How to Show Gratitude to a Patron – Nathaniel Demonstrates Best Practice

To the Noblemen and Gentlemen of the Caledonian Hunt

Writes Nathaniel Gow in 1819, at the head of his latest book, The Beauties of Niel Gow.  (His famous father wrote a lot of great tunes, so why not publish the best of them again and get some profit from them?)

The Editor would be wanting in candour and gratitude were he to omit, in presenting this work to the Public, to acknowledge the uniform and marked patronage his Father and Family (himself in particular) have received from the Noblemen and Gentlemen of the Caledonian Hunt, and how much it was owing to their flattering approbation that they were encouraged to make any attempt to add their Compositions to the Stock of National Scottish Music, Composed prior to their time.

It is that approbation which now induces him to offer the present publication under the Title of


The first piece in a collection often has a special relevance and implies an extra compliment paid to the dedicatee, so here we have Niel Gow’s Lamentation for Jas. Moray Esqr. of Abercarney. A footnote explains,

Mr Moray was the early and kind patron of the Author.  The loss which Society sustained in the Death of that Gentleman was the cause of the production of this truly pathetic and beautiful Air.

We should, of course, remember that ‘pathetic’ meant ‘full of pathos’ and not the derogatory connotations which the word carries today!

When Karen was checking bibliographic details of the collection, she discovered that the Whittaker Library in the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland does actually have a copy of The Beauties of Niel Gow, but not in one of the original editions.  The Whittaker Library has a London reprint by C. Jefferys of 67 Berners Street, distributed by our own  Bayley & Ferguson, of 54 Queen Street Glasgow and 2 Great Marlborough Street, London.  Considering Charles W. Jefferys had been writing and translating lyrics since around 1835, and latterly also publishing light music until about 1880, Niel Gow’s Beauties had been on the go for well over half a century!  It was more recently reprinted in Harrogate by Celtic Music in 1983, and in Pasadena, CA, by Fiddlers Crossing, circa 1990.  His patrons would have been proud…

Harps and Harpsichords as well as Fiddles and Bass!

Australian researcher Rosemary Richards spotted a reference to the Marchioness of Huntly in Karen’s recently published paper about the Bass Culture project, published in Brio last year (Vol. 51, No. 2, pp. 16-22), ‘From Historical Collections to Metadata: a Case Study in Scottish Musical Inheritance’.  We had highlighted the changes in accompaniment style between different editions of Marshall’s Scottish Airs, and Rosemary picked up on this:-

“Getting back to your comparison in your article of the two editions of Marshall’s tunes, it is interesting that the plainness of the harmonisation in the 1822 edition was at the time when Beethoven was nearly on his last legs.

“Marshall was over 20 years older than Beethoven and came from a different musical background so it’s not so surprising but the realisation suggested in the later 1845 Marshall edition is also not very lush.”

Rosemary is also intrigued by a tune we quoted, as it’s dedicated to the Marchioness of Huntly – a family in whom she takes a historical interest:-

“The Marchioness of Huntly whose strathspey was included in Marshall’s collections was the stepmother of Georgiana McCrae.  William Marshall was the butler amongst other jobs for the Marchioness’s father-in-law and Georgiana’s grandfather, the 4th Duke of Gordon.”

Straight away, Rosemary started wondering what else we had uncovered dedicated to the estimable, and music-loving Marchioness.  Several pieces, as it happens.

Rosemary comments,

“The Bass Culture Project is based on fiddle and pipe books, but people like Georgiana McCrae, her stepmother the Marchioness of Huntly (Fifth Duchess of Gordon) and Sir Walter Scott’s daughter Sophia were playing these same pieces on keyboard instruments or harp – so I’m wondering how you’re dealing with that?”

One of the fascinating aspects of this project is its breadth: while we’ve been focusing on the accompaniments, and changing styles from elegant baroque to  thumping bass and back to elegant harpsichord (or increasingly, piano), there are also hundreds of stories to be told about the people who wrote, collected, used or had pieces dedicated to them.  How many dedicatees find a place in this repertoire? This is one of life’s imponderables, but there are tales of patronage, of musical interests amongst the nobility, of dances at big houses and amateur music-making at small ones …

And indeed – a totally disconnected fact but a pleasing coincidence – Karen’s great-grandfather-in-law was the bass player for gigs at Fyvie Castle during the winter months when there was little work for stonemasons …