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A painting of General John Reid, in uniform, holding a baroque flute and leaning on an open music book.

Portrait of John Reid © The University of Edinburgh; full catalogue information at https://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/94q844


The Reid School of Music is named for General John Reid, who left money to the University for the establishment of a Chair in Music and an annual concert, also to be held in his name.

As the portrait featured here shows, Reid was an accomplished flautist and also a composer: his most famous piece is the military march “The Garb of Old Gaul”.

Although Reid died in 1807, the first Professor of Music was not appointed until 1839, in the form of John Thomson. Thomson, however, remained in post only for a very short time: he died in 1841, the same year as the second part of the terms of Reid’s legacy was fulfilled with the very first Reid Concert.

Reid inherited most of his fortune from his cousin, also an officer in the British military. Both men were involved in military campaigns in colonial North America. We do not know at this stage to what extent or how directly Reid’s fortune was linked to colonisation and settlement, but it is probably that some of Reid’s inheritance was linked to this.

More on Reid’s music from the Reid Concerts database

Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanties’ project on decoloniality