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Inver and Other Wielders of the Bow

On the demise of Niel Gow, Inver did not lose its claim to be considered as a place where exponents on the violin of Scottish music still flourished. It retains that reputation to this day. Other wielders of the bow followed the old man, some of them pupils and their descendants.

There were three generations of Gows, but the two last chiefly performed in Edinburgh and the south, and there were three generations of Macintoshes. One of the Macintoshes joined Niel Gow’s sons in the famous travelling orchestral band. There were the Murrays, dyers of cloth in Inver, one of whom, Peter, has already been mentioned as having played the ‘cello before Burns. Peter Hardie, too, was another pupil who became a well-known player. He was born in 1773, the son of an army surgeon, receiving a University education at Edinburgh, where he also studied violin-making under his cousin, Matthew Hardie. Peter Hardie resided in Dunkeld for many years, died in 1863, and lies in Dowally Churchyard.

Then there was Duncan MacKerrachar, nicknamed the "Atholl Paganini," who on leaving Dunkeld went to reside in Gow’s Cottage at Inver. He acted as a Guide to the Atholl Grounds, and was long remembered for his spirited playing and quaint appearance. A delightful description of both is given in Stewart’s "Scottish Characters":-

"Hark, the tweedle-dum!

That bow hand hath fleetness;

Gusts o’ music come

Rich in Highland sweetness.

Hearts and heels bestir,

Rise, my bonny Linny,

Dance to Duncan Ker,

The Atholl Paganini.

A bonnet meets his brow,

Thrissle-badged an’ cockit;

Round him a surtout,

I’ the fashion—dockit,

Short’s a plant o’ fir,

Onything but scraggie:

Such is Duncan Ker,

The Atholl Paganini."

One of MacKerrachar’s Contemporaries and acquaintances was William Duff, a fisherman on the Tay waters, in the employment of the Duke of Atholl. He resided at Polney, near Dunkeld, and received the nickname of "Beardie Willie," from his lengthy facial adornment. He, too, wielded the bow, was maker of violins as well as player, and was also a "character" with a quiet fund of pawky humour. A life-size representation of him adorns the inner door of the Hermitage building, placed there after a picture of Ossian had been destroyed. Other performers in the district were William M’Leish, John Crerar and John Sim. Two sons of the latter follow in their father’s footsteps yet, in addition to their other callings. Mr Alexander Sim is a well-known and skilful violinist in Aberdeen, and has on numerous occasions displayed his talents at Balmoral before the King and other members of the Royal family, whilst his brother. Mr John Sim, was long a member of the Scott Orchestral Band, the conductor of which, Mr John Scott, Inver, is recognised as a skilled authority on the subject, receiving the appointment as adjudicator of Reels and Strathspeys at the Perthshire Festival in 1924, and, later on, at Edinburgh.

John Crerar, whose descendants are still in Dunkeld, was a keeper on the Atholl estate, and his features are familiar to many who do not know his name. He is depicted in the picture by Landseer, "Death of a Stag in Glentilt," as looking through a telescope. He was born near Dunkeld in 1750 and died at the age of 90 at Polney. Composing as well as playing, three of his tunes, "Forest Lodge," "The Bridge of Garry," and "The Banks of the Garry," were published in M’Glashan’s second" Collection," 1788, and the Hon. Lady Dorothea Ruggles Brise, who wrote a memoir on Crerar, says he is probably accountable for others in that collection. He is also credited with "The Merry Lads of Inver" and "The Big Boat of Inver," which were published by Almaine in a Collection of Dances early in the century. He was one of Niel Gow’s pupils.

Dunkeld an Ancient City
Elizabeth Stewart
Dunkeld, 1926

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