Niel Gow, the head of the family so far as music is concerned, was born in 1727 near Dunkeld.
Having attained a good deal of distinction as a performer and composer of Scots violin music, he published through Messrs. Corri & Sutherland, his First and Second Collection of Strathspey Reels, the latter being issued in1788, and the former a few years previously. His son, Nathaniel, having come to Edinburgh as a professional musician, appears to have undertaken the publication of the Third Collection in Edinburgh, while his other two sons, John and Andrew, who were music sellers at 60, King Street, Golden Square, undertook the London sale.
In 1796 Nathaniel Gow entered into partnership with William Shepherd, an Edinburgh musician, and their first place of business was at 41, North Bridge Street, from whence they published many collected pieces and much sheet music. Before 1804 they had removed to 16, Princes Street, and this number is retained until 1810-11, when it is changed (probably by re-numbering the street) to 40.
Shepherd having died Nathaniel Gow found himself in great monetary difficulties and had to make up a large sum to the executors of his former partner. Shortly before 1818 he however entered into business again with his son as " Nathaniel Gow & Son," at 60, Princes Street, and they carried on the trade until 1825, when, the son having died, he shortly afterwards was partner with the firm Gow & Galbraith.
In 1827 bankruptcy came to Nathaniel Gow, and his friends advised him to advertise a ball for his benefit ; it realised a sum of nearly £300. The ball was again repeated in three subsequent years with a like satisfactory result. Besides this he had a pension of £50 a year from the Caledonian Club. He died in 1831.
Whatever causes tended to the ruin of Gow it is a fact that the profits from his engagement as a violinist and leader of fashionable dance functions must have been enormous. It is stated that he frequently received one hundred and one hundred and fifty guineas for attending a ball at Perth, Dumfries, etc. He was appointed one of the King's trumpeters for Scotland with a salary Of C70, before he was sixteen, upon his first coming to Edinburgh. The Gow publications include all Niel Gow's Collections of Strathspey Reels (after the second, and of course a re-publication of these), with the " Repositories," and many similar collections by inathaniel Gow and others, with a vast quantity of sheet music, principally consisting of the popular dance tunes of the day, a great many of which were named after Gow's lady and gentleman patrons. Nathaniel Gow was the composer of the ever popular "Callar Herring," which he wrote as one of a series of pieces to illustrate the cries of Edinburgh. It was some twenty years after its first publication that Lady Nairne wrote the words of this song to Gow's tune. The following are some few of the Gow publications:--
- A Third Collection of Strathspey Reels - by Niel Gow, at Dunkeld.... Edinburgh, printed for the author and to be had of him at Dunkeld..Nath Gow, Baillie Fybes Close, Edinburgh, John and Andrew Gow, No. 60, King's Street, Golden Square, London, folio.
- A Fourth Collection. Gow & Shepherd, music sellers, 41, North Bridge Street.
- A Fifth Collection..Gow & Shepherd, 16, Princes Street (also the second and other editions of the 1st and 2nd collections).
- A Complete Repository of Original Scots Slow Strathspeys and Dances.. by Niel Gow & Sons,, Gow & Shepherd, 41, North Bridge Street, folio.
- Part Second of the Complete Repository .... Gow & Shepherd, 16, Princes Street.
- Part Third.. Same imprint.
- Part Fourth, published by the proprietor and to be had of Nath Gow, 2, South Hanover Street, and John Gow, 30, Great Marlbro' Street, London. Another later edition is published by Gow & Galbraith.
- A Complete Collection of Original German Valtz .... by Nath Gow.. Gow & Shepherd, 41, North Bridge Street, folio.
- A Collection of entirely original Strathspey Reels .... by Ladies resident in a remote part of the Highlands of Scotland. N.B. Corrected by Nath Gow. Gow & Shepherd, 16, Princes Street, folio.
- A Second Collection of Strathspey Reels .... by William Shepherd .... Gow & Shepherd, 16, Princes Street. (The first was published by the author before his partnership with Gow, but it was republished by the firm.)
- A Complete Repository of Old and New Scotch Strathspey Reels and jigs, adapted for the German Flute . . Gow & Shepherd, 40, Princes Street, oblong 4to. Ditto, Book II.
Several of Nath Gow's publications before he became music seller were issued by N.Stewart and after his failure Alexander Robertson re-published the works of Neil and Nathaniel, and the additional parts entitled "The Beauties of Neil Gow", "The Vocal Melodies of Scotland" and " The Ancient Curious Collection of Scotland."
Source: Kidson's British Music Publishers.
Note: The spelling of Niel's first name varies and also one of later musical Gows was called Neil.
There is further information on the Gows on Wikipedia
Niel Gow is referred to in the article on Princess Royal
Back to Scottish Music Publishers