing over the end and shrunk it into a tight fit, then removed sections to allow the whistle to play. This minimises the ingestion of lead.

Another came from another wonderful old traditional player, Sally Sloane (died aged ~84). I picked it up at her home in the late 1970s ... bent and missing its lead fipple after her grandchildren had played with it. She said I was welcome to it, so I set out to restore it.

I located a suitable brass rod and turned it down to a slight clearance fit in the tube. I used this as a mandrel to panel-beat out the dents and bends. I also ground the end of the rod to the shape of the fipple and straightened out the pressed whistle end that held the lead fipple.

I made a new fipple from brass, which I 'tinned' with lead-free food vessel solder to give the appearance of the original lead block. This was lightly fitted into place with epoxy resin, so that I could easily remove any non-authentic work. The whistle plays reasonably well but some notes are a little flattened because it has been played so much that the holes are slightly worn away.

The third whistle is very similar to the Herb Gimbert piece in pitch (a little sharp of the marked 'E'), sound and style, so I have not modified it in any way and do not play it.

All these whistles seem to be in "Old High Pitch", typical of their era. One of them (I need to look at them to remember which - probably Herb's) is branded "GENERATION" with letters stamped into the brass tube. I know that lead-fippled "Generations" were still available in parts of Australia after the Second World War (whenever they were actually made) and I knew players that looked far and wide for more of them. I imagine that some health authority eventually banned them from sale.

Sally Sloane's has a "Cigar Band" brand like yours, but is branded "Albert's Boomerang Brand" - the trademark of Jacques Albert, a Swiss luthier who became a very successful music dealer in Sydney and, in gratitude, used a great number of Australian names as trademarks - particularly 'Boomerang' which became the company name ... sa well as the name of the mansion he built.

I presume that some maker - or several makers (probably in England) would make these whistles for anyone ... and brand them as required with 'house brands' for music shops, or whatever was needed. Any more accurate identification would be a job for someone in the area in which they were made - possibly London, but more likely Birmingham or its environs.


Bob Bolton

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Subject: RE: Penny Whistle - what's this then
From: Clarkie
Date: 06 Dec 98 - 12:47 PM

I saw the remark in chiff & Fipple - lovely whistle - I can't help with the history, have you tried a trade mark directory for the Company? might help todate it.

good look (sic)

J Clarke (no relation!)

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Subject: RE: Penny Whistle - what's this then
From: Anthony Rankin
Date: 06 Dec 98 - 05:38 AM


I had a look at the tin whistle on your web page - and I think it was made in the 19th Century if you check the Harrods catalogues for this period there are several simular whistles and flagolets there.

Did you know Debbie Harry played a Penny Whistle in her folk days? with Wind in the Willows Folk-Rock Group - before her Blondie Days! well so I was told.

Talking of Debbie (which I always do!) I found a site on the web which has loads of reviews pics etc....

Anyone remembers Debbie's Folk Days?

How the above is of use


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Subject: Penny Whistle - what's this then
From: Clansfolk
Date: 05 Dec 98 - 02:43 PM


I've noticed a lot of your 'readers' are into Penny Whistles so I was wondering if anyone can identify a whistle I picked up a couple of days ago... I've posted pictures and details on our web site so if you'd like to have a look plaese do so, any info or comments can be let on the sites discussion board or added to this one.

Many thanks in advance.

Pete (Clansfolk)

address above for web page.

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