Biography:John Riddel

Find traditional instrumental music

John Riddel

 Given name:     John
 Middle name:     
 Family name:     Riddel
 Place of birth:     
 Place of death:     Ayr
 Year of birth:     1718
 Year of death:     1795
 Profile:     Collector
 Source of information: djvu.txt

Biographical notes

"Riddel was the composer of several popular airs — such as "Jenny's Bawbee," "Merry Lads of Ayr (The)," "Stewarton Lasses," "Dumfries House," etc. He was an excellent player in his day — so much so that Lord Archibald Montgomerie, upon one occasion, laid a bet that he would get a blind man in Ayr who would beat all the violin players in Edinburgh. Riddel had a small salary from all the gentlemen of any note in the county, at whose residences it was his duty to attend at stated periods, and as often as he pleased or found it convenient during the rest of the year.

He was never without a pupil, or an apprentice — for in these days the pupils were regularly apprenticed to their teacher, whom they styled Master, and it was the duty of the apprentice to accompany the master in all his excursions. Amongst other pupils of Riddel was Weymis Gillespie, another violer whose name deserves to be recorded. By this time Riddel had become very old, and dared not expose himself to rough weather or much fatigue. Gillespie, his pupil, had, upon one occasion, an engagement at a carpenters' ball in Ayr, and, being a young man, his heart as well as his bow was in the projected merry-making. Unfortunately, upon that very day, he was called by his master to attend him in a special visit to one of his country patrons. This, at first sight, seemed a death-blow to Gillespie's diversion; still he was determined not to forgo the pleasure, if at all possible. "We're gaun to hae a guid day, I think," said the old blind master to his pupil, as he consulted him about their journey. "No very sure o' that, master," said Gillespie, upon whose brain instantly flashed the idea of a stratagem which might emancipate him from his dilemma. "Gi'e wa' out an' see what the day looks like," rejoined the old man. Gillespie did as he was required; and, though the sun was clear and the sky bright, reported on returning that he was afraid it would be overcast, as he saw certain ominous clouds gathering very rapidly. Riddel, at all times anxious to attend to the calls of his patrons, was unwilling to remain at home, and repeatedly dispatched Gillespie to ascertain the state of the weather. Appearances always became worse with the apprentice, till at length he returned with the intelligence that it was "an even-down pour!" Old Riddel, somewhat dubious, was led to the door to satisfy himself of the fact. Gillespie, during his last absence, had, with the assistance of a friend, so fastened a large birch broom, thoroughly soaked in water, over the lintel of the door, that the moment the old man groped his way out the water fell upon his bare head like a shower bath. "Richt eneuch, richt eneuch, Gillespie, we canna gang in sic weather as this;" and so Old Riddel was satisfied, and Gillespie prepared to enjoy the carpenter's ball in the evening." [from The Glen Collection of Scottish Music].