Blair Castle Manuscripts

Various uncatalogued mss at Blair Castle, Blair Atholl, Perthshire

Tunes for the Guittar & Harpsichord, 1767

This beautiful ms is musically negligible yet is graced with a fine pen-and-ink drawing on each page of scenes from Blair Estate, including an apparently unknown portrait of the famous fiddler in residence at Blair, Niel Gow. [Thanks to Blair Castle for permission to publish these images]


Blair Gow

Another picture shows a guittarist serenading his lady:

Blair Serenade

There is also a song in Gaelic, together with a suitably romantic image:

Blair Gaelic

The only musical interest lies in this fine and delicate setting of the great anti-war ballad, Flowers of the Forest:

Blair Flowers

There are many other images in the ms, and the following note was added to the inside of the cover:
“Athole from William Viscount Strathallan Decr.1881. This book belonged to his Mother and the Drawings of music in it, show that it belonged to her Mother, the Hnble Jane Cathcart, first wife of John, 4th Duke of Atholl”

The first mother mentioned is Lady Amelia Lydia Murray, grand-daughter of the third Duke of Atholl. Most of the tunes can be played on the guittar, and, as in ‘Flowrs of the Forrest’, above, were clearly played on it. No doubt the young Lady Jane would have tried some of the pieces on the harpsichord also.


Guitar Music 1787 CM

The contents of this ms for guittar were written into a blank stave book “Made and Sold by Longman & Broderip, No.26 Cheapside, 13 Hay Market”. The initials, “CM”, refer to Lady Charlotte Muray, daughter of the owner of the above ms. Items include:

Loch Erich
Jenny Sutton’s Reel
Handel’s Water Piece
The Caledonian Hunt’s Delight
The Bridge of Balater
Lady London’s Strathspey
I wish I were where Helen lies
Rondo – overture in “Poor Soldier”
King of Sweden’s March
Various overtures and Songs from operas


MS of Lady Charlotte & Lady Jean Murray, daughters of John, third Duke of Atholl

mainly for keyboard but includes some minor pieces for guittar


Musical Miscellany

Lady Jean Murray. 1783. A few simple guittar pieces.


MS of Lady Jane Muirhead

second daughter of the third Duke includes:
Down the Burn Davie
The Broom of Cowden Knows
Handel’s Water Piece
Corn Riggs
Fairly Shot of her
The Bush aboon Traquair
Logan Water
The Birks of Envermay
The Lass of Peaties Mill
Throw the Wood Laddie
Within a mile of Edinburgh
Country Dance
The Brase of Ballanden
An thou were my ain thing
Etrick Banks
Irish Girl
I wish my love were in a mire
Mt Marshalls’ Compls to Niel Gow
Jack Latin
Gin a body meet a Body



Both Oswald’s 18 Divertimento’s and Ross’s Select Collection properly belong to Blair Castle but are housed in the Atholl Collection in the A.K. Bell Library in Perth. Luckily the two guittars used by the ladies of the house still survive and are on display in the Castle. One has a lute bowl back and lute tuning pegs (“Mr Raucher, Shandois Street London 1762”), the other (“Claus & Co Inventor London No7 Gerrad Street”) has a keyboard attachment and a Preston tuning system.

Clearly the guittar was an important instrument in a house long associated with traditional and classical music, and I hope to one day restore and record the instruments and the music from the collection.