Habbie Simpson – the piper who lent his name to his townfolk

The Renfrewshire village of Kilbarchan has its ‘Habbies’ – named for it’s famous piper, Habbie Simpson.

Simpson (1550 – 1620) was the town piper in the village.

He is immortalized in the poem Lament for Habbie Simpson, sometimes known as The Life and Death of the piper of Kilbarchan, composed by Robert Sempill.

The poem is famous for being written in the form known as ‘standard Habbie’ or ‘Burns stanza’ – a stanza six lines in length which rhymes aaabab, for the poets out there!

Kilbarchan’s Steeple Building has an exterior niche which contains a bronze statue of Habbie Simpson dating from 1932. The village of Kilbarchan celebrates Lilias Day each year, and it is traditional for the piper to dress up as Simpson.

And, of course, the inhabitants of the villages are commonly known as the ‘Habbies’!


Habbie Simpson – the Piper of Kilbarchan

Kilbarchan now may say alas!
For she hath lost her Game and Grace
Both Trixie and the Maiden Trace:
But what remeid?
For no man can supply his place,
Hab Simpson’s deid.

Now who shall play ‘The day it daws’?
Or ‘Hunt up when the cock he craws’?
Or who can for our Kirk-town-cause,
Stand us in stead?
On Bagpipes now nobody blaws
Sen Habbie’s dead.

Robert Sempill of Beltrees, 1594 – 1668


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