Earlier this month, I finally had a trip to Inver and Dunkeld for a bit of a Niel Gow pilgrimage, having a peak in at Gow’s cottage (taking in fiddler Charles Macintosh’s house just around the corner!), and a ramble along the Fiddler’s Walk to see the Niel Gow oak tree, where the fiddler is said to have composed many of his tunes. It’s difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to anecdotes about the life of Niel Gow, but there is still something special about having this physical link to the past – particularly in the case of a living tree. While there I played a few recordings of Gow tunes and collected some bark that had fallen off the tree, as well as having a little nap on the lovely commemorative bench (decorated with words by Michael Marra).
I’ve been gradually making my way through the Gow collections, and gathering some of my favourite tunes. Here’s “A Skye Air” from the Complete Repository, part 3 . The tune was used also used for a song by the Gaelic poet Mary MacLeod, from where it gets its alternate title “Hithill ùthill agus hó”. I’ve arranged Gow’s version for two violins, largely sticking to the original bass, with a bit of octave transposition and some double-stopping. It looks like I’ll need to invest in some new tartan blankets if I’m going to have a different backdrop for each video!