George Harvey-Webb

Scottish fiddler George Harvey-Webb was active in the first half of the twentieth century and was known for his performances on BBC radio in the 1930s (see below). Fiddle historian Ronnie Gibson tells us:

His teacher was Miss Waddell [of Edinburgh], and he reportedly played on a fiddle formerly owned by Niel Gow. I learned from a post on YouTube that ‘He played with Ewan MacColl and taught classics at Chigwell School where he taught Ken Campbell Latin. He also left traditional education at William Ellis School, where he also taught Hugh Cornwall of the Stranglers and Richard Thompson, of Fairport Convention, to teach dramaturgy at E15 Acting School.

He performed in a few films and became associated with the stage in London and was adopted for a time by the folk music revival in its early stages.

It is understood that Harvey-Webb was interviews by Hamish henderson for the School of Scottish Studies and this will be checked when the archive search facility reopens.

Music from The Hostage

Here, in 1959, we see him playing with Theatre Workshop production of Brendan Behan’s The Hostage, directed by Joan Littlewood. This production was highly acclaimed and has been hailed as an influential example of traditional music in popular theatre.

Fortunately for us the original cast can be heard on a gramophone record of the songs and music from the show. The final track is our fiddle Harvey-Webb playing a lively gig (sic) and reel. We wonder whether he took some guidance from the great Irish fiddlers to be heard in London pubs around that time.


This information is from the Dundee Courier 28 August 1953, p. 3:

Niel Gow’s tune – and fiddle

Many passers-by in Atholl Street, Dunkeld, last night paused outside the Dunkeld Restaurant, fascinated by the melodic strains of reels and strathspeys played on a mellow-toned violin.

One of the pieces played was “Niel Gow’s Lament to Invercairney,” a most fitting choice. For the fiddle played was the instrument played by the Scottish “Prince of Fiddlers,” Niel Gow, who is buried in Little Dunkeld Churchyard, and whose cottage still stands at Inver, a short distance away.

The fiddler, who was entertaining Mr David Macdonald, the restaurant owner, and his staff, was Edinburgh-born Harvey Webb, present owner of Gow’s famous fiddle.

Mr Webb is fulfilling a lifelong ambition by visiting the birthplace of Niel Gow and seeing his cottage. For some time he has been making a study of Gow’s music and his life and times.

Mr Webb is a classics teacher at Chigwell, Essex. During the summer holidays, he exchanges scholastic garb for Highland dress and becomes a wandering minstrel.

When a boy, Mr Webb’s parents were on holiday abroad, and he was on his way to live with some relatives but missed a rail connection.

Having nowhere to stay and very little money he played his fiddle to earn enough for lodgings. Such was his success he decided to forget his relatives and spent his holiday playing the fiddle.

Since then he and his fiddle have traveled far. While at London University he spent the summer holidays touring Europe living off the money he made by his music. He has even played Gow’s fiddle in Canada.

This year he decided to fulfill his ambition to visit the home of Gow. So, with his Scottish-Canadian wife, daughter, Barbara, and his two dogs, Wasp and Bee, he donned the kilt and headed north with his caravan.

When the caravan arrived at Inver he couldn’t find anywhere to park, and was almost giving up hope when he accidentally bumped into the only man who could help him, David Macdonald.

Mr Macdonald recently opened a caravan site in the vicinity of Dunkeld Woods, only three-quarters of a mile from Gow’s cottage.

From this chance meeting has sprung up a warm friendship, for Mr Macdonald is a keen violinist himself and is now a constant visitor at the caravan to admire the ancient fiddle. So it was that last night Mr Webb, with his famous fiddle, visited the restaurant to entertain the staff.

The fiddle is over 200 years old. When Gow died it became the property of his son, Nathaniel, who in turn gave it to Geordie Dalgleish, another famous Scottish fiddler. Dalgliesh later gave it to Mr William Waddell, an Edinburgh musician.

Mr Webb acquired the instrument from his music teacher, Miss Mamie Waddell, of Edinburgh, William’s daughter.


The following is a record of BBC radio appearances by Harvey-Webb taken from the BBC Genome resource:

Regional Programme Scotland
Phyllis Graves (soprano), George Harvey Webb (violin)
17 December 1934
Scottish Dance Music

Regional Programme Scotland
Pipe-Major WilliamRoss, G. Harvey-Webb (violin)
27 December 1935
Piping and Fiddling

Regional Programme Scotland
John Wilson (piper) and George Harvey Webb (violin)
1 April 1936
Piping and Fiddling

Regional Programme Scotland
Quiet Flows the Braan
George Harvey-Webb (violin), Pipe-Major G. Greenfield, The Reel Players (Leader, Margaret Smart)
23 March 1936 and 27 December 1937
A programme in commemoration of Neil Gow , the father of Scottish fiddling.

Regional Programme Scotland
George Fleming (baritone) and George Harvey Webb (violin)
25 August 1938

Third Programme
Untrue Thomas by Alexander Scott
18 March 1953
A sequel in verse to the Ballad of True Thomas the Rhymer, describing his return to the world after seven years in the Land of Youth.
Fiddle played by Harvey Webb

BBC Home Service
The Devil’s on the Prowl
4 July 1955
From Carl Zuckmayer’s ‘Schinderhannes. translated by Charlotte Lloyd and A. L. Lloyd
Adapted for radio by A. L. Lloyd
Music arranged by A. L. Lloyd and played by James Blades (percussion) Alf Edwards (concertina), Seamus Ennis (whistle) Harvey Webb (violin).

Third Programme
15 November 1952
Harvey Webb introduces and plays Scottish fiddle music by Niel Gow

Regional Programme Scotland
4 January 1935
George Harvey Webb (violin) and John Wilson (piper)
Piping and Fiddling

Regional Programme Scotland
22 April 1935
Scottish Dance Music
John Wilson (piper) and George Harvey-Webb
Piping and Fiddling