Cameron’s Selection of Violin Music, 1859

Musical influences have moved forward and back across the narrow divide of the Irish Sea in line with changing patterns of settlement and migration. Irish harpers seem to have brought much music to Scotland in medieval times, and subsequently Scottish pipers are said to have gone to Ireland to complete their training. But undoubtedly in the later 18th century musical influence was travelling westwards from Scotland into Ireland, brought by performers on the violin, the newly dominant instrument of the period, and in printed music collections. Scottish reels and strathspeys especially were introduced into Ireland at this time. The imported tunes quickly became naturalised here, and sparked Irish compositions in these new genres.

The little-known Scottish violin collection Cameron’s Selection of Violin Music, presented here from the collections of the Irish Traditional Music Archive, was published in Glasgow in 1859 by the general publisher George Cameron. It is typical of its kind: cheap and intended for a mass market, with a predominance of popular 18th-century Scottish dance tunes and airs, mixed in with Irish and English melodies. It doubtless circulated in Ireland, and like other similar ephemeral Scottish publications doubtless had an influence on the oral Irish tradition at a time when there were few such Irish publications. ITMA’s recent William Mullaly traditional concertina publication exhibits traces of Scottish printed music, and ongoing ITMA work on a second volume from the piping manuscripts of James Goodman has uncovered versions of tunes close to those of Cameron.

We know from the index that the final two pages are missing from the ITMA copy of Cameron. Do you have a perfect copy of this collection, or do you have similar music collections? The Archive would welcome their donation or the opportunity to copy them.

With thanks to Lisa Shields for information, and to the Breathnach Family who donated the volume reproduced here to ITMA in 1987 as part of Cnuasach an Bhreathnaigh (the Breandán Breathnach Collection). ITMA would welcome the donation of other materials of this kind which are not yet in its collections (check our catalogues here), or of their loan for copying.

NC & MG, 1 December 2011