Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame

Rankine Song Book

Rankine Song Book A5 size Cover price £15 Minimum order size - 1

The scientist and engineer, Professor William Rankine, was known for his pioneering development of theories in thermodynamics, structural mechanics, construction and metallurgy as well as his practical contributions to the education of engineers in Great Britain.  During his life he was also well-known as a singer-songwriter, often found at the piano at parties, but this aspect of his character is now largely forgotten.  A collection of his lyrics, Songs and Fables, was published in 1874 but now, for the first time and to celebrate his 200th birthday, the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland have produced this collection of songs and music, including some of the arrangements he used and with several new tunes which capture the lively spirit of Rankine’s words.  They are here to be enjoyed.

This book, measuring 210mm x 149mm, contains the full lyrics of all nineteen of the songs from Songs and Fables with musical arrangements for sixteen of them.  Detailed notes on the lyrics are included explaining some of the more obscure references and giving a unique insight into life in mid-nineteenth century Glasgow and London.  Rankine’s most famous songs, including “The Mathematician in Love” and “The Engine Driver to His Engine” are included with lively musical settings, mostly arranged for four part choir and with some solo or duet pieces.

The introduction to the Songbook notes “In general it is found that they share two or three of a set of eight characteristics, being either comedic, historic, ironic, nostalgic, panegyric, patriotic, romantic or scientific.  In the humorous songs there is sometimes a self-deprecating poke at his own situation.  In others, when the subject is someone or somewhere else, the lyric may appear to be quite sharp, even verging on sarcastic.  In the more romantic and nostalgic lyrics the strict and yet unforced following of form creates beautiful poetry in the style of Robert Burns at his best, particularly when couched in Ayrshire vernacular.”  The introduction also includes biographical notes about William Rankine that are gathered together here for the first time, giving a detailed insight into the humour and humanity behind his more illustrious scientific persona.

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Rankine Song Book A4 size Cover price £15 Minimum order size – 10

To complement the A5 Rankine Songbook this special edition is made available for choirs who wish to perform the songs. The book, measuring 297mm x 210mm is identical to the A5 edition, but bigger! This makes it suitable for singers to hold comfortably without having to strain to read the music. Further discounts are available for larger order if required – price on application to

Watt Celebration Concert Programme Price £15

 In celebration of the 250th anniversary of James Watt’s “big idea” the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland together with Strathclyde University Chamber Choir and the University of Glasgow hosted a concert in Glasgow in May 2015 under the heading “Weaving the Threads of Choral Tradition”.  This commemorative programme, written for the concert evening, describes the city of Glasgow as it was at the time of the big idea and introduces some of the key characters in the story including Watt himself but also Dr Joseph Black, Dr John Robison and Dr John Anderson.

 The industrial revolution, energised by Watt’s invention, created the rapid expansion of cities like Glasgow, so that by the end of the nineteenth century the place was utterly transformed.  This also created exceptionally harsh working conditions for the men, women and children who staffed the factories created by the revolution.  However, perhaps surprisingly, it also produced a remarkable flourish of musical talent, not least in the world-famous Orpheus Choir which grew out of the Toynbee House Working Men’s Association which met in the heart of what is now the University of Strathclyde campus, just a short walk from the location of James Watt’s workshop and laboratory in Glasgow’s Old College.

 Strathclyde University Chamber Choir presented a range of choral works connected to the Orpheus Choir and subsequent Scottish pieces, and were joined by Icelandic choir Selkorinn, who responded with an equivalent set of folksongs from their tradition which contrasted with the Scottish set.  The two choirs combined for a performance of “Hark the echo falling” by Orlando di Lasso, a favourite of the Orpheus Choir and the Icelandic classic “Heyr, himna smiður”.  Emphasising the theme of weaving, Strathclyde also performed the modern piece “The Gallant Weaver”, James Macmillan’s beautifully haunting setting of Robert Burns’ lyric.

 In addition to the details of James Watt and his contemporaries at Glasgow University, the programme contains detailed notes of all the pieces performed including lyrics and translations.

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