Two Worlds Meet

News of a potentially interesting archival item triggers an attack of insatiable curiosity. I must confess that the musicologist is somewhat more triggered than the custodian!

So, I have a few questions that need answered. Where and when was the original owner born? When did they leave Scotland? What did their Scottish ancestry/identity mean to them?

And most importantly, was ‘Scottish’ music a significant part of their repertoire?

As I mentioned in earlier posts, my librarianship is amply qualified, and embodies four decades of expertise, but musicology and research came first. The musicologist is buried beneath the outer librarian, and can’t help bubbling to the surface when an intriguing possibility presents itself!

If I can answer these initial questions satisfactorily, then I’ll want to explore further. I think you can guess what I need to do this morning!


Well, the original owner called themselves Scottish. But they were born in England of a Scottish mother. Should I order their birth certificate? It’s not cheap, and could arrive too late to be useful. But … !

58 Weeks to Go – How is This Meant to Feel?


The government moved the goalposts – when I started work, I imagined I’d have retired by now.  Instead, I’ve worked an extra five years, with one more to go. I shall hit 66 in summer 2024.  I don’t want to retire entirely, but I must confess I’m utterly bored with cataloguing music! (Except when it turns out to be a weird little thing in a donation, perhaps shining a light on music education in earlier times, or repertoire changes, or the organisation behind its publication – or making me wonder about the original owner and how they used it … but then, that’s my researcher mentality kicking in, isn’t it?!)

Status Quo: Stability and Stagnation

Everyone knows I’m somewhat tired of being a librarian.  Everyone knows that my heart has always been in research.  Librarianship seemed a good idea when I embarked upon it, and it enabled me to continue working in music, which has always been my driving force.  But the downside of stability – and I’d be the first to say that it has been welcome for me as a working mother – has been the feeling of stagnation.  No challenges, no career advancement, no extra responsibility.  Climbing the ladder?  There was no ladder to climb, not even a wee kickstep!  (I did the qualification, Chartership, Fellowship, Revalidation stuff. I even did a PhD and a PG Teaching Cert, but I never ascended a single rung of the ladder.)

In my research existence, I get a thrill out of writing an article or delivering a paper, of making a new discovery or sorting a whole load of facts into order so that they tell a story. I love putting words on a page, carefully rearranging them until they say exactly what I want them to say. I’m good at it. But as a librarian, I cannot say I’m thrilled to realise that I’ve now catalogued 1700 of a consignment of jazz CDs, mostly in the same half-dozen or so series of digital remasters.  (I’d like to think they’ll get used, but even Canute had to realise that he couldn’t keep back the tide.  CDs are old technology.)

The Paranoia of Age

But what really puzzles me is this: when it comes to the closing years of our careers, is it other people who perceive us as old? Is age something that other people observe in us?  Do people regard us as old and outdated because they know we’re close to retirement age? 

Or do we bring these perceptions upon ourselves because of our own attitudes to our ageing?  Does my own perception of myself affect the way people perceive me?  Do I inadvertently give the impression that I’m less capable?  Do I merely fear that folk see me as old and outdated because I know I’m approaching retirement age? A fear in my own mind rather than a belief in theirs?

How many people of my age ask themselves questions like these, I wonder?

Shopping Trolley

Am I seen as heading downhill to retirement?  Increasingly irrelevant?  Worthy only to be sidelined, like the wonky shopping-trolley that’s only useful if there’s nothing else available?

Is my knowledge considered out-of-date, or is it paranoia on my part, afraid that I might be considered out of date, no longer the first port-of-call for a reliable answer?

When I queue up for a coffee, I imagine that people around me, in their teens and early twenties, must see me as “old” like their own grandparents.  And I shudder, because I probably look hopelessly old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy.  But is this my perception, or theirs?  Maybe they don’t see me at all.  Post-menopausal women are very conscious that in some people’s eyes, they’re simply past their sell-by date.  I could spend a fortune colouring my hair, and try to dress more fashionably, but I’d still have the figure of a sedentary sexagenarian who doesn’t take much exercise and enjoys the odd bar of chocolate!  (And have you noticed, every haircut leaves your hair seeming a little bit more grey than it was before?)

Similarly, I worry whether my hearing loss (and I’m only hard of hearing, not deaf) causes a problem to other people?  Does it make me unapproachable and difficult to deal with?  I’m fearful of that.  Is it annoying to tell me things, because I might mis-hear and have to ask for them to be repeated?  Or do I just not hear, meaning that I sometimes miss information through no fault but my own inadequate ears?  Friends, if you thought the menopause was frightening, then believe me impending old age is even more so. I don’t want to be considered a liability, merely a passenger. And I know that I’m not one. But I torment myself with thoughts that I won’t really be missed, that my contribution is less vital than it used to be.

Gazing into the Future

Crystal ball
Crystal Ball Gazing

I wonder if other people at this stage would agree with me that the pandemic has had the unfortunate effect of making us feel somewhat disconnected, like looking through a telescope from the wrong end and perceiving retirement not so much a long way off, as approaching all too quickly?  The months of working at home have been like a foretaste of retirement, obviously not in the 9-5 itself (because I’ve been working hard), but in the homely lunch-at-home, cuppa-in-front-of-the telly lunchbreaks, the dashing to put laundry in before the day starts, hang it out at coffee-time, or start a casserole in the last ten minutes of my lunchbreak.  All perfectly innocuous activities, and easily fitted into breaks.  But I look ahead just over a year, and realise that I’ll have to find a way of structuring my days so that I do have projects and challenges to get on with. 

Not for me the hours of daytime TV, endless detective stories and traffic cops programmes. No, thanks!  Being in receipt of a pension need not mean abandoning all ambition and aspiration. I want my (hopeful) semi-retirement to be the start of a brand-new beginning as a scholar, not the coda at the end of a not-exactly sparkling librarianship career.  If librarianship ever sparkles very much!

I’m fortunate that I do have my research – I’m finishing the first draft of my second book, and looking forward to a visiting fellowship in the Autumn.  As I wrote in my fellowship application, I want to pivot my career from this point, so that I can devote myself entirely to being a researcher, and stop being a librarian, as soon as I hit 66.  And I want to be an employed researcher.  I admire people who carve a career as unattached, independent scholars, but I’d prefer to be attached if at all possible!

Realistically, I will probably always be remembered as the librarian who wanted to be a scholar.  At least I have the consolation of knowing that – actually – I did manage to combine the two.

An Alcove of One’s Own: On Being Taken Seriously

Male public speaker at podium

A whole room? Virginia Woolf asked too much. I sit at my desk in an alcove – an early Edwardian bed-recess, to be accurate – and from my vantage point, I survey the rest of the room. The smell of roast dinner – my efforts – drifting through from the kitchen. The ironing awaiting my attention. The table waiting to be laid. (I’m neither going to explain nor apologise why it’s all mine.) The piles of books which are meant to help me finish Chapter 6 and commence Chapter 7, but which I won’t be going near until later tonight or perhaps tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is the start of a week’s annual leave – so what could be more natural than to write? It can be hard to settle down to intellectual work with so many demands on my time, particularly when I’m technically seconded to be a scholar for just ten and a half hours a week. And yet, if I don’t take myself seriously, then how can I expect anyone else to?

Great Expectations?

Do people still, in 2023, have lower expectations of women? I grew up in a middle class family, simultaneously encouraged to do my best, remain modest, and not get upset if I was unsuccessful. Does that sound contradictory? When my 11-plus results came through the letter-box, I was warned, ‘Don’t be disappointed if you haven’t passed’. I got a County Scholarship to the best girls’ school in my home city. When I look back at my schooldays, there is one aspect for which I’m very grateful. It was an all-girls school, and I expect there probably were fewer distractions without boys around, but that’s not my point. My abiding memory is that there was NEVER any doubt, not the slightest shadow of a doubt, that girls could achieve every bit as much as boys. Indeed, it came as a bit of a shock at university to discover that there were boys who expected to be better than the girls. How could this be? We were equal, I’d been brought up to believe that, and I wasn’t intending to be bested.

One thing led to another, until I embarked on a PhD. ‘You’d better do secretarial training next, dear. In case you can’t find a job.’ Well, we compromised there – I took typing classes, so that I’d never again have to pay what it had cost to get my Master’s dissertation typed. (This was long before people had their own computers – yes, I’m that old. I learned on a manual typewriter.)

I didn’t complete that doctorate, which is largely my own fault – I started librarianship training before completing the PhD. Yes, it was a stupid move! However, academia didn’t appeal to me at the time – I had absolutely NO female peer models, was offered NO teaching opportunities, never so much as considered giving a conference paper; and was told by everyone (everyone being male, since there were no other women academics in my department, and precious few in the conferences that I attended) that it was virtually impossible to get even a short-term postdoctoral fellowship. I accepted this unquestioningly. It was the 1980s. I now ask myself, how would I have known, without trying? And surely it couldn’t have been harder than it is today!

I’ve already told the story of my much later part-time doctoral studies on a different topic, whilst working full-time and raising three children. (If I could do that, I could have completed the first one …. but let’s not go there!) When I asked about doing a PhD at work, I understand one of the academics queried why I would even want one.

‘What does a Librarian want with a PhD, anyway?’

I wanted it because I knew I was capable of it! Apart from which, I had just finished paying for nursery fees, and it was a perfectly logical time to divert those funds to something else worthwhile. I finished my PhD in 2009. I’ve turned it into a monograph, written a number of papers and articles, managed to get grant-funding once in my own right, and am currently completing my second monograph. I might be a part-time scholar, but I don’t consider myself a second-rate one. I am geographically restricted, true, but my achievements in 1.5 days a week are pretty good, though I say it myself. And I’m going to be a visiting postdoctoral fellow in the autumn – I can’t tell you how delighted that makes me!


There are times when I feel I’m an embarrassment. ‘Are you writing fiction, or a Boring Book’, asks an elderly relative. Guilty as charged. And again, ‘You shouldn’t have your letters on your address labels, dear. No-one needs to know them – it’s just showing off.’ But what’s the point of being well qualified if no-one knows you are? ‘They said they didn’t want a string of useless qualifications like yours.’ Mmm, thanks!

In Scotland, there’s a phrase, ‘I kennt his faither’, which basically means, ‘I know his background – he’s nothing special and he shouldn’t have ideas above his station.’ I’m not Scottish myself, but I feel I’ve been on the receiving end of this attitude so often! She’s a librarian – why can’t she just be one?

Owning our Own Work

Last week, there was a conference in Glasgow. I didn’t speak at it – I was asked to, then uninvited six months later, for some unclear administrative reason. (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t anything personal!) I didn’t even get told about registration for the event. But to my surprise, I understand that the topic I was to have talked about, did get talked about. I’m grateful that the topic came up, and grateful if my peer-reviewed article was alluded to, but somewhat disappointed that it was relayed by a third party. Was the link shared? Will anyone be able to find it? Obviously, I was denied the chance to take questions, since I wasn’t even present.

Representation of Women Composers in the Whittaker Library’,   Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice. Vol. 11 No. 1 (2023): Special Issue on Breaking the Gender Bias in Academia and Academic Practice, pp.21-26.  (Paper given at the International Women’s Day Conference hosted by the University of the Highlands and Islands, 2022.)  DOI:

What do I mean, when I say that we women should ‘own’ our work? In an employed work context, ‘owning’ seems to mean taking responsibility for seeing something through to the end, but I suggest that actually it can, and indeed sometimes should mean more than that. I’m not thinking about ownership in the sense that a manager assigns you a project and empowers you to make all the necessary decisions to ensure its success, although that kind of ownership is certainly very agreeable. No, what I actually mean is that if you’ve done a significant piece of work, with results that are important enough to be worth sharing, then we should be much less reticent about saying, ‘Thank you, I am proud to have seen that through, and I wish to claim acknowledgment. Here’s where you can read my article. I’m happy to take questions. And if you’re interested, here’s where you can find more of my writing.’

No Apologies

So from that point of view, I’m resolutely determined that I will not apologise for having been ambitious. I will not apologise for realising that librarianship was not my sole raison d’etre, and that research had a louder, more urgent call for me. ‘You’re a bloody librarian, woman!’, I was once told. That, with respect, is incorrect. I’m a librarian and a scholar, inseparably. The librarian benefits mightily from the scholarship, the scholar has bibliographical skills second to none, and the combined finished product also provides pretty top-notch guidance about research skills.

I will not denigrate myself by fading into the background, nor by pretending I don’t have a string of qualifications after my name. Who do I think I am? I know who I am.

I have read about women scholars who always get humdrum administrative tasks dumped on them in their departments. (That hasn’t happened to me – I just sit and catalogue stuff on my librarian days, until I could scream with the tedium. It’s not a sexist thing, just an annoyance.) I’ve also read that when it comes to job applications, men are much more likely to apply for things where they might lack some of the required experience, whereas women will hesitate unless they can tick every box.

Women, we need to ‘own’ our achievements. There’s no sense in being reticent or humble. The other half of the human race aren’t going to give us a chance because we’re nice, gentle and conciliatory, or indeed because we let them go first.

I made a few adjustments to my Twitter profile today. Take a look at yours, and see if it does you justice!

My next post is about career women, ageing, and approaching retirement. Read on!

Still on the topic of Coronations … this time, 1937

An English publication caught my attention. I had to acquire it.

The paratext was pretty standard for the time …

Introduction aimed at ex-pats

But the adverts were the best bit! Piano, or accordion – take your pick! The idea that you could ‘earn while learning’ amused me mightily. Would your audience appreciate having to pay you for your fumbling efforts?!

Musical instruments advertised in this London coronation song collection

But at the end, a lovely colour advert for soap, bath cubes and talc. De luxe products, for sure:-

Responding to a Coronation: Sheet Music, Piano Stools & Radios

Since I’m currently working on a book about Scottish music publishers, I suppose it was inevitable that I’d ask myself just one question last night:-

Did 20th century Scottish music publishers publish any music to commemorate the four Coronations of their day? 

Well, you’d have thought they might, wouldn’t you?  There were militaristic books of marches and national songs in war-time, so why not patriotic books of national favourites when a new monarch acceded to the throne?

A couple of klaxon warnings should be sounded straight away. 

  • It would be easy to say that Kerr and Mozart Allan never published anything related to coronations, but the truth of the matter is that I have plenty of evidence that what survives in libraries is certainly not the same as what was published in the first place.  The more ephemeral the music, the slimmer the chance of its surviving.  And, without putting too fine a point on it, a library might keep Mozart Allan’s book of songs by Robert Burns, but a flimsy, contemporary song of the music hall or variety performance kind, not designed for longevity, probably won’t have been added to a University Library’s stock at the time it was published, even if there might be scholars today eagerly seizing upon any lucky survivors.  Similarly, a ‘Coronation Waltz’ or ‘Coronation March’ wouldn’t have been something studied by music undergraduates studying Palestrina or Mozart in a red-brick British University.
  • If you’ve been following social media or broadcast news recently, you’ll realise that some Scottish people are decidedly not Royalist in their leanings.  However, it would be risky to say this was the reason for Kerr and Mozart Allan’s apparent lack of interest in publishing music on a coronation theme.  There is no written evidence about their political views whatsoever.
  • I searched for pieces with ‘coronation’, ‘King’ or ‘Queen’ in the title.  It was a quick and easy search, but certainly not a comprehensive one.  (For example, if there was a song called ‘Westminster Pageantry’, without any of my search terms in the catalogue entry, then I would not have retrieved it.)

But the fact remains that music celebrating the coronation of a British monarch appears not to have been of interest to Kerr and Mozart Allan, the two popular music publishers holding sway in Glasgow for the first part of the twentieth century.

Edward VII and Alexandra’s Coronation, 1902

I found just one Scottish publication, the Glasgow and Galloway Diocesan Choral Association’s Book of the Music to be used at the sixth festival service in St. Mary’s Church, Glasgow on Saturday, June 28, 1902 (in connection with the coronation of His Majesty King Edward VII) etc.  And that was it!

The English firm Bosworth, on the other hand, published Alexander Campbell Mackenzie’s Coronation March, op.63, in various formats: for piano, a full score, and arranged for piano duet by J B McEwen.  Mackenzie (1847-1935) was Edinburgh born, but became Principal of the Royal Academy of Music in 1887.  McEwen (1868-1948), another Scot, was professor of harmony and composition at the Royal Academy, and in time became their next Principal.  Mackenzie’s Coronation March was dedicated to the King, and first performed at Crystal Palace with anything up to nine military bands.  A march was an accessible genre, but the composer was very much part of the English musical establishment.

So, not much to see in 1902, then.  But wait!

George V and Mary’s Coronation, 1911

Bayley and Ferguson had offices in Glasgow and London – and had done for some years.  On the occasion of George V and Mary’s Coronation, they published Carlo F. Roberti’s The Crowning of our King & Queen; or, The Coronation Song of – Semper fidelis.  I know nothing about Roberti, but someone at the Dundee Courier wrote in 1990 that his real name was Charlie Robertson, of Perthshire.  (If you have access to the British Newspaper Archive, you can read how the readers responded to this snippet, on 8 February 1990.  Robertson was a violin teacher.  His song was taught to local schoolchildren at the time.) 

The Scottish firm Paterson’s had offices in both Scotland and London, too.  They published a Coronation song by a Durham man, Thomas Richardson, who had moved to Edinburgh to become organist at St Peter’s Episcopal Church in 1879, and singing-master at George Watson’s College in 1883.  His song, ‘Mary’ had an alternative title, ‘Queen Mary. Coronation Song’, with words by K. Kelly, and was for some two decades popular as what people imagined to be a Scottish song. Which raises the interesting debate as to what makes a song ‘Scottish’!

Metzler’s Coronation Dance Album (image from eBay)

Meanwhile in London, light music publisher Metzler published a book of tunes around this time, which included at least one piece composed for Edward’s Coronation: Metzler’s Coronation Dance Album.  The precise date is uncertain: Metzler gives 1911 in Roman numerals, and (1909) in Arabic.  Very helpful, Mr Metzler!

George VI and Elizabeth’s Coronation, 1937

Paterson’s was essentially a London firm by this time.  J Michael Diack, one of the directors, had moved down south some years earlier.  And that means that the only Coronation theme publications that I traced were either published in England, or overseas.  Perhaps it was the advent of radio broadcasting that made people more enthusiastic about such things, but the outpouring of Coronation-related music was suddenly – well, remarkable!  Many people got a wireless in time to listen to the Coronation – the first time such an event could be broadcast.

‘This Most Historic Event’

Which brings me to an advertisement in the Coatbridge Leader on Saturday 27 May 1937.  F. Mills & Co sold pianos, organs and radios from his two shops in Coatbridge, a town about a quarter of the way between Glasgow and Edinburgh.  (He also had a shop in Motherwell at some point – I haven’t checked dates.)  If you bought a piano or organ before the Coronation, he would give you a free stool.  If you bought a radio – to listen to the broadcast – then there was a discounted price. 

Mr Mills didn’t mention sheet-music, but you’d be surprised how many English music publishers rushed to publish relatively lightweight music for popular consumption, whilst Paterson’s also offered a choral arrangement of a Handel anthem by one of Diack’s favourite composers:-

  • Let all the people rejoice : coronation anthem S.A.T.B. / Handel;  arranged by W.F.R. Gibbs ; edited by J. Michael Diack. (Lyric collection of choral music, sacred. No. 1647) London: Paterson’s 1936
  • Paterson’s Coronation music book
  • Royal cavalcade : coronation march / Albert W. Ketelbey, in piano or orchestral score (Bosworth, 1937)
  • Chappell’s Coronation Album. A Musical Cavalcade, etc. [Marches and Songs.], 1937
  • The Coronation Waltz / Jimmy Kennedy (Peter Maurice, 1937)
  • Long live the King (Paxton, 1936)
  • The Coronation Song / Martin Silver (London: Silver’s, 1936)
  • Coronation March Album / Granville Bantock (London: Joseph Williams, 1936)

Slightly to my surprise – though it was obvious, when I thought about it, with emigration still high – I found publications from Australia, Canada and America too:-

Coronation Bells – image from eBay
  • Sterling’s Coronation Community Album (1937?)  Disappointingly, the contents of  this publication from the Antipodes didn’t seem to have anything to do with the – erm, actual Coronation.  But I suppose the word ‘Coronation’ would have been eye-catching.
  • In Toronto, Florence M Benjamin published her Coronation Bells in 1937
  • And in Chicago, Moissaye Boguslawski’s Coronation March: dedicated to their Majesties King George and Queen Elizabeth of England was published by Calumet Music in 1937

Elizabeth II’s Coronation in 1953

There was a rush to get television sets for Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation, although comparatively few people in Scotland would have had them this early on.  Francis, Day and Hunter published a new dance introduced on television for the Coronation.

However, despite now being basically an English firm, Paterson’s turned to their Scottish roots for their Coronation offerings, which had nothing to do with the television broadcast at all.  Indeed, country dancing was very popular across Britain:-

  • For the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, Paterson’s published The Scottish country dance book. Book 17 : Coronation book / music arranged by Herbert Wiseman.
  • Paterson’s also published Pipe-Major William Ross’s The coronation bagpipe march… entitled “The coronation of Queen Elizabeth 1953”
  • The English Folk Dance and Song Society also published a book of dances: The Coronation Country Dance Book.

Many other publishers produced music in their own preferred genres, but I didn’t see anything from Kerr’s, Mozart Allan or Bayley & Ferguson.

  • From Bosworth came Coronation march album for piano solo, with music by Ketelbey and a variety of other composers.
  • Bosworth also published a Coronation Suite for piano by Barbara Kirkby-Mason, who was known for writing educational material.
  • Francis, Day and Hunter produced Francis & Day’s coronation album in 1952, along with
  • Archie Alexander’s The Coronation Polka, followed by
  • Kenneth Wright’s A Waltz For The Queen (Television’s New Coronation Dance), arranged by Sydney Thompson in 1953
  • The Northern Music Company – a London firm – published Coronation Waltz by Christine Hurst and George Warren, with words by Bill Tomlinson and Stanley Barnes.  Reported in The Stage in October 1952, it was written by ‘four northern songwriters’ and received favourable reviews at its introduction in a Butlin’s holiday camp dance contest.  If this makes you think of ‘Hi-de-Hi’, then you’re absolutely right – Butlin’s holidays were cheap, accessible, didn’t involve travelling abroad, and as we all know, dance contests have never gone out of favour!
Coronation Waltz music cover, picture of royal crown.
Coronation Waltz- image from eBay

Last night, I was just idly searching to see if ‘my’ Scottish music publishers showed much interest in Coronation-themed publishing.  On the face of it, those with an English office did make a token effort.  Those based solely in Glasgow may not have done, with the caveat that they might have produced ephemeral material no longer traceable, and there could have been songs that my quick search didn’t reveal.

But I know a lot more about light music publishing in England around those times!

IMAGES: All from eBay!

  • If you enjoyed this blog post about popular printed music, then you might like to read another post about music with a more serious, ceremonial slant, that I wrote for our library blog, Whittaker Live: Tracing our Musical History through National Events.

Home from Stirling – after the Conference

Stirling University Campus - photo from Pixabay

Conference: Reading and Book Circulation, 1600-1800

I am just back from a fabulous library history conference at the University of Stirling. Even better still, I was the lucky recipient of a generous bursary from the CILIP Library History & Information Group, meaning my attendance was fully funded.

I had many pages of notes to read through and reflect upon before I wrote my report – so many excellent papers to think about. My AHRC networking grant not so long ago was about music in libraries ca.1790-1836, and although I’m currently writing about more recent music publications, it was very interesting to see what else was happening whilst “my” legal deposit library music was being accumulated in libraries in England, Ireland and Scotland.

‘Claimed from Stationers’ Hall’ frock makes a comeback for the conference!

And of course, there was the networking. After the pandemic, lockdown, working from home, hybrid working and so on, it was quite a treat to be able to spend time with kindred spirits for two whole days!

My report will appear in the LIHG Newsletter in June 2023 – it’ll appear online on the LIHG pages hosted by CILIP. This might mean that only members can read it, but maybe I can write a summary of it to share here, once the whole report has gone live.

Image of Stirling University Campus by 昕 沈 from Pixabay

I’m very HiPP today [Historically-informed Performance Practice]

Picture of old music - arrangements of Scottish songs

You can tell when I’m using avoidance tactics on a writing day! But the pictures I’m about to share with you come from an old instrumental Scottish song medley, and it was in the pile of papers that simply had to be sorted out. It’s a library copy, so I can’t actually keep it – I thought I’d take a few snaps just to remind myself what it’s like.


Expressly for AMATEURS

It comes from a series of 48 medleys published by arranger Carl Volti for the London firm, Ascherberg, Hopwood and Crew. This is a series ‘arranged expressly for AMATEURS‘. Oh, what almost limitless fun the great-great aunties and uncles would’ve had, considering each contained at least four different ‘Scotch Airs’! Volti had other arrangements published by Scottish music publishers – but he clearly wasn’t prepared to limit himself to Scotland!


Historically-informed performance practice is very much a buzz-word in music conservatoire circles. The more closely I looked at this piece of music, the more little hints I gleaned about the expectations around its performance.

  • Instrumentation – violin and piano, but also available with parts for a second violin, viola, cello, flute, ‘clarionet’ (no oboe, just clarinet), and cornet.
  • Intended for amateurs. The front cover quotes an approving review in the Musical Times, highlighting the suitability for amateur players of moderate ability. (I couldn’t find the review in JSTOR – this frustrates me, but it’s not hugely important.)
  • Instructions for simulating a bagpipe drone on a violin: ‘By lowering the D string four notes (to A) and bowing on two strings at the same time, a good imitation of the bagpipes can be produced.’
  • Indications where a violin solo appears, and at another point there’s an optional clarinet solo.
  • Some double-stopping for the fiddle
  • Instruction to play one section piano on the first time round, and forte when it’s repeated.
Music score with violin solo indicated
Violin solo
Bagpipe ‘drones’ at the ready!


A bowl of tulips at church

It goes against my principles to pay for private medical treatment, but when I developed a trigger thumb late last November, it didn’t take long to work out that if I didn’t do something about it, I’d be looking at sick-leave from organ-playing, and a car immobile out in the street. The NHS waiting list was long – it didn’t look promising. Within a couple of months, it was taking more than two hours before I could bend my thumb in the morning, and if I accidentally had a nap in front of the telly at night, my thumb was locked solid until the next morning. I was lucky enough to find private surgery which I could afford, locally, and the operation was early in February.

Today, I played Widor’s Toccata for the Easter Sunday service at the church where I’m organist. Needless to say, I’m very grateful to the surgeon who fixed my thumb, and even more grateful that it was probably one of the cheapest surgeries that he performs. (As I sat in the waiting-room, my eyes widened at the video showing procedures that were available – and their cost. Yikes! I was astonished at what some folk choose to do to themselves in the name of beauty.)

I still think it’s wrong that I was forced to go private. The under-funding of the NHS has had far worse impact on so many people, but this was my first experience of not being able to get the treatment I needed, when I needed it. But hey, I’m very grateful for the private surgeon’s skill, and there’s also a church that was spared my prolonged absence. They’ll be grateful too!

I won a Bursary!

Exciting news. Thanks to CILIP’s Library and Information History Group, I shall be attending a fascinating conference in Stirling soon!

Books and Borrowing 1750-1830.

The conference is 17-18 April in Stirling, and the programme for ‘Reading and Book Circulation, 1650-1850’ is on their Events page:-

My interest in this topic

It’s of special interest to me because of my work on music borrowing at the University of St Andrews in the days of the old Copyright Libraries: I examined the borrowing habits of two particular women, Miss Elizabeth Lambert and Mrs Bertram, and contemplated the changing readership over the three and a half decades under examination. This work led into my successful application as Principal Investigator of an AHRC postdoctoral research network, the Claimed From Stationers’ Hall network (2017-2018) investigating music surviving from legal deposit in the old copyright libraries.

First Ketelbey Fellowship at University of St Andrews

Here’s the big news I’ve been bursting to share! During Autumn 2023, I’m to be the first holder of the honorary Ketelbey research Fellowship in Late Modern History, in the University of St Andrews’ School of History. I’ll be there on Wednesdays and Thursdays for one semester, continuing to research and think about Scottish music publishers and other related topics, and enjoying the experience of being a research fellow in a very highly-rated university history department. St Andrews was rated the top UK university in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide last September, and the School of History came top in both the Times and Sunday Times rating, and the Guardian University Guide 2023 – so I’m dead chuffed! I’m an academic librarian and musicologist – I guess this means I can call myself halfway to being a historian, too.

The Fellowship is named after Doris Ketelbey (1896-1990), who was the first female academic in the School of History; a respected author; and had a phenomenal career for a woman of her times. Aileen Fyfe has written a blog post about her, which you can read here:-

Doris Ketelbey, 1896-1990 (in the series, ‘Women Historians of St Andrews’) by Aileen Fyfe

Interestingly, Ketelbey taught at St Leonard’s School at one point. A few years ago, I wrote a blogpost for the EAERN Network about about the very first owner of a private school in the same premises, in the early 19th century: Mrs Bertram’s Music Borrowing. But the St Leonard’s that Ketelbey taught at would have been a more sophisticated institution than Mrs Bertram’s doubtlessly estimable establishment!

– and yes, she was the sister of composer Albert Ketelbey, who wrote an enormous quantity of lighter music and songs. I bet he was proud of his determined, high-achieving sister!