Niel Gow’s Oak – the Fiddle Tree

 
 Neil Gow's Oak Tree or the Fiddle Tree on the banks of the River Tay.

Fiddlers Path, (part of the Dunkeld Path Network) takes you from the town of Dunkeld along the south bank of the River Tay to a very special Oak Tree, Neil Gow's Oak which has a strong association with many a fine Scottish fiddle tune.

It is here that many of Scotland's best 'strathspeys' and 'reels' were played and composed by Niel Gow (1727 - 1807), the famous 18th century Scottish fiddle player. This spot provided inspiration for much of his music as he sat beneath the oak tree on the banks of the River Tay, a short walk from his cottage at Inver. The tree has been called Neil Gow's Oak from that time to the present day.

The 4th Duke of Atholl, is said to have often been seen sitting on the opposite bank of the River Tay, enjoying the music as it drifted across the water.

Indeed the Duke loved Neil Gow's music so much that he paid a retainer to Neil Gow so he played at family functions, christenings, birthdays and balls. There is an account book at Blair Castle which contains Neil Gow's signature for wages of £5 a year in the 1770s and 1780s.

Niel Gow was a man who was highly respected in all levels of society primarily as a musician but also as a straightforward, honest man with a great sense of humour. He became larger than life after his death; it is often difficult to separate truth from fiction.

The Niel Gow Oak.

The Niel Gow Oak was severely damaged in a winter storm in early 2012, the branches crashing down and destroying the oak bench beneath the tree.

A year later on the 25 March 2013, the Forestry Commission Scotland installed a new bench under Neil Gow's Oak, appropriately dedicated to Neil Gow, unveiled by Peggy, the widow of singer-songwriter Michael Marra the famous Dundee musician, who died in 2012.

The new bench bears a line from a song by Michael Marra, the inscription - a line from Marra's song Niel Gow's Apprentice - reads: "I'll sit beneath the fiddle tree, with the ghost of Niel Gow next to me." The bench was carved by Nigel Ross and the inscription carved by Andy McFetters. Neil Gow's Oak Tree is a favourite spot to sit as the great composer did all those years ago, and contemplate the world going round.