William Thomson

b? Edinburgh, c1684; d? London, after 1752

Scottish singer and collector of folksongs, probably born in Edinburgh where his father was one of the king’s trumpeters for Scotland.

Settled in London and in 1725 published “Orpheus Caledonius, or a Collection of the best Scotch Songs set to Music”. This was dedicated to the Princess of Wales, the dedication being changed in the 1733 edition once she became Queen Caroline. There was a subscription list of approximately 300 people, including dukes, earls, lords and ladies, a veritable Who’s Who of elegant society. One subscriber of this edition was The Right Hon. Lady Diana Spencer!

“Orpheus Caledonius” contained 50 Scottish folksongs, many having been taken from Allan Ramsay’s “Tea-Table Miscellany” (1723). The collection has been criticised by purists as textually crude and musically unsound but these criticisms detract from the critics rather than from this invaluable compilation.

In 1733 a second edition, in two volumes appeared, with 100 songs and improvements in the harmonisation of the original 50.

Virtually nothing is known of William Thomson in his latter years.

Music by Niel and Nathaniel Gow

Folio Edition of 1725 (rare)

1733 Edition. Two volumes bound together. Volume 1 dedicated to the Queen, Volume 2 dedicated to the Duchess of Hamilton.

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