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    The Semantic Index of North American, British and Irish
 traditional instrumental music with annotations, formerly known as
                          The Fiddler's Companion.
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Niel Gow's Wife

Played by: Marc Emory
Source: Soundcloud
Image: Neil Gow

Niel Gow's Wife

Under the title "Mr. MacDonald of Staffa's Strathspey," the tune is earliest credited to Daniel McLaren of Edinburgh, a native of Taymouth, Perthshire, who published it in 1794 (unfortunately, little is known of him). Gow and sons published the tune as “Niel Gow’s Wife” in their Complete Repository, Book 2 (1802) with composer credits to Inver, Perthshire, fiddler-composer Niel Gow (1727-1807). Still later, in MacDonald’s Skye Collection (1887), it is credited to Duncan MacIntyre. The title has been altered to insert the word “Second” to “Niel Gow’s Wife” to accommodate the apocryphal story of his fiddle being the famous fiddler-composer’s ‘second wife’ in his affections. Niel did, however, have two wives, the first of whom, Margaret Wiseman, bore him five sons; his second, Margaret Urquhart, had no children. The association of instrument and intimate bond has been made with other fiddlers as well, and stems from the old saying that the minstrel’s ‘second wife’ was his harp. Donal Hickey, in his 1999 book on Sliabh Luachra musicians Stone Mad for Music, writes: “Pádraig (O’Keeffe) {1887-1963} remained single and he used to call the fiddle ‘the missus’, declaring that it gave no bit of trouble at all. ‘Just one stroke across the belly and she purrs’, he would say.”The tune is played in County Donegal as a highland and is associated with the playing of Danny O’Donnell, James Byrne and John Doherty.

See The Northern Fiddler (1979), pp. 81 (bottom tune, and untitled highland) and 194; the latter an untitled strathspey from the playing of Danny O’Donnell. Donegal fiddler O’Donnell recorded the tune in the 78 RPM era, last in a set of three Highlands (preceded by “Polly Put the Kettle On (1)” and “Bundoran Highland (The)”). He called his set The Thistle and Shamrock (symbolic of Scotland and Ireland). “Watchmaker (The)” is a related melody. “Niel Gow's Second Wife (1)” appears in the music manuscript copybook of John Burks, dated 1821, who may have been from the north of England (photocopy in ed. possession). It is a rather simplified form of the original strathspey, which retains only some of the characteristic dotted rhythms and 'Scots Snap.'

...more at: Niel Gow's Wife - full Score(s) and Annotations


X: 1 A: Scotland B: Niel & Nathaniel Gow - Complete Repository Part 2 (p. 13 - 1802) B: Stewart-Robertson – The Athole Collection (1884) D: Ois\355in McAuley: From the Hills of Donegal - Compass Records 7 4446 2, 2007 %H: Historical, geographical allegiances %N: Notes O: Scottish %Q: "Tempo" %S: AK/The Fiddler's Companion R: Strathspey Z: AK/Fiddler's Companion T: Neil Gow's Wife C: composed by: Niel Gow, C: Daniel McLaren of Edinburgh, Duncan MacIntyre C: collected by: The TTA (2010 - 2020) C: M:C L:1/8 K:Gmin d|B<G G>B A<F ~F>A|B<G G>A B>A B<g|B<G G>B A<F F>A| ~B2 d>B F<BB:||d|B < B d>B f>Bd>B|F<F A>F c>FA>c| ~B2 d>B f>Bd>f|g<g b>g d<g g>b|f<d d>f e<c c>e| d < B B>d c < B A>F|G<GB < B c<c d>c|B>G B/A/G/^F/ D<GG||

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Who Builds The Archive

Who Builds The Archive

Although we are not trained musicologists and make no pretense to the profession, we have tried to apply such professional rigors to this Semantic Abc Web as we have internalized through our own formal and informal education.
This demands the gathering of as much information as possible about folk pieces to attempt to trace tune families, determine origins, influences and patterns of aural/oral transmittal, and to study individual and regional styles of performance.
Many musicians, like ourselves, are simply curious about titles, origins, sources and anecdotes regarding the music they play. Who, for example, can resist the urge to know where the title Blowzabella came from or what it means, or speculating on the motivations for naming a perfectly respectable tune Bloody Oul' Hag, is it Tay Ye Want?
Knowing the history of the melody we play, or at least to have a sense of its historical and social context, makes the tune 'present' in the here and now, and enhances our rendering of it.
Andrew Kuntz & Valerio Pelliccioni

Please register as a user to make the most of the many functions of the TTA, and enjoy the many ways that information about traditional tunes can be elicited and combined, from simple to complex situations. Users may make contributions, which, when reviewed by an editor, become part of this community project. Serious user/contributors may become editors through the TTA's autopromotion process, in which quantity and quality of entries allows increased levels of permission to edit and review the entire index.
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Navigation: Registered users can navigate the Traditional Tune Archive for information in a number of ways.

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  • Query the Archive. The “Query the Archive” function under “The Archive” in the sidebar can be used to draw down reports from the TTA in either in single items or in a number of combinations. One might, for example, use a single item query to run a report in the TTA for a particular composer/core source. Clicking on the arrow at the right of the bar draws down a list of composer/core sources, or one may be typed in. For example, clicking on “Bill Pigg” and then the “Run Query” tab at the bottom left will result in a list of all compositions listed in the TTA that the Northumbrian piper either composed or is the core source for. Reports may also be run in combinations, as, for example, by selecting “William Marshall” as a composer/core source, “Three Flats” for the number of accidentals, and “Major” for the Key/Mode. This will result in a report of all Eb Major compositions of Scottish fiddler/composer William Marshall that are indexed in the TTA.
  • Tune Books/Magazines in the TTA can be accessed under “Publications” in the left side bar. These are reproductions of publications for which access has been granted to the TTA by the copyright holder, under the Creative Commons license.