The Atholl Collection in Perth – catalogue pdf available

Cover of catalogue – reproduced by kind permission of Culture Perth & Kinross Local & Family History

The A K Bell library in Perth has been working to make the long out-of-print catalogue of the Atholl Collection available and can now supply a pdf to interested scholars by email request.

Compiled by Sheila M Douglas and first published in 1999, the catalogue is being supplemented by additional work in-house to index tunes and transfer this into electronic format.

The Atholl collection, which runs to some 600 books and manuscripts relating to Scottish music, was gathered by Lady Dorothea Stewart Murray, daughter of the 7th Duke of Atholl (b.1866, d.1937).  The Atholl family had been the patrons of Neil Gow in the late 18th century, and familial interest in the music of Scottish dances and melodies was clearly a strong feature of Lady Dorothea’s youth, continuing when she moved to London as a married woman.  She left her music and poetry library to the Sandeman Library in Perth, now the A K Bell Library, so it could be discovered by a wider range of readers.

The catalogue preface by Jeremy Duncan suggests “Perthshire’s situation at the heartland of Scotland means that it is the meeting place of Scots and Gaelic, Highland and Lowland, urban and rural, and is also a magnet for people wishing to make their home here and become adopted Scots.”  The contents of the collection are particularly strong in works from the 18th and early 19th century.  Composers and writers featured include printed works of literary activists such as Ramsay, Oswald, Burns, Lady Nairn and Scott, as well as musicians such as Bremner, Gow (Neil and Nathaniel) and Marshall.  Manuscripts include William Dixon’s Tune Book (1734), which the catalogue suggests is the earliest known manuscript of bagpipe music in Britain.  Overall, items demonstrate how Scottish music lay at the centre of social life: in dancing, and in amateur chamber music performances for voice, violin, German flute, keyboard and cello.

Outside of the Atholl collection, which was her personal library, Lady Dorothea also bought the piping books of John Glen in 1904, and donated these in 1927 to the National Library of Scotland in memory of her younger brother, George, who served in the Black Watch and lost his life in the early stages of the First World War.

Lady Dorothea wanted this material to be available for study but also playing, so hopefully some performances might emerge from visits to the collection.


Perth and Kinross Libraries – Special Collections.

More on Lady Dorothea Murray

Leave a comment