In the beginning was the father and his name was Niel (sic.) Gow. Niel Gow (1727-1807) is recognised as one of Scotland’s greatest fiddlers and a noted composer for the fiddle. Niel’s son, Nathaniel (1763-1831) was likewise celebrated for his playing and composing. He also branched out into music publishing, starting with his father’s and his own compositions.
One of Nathaniel’s sons was Neil (sic.) Jr, and it was he who, before his death at just twenty-eight, composed this lovely slow air. Originally, it had words by the poet James Hogg, a contemporary of Neil, but we play only the tune. It may be found in Hamilton’s Universal Tune-Book, edited by James Manson and first published in 1853, although Manson spells it ‘Athol’, and styles it a ‘Gaelic air’. It may also be found in The Scottish Orpheus (c1865). This is a collection of songs compiled by Adam Hamilton, no relation, as far as I know, to William Hamilton, publisher of the Universal Tune-Book.
Various modern websites have published the song/tune and included five or six different chords with which to accompany it; we prefer one note!