Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Niel Gow's Farewell To Whisky

Scottish Country Dance Instruction

NIEL GOW'S FAREWELL TO WHISKY (R48) Round The Room or Up Down Room RSCDS Book 34
Round the room or up down room dance 2 couples facing 2 couples (1s face 3s, 2s face 4s, 1s on right of 2s)

1- 8 All circle 8H round and back
9-16 1s+3s dance R&L while 2s and 4s set twice and turn partner RH twice
17-24 2s+4s dance R&L while 1s and 3s set twice and turn partner RH twice
25-32 Ladies dance reel of 4 passing opposite Lady RSh to start
33-40 Men dance reel of 4 passing opposite Man RSh to start
41-48 All advance and retire and pass RSh to new set

(MINICRIB. Dance crib compiled by Charles Upton, Deeside Caledonian Society, and his successors)

Keith Rose's Crib Diagrams

Dance Instruction Videos

Niel Gow's Farewell To Whisky - Scottish Country Dancing Instruction Video

Dance Information

Niel Gow (1727-1807) was the most famous Scottish fiddler of the eighteenth century.

Gow was born in Strathbraan, Perthshire, in 1727, as the son of John Gow and Catherine McEwan. The family moved to Inver in Perthshire when Niel was an infant.

He started playing the fiddle when very young and at age 13 received his first formal lessons from one John Cameron. In spite of being something of a musical prodigy, he originally trained as a weaver, but eventually gave up that trade to become a full-time musician. He was widely considered the best fiddle player in Perthshire, an area which was renowned for its musicians-the story goes that at age 18 he entered a competition that was being judged by John McCraw, a blind musician, who awarded him the first prize and then went on to claim that he "would ken his bow hand among a hunder players" (detect Niel's style among a hundred players). This attracted the attention of the Duke of Atholl, who became Niel's patron, and also ensured Niel's employment for balls and dance parties put on by the local nobility. In time he became renowned as a fiddler.

According to John Glen (1895), Niel Gow composed, or is credited with composing eighty-seven dance tunes, "some of which are excellent." These tunes form the backstay of Scottish country dance music even today. However, it must be said that he was not above claiming good material from other composers as his own; Glen claims that at least a quarter of the eighty-seven tunes are either derived from older tunes or are copies of tunes published earlier elsewhere, often under a different title. The Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen indicates that Gow's air of Locherroch Side was the basis for Robert Burns' ballad, "Oh! stay, sweet warbling Woodlark, stay." This "borrowing" was a common practice at the time and it didn't seem to hurt his reputation; in fact, the famous painter Henry Raeburn was commissioned to paint him several times.

Many of Niel Gow's compositions are still played today at ceilidhs and country dances. He himself spelled his name Niel, although others sometimes spell it Neil or even Neal. The National Records of Scotland attest that Gow himself used the name 'Neil'. To add to the confusion he had a very musical grandson (by Nathaniel) who did spell his name "Neil".

The annual Niel Gow Fiddle Festival takes place in Dunkeld and Birnam, Perthshire, Scotland. It was established in 2004 to celebrate the life and music of Gow.

Niel Gow
"Niel Gow, 1727-1807, Violinist And Composer" Henry Raeburn (1756-1823), Oil On Canvas, c. 1787

Dance information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence 3.0.
Text from this original Niel Gow article on Wikipedia.
Image copyright Henry Raeburn / Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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