Niel Gow’s Lament For His Second Wife waltz

By Niel Gow

Also known as Neil Gow’s Lament (For The Death Of His Second Wife), Neil Gow’s Lament For The Death Of His Second Wife, Neil Gows Lament For His Second Wife, Niel Gow’s Lament For The Death Of His Second Wife, Niel Gow’s Lament On The Death Of His Second Wife, Niel Gow’s Second Wife.

There are 57 recordings of this tune.

Niel Gow’s Lament For His Second Wife appears in 1 other tune collection.

Niel Gow’s Lament For His Second Wife has been added to 36 tune sets.

Niel Gow's Lament For His Second Wife has been added to 531 tunebooks.

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Five settings

X: 1
T: Niel Gow's Lament For His Second Wife
R: waltz
M: 3/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
D/B,/|A,>B,D {DC}D>ED|EFA B2d|A>FD {EF}E>DE|{DE}FDB, B,2D/B,/|
A,>B,D {DE}D>ED|EFA d2c/B/|A>FD {=C}B,2 A,|B,D>D D2:|
(3A/B/c/|d>fd {cd}ecA|{Bc}B/A/B/c/{Bc}d B/A/G/F/E/D/|{EF}E>DE {DE}F>ED|{D}FDB, B,2 (3A/B/c/|
d>fd {cd}ecA|B/A/B/c/{Bc}d B/A/G/F/E/D/|{EF}E>DE {DE}FDB,|A,<DD [D2A,2] (3A/B/c/|
{e}d>fd ecA|B/A/B/c/{Bc}d B/A/G/F/E/D/|F/D/A/F/d/A/ B/A/G/F/E/D/|{DE}FEE E2D/B,/|
A,B,D D>ED|EFA d2c/B/|A>FD {=C}B,2A,|B,<DD [D2A,2]||
X: 2
T: Niel Gow's Lament For His Second Wife
R: waltz
M: 3/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
D/B,/|"D"A,>B,D "Bm" {DC}D>ED|"A"EFA "G"B2d|"Bm"A>FD "A"{EF}E>DE|"Em7"{DE}FDB, "G" B,2D/B,/|
"D"A,>B,D "Bm"{DE}D>ED|"A"EFA "G"d2c/B/|"D"A>FD "Bm"{=C}B,2 A,|"G"B, D3/2 "A"D3/2 "D"D3/2:|
|:(3A/B/c/|"D"d>fd "A"{cd}ecA|"G"{Bc}B/A/B/c/ "Bm"{Bc}d B/A/G/F/E/D/|
"D"d>fd "A"{cd}ecA|"G"B/A/B/c/{Bc}d "Bm"B/A/G/F/E/D/|"Em7"{EF}E>DE "F#m"{DE}FDB,|
[1 "D"A,B,D "D+F#" D>ED|"G"EFA "Bm"d2c/B/|"D"A>FD "Bm"{=C}B,2 "A"A,|"G" B, D3/2 D3/2 "D"[D3/2A,3/2]:|
[2 "D"A,B,D "D+F#" D>ED|"G"EFA "Bdim"d2c/B/|"D"A>FD "G"{=C}B,2A,|"Em7"B, "Em" D3/2 "A"D3/2 "D"[D3/2A,3/2]||
X: 3
T: Niel Gow's Lament For His Second Wife
R: waltz
M: 3/4
L: 1/8
K: Amaj
A/F/|E>FA {AG}A>BA|Bce f2a|e>cA {Bc}B>AB|{AB}cAF F2A/F/|
E>FA {AB}A>BA|Bce a2g/f/|e>cA {=G}F2 E|FA>A A2:|
(3e/f/g/|a>c'a {ga}bge|{fg}f/e/f/g/{fg}a f/e/d/c/B/A/|{Bc}B>AB {AB}c>BA|{A}cAF F2 (3e/f/g/|
a>c'a {ga}bge|f/e/f/g/{fg}a f/e/d/c/B/A/|{Bc}B>AB {AB}cAF|E<AA [A2E2] (3e/f/g/|
{b}a>c'a bge|f/e/f/g/{fg}a f/e/d/c/B/A/|c/A/e/c/a/e/ f/e/d/c/B/A/|{AB}cBB B2A/F/|
EFA A>BA|Bce a2g/f/|e>cA {=G}F2E|F<AA [A2E2]||
X: 4
T: Niel Gow's Lament For His Second Wife
R: waltz
M: 3/4
L: 1/8
K: Gmaj
G/E/|D>EG {GF}G>AG|A<Bd e2g/e/|d>BG {AB}A>GA|{GA}BGE E2G/E/|
D>EG {GA}G>AG|A<Bd g2 e/d/|d>BG {=F}E2 D|E<GG G2:|
(3d/e/f/|g>bg {fg}afd|{ef}e/d/e/f/{ef}g ed/c/B/A/G/|{AB}A>GA {GA}B>AG|{G}BGE E2 (3d/e/f/|
g>bg {fg}afd|e/d/e/f/{ef}g ed/c/B/A/G/|{AB}A>GA {GA}BGE|D<GG [G2D2] (3d/e/f/|
{a}g>bg afd|e/d/e/f/{ef}g ed/c/B/A/G/|B/G/d/B/g/d/ e/d/c/B/A/G/|{GA}BAA A2G/E/|
D>EG G>AG|A<Bd g2 e/d/|d>BG {=F}E2D|E<GG [G2D2]|
# Added by JACKB .
X: 5
T: Niel Gow's Lament For His Second Wife
R: waltz
M: 3/4
L: 1/8
K: Dmaj
B,G,|A,3B, D2|D4ED|E2F2A2|B4d2|A3F D2|E3 D E2|F2D2B,2|B,4 B,G,|
A,3B, D2|D4ED|E2F2A2|d4 cB|A3FD2|=C2 B,2 A,2|B,(DD2) =C2|D4:|
(3ABc|d3 f d2|e2c2A2|BA Bc d2|BA GF ED|E3 D E2|F3 E D2|F2 D2 B,2|B,4 (3ABc|
d3 f d2|e2c2A2|BA Bc d2|BA GF ED|E3 D E2|F2 E2 D2|B,(DD2) =C2|D4 (3ABc|
d3 f d2|e2c2A2|BA Bc d2|BA GF ED|FD AF dA|BA GF ED|F2 E2 E2|E4 DB,|
A,3B, D2|D4ED|E2F2A2|d4 cB|A3FD2|=C2 B,2 A,2|B,(DD2) =C2|[D4 A,4]:|

Thirty-five comments

This is really supposed to be a "slow air" but it’s got a jig time signature. It’s a beautiful, sad tune.

Its not a jig!!!!

OH my goodness!! ive never heard of this being played as a jig! shockin!! Its a beautiful slow air that we play alot over here in Scotland. Neils Gow’s second wife was actually his fiddle, which i think is really sweet!

Niel Gow’s lament for his second wife

Scottish tunes in 6/8 are not all ‘jigs’. Apart from slow airs like this one (and it really is a lament for his second wife, who bore all his children including fiddler/composer Nathaniel), many are pipe marches.

I know it’s not supposed to be PLAYED as a jig! 🙂

Here in my section of America, it gets played as a air, too … it just has a 6/8 time signature.

We played it in our local session as a tribute to the NASA astronauts who died on re-entry, and it was a popular tune for 9/11 ceremonies, too.


Call me a pedant, but according to the sleeve notes to ‘Even Now’, Gow’s eight children all came from his marriage to his *first* wife … but the tune is even so a lament for his second wife, who predeceased him by a couple of years.

This song is so beautiful on the harp, I found it today and have been playing it all the time.



To my knowledge, Gow had a ‘legit’ second wife (i. e.—not his fiddle), whose name was Margaret something….

Gow’s Wives

Both of Niel Gow’s wives were called Margaret: Wiseman and Urquhart respectively. As nastyweegirl says, it was Gow’s first wife Margaret Wiseman who bore his five children.


Neil Gow was married twice, however I had the pleasure of being at Blair Castle recently where Neil Gow played frequently while alive and learned from the caretaker who a friend introduced me to that ‘Neil Gow’s Lament for the death of his Second wife’ is actually a lament for his fiddle… which he’d dropped.

Thank you KiltedYank!!! ~ 😉 Now it will mean that much more to me…

Not A Jig!!!!!!!

Slow air played especially beautifully by Jenna Reid on ‘Laughing girl’

A Nice Slow Air About His Wife

Nope - its not about his fiddle, its a nice slow air about his wife.
There are several decent versions on YouTube.
FYI - another tune- "Niel Gow’s Wife" or "Niel Gow’s Second Wife" is a strathspey probably erroneously attributed to Gow which was rumoured to be about his second "wife" the fiddle.

Source of information…?

How are you able to state categorically that it’s about his wife and not his fiddle?

Posted by .

A Chord Setting for Neil Gow’s Lament

I really enjoy playing this tune. Airs are usually played unaccompanied. And this tune just fine that way. However, I like to play with a backup player too.

So to that end I offer the following chordal setting for Drop-D or DADGad guitar players. Try this and let me know it works for you.

Note 1: the "D+F#" indicates put F# in the bass of the chord on the Drop-D or 6th string.

Note 2: the "Bdim" is a B diminished chord, admittedly more jazzy than Irish. I use it only once against a final long held high d-note in the 3rd to last measure of the tune. Guitar players- use the "inside" diminished chord position at 4th fret of D,-G#-B-f.

X: 1
T: Niel Gow’s Lament For His Second Wife
Z: Suggested Chords for Drop-D or DADGad Guitar tuning
A: Charles Pool 2/23/2009
M: 6/8
L: 1/8
R: jig
K: Dmaj
D/B,/|"D"A,>B,D "Bm" {DC}D>ED|"A"EFA "G"B2d|"Bm"A>FD "A"{EF}E>DE|"Em7"{DE}FDB, "G" B,2D/B,/|
"D"A,>B,D "Bm"{DE}D>ED|"A"EFA "G"d2c/B/|"D"A>FD "Bm"{=C}B,2 A,|"G"B, D3/2 "A"D3/2 "D"D3/2:|!
|:(3A/B/c/| "D"d>fd "A"{cd}ecA|"G"{Bc}B/A/B/c/ "Bm"{Bc}d B/A/G/F/E/D/|\
"Em7"{EF}E>DE "F#m"{DE}F>ED|"G"{D}FDB, "Bm"B,2 (3A/B/c/|!
"D"d>fd "A"{cd}ecA|"G"B/A/B/c/{Bc}d "Bm"B/A/G/F/E/D/|"Em7"{EF}E>DE "F#m"{DE}FDB,|\
"G"A,<DD "D"[D2A,2] (3A/B/c/|!
"D"{e}d>fd "A"ecA|"G"B/A/B/c/ {Bc}d "Bm"B/A/G/F/E/D/|\
"D"F/D/A/F/d/A/ "Bm"B/A/G/F/E/D/|"Em7"{DE}FEE "A"E2D/B,/|
|1 "D"A,B,D "D+F#" D>ED|"G"EFA "Bm"d2c/B/|"D"A>FD "Bm"{=C}B,2 "A"A,|"G" B, D3/2 D3/2 "D"[D3/2A,3/2]:|!
:|2 "D"A,B,D "D+F#" D>ED|"G"EFA "Bdim"d2c/B/|"D"A>FD "G"{=C}B,2A, |"Em7"B, "Em" D3/2 "A"D3/2 "D"[D3/2A,3/2]|]

I go along with the Fiddle theory, after all, women are easy come by, but a good Fiddle …………

Time Signature

I am surprised to find it notated here in 6/8. If anything, this tune has a 3/4 waltz feel to it along with the wonderful free rubato slow air feel. IMHO, 6/8 just seems to complicate it unecessarily.


Neil Gow’s Lament for his Second Wife

has anyone beside myself listened to the midi file for this beautiful tune and then actually tried to play it this fast ? I think not! I think someone needs to edit the tune to 3/4 or at least slow the midi down to half that speed or less to make it closer to the way it’s actually played. It’s a lament, after all.

Niel Gow’s Lament for the Death of His Second Wife

Who would try to learn this tune from the midi file? As you say, it is a lament. It has been made clear many times in the comments that the tune is not a jig. It is just posted as such due to the limits of the site.

There would be no point in slowing the midi file down. It would not help you learn how to play this tune at all. Whilst there are those who choose to learn the dance tunes on this site via the midi file (as ill advised as that is) tunes like this should be played with a free time and not perfectly straight.

If you want to learn this tune then use the dots as a reference by all means but you NEED to get a recording of it, and a good one.

Niel Gow

Sure. That is a perfectly fine rendition. It is played quite straight but that is a matter of personal taste.

I think Pete captures the emotion better and I think his fiddle sounds sweeter. Horses for courses though. Different strokes for different folks.

I note that the video of Pete has the caption "Festival organiser" at the bottom. It must have been an interview in relation to the Niel Gow Festival in Dunkeld which Pete runs.

Time signatures v type of tune

I agree it’s a very beautiful slow air, and I have another copy of it written in 3/4, BUT - of interest, some of J Scott Skinner’s slow airs were also written in 6/8 time - by the composer himself, e.g. Hector the Hero (you can see a scan of the original score on Aberdeen University’s Elphinstone Institute website).
At the end of the day it’s how you play it that counts!


Does anyone know of where I could find a written harmony for this tune? I want to accompany a friend on it. Thanks much.

Time Signature

Time signature and tempo are different parameters. A 6/8 marking does not always indicate a fast beat, though because jigs are so common, it may seem that way. And the slow 6/8 is not interchangeable with 3/4: the first and fourth eighth notes are stressed, but not equally. So while a waltz would be **1** 2 3 etc., a slow 6/8 is **1** 2 3 *4* 5 6. A dry term for this is "compound duple meter," meaning that the two beats (hence duple, each lasting a total of 3 8ths or a dotted quarter) are each divided into three (this compound: 123 and 456). This is a central parameter in notated music, and since Skinner, e.g., chose to notate Hector in 6/8, one suspects he meant something by it. ( The manuscript mentioned above is beautiful. And an old musical form that uses slow 6/8 is the Siciliana; there is a beautiful one by Fauré, often played on flute.) You can try playing Hector or the Fiddle’s Lament for Niel Gow 🙂 thinking of each possibility and see if it makes you play differently. It’s actually an intriguing example of how notation is more than a record, and an example I use when I teach people who play by ear how to read notation (after I ask them if they really want to learn notation, since they do fine without it). Something else to think about: when you play a jig in a fastish tempo, say you are beating two beats, each divided into three: do you play/hear **1** 2 3 **4** 5 6? Or **1** 2 3 *4* 5 6?

Lament played by recorders, cello and harpsichord

Here’s a fabulous version played by the Quadriga Consort - - I’d love to work out that high harmony and play it with someone or have someone play it with us - my next project. Our band Barleycorn are going to do a version, but only one recorder player.

Neil Gow’s Lament for the Death of his Second Wife

What’s the point of posting Pete Clark’s rendition if I’m to be told that ‘This video is private’. Must I join the freemasons or something?

Re: Niel Gow’s Lament For His Second Wife

Hi everybody,
I apologize if this is not the right place to post my question, as I’m looking for the original score (not ABC format not modern rendition) of this wonderful piece.
Up to now I know that it was published in the book "A fifth collection of strathspeys, reels &c. : for the piano forte, harp, violin & violoncello …" , but I cannot find a digitized copy online.
Does any of you have access to it?
Thanks a lot,

Re: Niel Gow’s Lament For His Second Wife

On a recent UK vacation we visited Dunkeld, Scotland and saw NG’s tomb at the catherdral.

A new recording by local artists here Mithril Duo features this tune.

I play electric jamband rock these days but I am determined to get this under my fingers on guitar.

Niel Gow’s Lament For His Second Wife, X:5

Here’s a version that’s actually notated in waltz time as opposed to jig time. I took this mostly from Neil Gow’s recording "The Image Of Melody", with Bjarte Eike and Barokksolistene. I didn’t attempt to notate all the strathspey-like dotted eighth / sixteenth notes, because (a) that makes it harder to read, and (b) it’s not always consistent anyway from one repetition to the next. But suffice it to say, as with most tunes, don’t play it exactly as written, listen and play it with feel. 🙂

Re: Niel Gow’s Lament For His Second Wife

"I took this mostly from Neil Gow’s recording…"

Wow, Ian!