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The Glen Collection - Biographies


The traditional musicians of Scotland owe John Glen a mighty debt of gratitude, yet, strange as it may seem, if you asked 99 per cent of them who he was, it is unlikely you would receive anything more than a blank look.

In the first place, he was one of a small group of devoted music collectors who set about re-publishing the dance music of the Gows, Marshall and their many contemporaries during the last decades of the 19th century. The compilations of James Kerr ('Merry Melodies'), James Stewart Robertson (Athole Collection) and several others contain the essential ingredients of the Scottish dance band repertoire of the 20th century. But whereas their published editions give scarcely a hint as to the sources or authorship of the music, John Glen was meticulous in his biographical notes and the attribution of every tune he selected either to its composer (if known) or to an original collection. If it hadn't been for his careful work, there would be very much less information to guide us back to the 18th century and to the Golden Age of the Scottish Tradition. The sad tag of the music publisher, 'traditional', though indicating that copyright may not apply, does nothing for the character of the piece. On the contrary, the names of all but a handful of the contributing composers have faded into oblivion chiefly due to this oversight. Glen's work bears eloquent witness to the importance of detail. His 'Collection of Scottish Dance Music' was published in two volumes between 1891 and 1895 in Edinburgh. The music itself is arranged in 'medley' style, strathspey alternating with reel - as are all the larger collections of that period - and there is a significant absence of jigs (a dozen in a total of nearly 300 titles). It was followed in 1900 by 'Early Scottish Melodies', a valuable reference book for researchers into manuscripts and early printed music.

When he died in 1904, his collection of manuscripts, printed music and other material (said to number in the region of 4000 items) was put up for auction and bought outright by a single bidder. So the second phase of the story unfolds . beginning with a quote from an article in The Scotsman dated 18 March 1918: '. a generous benefactor who has acquired a remarkable collection of Scottish music . has deposited it on loan at the British Museum with the express wish that it shall be available to students. The collection was formed by the late John Glen, a partner in a well-known firm of Edinburgh music publishers founded in 1827 in the Cowgate and subsequently moved to North Bank Street'.

The article describes how Glen realised that many of the music books were becoming rare, even in his day, and that wear and tear and neglect would quickly do the rest. He went about deliberately seeking to buy up the collections of the Gows, MacGlashan, Dow, Oswald, Mackintosh, Bremner, Stewart and Marshall - there are well over 100 more contributors that could be added to this list - with the result that he 'was enabled to get together what is undoubtedly the most complete collection of printed Scottish music of the 18th and 19th centuries'. Included are two editions of the rare 'Collection of the Choicest Scots Tunes' of Adam Craig (known to have been living in Edinburgh in 1695), a fifth edition of Playford's 'Apollo's Banquet', a rare set of Jackson of Dublin's 'Irish Tunes' and The Sinclair Manuscript, over 100 tunes 'written by Andrew Adam at Glasgow October the 31 day 1710'.

The name of 'the benefactor' was formally disclosed in 1927, two years after The National Library of Scotland officially came into being, although there was to be an intervention of years including those of the Second World War before the present building was ready to house such items as The Glen Collection of Scottish Music. From then on, every item of the collection carried this printed dedication: 'Presented by Lady Dorothea Ruggles-Brise to the National Library of Scotland in memory of her brother, Major Lord George Stewart Murray, Black Watch, killed in action in France in 1914'. This daughter of the 7th Duke of Atholl, three of whose predecessors had been patrons of the great Niel Gow of Inver, was herself a lifelong devotee of Scottish music. It was entirely appropriate that her action should have returned this great resource to the nation and to the care of the National Library in Edinburgh.

Charles Gore, Doune, Perthshire
Autumn 2001

Volume 1


ROBERT BREMNER - Robert Bremner is stated to have been born about the year 1720, although it is more likely that the event took place seven years previously. The place of his birth is unknown. He is the earliest Scottish musicseller of whom we have any knowledge.

NEIL STEWART - is the next musicseller and dealer in musical instruments in Edinburgh, regarding whom there is any information. The earliest notice observed of him is in an advertisement dated 14 November 1759.

ROBERT ROSS - now follows as the third Edinburgh musicseller. The first notice of Mr Ross (who was evidently a professional musician) is the following advertisement of date 7th June 1769.

CORRI & SUTHERLAND - The writer has not been able to trace any additions to the music selling trade in Edinburgh between 1769 and 1783. In the latter year it was announced that a "New music book and stationery shop was to be opened at the North Bridge by Messrs Corri and Sutherland".

JOHN BRYSON - the successor of Robert Bremner, who died in London in May 1789, probably purchased Bremner's Edinburgh stock, as he carried on business in the same premises at the head of Old Assembly Close.

JOHN RIDDELL - The earliest name that has come down to us as a composer of Scottish Dance Music, is that of "John Riddell of Air", as the name is spelt in the second edition of his collection, which was published by James Aird, Glasgow, in 1782. The late Dr David Laing, in his Introduction to Blackwood's edition of Johnson's "Scots Musical Museum", gives the title.

DANIEL DOW - Daniel or Donald Dow first comes under our notice in connection with a series of concerts (probably annual) which he was in the habit of giving. The earliest advertisement discovered appears under date 30th March 1765 - "Mr Dow's Concert".

JOSHUA CAMPBELL - musician in Glasgow, who published three collections, two of which are of dance music, is brought into notice through his advertisement in 1762 which is as follows:- "Joshua Campbell Musician proposes to teach the guitar.

ALEXANDER McGLASHAN - who from his stately and dressy appearance acquired the name of "King McGlashan" was long connected with the musical profession in Edinburgh. He is found residing at the back of Bailie Fyfe's Close in 1769. He was in the habit of giving concerts annually.

ANGUS CUMMING - The only information obtained regarding this musician is contained I (1) in an advertisement - issued in March 1780 -.

JAMES AIRD - followed the occupation of a Music Seller in Glasgow. An advertisement of Joshua Campbell's, of January 1779, proves the existence of several music shops in Glasgow, but in what year Aird began business has not been ascertained. The Editor has a copy of Joshua Campbell's book, and he has given a facsimile of the title page.

ROBERT MACKINTOSH - The earliest notice of Robert Mackintosh, alias "Red Rob", is to be found in Peter Williamson's Directory for 1773-74, where his profession and address are given as "Musician, Skinner's Close". He removed in 1774.

PATRICK MACDONALD - was born in the Manse of Durness, Sutherlandshire, on 22nd April 1729. His grandfather and father were musically inclined. The latter, the Rev. Murdo Macdonald, to whose memory Rob Donn composed an elegy.

ROBERT RIDDELL of GLENRIDDEL - was a gentleman of antiquarian tastes, and a musical amateur. He was a descendant of the famous Sir Robert Laurie of Maxwelton , the successful opponent of the Dane who brought over the whistle and challenged the Bacchanalians.

MALCOLM McDONALD - published four collections of Strathspey Reels, &c. The first of these, as its title-page indicates, was entirely made up of his own exclusive compositions; but the subsequent three contain a number of tunes which are unquestionably the productions of other musicians. Many of the tunes.

JOHN BOWIE - Musiciain, Perth, and for some time musicseller there, is first found advertising in July 1785 as follows:- "John Bowie, Musician, Perth, tunes Harpsichords, Piano Fortes, &c." Nothing more appears until he advertised his collection.

JOHN ANDERSON - who published two books of Highland strathspeys, country dances, English and French dances &c., the first of which he dedicated to the gentlemen of the Musical Society of Greenock.

CHARLES DUFF - who published the Collection bearing his name, was a Musician. He is stated to have been the leader of the Musical Society in Dundee for some time. As to whether he combined the teaching of dancing with music..

ROBERT PETRIE - was born at Kirkmichael, Perthshire, in February 1767. His father was named John Petrie, and his mother Elizabeth Read; and he was baptised as "Robertus." There is little know of his early history, but he was regarded..

ABRAHAM MACKINTOSH - a son of "Red Rob" and Margaret Mill, was born in Edinburgh on 15th June 1769. In early life he followed his father's profession; and in December 1792, he published a collection of thirty new strathspey reels, &c..

Volume 2


WILLIAM MARSHALL OF KEITHMORE - the most brilliant as well as the most prolific composer of strathspey music Scotland ever produced, was born in the town of Fochabers, Banffshire, on 27th December 1748 (old style). His parents were honest and industrious, though in humble circumstances. His father was Francis Marshall.. (there are more than 3 pages of info on Marshall)

ISAAC COOPER - his name first comes under our notice in an advertisement of 31st March 1783, beginning as follows:- "Isaac Cooper, musician in Banff, returns his most grateful thanks to those who have employed him in the musical way, and begs leave to inform them that he still continues to teach the following instruments.


The name NIEL GOW as a musician has been for generations a household word among those who have a love for our national Dance Music. He was the first of the family know to have followed that profession. In the following memoirs, it is the intention to examine the claims of the Gows as performers, on the violin, of Scottish Reels and Strathspeys, as well as composers of that class of music. (3 pages of info)

NATHANIEL GOW - the fourth (not as often stated the youngest) son of Niel Gow and Margaret Wiseman was born at Inver, 28th May 1763 not, as erroneously given, 1766. He followed his father's profession.
(4 pages of info)

JOHN WATLEN - The earliest notices of John Watlen occur in 1788, in the list of subscribers to Niel Gow's Second Collection and in Peter Williamson's Directory. The former describes him as a "Music Master and Tuner".

WILLIAM SHEPHERD - The earliest mention of Wm Shepherd we have been able to discover is found among the subscribers to Niel Gow's First Collection of Strathspey Reels &c., 1784 thus: "Mr William Shepherd, Edinburgh" and he is also similarly described..

ALEXANDER LEBURN - a native of Auchtermuchty, followed the profession of musician in that good old town in the latter part of the eighteenth century, and is found as a subscriber to Chas Duff's Collection, 1790; also in Gow's Third, McDonald's Third, and James Walker's First Collections .

GEORGE JENKINS - followed the profession of a teacher of Scotch dancing in London about the year 1794, at which date he probably published his Collection of New Scotch Music &c., dedicated to the Prince of Wales. We are not aware of his nationality..

DANIEL McLAREN - The first mention of his name is found in the lists of subscribers to Niel Gow's First (1784), Second (1788), and Third Collections (1792) as Daniel McLaren, musician, Edinburgh. In1794 he published a Collection of his own.

ARCHIBALD DUFF, MONTROSE - The profession he followed was that of Dancing Master, an he first comes under our notice, in 1793, in an advertisement dated November, as follows:- "A Card. Mr Duff returns his most grateful thanks to the ladies and gentlemen of Montrose .

JOHN CLARK - We have been unable to discover anything about this musician, further than he published his collection in Perth.

JAMES WALKER - resided in the Royal Burgh of Dysart, of which he was a native. His profession, so far as we have been able to learn, was that of musician and teacher of music. He was greatly patronised by the gentry and upper classes.

ALEXANDER GIBB - The earliest information we have obtained of him is from an advertisement which appeared in 1786. We learn from it that he is a Dancing Master from Haddington.

JOHN MACGLASHAN - His name first appears in Aitchison's Edinburgh Directory for 1796-7, as Macglashan, John, piano teacher, 13 Thistle Street. Whether he was related to Alexander McGlashan, otherwise styled "King McGlashan", who died in May 1797, can only be surmised.

CHARLES STEWART - "Stewart, musician, Leith Wynd", is found in Peter Williamson's Edinburgh Directory for 1794-96, but whether the entry refers to the subject of our sketch is uncertain. His name, however, is entered in Aitchison's Directory for 1800-1..

JOHN MORISON, PETERHEAD - resided in Rose Street, Peterhead, and was probably a native of that town. His name appears among the subscribers to Isaac Cooper's Second Collection 1806 or 1807 .