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People of Angus

The Strathspey King - James Scott Skinner,1843-1927

James Scott Skinner composition

James Scott Skinner was born in Banchory. He enjoyed a varied career which included that of gardener, orchestra player, dancing master and, most successfully, composer.

He was a prolific composer and wrote over 600 compositions. He was known as the "Strathspey King."

His earlier careers did not always reach their full potential. His gardening career ended after an accident with a flint-lock pistol destroyed 3 fingers of his right hand. He trained himself to play the fiddle with his left hand.

After a brief stay with "Dr Mark’s Little Men," a travelling orchestra, he returned to Aberdeen. There his brother arranged to have him trained as a dancing master. He later abandoned this career due to "domestic events of an unfavourable kind."

He had more enduring success in the field of composition. In 1868 his first Collection was published followed by the Miller o’Hirn Collection in 1881, the Elgin Collection in 1884, the Logie Collection in 1888, and the Harp and Claymore Collection in 18 .

Between approximately 1906 - 1909 Skinner lived and worked in Monikie. He was frequently short of money and could not always afford to publish his compositions. Instead he sent them to friends who copied them and played them and thus created a market for them. One such friend was James McPherson of Kirriemuir. Angus Archives holds many famous compositions which were originally written on the backs of envelopes and advertisements and sent to McPherson.

Skinner died on 17 March 1927 and is buried in Allenvale Cemetery, Aberdeen.

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