Biographies


James Davie (1783-1857)
Cantrips 1 & 3

Violinist, flautist, music teacher and publisher in Aberdeen. In addition to his activities as teacher, music seller and pianoforte tuner, he conducted the Aberdeen Choral Society, played in the city's theatre orchestra, and for several years ran there a series of subscription concerts.

Like Andrew Wighton, his friend and correspondent, he was a dedicated music collector. His published works, often strongly didactic in vein, include four-part settings of psalm and hymn tunes (Music of the Church of Scotland 1841), glees and catches, and several collections of Scots airs.

His 6-volume Caledonian repository (c1830) remains an important source of Scots fiddle music.


John Imlah (1799-1846)
Cantrip 1

Aberdeen poet. Following an apprenticeship in Aberdeen with the pianoforte maker, Allan, he took up employment in London with the Scottish pianoforte maker John Broadwood & Sons.

As an agent and tuner for Broadwood he divided his time equally between London and Scotland until almost the end of his life.

His poetry - much of it inspired by his native Aberdeenshire - possesses a strong lyric vein.


Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
Cantrip 1

French composer and music theorist. From work begun in his Trait de l'harmonie (1722) he made an empirical investigation of the constituent elements of harmony (triads and their inversions in relation to a fundamental bass) and posited laws governing harmonic progression.

Despite encountering difficulties with the deductive methodology he imposed upon himself, he succeeded in articulating a comprehensive system of tonality based partly on Newton's theory of gravitation. In this system, the tonic chord was seen as exerting gravitational pull or attraction upon two distinct chordal neighbours or dominants.


Peter Bowie (1763-1846)
Cantrip 2

Teacher of music. Brother of violinist and composer John Bowie (c1759-1815). He rose from humble circumstances to become an established figure in Perthshire society. He is buried alongside his brother in Tippermuir (now Tibbermore) kirkyard, Perthshire, not far from his boyhood home.

John, his brother, published a collection of strathspey reels and country dances (Edinburgh c1786) which are also held in the Wighton Collection. Together, the Bowie brothers promoted dance assemblies in Perth. Peter Bowie’s collection of dance music from which Cantrip 2 is taken, is possibly unique to the Wighton Collection.


John Hope, 4th Earl of Hopetoun (1765-1823)
Cantrip 2

Military commander. Son of John Hope, 2nd Earl of Hopetoun (Linlithgow, Lothian) and Jean Oliphant. During his army career he served in the West Indies, the Netherlands, Egypt, Sweden, Spain and briefly Ireland.

He distinguished himself in particular during the Peninsular War (1808-14). In 1808, under the command of Sir John Moore, he landed in Portugal and was in command at Lisbon when the French evacuated the city. By skill and moderation, he succeeded in preventing the Portuguese from exacting revenge upon Napoleon’s army. At the death of Moore he found himself in chief command at the battle of Corunna (La Coruña1809) and for his conduct there was awarded a knighthood.

He later returned to the Iberian peninsula under the command of the Duke of Wellington. In civil life he twice served as a Member of Parliament, was a governor of the Royal Bank of Scotland, and was respected for his generous character.


Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)
Cantrip 2

Composer and harpsichordist. Born in Naples, he began his career in the Italian peninsula before taking up the post of mestre de capela in Lisbon. At Lisbon he gave harpsichord lessons to the King of Portugal’s daughter, Maria Barbara (she was to become a skilled player and composer).

Following Maria Barbara’s marriage to the Spanish Infante, he moved to Seville and later, Madrid. His works include over 500 single movement keyboard sonatas, many of which are virtuosic in nature. A small number of these sonatas were published in London during his lifetime.


Archibald Campbell, 8th Earl and 1st Marquis of Argyll (c1605-1661)
Cantrip 3

Statesman and clan chief. Educated at the University of St Andrews he was an ambitious and acquisitive chief and did much by his financial acumen and opportunism to extend the landed influence of the Campbell clan in the west of Scotland.

Appointed hereditary master of the household by Charles I, he nevertheless opposed the King’s policy to impose episcopacy in Scotland. On the restoration of Charles II in 1660 he sought royal favour but was arrested, taken to the Tower of London and thence by sea to Leith and imprisonment in Edinburgh Castle.

He was charged with high treason, the burning of Airlie considered a major part of his crime. (His harsh treatment of the royalist Ogilvies had also won him no favours amongst his fellow covenanters). Though his eventual execution made him a martyr to the covenanting cause, he was a cruel and brutal man, and found no difficulty in reconciling a merciless treatment of enemies with his religious convictions.


Lady Helen Ogilvy (d1664)
Cantrip 3

Heroine of the historical ballad "The bonnie house o’ Airlie". Daughter of Sir George Ogilvy (later 1st Lord Banff).

In 1629 she married James Ogilvy (later 2nd Earl of Airlie) a staunch supporter of Charles I. She became Lady Ogilvy in 1639 when her father-in-law, James Ogilvy, was made 1st Earl of Airlie. During the Covenanter Marquis of Argyll’s siege of Airlie Castle in 1640, she and her two young children were evicted and taken prisoner. Heavily pregnant, she was escorted to Dundee.

Later, given shelter amongst kinsfolk at Kinblethmont in Forfarshire (Angus), she gave birth to a daughter, Marion. In that same year, her father’s home in Banffshire was also burnt by the covenanters. For his support of the royalist cause in the battle of Philiphaugh (1645), her husband was imprisoned at the castle of St Andrews (Fife) and there condemned to death on a charge of treason. She won him back through the ingenuity of her sister-in-law, who, exchanging clothes with James, permitted his escape on the eve of his execution.


Raoul-Auger Feuillet (c1659-1710)
Cantrip 4

French dancer. Working at the court of Louis XIV he formalised a new system of dance notation which gained international currency in the early C18. Published in his Chorégraphie ou l’art de décrire la dance (Paris 1700) the system provided a universal if complex solution to the notation of dance. In 1706 he published a collection of contredances (country dances) in a simplified notation designed to enable interpretation without the aid of a dancing-master or particular knowledge of choreography. This Paris collection was, within a few years, published in translation in London.


Giovanni-Andrea Gallini (1728-1805)
Cantrip 4

Italian dancer and impressario. He appeared in Paris and London where he choreographed and danced ballets for several opera productions. He was twice director of the King’s Theatre, London (destroyed by fire in 1789). He wrote two treatises on dance and was an admirer of the ‘Scotch reel’, a dance he thought showed potential for use in the theatre. The Wighton Collection includes his c1770 Critical observations on the art of dancing [Wighton Coll. 53653].


John Morrison Caie (1879-1949)
Cantrip 5

Lawyer, agronomist and poet. The son of a minister, he was brought up in rural Banffshire and educated at the University of Aberdeen. He served for most of his life on the Board of Agriculture for Scotland. His poetry is shot with humour and casts an unsentimental eye on the farming life and culture of his native north east Scotland.


Niel Gow (1727-1807)
Cantrip 5

Scots fiddler and composer. Born in Perthshire the son of a weaver, he succeeded, through the patronage of the Murray family, Dukes of Atholl, in establishing himself as a professional musician. Though he published a collection of strathspey reels in 1784, much of his work was published posthumously as part of a family enterprise. His chief contribution to Scots fiddling was stylistic. His manner of executing up-bows, to which he applied weight and vigour, distinguished him from his contemporaries. Accompanied at dance assemblies by his cellist brother, Donald, much of his music, and that of his sons, is distinguished by its attention to simple bass lines, and harpsichord or pianoforte accompaniment.


James Scott Skinner (1843-1927)
Cantrip 5

Scots fiddler, composer and dancing-master. Under the auspices of a special music charity he was taught in Manchester by French violinist Charles Rougier (later a member of the city’s Hallé Orchestra). On his return to his native Aberdeenshire he also studied dancing, and gaining distinction in the art, was summoned to teach Queen Victoria’s household at Balmoral Castle. As a composer, his chief contribution was the expansion of the technical demands of the Scots fiddle tradition, and his cultivation of the slow strathspey form.




Andrew Wighton (1804-1866)

Merchant and music collector. The son of a Perthshire farmer, little is known of Wighton’s early life before he is recorded trading as a general merchant and dealer in musical instruments in the Hilltown area of Dundee.

The wide scope of Wighton’s collecting interests make his music library (now the Wighton Collection, Wighton Heritage Centre, Dundee Central Library) one of the most significant of its kind. Chiefly interested in the publishing centres of Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Dublin, Wighton gathered printed vocal and instrumental music from the late C17 to early C19, some of which is now unique to the Collection. A copy made by Wighton of a now lost lyra-viol ms owned by Paisley engraver, Andrew Blaikie, is also unique.

Wighton’s correspondence with the historians David Laing, William Chappell, and the Aberdeen music seller, James Davie, reveal him as a scholar of no little rigour. Highly regarded by his contemporaries, Wighton did much by his bibliographical expertise to inform antiquarian debate. His contribution to Scottish music historiography has not been fully recognised primarily because he left no published works.

Wighton was survived by his wife Agnes Caithness, a Forfarshire shipmaster’s daughter, who did much to ensure the safe preservation of her husband’s extensive music library until it could be gifted, according to the terms of his mortis causa trust, to the Dundee Free Library in 1869.




The Earls Marischal or Marshall
Cantrip 1

The hereditary office of marischal of Scotland, an office which entailed special court duties, was first held by the Keith family in the C12.

Sir Robert Keith (d1343), the first to hold office, fought at Bannockburn and was a signatory to the Declaration of Arbroath (1320).


Sir William Keith (dc1425) the 1st Earl Marischal derived his title from his hereditary office in 1458 for his part in the negotiation of a truce with England.


Sir William Keith, 6th Earl Marischal (d1671) supported the covenanters in defiance of Charles I but in 1640 expressed his discontent with the actions of the Marquis of Argyll (Cantrip 3) and lost the trust of the covenanter leaders.

It was also the 6th Earl who successfully concealed the honours of Scotland - the crown, sceptre and sword - on the family lands at Dunnottar (Kincardineshire) until restoration of monarchy in 1660.

Cantrip 1 - Dunnottar Castle









The dedicatory Earl Marshall's reel of Cantrip 1 probably refers to writer to the signet and benefactor, Alexander Keith (1737-1819).

Claimant of the hereditary title, Alexander Keith owned lands at Dunnottar and at Ravelston (Edinburgh). A member of the Society of Antiquaries he wrote, as later did his friend Sir Walter Scott, an account of the regalia or honours of Scotland.



Assembly Rooms
Cantrip 4

Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms (George St) were completed in 1787. The portico, a familiar sight to visitors to the Edinburgh International Festival, was added in 1817, the year of publication of Cantrip 4.

Glasgow’s Assembly Rooms (Ingram St), designed by Robert Adam (1728-92) were completed around a decade later (c1798). Demolished around 1890, part of the façade survives as the city’s McLennan Arch on Glasgow Green. The arch retains panels depicting the arts of music and dance.

In the late C18 it was feared that the elegant art of dancing in Scotland had fallen irretrievably into decline. But these fears were largely unfounded. Private balls, tavern dances and oyster-cellar gambols not only grew in number at the end of the century, but began lasting longer too.

In the 1760s public assemblies met at five o’clock in the afternoon and ended at eleven, but by the 1780s they were meeting at eight in the evening and rumbling on till three or four in the morning. Inevitably this prompted complaint that the young misses and masters of C18 Scotland were fit for nothing but yawning, gaping, and complaining of headaches. Nothing new in Scottish culture it seems!



(c) Sally Garden