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The Flute in Scotland from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century


Elizabeth C. Ford

It is a generally accepted truth that the flute was unknown in Scotland prior to 1725, and that it was played exclusively by wealthy men. Upon examination, these beliefs are demonstrably false. This book explores the role of the flute in Scottish musical life, primarily in the long eighteenth century, including players, repertoire, manuscripts, and instruments. Evidence for ladies having played the flute is also examined, as are possible connections between flute playing and bagpipe playing. Reasons for the flute’s disappearance from the pantheon of Scottish instruments are considered, and interviews with contemporary flute players in Scotland depict flute playing in contemporary Scotland. This work fills a major gap in knowledge of Scottish musical life and flute history.

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Chapter 6 Instruments


Chapter 6



Although a few were purchased and possibly made in Scotland, the majority of flutes in Scotland in the eighteenth century were purchased elsewhere. The surviving letters and records of flute purchases show that Scottish flute players were particular about what they wanted out of their instruments, and knowledgeable about the latest instrument designs and qualities from the makers active in London. Several eighteenth-century flutes now reside in museums in Scotland, but the records of how they came to be in Scotland are generally vague.1 Most of these instruments were components of larger gifts to the various museums; it is not always possible to determine where and when they were originally acquired, or by whom. Museums that include eighteenth-century flutes in their holdings include the Hawick Museum, Scottish Borders; the Reid Collection, University of Edinburgh; the Hunterian, University of Glasgow; the National Museum of Scotland; and the Stewarty Museum, Kirkcudbright. Aside from the flute held by the Stewarty Museum believed to have belonged to William Nicholson, there is no evidence that these instruments have connections to Scotland in the eighteenth century, and the evidence for that flute’s history is suspicious. These instruments are therefore best interpreted as resources for instrument history, but not Scottish flute history.←159 | 160→

Flutes available in Scottish shops

This advertisement ran in the Caledonian Mercury several times in the summer of 1720:

ADVERTISEMENT, / THAT there are all Kinds of...

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