Friends of Wighton: Linking the past with the future

If you go to Dundee’s Wellgate Centre, and up to the second floor of the Central Library, you will find the purpose built Wighton Heritage Centre.  This beautiful, airy and acoustically stunning room houses the original collection of 620 music books and manuscripts gathered together by local grocer Andrew John Wighton (1804 -1866). 

This large body of music demonstrates Andrew Wighton’s deep and broad knowledge of Scottish and related music, and there are very few books in the Collection that have not some interesting feature of artistic value. The great Bunting Collection of Irish music is amongst Wighton’s acquisitions, as are several books of English and Welsh music, but the Collection is richest in the hundreds of volumes of vocal or instrumental music of Scottish origin, some of them incredibly rare.

Wighton was also a feisty character as his correspondence with other collectors, booksellers and the Society of Antiquaries shows!  The Antiquaries were very keen to acquire his Collection, but he wasn’t happy with how they planned to safeguard it from the danger of fire, and so in the end it went to Dundee’s proposed Free Library.  After Andrew’s death, Mrs Wighton was equally spirited in fighting off an attempt by the National Library of Scotland to take the Collection to Edinburgh.

The Friends of Wighton was formed in 2006 to raise awareness of the Wighton Collection, and the several hundred other volumes in our care. These now include music books acquired and donated over the last 150 plus years.  In 2013, the Friends bought at auction twenty three 18th and 19th century books and manuscripts from the personal collection of Sir Jimmy Shand.   When conservation work is complete the books will join the other volumes in the Centre, available for musicians and scholars to consult. 

Our excellent tutors – Simon Chadwick, MoragAnne Elder, Helen Forbes, Karen Hannah, Sheena Wellington – run modestly priced classes in medieval Celtic harp, fiddle, whistle and song, our students sometimes taking their skills into the community. 

On the first Wednesday of every month,  the Friends present a free thirty minute Lunchtime Recital, popular with City Centre workers on their lunch break and people popping in to change their library books or have lunch at the lovely little Steps café which is, handily,  on the same floor as the Wighton Centre.  Our shiny pink Percy Piggybank is available to take donations – it’s amazing the delight that concert-goers seem to get, posting coins into Percy!  Next up is fiddler Karen Hannah on 3rd May, and in honour of Voluntary Arts Week we have Graeme Stevenson in to play our lovely French style harpsichord on Wednesday 10th.

Also well supported are our Cappuccino Concerts.  These are usually on the third Saturday of the month and run from 11am till noon.  Admission is £5, and for half an hour before the concert proper starts there are newspapers available, and tea, coffee and biscuits can be had for a small donation.  The Cappuccino concerts have a loyal audience with eclectic tastes who   enjoy discovering new musical styles; whether the concert features a classical duo, a folk group, a harpsichord recital, an experimental music quintet, a singer songwriter or Abercraig, our youth wing, the Cappuccino Concert audiences listen with relish.  On 20th May we have the brilliant guitarist David Allison – they are going to love him! 

You can find out more about whats on at Friends of Wighton here.