Mozart Allan in Glasgow, Allan & Co in Melbourne …


So … about the Melbourne Allans that I mentioned the other day? I shared this postscript on Facebook, but omitted to upload it here.

It would appear that Mozart Allan (in Glasgow) advertised quite often in Australian papers in the early years of his business (the late 19th century). Look in the National Library of Australia’s magnificent Trove database, if you’re interested: But be careful – you can spend many hours there without even noticing time passing!

But, as for his Reels, Strathspeys and General Dance Music being distributed by Allan’s in Melbourne? Well, it seems to be like this: George C. Allan’s father (George Leavis Allan) was a junior partner in a firm NOT called Allan’s, until he became sole proprietor. When George C became a partner, the firm was renamed “Allan & Co”.

But George’s father came from London, and their ancestors may even have had a Cornish connection. George himself was clearly very capable – and even organised concerts featuring Nellie Melba (amongst others).

But it seems that “our” Glasgow Mozart Allan found a capable distributor in Melbourne, who just happened to have the same name. The Glasgow “Mozart Allan” firm is highly unlikely to have a family connection with “Allan & Co” Down Under.

Image: Butler, Graeme Allans Music, 276 Collins Street, Melbourne. 1982-1985

And now … The Ink Building


Aird & Coghill were the printing firm responsible for printing a lot of Victorian music, amongst all the other books and documents that also formed part of their daily routine. The firm was founded in 1851 and traded at 24 Douglas Street in Glasgow – on the corner where Douglas Street met Cadogan Street. The image I’m sharing comes from the Digital Gallery at the National Library of Scotland (

I think it’s interesting to know, and helpful to be able to visualise the places where these firms plied their trade, even though a brand new building stands there today, its name commemorating Aird & Coghill’s long trade history – “The Ink Building”. There’s a great website and short film, largely promoting the new space but with a page paying tribute to the past as well:-

Meanwhile, there are plenty of informative websites where you can find out more about Aird & Coghill and their premises!

Canmore is the National Record of the Historic Environment with further intriguing images:-

National Museum of Scotland has artefacts connected with Aird & Coghill’s craft:-

Scottish Print Archive Trust:-

The Virtual Mitchell is, of course, another great place to hunt for historical images – just search Aird, Coghill, or 24 Douglas Street!

Tartan Tunes

Last night, I added a little postscript to my Facebook posting about James Scott Skinner’s ‘The Hurricane’. It’s a trivial point, but when his book, The Harp and Claymore came out in or around July 1904, Bayley and Ferguson’s hardback version was sumptuously bound in spun silk tartan. That’s quite luxurious, isn’t it? (At the risk of sharing “too much information”, I can relate that spun silk is a cheaper form of silk thread, inferior to unspun, or flossed silk – but maybe you didn’t need to know that! Info courtesy of the Textile Research Centre at Leiden.)

But it gets better … I discovered, in the Aberdeen People’s Journal for 2nd July 1904 (see above), that you could have it bound in your own clan tartan, no less! That does explain why the two copies on eBay at astronomically eye-watering prices are each in different somewhat battered tartan covers. Silk might not be the most durable choice for a book cover …

I’ve already remarked on the printed tartans that unsurprisingly appear on Scottish songbook covers – like Kerr’s two books of 47 Popular Scottish Songs (as sung by Robert Wilson), or Mozart Allan’s contemporary Scotland Calling, which gives away its probably 1950s date by the inclusion of ‘God save the Queen’.

But Mozart Allan advertises another, larger collection of Scottish songs in the back pages of Scotland’s Calling, and that is the ‘Morven’ Collection of Songs: containing 120 of the finest Scottish songs. I’ve handled this collection in the Whittaker Library, though I can’t call it individually to mind. (It could quite possibly be the book I’m holding in this photo!) If you click on the link above, you’ll be able to see the full contents of the ‘Morven’ Collection.

But it must be a classier book altogether, because here we are again – like Bayley and Ferguson’s Harp and Claymore, it is advertised as being bound in silk tartan. I suppose it’s no more than a sound marketing ploy, really: combining two of Scotland’s most characteristic cultural products is sure to create a saleable songbook! I’m told that the Inverness/Aberdeen firm of Logan also published the Inverness Collection (Highland pibrochs for bagpipes) in red tartan silk – it must have been all the rage!

Advertising The ‘Morven’ Collection of Songs

The Hurricane (Or, Wind in the Bellows?)

[This posting is shared from an item posted on my Facebook Glasgow Music Publishers 1880-1950 page yesterday evening.]


Having heard a recording of Nicola Benedetti playing James Scott Skinner’s reel, ‘The Hurricane’, the other day, I thought it would be a grand idea to see if I could play it on the concertina. (Bear in mind I’ve been playing concertina for just five months – what could possibly go wrong? Apart from my concertina not having a high enough range to reach the top fiddle notes!) Anyway, I transposed it from A to F major. I’ve been practising. There is NO WAY ON EARTH I am about to share the results publicly!

But, having found the tune on the University of Aberdeen’s Scott Skinner website, I realised that the Aberdonian James Scott Skinner was published by one of “my” Glasgow music publishers in 1904. Suddenly I was even more interested!

I found the piece being mentioned in passing (in the Buchan Observer and East Aberdeenshire Advertiser) by ballad collector Gavin Greig, in a eulogy about someone else. I was interested to learn that Greig had been involved in “editing and arranging” Skinner’s tunes for his blockbusting collection, The Harp and Claymore, published by Bayley & Ferguson in 1904. “The Hurricane” was written to commemorate a violent storm. Greig recalled “the great gale that raged on the 17th November 1893, one of the greatest and most destructive storms that have happened in our time. It was on that memorable Friday, while the devastating hurricane raged over the land ravaging many a fair woodland ….”

Skinner himself headed the tune thus:-

The Hurricane: Reel (November 7th 1893) “The wind harping upon the wood pines” (See the Scott Skinner website here.)

Much later, in 1957, Bayley and Ferguson were to publish another collection by James Scott Skinner – and that was Murdoch Henderson’s collection, The Scottish Music Maker. (They also published Skinner’s A Guide to Bowing, and The Scottish violinist : consisting of strathspeys, reels, pibrochs, marches, hornpipes, pastoral airs, violin solos, slow airs ; as composed and arranged by J. Scott Skinner – and more besides. But let’s leave all that for another day!)

You can hear The Hurricane played brilliantly by Paul Anderson here, about a minute into the recording:-

The photo here shows James Scott Skinner as an old man. It appears in the notice of his death in the Aberdeen Press and Journal. When you stop to think about it, we’ve had photography for a couple of centuries now, and there are century-old sound recordings of Scott Skinner, but I still think it’s rather wonderful that we can see and hear exactly what people saw and heard so long ago!

The Glories of Scotland

[This is another post shared from my Facebook Glasgow Music Publishers page.]

One of the ironic things about the lockdown is not being able to get my hands on the books IN THE LIBRARY WHERE I’VE WORKED FOR 32 YEARS, and having to buy my own copies on eBay in order to keep researching! When I think of the number of donations of Scottish music that I’ve catalogued over the decades, thinking “one day, someone will be glad of these” … little thinking, in the early days, that the someone would be me!
Anyway, I received a new-to-me book today, The Glories of Scotland in Picture and Song. Resplendent in tartan, and plenty of black and white photos inside, this is clearly a title that Mozart Allan intended as a souvenir book.

The editor, baritone Jack Fletcher, acknowledges his “valued friend Mozart Allan”. Since THE original Ebenezer James Mozart Allan died in 1929 and this book looks to be circa 1950, I can only imagine his valued friend is Ebenezer James Mozart Allan Jr., cellist and conductor. ( I wasn’t aware that the son had any direct connection with the family firm, though I’ve since verified that he did. Indeed, he even endowed a Mozart Allan award in memory of his late father, to encourage young artistes).

Fletcher also acknowledges the Scottish Tourist Board and British Railways, and Mr R. E. Wethersett, all of whom provided photos. Ernest Richard Wethersett (Fletcher got his initials the wrong way round) was a railway historian.

Opposite the foreward is a full-page photo of Scottish comedian and variety artist Alec Finlay, who allowed his song ‘Let Scotland flourish’ to be included in this songbook … but not the music, just the words! The only other contemporary song is Willie Kemp’s ‘The muckin’ o’ Geordie’s byre’, and Mozart Allan would have had to get permission from Kemp (and possibly Kerr’s) to use THAT!

My own resident transport historian cast an eye over the photos where public transport is depicted, and confirms my 1950s-ish dating of the book. Trolley-poles could not have been there before 1949, so that decides it! And I seem to have something that has become rare over the decades – the only traceable library copies on WorldCat are one in the USA, and one in Australia!

Howay the Lads! Reels and Strathspeys in Newcastle

Yes, folks, I’m showing you a picture of the Central Arcade in Newcastle upon Tyne! This is where the first owner of my Allan’s Collection of Reels and Strathspeys, bought their copy – the little red label says as much! (Windows is a great music shop – I’ve used it myself – and you’ll agree that the arcade is truly a spectacular space.) Since the Central Arcade helpfully has the date above their sign, we know that this New and Enlarged Edition must have been purchased after 1906. I wonder if it was a Scot that bought it?!

Interestingly, this title was distributed from Mozart Allan at 60 South Portland Street in Glasgow – and also from Allan & Co, Collins Street, Melbourne. (Guess what I’m off to look up next!)

NB The title on the cover and the title on the title page (shown here) are not the same. I have my own wee violin book here, but I am guessing the piano and also the cornet part (I bet that’s rare!) may also have these title variants:-

* Cover title:- Allan’s reels, strathspeys and general dance music. New and enlarged edition.

* Title page:- Allan’s collection of reels & strathspeys, quadrilles, waltzes, countrt dances, Highland schottisches, jigs, hornpipes, &c &c. Arranged for the violin.

Incidentally, I know that Newcastle had – maybe still has – a flourishing branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society – my own mother-in-law played the piano for it. A lot of Scots went from Clydeside to Newcastle in pursuit of work in the early 20th century. So there may have been more Scottish-born fiddlers around than you’d initially imagine!

(This posting is an augmented version of what I posted on my Glasgow Music Publishers Facebook page today.)

Explore Glasgow with the Virtual Mitchell

Over on Twitter, Strathclyde Archives have been sharing old photos from their Virtual Mitchell digital collection, which prompted me to look for some of our old Glasgow music publishers’ addresses. I’ve probably mentioned before that this isn’t an easy task: either, the building has gone, or there isn’t a photo of the exact street number where they traded! Nonetheless, it’s nice to “stroll” round Victorian and Edwardian Glasgow whilst we’re still pretty much in lockdown, so I looked up just a couple of addresses this morning.


Glasgow music publisher and piano seller Patersons was at 152 Buchanan Street for many years. I don’t have a picture yet, but I found a photo of their near neighbours at 126-128, courtesy of the Virtual Mitchell; it’s at the top of this blogpost. (Here’s the hyperlink:-…)


Again from the Virtual Mitchell website, here’s a view of the street where music publishers Mozart Allan ended up. (They were at 84 Carlton Place.)

Nice view of the river, but possibly an era of faded glories … and certainly not as swish as Buchanan Street! I’m told by one of my Facebook page followers that the church behind Carlton Place is Gorbals Parish, later Gorbals John Knox Church, which was designed by David Hamilton in 1810. (I have a particular fondness for David Hamilton because he built Breeze’s Tower in Springburn – an address I’d love to live at, and even used as the location of my first published short story!)

Pianos For the People!

Excerpt from newspaper advert dated 1891, Pianos for the People

I haven’t finished looking at the Irish songbooks published by Kerr and Mozart Allan in the late 19th/early 20th centuries, but since this is the last week of my vacation, I decided to scope out a few more areas of interest.

George Hopkinson’s Crystal Art Palace Waltzes

A couple of weeks ago, a friend shared a picture with me, showing a rare copy of some waltzes for the Kibble Palace, published by Glasgow music firm Paterson’s. Now, I knew I’d need to look into Paterson’s … but it’s fair to say I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for. Founded in Edinburgh early on in the 19th century, they opened a Glasgow branch in 1855 and continued trading well into the 20th century. They opened further branches around Scotland, sold and tuned pianos, and published a lot! Not just Scottish music (which is my prime interest), but art music and educational material too. In 1922 they called themselves “the leading publishers of Scottish music”, Gulp! They were a bit more up-market than Kerr’s or Mozart Allan’s, I reckon, even publishing music by Scotland’s contemporary big names, Hamish MacCunn, and Marjory Kennedy-Fraser. And they don’t seem to have published Irish music at all.

In one of my favourite haunts, the British Newspaper Archive, I found an advert from 1891 in the Irvine Times – immediately adjacent to an advert for Mozart Allan. (I so wanted Kerr’s to be alongside them, but sadly not this time!) And there it was, Paterson’s advertising “PIANOS FOR THE PEOPLE”.
Sounds very egalitarian, doesn’t it? But it just underlines how many people wanted a piano in those days.

Do you have any family anecdotes about shopping at Kerr’s, Mozart Allan, Bayley & Ferguson, Frank Simpson or Paterson’s? I wonder if anyone is in touch with singer Robert Wilson’s descendants? That would absolutely make my day!

If you’ve been dipping into my posts so far – what else would you like to learn about? Has anything particularly caught your attention

(This post also appears on my Glasgow Music Publishers 1880-1950 Facebook page.)

Keeping Up With the Joneses? Kerr v. Mozart Allan!

Hello again! Here’s my latest writing about Glasgow music publishers James S. Kerr and Mozart Allan. This piece can also be found on my Glasgow Music Publishers Facebook page.

Looking at the activities of the Glasgow music publishers James S. Kerr and Mozart Allan, you could be forgiven for thinking there were certain patterns not only to their individual efforts but also in terms of – ahem – keeping up with the competition.

47 Popular Scottish Songs, Robert Wilson on tartan cover

For example – Kerr’s published Harry Colin Miller’s Forty-Seven Popular Scottish Songs in two series, in 1913 and 1915. Along came Robert Wilson, bought Kerr’s Music (perhaps in the 1940s), and reissued Miller’s songs with tartan covers and his own picture superimposed.

Kenneth McKellar’s Book of Scottish Songs

Meanwhile, Mozart Allan published 51 Beauties of Scottish Songs (in words-only, and music editions). I think this may have been circa 1929 – it’s hard to date. Kenneth McKellar came on the scene as a recording artist in the 1950s – and suddenly, there’s a reissue of the 51 Beauties of Scottish Songs, with HIS picture on the front cover, now entitled ‘Kenneth McKellar’s book of Scottish songs (51 beauties of Scottish song) : for medium voice’. No tartan here, though – they kept that for another title, ‘Scotland Calling in 50 Scottish Songs’. Scotland Calling was a popular TV series in the 1930s (can anyone tell me how long it lasted?) and the undated ‘Scotland calling’ songbook was probably a 1950s publication, as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II apparently gets a mention somewhere. Yes, I’ll be getting a copy!

Scotland Calling – Mozart Allan’s tartan extravaganza

Both publishers also published mainstream Irish song collections; one of Kerr’s was a non-vocal, piano album (1929) by the same Harry Colin Miller who had arranged the Scottish songbook in 1913 – I’m still exploring these. There are such a lot of songs about Irish emigration and homesickness – it really gives you an idea of how many people either left their homeland, or had relatives who had done so, in the early 20th century.

I hadn’t expected to find that both publishers also published song collections for the Orange Order, though. Kerr’s published The Orange Songster in 1914, marketing it especially in Ireland – and although Mozart Allan didn’t follow their example straightaway, they published “Orange standard : containing 18 selected songs”, advertising it in the Belfast Telegraph in 1937. As far as I’m concerned, the most interesting thing about these is the copyright arguments that ensued, as the then owner of Kerr’s insisted he’d written ‘The Ould Orange Flute’, whilst Mozart Allan and Irish singer Richard Hayward insisted – and won the case – saying it was a traditional tune anyway. The court case at Glasgow Sherriff Court sounds as though it was highly entertaining, with music being played, whistled, sung, or even played on a gramophone to prove either side’s point to the Sherriff himself. Richard Hayward’s biography summarises the tale – and I’ve also read the newspaper reports for myself.

Jigs, Quicksteps, Reels and … Hang on a Minute! (Kerr’s Merry Melodies)

A textile interpretation of the Merry Melodies logo

I have just posted a new article on my Glaswegian Music Publishers Facebook page. “Liking” the page will enable Facebook to alert you to further postings in due course. I’ll reproduce the piece here, for anyone who doesn’t use Facebook.

Jigs, Quicksteps, Reels and … Hang on a Minute!

I promised to write about some of the Victorian Glaswegian James Kerr’s music publications today. It’s a long read, but I think an interesting story. Please do “like” this page if you want Facebook to notify you when I post further articles!

Post Office Directories confirm that James Spiers Kerr was trading from 314 Paisley Road by 1885. He not only sold pianos and music – he also published music himself. I’m particularly interested in the fact he was publishing Scottish tunes and dance music.

Nowadays, books usually have the publication date printed somewhere near the front, but this wasn’t always the case with sheet music. So, we only know that Kerr had already published his Kerr’s Collection of Reels & Strathspeys, Highland schottisches, country dances, jigs, hornpipes, flirtations, &c. Arranged for the pianoforte, by 1881, because it is advertised in the Banffshire Journal and General Advertiser, on Tuesday 15 March 1881 (I’ve shared a screenshot). It was being advertised by a music-seller called C. Middleton in Keith, so it doesn’t even tell us the address Kerr was publishing from – though I can deduce this from Post Offfice Directories.

So far, so good. We have a copy of this music in the Whittaker Library at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, but since we’re currently locked out, in lockdown, I can’t get my hands on it!

Neither have I got Kerr’s next, famous collections of tunes for violin – his Merry Melodies – to hand. However, I’ve now purchased a slightly later enlarged edition of Merry Melodies for piano, so I have to make do with that for now.

The original four books of Merry Melodies for violin appeared as numbers 1,2, 10 and 11 in Kerr’s series, ‘Popular Violin Books’, and – you’ve guessed it – again, they are undated. It’s so tantalising! Trad musician Nigel Gatherer (who has a great website detailing Kerr’s books here:- has cited Charlie Gore (who compiled a magnificent Fiddle Index) as saying that Kerr started publishing the Merry Melodies ‘from 1875’.

All I can say – until I actually see some of the violin books close up – is that anything published from 314 Paisley Road must have been published from 1885 onwards. Anything with a different address on Paisley Road would be earlier, and anything from Berkeley Street is considerably later. I feel like Miss Marple (or her sexier male counterpart, Hercule Poirot)!

Kerr seems to have started advertising his first book of Merry Melodies in 1885. That fits with the date he moved into 314 Paisley Road. But in 1982, the family moved to Saltcoats, and James died the next year, 1893.

The second book of Merry Melodies was being advertised in 1894, and the third book in 1897, going by the dates of newspapers where he advertised them. How much of a hand, if any, did Mr Kerr have in compiling books two to four before his death in 1893? The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald lists that third book as “New Music” and says that “Mr. Jas. S. Kerr” has forwarded it for review. It seems likely have been sent in either by an employee, or perhaps his wife, who described herself as a music publisher in the 1901 census, still living in Saltcoats. His oldest children were only in their teens for most of the 1890s.

I haven’t yet found an advertisement for the Fourth Collection of Merry Melodies. Oh, how I long to look at those violin books closely, to see which names are connected with which tunes and how the repertoire is distributed between the books. (If the books are published from a later address, it just means they were reprinted with the address of the later premises, since I do know roughly when they first appeared.)

As it is, I just have my piano book. And when I look closely, what strange pictures come to mind!
Plenty of Highland and Irish Schottisches, Scottish and Irish jigs, Scottish Reels and Strathspeys, Quicksteps, Marches, a Waltz … absolutely what you’d expect for the late Victorian era. But I’m afraid there are also tunes which hark back to variety shows, blackface and minstrelsy of a kind which would now be very much frowned upon – sand jigs, clog dances, and other tunes reminding us that the music of coloured American workers was considered to be a genre of its own, and was being performed for white folks’ entertainment. I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable to be able to say where Kerr got this material. Neither can I say whether it would have been recognised by coloured people as actually being their music, or whether it was just a repertoire that had grown up for use by blackface minstrels, with no real authenticity or African origins at all.

The First Collection of Merry Melodies, in a Berkeley Street imprint – not the earliest!

These books are famous, though. They serve as a snapshot of what was popular in Victorian Scottish dancehalls and parlours – indeed, not only in Scotland but further afield as well. Looking at my piano edition, the accompaniments are very straightforward, just “oom-cha-cha-cha” bass and chords of the simplest kind. This was inexpensive, mass-produced music, and because it was cheaply made at the time, it’s now surprisingly hard to pick up used copies. My piano copy wasn’t too dear, but used copies of the violin books are surprisingly expensive. It’s all a question of supply and demand!

Tune: Scottish (or Irish) jig, ‘The Gobbie O’:-

If you would like to know more about that tune, visit the Traditional Tune Archive. (And I should probably apologise that I’ve only been playing the concertina since February, so please excuse the faltering rendition!!)