George Hepple was a fiddler and piper from Haltwhistle in the South Tyne Valley. In his early years he worked at the local quarry and later at the neighbouring collieries as a blacksmith.* Although self taught on the fiddle from the age of eight, by the time he was eleven invitations to play at concerts and dances had established him as a prominent performer.
By the 1920s he was a member of the local dance band, playing mainly country dance music. As well as member ship of the town orchestra, he gave lessons to the younger members of the community. One of his star pupils was Gillian Yellop who won many competitions in the 1960s and 1970s.
His interest in smallpipes started in 1947 when he finally ended his search for a set in Newcastle. Fluent on both fiddle and pipes, he went on to judge at many local competitions. His style was certainly in the Northumbrian tradition, although he had strict ideas on accuracy and playing techniques. He was always keen to entertain visitors and encourage them to exchange tunes. His sense of timing and rhythm was strong, as is evident in his wide repertoire of tunes, and a knowledge of collections and source material both local and national.
George was reluctant to travel far to play his music, but we have a few fine recordings exist where he is at ease with his close friends and musical colleagues, Forster Charlton, Joe Hutton, Willy Taylor and Will Atkinson.
(*A note regarding blacksmiths and fiddles. - George was friendly with the town blacksmith who had a forge in the town square. It was a meeting place for the local farming folk, and a fiddle was always kept there, being passed around as the fire was warming up, or at shoeing time. The late Jimmy Pallister, another blacksmith fiddler from Cambo, related that a similar arrangement prevailed at his forge.)
On this recording, made at the Anson, Wallsend in 1979, we hear George Hepple playing second fiddle to Joe Hutton's Northumbrian pipe lead on this glorious duet. The first tune is 'Ye banks and Brays' and this is followed by the Tom Clogh tune 'The Herd on the Hill'.