• Andy Shearer

Day 63 - Pete Clark celebrates iconic Perthshire fiddler Niel Gow

Highland Perthshire fiddler and teacher Pete Clark carries the flame for Niel Gow, one of the most important figures in the history of Scottish traditional music. Pete lives in the same area around Dunkeld as Gow did, is founder and director of the annual Niel Gow Festival and even occasionally gets to play the great man's fiddle, as he does in this video introduction to his timeless music.

Niel Gow (1727 - 1807) was the most famous Scottish fiddler of the eighteenth century and remains one of the most influential Scottish composers in history.


Niel (not Neil) was born in Strathbraan and grew up in the village of Inver, by Dunkeld. Essentially self-taught, he forsook the trade of plaid weaving for a career as a musician and travelled extensively throughout Scotland, performing in most major towns and cities at parties and balls in the grand homes of the wealthy.


As a tunesmith, Niel's inspiration was all around, be it people, places or events and his music lives on through its enduring popularity. Although his compositions include jigs, reels and strathspeys he is perhaps best remembered for his beautiful slow airs, most of which mark the passing of a relative or close friend.


Niel Gow married twice. His eight children, three daughters and five sons, all came from his first marriage, to Margaret Wiseman. Four of Niel's sons took up the fiddle (his fifth son Daniel died in infancy). Niel himself died on 1st March 1807, three weeks short of his 80th birthday. He is buried in the little Dunkeld churchyard.

Pete Clark lives in Highland Perthshire, the homeland of the great 18th century fiddler Niel Gow. He is a former tutor at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow and continues to perform, teach, compose and record.


He directs his own biannual fiddle courses in the village of Birnam, coaches and conducts the Dunkeld & District Strathspey & Reel Society and is co-founder and director of the annual Niel Gow Festival.


Pete has previously taught and performed in many countries including the USA, Canada and Japan, and is visiting lecturer on the fiddle music of Scotland at the University of St Andrews. He is also a regular contributor to Fiddler Magazine, published quarterly in the USA.


His ninth and most recent recording, Niel Gow’s Fiddle, features Pete playing the violin (a copy of a Gasparo da Salo) which was the favourite of 18th century Perthshire maestro Niel Gow. This is the instrument which Pete is playing in the video clip above. Proceeds from sales of the album go towards the installation of a memorial to Gow in the village of Dunkeld, a life-size bronze by Scottish sculptor David Annand.


Find out more about Pete on his web site: www.pete-clark.com

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