Gow, Nathaniel (DNB00)

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GOW, NATHANIEL (1766–1831), Scotch violinist and composer, youngest son of Niel Gow [q. v.], was born at Inver, near Dunkeld, Perthshire, on 28 March 1766. He gave early indications of musical talent, and after receiving some lessons on the violin from his father, he was sent to Edinburgh, where he studied first under Robert M'Intosh, and next under M'Glashan, leader of the fashionable bands in the Scottish capital. From Joseph Reinagle [q. v.] he had a course of lessons on the violoncello, as a player of which he made his first public appearance. In 1782 he was appointed one of his majesty's trumpeters for Scotland, having to attend royal proclamations, and to accompany the justiciary judges on their circuits. In 1791 he became leader of the band formerly conducted by m'Glashan. This band was in great request, and his memorandum books show that as much as a hundred and fifty guineas was occasionally paid for their services. He was frequently called to London, and on most of these occasions he had an invitation to play at private parties given by George IV, then Prince of Wales. In Edinburgh he had an extensive connection as a teacher of the violin and pianoforte, and commanded the highest fees in the profession. At one time he is said to have been worth upwards of 20,000l., accumulated solely from the proceeds of his balls and teaching. He started business as a music-seller on two separate occasions, first in 1796, in company with William Shepherd, and next in company with his son Niel. The later enterprise was unsuccessful, and in 1827 Gow became a bankrupt. He was in bad health; his friends raised a considerable sum by a ball for his benefit, and the noblemen of the Caledonian Hunt voted him besides an annuity of 50l. He died on 17 Jan. 1831, and was buried in Greyfriars churchyard, Edinburgh. Gow was twice married, and had a large family, one of whom was Niel, the composer of the popular air known as ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ (‘Cam'ye by Athol?’). Niel had been educated for the medical profession, but abandoned it in favour of music. He died in 1823.

As a violinist Nathaniel Gow had all the spirit and fire of his father, whom he greatly excelled in the performance of music of a slow and plaintive character. In Scotch dance music he was unapproached. He was a voluminous composer; upwards of two hundred original melodies were published by him during his life, and many were left in manuscript. While his father lived he assisted him in bringing out three volumes of music, published as the works of ‘Niel Gow & Son.’ He subsequently issued a fourth, fifth, and sixth ‘Collection’ of strathspeys and reels; three volumes of ‘Beauties’ (a reprint of the best airs in the first three collections, with additions); four volumes of a ‘Repository’ of Scots slow airs, strathspeys, and dances; two volumes of Scottish vocal melodies; two volumes of slow airs, dances, waltzes, &c., and a collection of ancient curious Scots melodies, besides many smaller publications arranged for harp, pianoforte, violin, and violoncello.

[Chambers's Eminent Scotsmen, 1855, ii. 482; Grove's Dict. i. 615, where he is erroneously spoken of as the eldest son of Niel Gow.]

J. C. H.