Francis Peacock

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Francis Peacock
Died26 June 1807(1807-06-26) (aged 83–84)
Occupationdance instructor, musician
Notable work
Sketches Relative to the History and Theory, but More Especially to the Practice of Dancing

Francis Peacock (1723 – 26 June 1807) was a Scottish dance teacher and musician. He is considered the "Father of Scottish country dancing."[1]


Peacock was possibly born in York. He studied dancing under the celebrated George Desnoyer, who was later the dancing master at the court of King George III.[2]

In 1742, citizens of Aberdeen appealed to the town council "that the town was at great loss for want of a right dancing master to educate their children." A few years later the town hired James Stuart of Montrose, Angus as the dancing master (an early term for dance teacher) but he was apparently found lacking; in 1746 the council advertised again for "a person of sober, discreet and moral character."

John Dawney, dancing master of Edinburgh, recommended Francis Peacock, also living in Edinburgh.[3] On 14 February 1747, the town council appointed the 23-year-old Peacock as official and only dancing master of Aberdeen.[4] He was paid seven shillings sterling per student per month, together with some money to organise the music.[5]

In Aberdeen, Peacock established the first school of dance as well as the Aberdeen Musical Society. The society was founded with the physician John Gregory, organist Andrew Tait, and music copyist David Young. For almost 60 years, Peacock acted as a director and occasional violinist for the society, with profits from private concerts going to charity.[2]

Peacock's teaching career in Aberdeen lasted five decades. Many of his students included the Scottish nobility; Peacock firmly believed that dancing was a vital activity for young people to learn grace and manners.[6] He writes,

"I may here observe, that there cannot be a greater proof of the utility of Dancing, than its being so universally adopted, as a material circumstance in the education of the youth of both sexes, in every civilised country. Its tendency to form their manners, and to render them agreeable, as well in public as in private; the graceful and elegant ease which it gives to the generality of those who practice it with attention, are apparent to everyone of true discernment."

He is particularly known for his eight-volume treatise on dance, Sketches Relative to the History and Theory, but More Especially to the Practice of Dancing (1805). This was one of the early works on the history of dance.[4] It was dedicated to Jane Gordon, Duchess of Gordon. He used the traditional Gaelic names for the dances but also employed the classical French ballet terms as well.[7]

He also painted portrait miniatures and composed music, including an anthem played during the coronation of George III in 1761. He played the violin with the Aberdeen Musical Society, which he co-founded with David Young, Andrew Tait and John Gregory.[4] He published Fifty Favourite Airs for the Violin (1762).

Personal life[edit]

On 15 February 1748, Peacock married Ellen (or Helen) Forbes (died 1804) at St Nicholas's Church in Aberdeen. They had five children: Elizabeth, Jannet, John, George, and Thomas.[2]


Peacock was also a philanthropist; the proceeds of his 1805 Sketches, amounting to £1,000, were donated to the Aberdeen Lunatic Asylum (now Royal Cornhill Hospital).[8] He also left a considerable sum of money to charity in his will.[9]

Francis Peacock - commemorative plaque

A commemorative plaque is located at his former dance school on Castle Street in Central Aberdeen. The street of Peacock's Close in eastern Aberdeen gets its name from him.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Commemorative Plaques Record Details". City of Aberdeen. Archived from the original on 19 April 2015. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Alburger, Mary Anne. "Peacock, Francis (1723/4–1807)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ Russell, Colin (2014). Who Made the Scottish Enlightenment?. p. 129. ISBN 9781499091045.
  4. ^ a b c McKee Stapleton, Anne (2014). Pointed Encounters: Dance in Post-Culloden Scottish Literature. Rodopi. ISBN 9789401211116.
  5. ^ "The dancing-master of Aberdeen". 2 January 2008. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  6. ^ "Francis Peacock". University of Aberdeen. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  7. ^ Elizabeth Aldrich; Sandra Noll Hammond; Armand Russell (2000). The Extraordinary Dance Book T B. 1826: An Anonymous Manuscript in Facsimile. Pendragon Press. p. 8. ISBN 9780945193326.
  8. ^ Johnson, James (1853). The Scots Musical Museum. W. Blackwood and Sons. p. 126.
  9. ^ Baptie, David (1894). Musical Scotland. J. and R. Parlane. p. 148.

External links[edit]