The Wighton Heritage Centre

 Contact Details (Wighton Collection)

Central Library
The Wellgate
 Tel: 01382 431550
 WiFi Available

The Wighton Collection of National Music, housed in the Central Library, Dundee bears full witness to the assiduous labours of the able musician of about a hundred years ago whose name the Collection carries. Andrew John Wighton was born in Cargill, Perthshire, in 1804 and died in Dundee in 1866. As a young man he opened and carried on a grocer’s business in Hilltown, Dundee and, later, as a good citizen, became a member of the Town Council. Yet, busy man as he was, he had time for a hobby and his chief diversion was to collect from far and near the printed and MS. music of Scotland chiefly, but also of England, Ireland and Wales.

After his death the Town Council accepted custody of the Collection, which had been offered them on certain conditions, and those who have examined the Collection know how wide is its range and how sound was Wighton’s musical choice. There are 620 bound volumes in the Collection, but as some of the volumes contain more than one printed book or manuscript, the number of titles must be in excess of 700. It is a treasure house waiting to be explored. Wighton visited Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, and other musical centres in pursuit of his hobby. It is interesting to find amongst the English music books early and late editions of John Playford’s “Dancing Master”, Tom D’Urfey's “Pills to Purge Melancholy” (MS.), books of harpsichord music and many sheets of vocal music sung at Ranelagh and Vauxhall.

The great Bunting Collection of Irish music is also amongst Wighton’s acquisitions, as are several books of Welsh music, but the Collection is richest in the hundreds of volumes of vocal or instrumental music of Scottish origin. This large body of music reveals a sound knowledge and a wide choice on the part of the collector, and there are very few books in the Collection that have not some interesting feature of artistic value. Indeed, the assemblage of books is a veritable mine of musical material for the music student. Colclough and Geoghan's bagpipe tutors are here, both recently of interest to American research.

Wighton’s care and thoroughness come out in many ways. When he learned that Andrew Blaikie, an engraver of Paisley, had MSS. of music for the viol da gamba, dated 1683–1692, which could not be acquired, he copied out the Scottish airs in the MSS. The originals are lost but Wighton’s copies remain extant as the internationally famous and now unique “Blaikie Manuscript”.

Again, when Wighton saw a rare copy of the “Musick for the Scots Songs in Allan Ramsay’s Tea-Table Miscellany”, as set by Alexander Stuart in 1726, he found he could not acquire it, and so he copied out all the tunes. This music book is surely one of the worst ever printed but Wighton corrected every error and left practically a perfect copy of this music.

Music published by Robert Bremner (1713–1789) is also well represented.

  • Henry Playford’s Original Scotch Tunes (1700). Copied by Wighton from one of the very few surviving copies.
  • Orpheus Caledonius. The first printed volume of Scottish songs, the rare folio edition of 1725 and the second edition in 2 vols, 1733.
  • Earl of Kelly’s Minuets. Lord Kelly was one of the foremost Scottish composers of the 18th century.
  • General Reid’s Minuets. General Reid was the founder of the Chair of Music in the University of Edinburgh.
  • James Oswald, a prolific composer who left Edinburgh for London where he became a friend of Dr. Burney and held high posts in the capital.
  • The Caledonian Pocket Companion (12 books published in 1750 onwards).
  • Airs for Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, one set of the series for Autumn being in Oswald’s own handwriting. This collection, containing airs with such delightful titles as “The Sneez-wort”, was discovered in 1996 to contain two sets for each season, one more than the volume deposited in the National Library of Scotland. (Copies of the missing sets have subsequently been supplied to the National Library).
  • George Thomson’s Collection of Scottish Songs. With accompaniments by Beethoven, Haydn (over 100), Pleyel, Weber, and other famous composers.
  • Collections of music by Niel and Nathaniel Gow, Urbani, McGibbon, Domenico Corri, Davie and many others of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
  • Michael Arne’s Favourite collection of songs, 1757 (RISM A1484)
  • Richard Bride’s Favorite collection of 200 select country dances (RISM B4449)
  • Walter Claggett’s 36 intire [sic] new airs in eight parts (RISM C2544)
  • Cogan’s Variations on Push about the jorum (RISM C3288)
  • Lawrence Ding’s The Anacreontic Museum (RISM D3106) and his The beauties of psalmody (RISM D3107)
  • Abraham MacIntosh’s 30 new strathspey reels (RISM M56)
  • William Reeve’s British fortitude and Hibernian friendship (RISM R529)

Also in the collection is a volume without title-page of what look like six sonatas for treble recorder and continuo, the only possible clue to their identity is a series of dedications to Dutch (or perhaps Flemish) noblemen. Do you recognise the following - Henric Berghuys, Henric Blankstein, Menso Alting, Petrus Wilhelmus Ramaker, Lucas ten Hoorn or Joh: Ad: Crebart?

The text of this account of the Wighton Collection is based on that compiled by Harry M. Willsher, M.A., D. Litt. (1873–1958), sometime Librarian of University College, Dundee (now the University of Dundee), who was an authority on old Scottish music, and instrumental in restoring numbers of airs. He was an Honorary Lecturer in Scottish Music at St. Andrews University, and both wrote and produced broadcasts on the subject of old Scottish music.

The Database contains over 1000 records describing Dundee’s Wighton Collection one of the world’s finest repositories of Scottish music.

The Wighton also includes a goodly selection of rare English, Irish and Welsh volumes, with RISM entries in abundance, and many unique items. John and Henry Playford’s “Dancing Masters” and “Apollo’s Banquets” are a particular delight.

The Collection is housed in the Local Studies Suite of Dundee’s Central Library, along with a wealth of primary material from Dundee’s past, including extensive records relating to personalities such as Mary Slessor, Sir James Ivory, William McGonagall, and James Bowman Lindsay.

In March 2000, the United Kingdom Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £162,000 towards the construction of “The Wighton Heritage Centre for the Study and Appreciation of Scottish Music”.


Dundee City Council gratefully acknowledges financial assistance provided by the British Library towards the construction of the Wighton Database, and from the Scottish Library and Information Council towards conservation and microfilming of the Collection.

The Database and Internet pages are all the Copyright of Dundee City Council 1995, 1998.

The Friends of Wighton is an external site created and maintained by Simon Chadwick.

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