Niel and Nathaniel Gow

Celebrated Scottish family of fiddlers.

Niel Gow b.1727, d.1807

Largely responsible for turning folk-fiddle playing into a professional art. He was famous both as a composer and performer. His playing was much admired by the aristocracy and he was much in demand for balls and dances. He passed all his life, however, in the village where he was born, Inver, in Perthshire, and published none of the fiddle music he played until 1784. In that year, appeared his first Collection of Strathspey Reels but although hugely successful, it is an amateurish publication, making no distinction between his own compositions and traditional tunes. Two further collections appeared in1788 and 1792. Niel Gow met Burns in 1787 and his portrait was painted four times by Raeburn.

Nathaniel Gow b.1766, d. 1831

Niel Gow’s most famous son. When still young, he went to Edinburgh and took violin, cello and trumpet lessons, being appointed one of His Majesty’s Trumpeters for Scotland. He became leader of a Scottish dance band, known as Alexander McGlashan’s band and played before royalty in London.

Unlike his father, Nathaniel was a business-man and published his own and his father’s compositions. The fees charged by his band were high but his financial success did not last, partly because of changing fashions in music, and he was declared bankrupt in 1827. Of Nathaniel Gow’s compositions, most famous are the airs, reels and strathspeys published in “Collections of Strathspey Reels” and between 1799 and 1817 he produced the “Complete Repository of the Original Scotch Slow Tunes”.

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