Gow was the fourth son of Niel Gow, the famous Scottish fiddler. He was born
in Niel's home town of Inver, Perthshire and, like his three elder brothers
he chose to follow his father into the music profession. He was involved
with performing at many assemblies throughout Scotland, notably with the
Caledonian Hunt Balls.
Nathaniel went into partnership with William Shepherd, with whom he
established a music selling business, and it is as a prolific publisher of
Scottish music, particularly the repertoire and compositions of his father,
that he will be remembered for. He has also gained a
reputation for publishing other people's compositions, deliberately
changing their names and occasionally claiming authorship. Just how much of
this is unclear, and there are opinions that too much is made of these
assertions . This aspect of
Nathaniel Gow is unfortunate, because his place in the history of Scottish
music is hugely important in my opinion, firstly as the publisher of much of
the day's repertoire, and secondly as a genuine composer in his own right.
Many of his tunes are still widely played today, including The Fairy
Dance (known in Ireland as The Fairy Reel and the US as
Old Molly Hare), Coilsfield House, The Miller of Drone
(played in Ireland as The Miller of Draughin and in the US as
Grey Eagle), Lady Mary Hay's Scotch Measure, Lament for the Death
of his Brother (played as a jig in Ireland under the name The
Gallowglass), Master Francis Sitwell, Captain Byng, Niel Gow's Fiddle,
Margaret Brown's Favourite, Sally Hunter, etc.
 = see Mary Ann Alburger, 'Scottish Fiddlers and Their Music'