More on Scottish Music in 19th century Australia

Image: Victoria, Australia, painted by Eugene von Guerard. Use free of conditions from

Soundyngs earlier this year reviewed an album of music from Concerto Caledonia, of music brought by Scots to Australia, a project curated jointly by academics, musicians and curators from Scotland and Australia (and in particular, with Sidney Living Museums).

In a recent article, Brianna E Robertson-Kirkland of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland summarises some of the research activity that has fed into this project, and contributes two case studies of Scots-Australian collections. She identifies several strands of research activity that has increased our knowledge of the impact of diasporic Scottish music on Australian heritage:

  • examination of music collections owned by early settlers
  • biographical studies of musicians
  • bibliographical surveys of composite volumes containing multiple works
  • performance projects using this music, including those by Concerto Caledonia and Melbourne-based early music and folk group, the Evergreen Ensemble

The case studies in this new article highlight the important role of women as tradition-bearers in collecting, curating and transmitting these collections of music.

Robertson-Kirkland focusses on two particular collections from New South Wales: one owned by Lucy Havens (1804-1867) from Fife, and the other by Haidee B Harris (1848-1934) from Surrey, whose ancestors included the famous Flora MacDonald of Jacobite fame. These large leather-bound volumes of music from Scotland not only demonstrate how much emigrants loved their music but also illustrate how printed music in the later 18th and 19th century was marketed to amateur middle-class female musicians in this period for domestic use.

Particularly useful are detailed lists of music found in the collections from Scottish composers and printers, along with instrumentation likely to have been used to play these at home, particularly piano, voice or flute, and guitar.  Biographies of both collectors show the contexts in which this music was first encountered, and subsequently used.  Haidee Harris, for example, is shown to have had a fine voice, and her collection reflects this vocal bias.

These collections represent nostalgia for a Scottish homeland, suggests Robertson-Kirkland, while also preserving into the 19th and 20th centuries the memory of material which had reached the height of its popularity in the 1790s.

Further Reading

.. and listening:

  • Ellie Parnell and C Benedict, ‘Scottish Music in the Australian Landscape’, ABC 18 September 2022 – podcast involving the Evergreen Ensemble of early 19th century Scottish-Australian music from the Stewart Symonds sheet music collection and The Murray Collection of NSW.

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