home | residency programme | residency background | documents | contacts

< back

Andrew Wighton (1804-1866) - merchant and music collector

Perthshire origins

The parish of Cargill
exhibits a surface diversified by wood and water,
and variegated by
ascents and declivities

Statistical Account of Scotland (1791-99)

Parishes of Cargill and Collace in summer sun

Scottish merchant and music collector, Andrew John Wighton was born in the shadow of Dunsinnan hill (Shakespeare's 'Dunsinane') in the parish of Cargill, Perthshire in 1804. He was the son of John Wighton, farmer at Millridge [Milrig] and Jane (Jean) Wighton.

Wighton, however, did not follow his father into farming, but chose instead to establish himself as a merchant in the former barony of Hillside in Dundee. It was whilst living nearby his shop premisses at Hillside that Wighton amassed the bulk of his extensive music collection.

Indeed it was during the 1840s and 1850s, whilst still trading in tea, coffee and general supplies, that Wighton's collecting activites were at their most intense. He made many important acquisitions at this time, often via London auctioneers Puttick and Simpson, and also kept up a busy correspondence with the antiquarians David Laing and William Chappell.

Wighton also kept up a lively and bantering correspondence with his friend and fellow collector, James Davie (d1858), respected instrumentalist and music teacher in Aberdeen. The two frequently sent each other rare, sometimes irreplaceable scores and manuscripts by railway - their epistolary debates were often settled by what Wighton termed 'ocular demonstration'. Though it was a relatively short train journey between Dundee and Aberdeen, their precious music parcels did not always make it without the occasional disastrous loss!

In his later years, Wighton retired to a seafront house on the Tay estuary at Broughty Ferry. His connections with rural Perthshire did not entirely fade, however. His wife, Agnes Caithness (1808-90), the daughter of a Dundee shipmaster was related to the Henry family of Woodend, an estate in the parish of Madderty, Perthshire. It was through Agnes that Isaac Anderson Henry of Woodend, Scottish lawyer and horticulturalist, and correspondent of Charles Darwin, became one of Wighton's trustees.

After Wighton's death in 1866, it fell to Agnes and the trustees, led by Anderson Henry, to determine whether his music library, today known as the Wighton Collection, should be gifted to the Albert Institute (Free Library) in Dundee, or to the Signet Library, Edinburgh. The decision they made has ensured that Wighton's remarkable collection - today a resource of international significance - has remained in the city of Dundee, where it was first gathered. Thus it is a tale of urban good fortune and heritage which begins and ends in the wood water, ascents and declivities of Perthshire's rich agricultural lands.

Andrew Wighton's birthplace lying in the shadow of Dunsinnan Hill

© Sally LK Garden 2005 (images and text)

© Sally LK Garden 2004

Andrew Wighton
(short biography)