Isabella Mary Scott Gibson


Mrs Gibson image

Image courtesy of National Library of Scotland

  • BORN 1786 Edinburgh, Scotland
  • DIED 1838
  • RESIDENCE Edinburgh, Scotland


Title:  Curious Herbs (With Mary’s love without her fear)
Additional Music by: FRANCES M LYNCH
Words by: Elizabeth Blackwell
Written in: c. 1800 (and 2017)
For: female speaker and SATB vocal ensemble
Performed by: Frances M Lynch and Francis St. John
World Premiere:  August 5th, 2017, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, part of “Scottish Superwomen of Science”

Elizabeth Blackwell’s extraordinary work “A Curious Herbal” lists 500 medicinal herbs and gives instructions on their uses. We chant the herb names and sing some of the more outlandish instructions which betray the music of a beautiful 4 part hymn, set by Gibson –  With Mary’s love without her fear. Her score indicates that the tune is in Common Metre and credits it as “Howe Street”.


Title: Dark Lochnagar
Written in: C. 1800
Performed by: Frances M Lynch

The song talks of a longing for Scotland which Somerville may have felt while she lived in London, particularly during her first Marriage, and possibly her final years in Italy. The composer is said to be a distant relative of Sir Walter Scotts (whom Somerville knew), and of course Lord Byron who wrote the lyrics was father to her mathematics pupil, Ada! Both women lived in Edinburgh at the same time, and given Somerville’s fame it seems likely the composer would have known and admired her.