On trial: U.S. Declassified Documents Online

Thanks to a request from staff in HCA the Library currently has trial access to U.S. Declassified Documents Online from Gale. This database provides immediate access to a broad range of previously classified federal records spanning the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

You can access U.S. Declassified Documents Online via the E-resources trials page.
Access is available on and off-campus.

Trial access ends 1st July 2021. Read More

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SSSA in 70 Objects: “No Winder You Canna Catch Fish”

Response by: Holly Graham

Recording: Up Helly Aa peats replaced by tar barrels

Contributor: Katie Laurenson

Fieldworker: Elizabeth Neilson

Reference: SA1961.89.B74

© Gaada

My chosen object is a short audio extractan excerpt of a longer oral history interview with Shetlander, Katie Laurenson; held within the School of Scottish Studies online collection of archive audio. I came across it while delving through another gathering of materials that has become an archive collection in its own right, hosted online by Shetland-based art space Gaada. Over the past year or so, Gaada have been working closely with local activist group Up Helly Aa for Aa (UHA4A) to collect a range of matter that together tells a story of the island’s annual local fire festival and its historic exclusion of women.

This assemblage of scanned press-cuttings, screen-shots of Facebook posts, drawings, videos, photographs and more, exists as a Google drive of digitised ephemera, documentation and artworks built collaboratively with contributions from UHA4A members. I had been invited, alongside a small selection of other artists, to explore this collection and to develop some accompanying artwork in the form of a flag design, and pieces for a display unit – outdoor structures that could allow for socially distanced viewing in the context of Covid19. A selection of these artworks were later donated to Glasgow Women’s Library. 

As I read and surveyed images, a picture of the festival and what it meant to local people built in my mind – firearms, tar barrels, guizing, Vikings, community. The earliest festivals were “a highly ritualised form of mis-rule governed by the people” according to writer Callum G. Brown (Up-Helly-Aa: Custom, Culture and Community in Shetland, 1998); a show of what Brydon Leslie calls “disruption, devilment, and above all, flame” (New Shetlander, 2011). Brian Smith debunks the authenticity of what he terms the ‘bogus name “Up Helly Aa”’ and the festival’s links to Viking history, saying its inventors – young working men in Lerwick – ‘had their tongues firmly in their cheeks’ (The Shetland Times, 1993). Recent article headlines from local papers jostle and joust: ‘Is Up-Helly-A’ brazenly sexist, or is ‘the way it’s always been’ still acceptable?’ asks Peter Johnson in a 2017 issue of The Shetland Timesthere’s a ‘Burning desire for change’ says Zara Pennington for The Orkney News in 2018; ‘Leave it as it is’ reads the opener of a letter from Lerwick resident Jolene Tindall for The Shetland Times in a year later; ‘Up Helly Aa sexism under the spotlight’ reads a headline of a 2020 Sunday Times article written by Shetlander Sally Huband; ‘They call us backward’ claims a staunch member of the ‘remain the same’ camp in a short video feature by Huck Magazine posted on their site in the same year. 

There was a lot to look through, and I spent a number hours-worth of screen-time squinting at and zooming in on minute columns of newspaper text, lined by pixelated image boarders. The link to Katie’s sound file on the School of Scottish Studies website stood out to me as one of the only items in the Google drive present existing in audio format. It was a welcome pause from the glowing screen and I closed my eyes while I listened. Katie’s lilting narrative told of roots of the festival, steeped in sun-worship rituals. She spoke of flaming tar barrels and the healing properties of tar. She told her own anecdotes of being chastised for wandering to a neighbour’s house via a forbidden route. 

Postcards by Holly Graham

I often work with audio. I’m interested in story-telling and how individual voices present singular subject views, that listened to along-side others, can layer to build complex and nuanced narratives, versions of histories. I was intrigued by Katie’s recounting of her journey to the neighbour’s house and of how that mapped onto histories of the Up Helly Aa procession route, steeped in the superstitious belief that there was only one correct direction to move. Through Katie I learnt vocabulary that was new to me – ‘sungaits’, the way of the sun, also known as clockwise; and ‘widdergaits’, against the sun, or anticlockwise. She laughed at what ‘the old folks’ would say if they saw the present day Lerwick Up Helly Aa procession, weaving a figure of eight back and forth through the town centre. They’d think it was bad luck to travel in such a direction – they’d say ‘no winder you canna catch fish’. I liked this idea of tradition, superstition, direction, push-back and change. 

From what I’d read in the Gaada and UHA4A collections of text, the main argument against women’s participation in the annual procession was one founded in tradition, in the notion that things had not changed before and should therefore not change now. But in light of Katie’s memories of the festival this case falls short. Katie was speaking in 1961, and her voice reaches us intact 60 years later, to speak some home truths to ‘this modern Up Helly Aa that you see nowadays’. And while speaking to us from the 20th century, Katie was born in 1890, just 9 years the first organised torch-light procession took place in Lerwick. Viewed through the span of a life and a voice – human for scale – we see the festival past as not so old, not so distant and concrete, impervious to change. We make traditions collectively, collaboratively. They are often built around small truths that in turn expand foam-like to form myths, and we pack further myths in around them, insulatory protective wrapping to transport them. They morph and change with time. Why would we not desire our traditions to be flexible enough to accommodate us, and to suit us societally as we move and shift, rather than remaining rigid restraints that constrict our collective growth? 

The work I made for the project pivoted around a verbatim poem I assembled from Katie’s words, channelling the push and pull, forward and backward notions held by the terms ‘sungaits’ and ‘widdergaits’. The flag featured a mass of spiralling ribbons, and the two words – one on either face – constructed from these ribbons and enmeshed within them. The display case held a collection of prints: a collage of newspaper headlines, a dictionary definition of ‘widder-’, screenshots of a subtitled documentary on the festival and it’s accompanying calls for change. I also worked with other fragments of archive from the Scottish School of Studies collection; field recordings of songs sung and music played in the processions, recorded by Peter R. Cooke in 1982 [SA1982.010.011].

I pieced together an audio piece or ballad of sorts, that combined Katie’s voice with those of contemporary UHA4A women – Debra Nicolson, Joyce DaviesLindsey Manson, and Frances Taylor – who echoed her words to form a chorus. The audio cycles, returning to familiar melodies played in reverse, words layered and repeated, the narrative is slippery. Together, tongues in cheeks, Katie and the UHA4A women chant: ‘No winder you canna catch fish!’ 

Holly’s flag flying at Gaada, in Bridge-End, Burra Isle.

 

________With thanks to Amy Gear and Daniel Clark at Gaada; Caroline Gausden at Glasgow Women’s Library; Louise Scollay at The School of Scottish Studies Archives and Library; Debra Nicolson, Joyce Davies, Lindsey Manson, and Frances Taylor of Up Helly Aa for Aa; Katie Laurenson and her family, and Peter R. Cooke. 

______________ 

Thanks to Holly and Gaada for use of their images.

You can visit Holly’s website here: https://www.hollygraham.co.uk/

You can find out more about the project on Gaada’s website: https://www.gaada.org/weemins-wark 

Up Helly Aa for Aa campaign:  https://www.facebook.com/S4UHAE/about/

Glasgow Women’s Library: https://womenslibrary.org.uk/

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Resource Lists rollover

The annual Resource Lists rollover is scheduled for  7th June 2021.

On 7th June the Library will start the annual Resource Lists rollover when we will copy lists used in 2020/21 and create a new version for use next academic year (2021/22). Lists from 2019/20 will also be rolled over if the corresponding course is delivered in 2021/22.

Action required

No action is required from you until the rollover is complete. However, if you plan to start working on a Resource List for 2021/22 before 7th June, please contact Library.Learning@ed.ac.uk and we’ll set you up with a new version of your list to edit before the rollover is complete.

Change freeze

Please do not edit your 2020/21 list after 5pm on 4th June as any changes made after this time may not be rolled over.

What will happen after rollover?

Your new 2021/22 Resource List will be available to review and edit via http://resourcelists.ed.ac.uk  and from the new course instance in Learn.

During week beginning 7th June, the current 2020/21 version of your Resource List will become read only. Students and staff will still be able to access previous years’ lists either via the corresponding year’s course in Learn or via http://resourcelists.ed.ac.uk

Next steps

I’ll send a reminder a week before rollover and an email w/c 7th June to let you know rollover has completed as expected.

There’s more information on managing your course reading (using Resource Lists) in 2021/22 on the Resource Lists webpage.

If you have any questions, please get in touch Library.Learning@ed.ac.uk

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A guide to subject guides

One of the key parts of our role as librarians is to help staff and students find the things they need to complete their work. One way in which we do this is to create subject guides, which are like mini websites which collate all kinds of useful links and information we think will be helpful to those working and studying at the University.

You can find a full list of the subject guides we’ve made here, but some of our most popular during 2020-2021 have been the guides for Law, Business, East Asian Studies, English Literature and Engineering. As you’ll see from this list we have guides dedicated to each School and sometimes very specific guides which deal with subjects within those schools.

However we’ve also created guides which we believe are helpful resources for all students in any subject. For example our Exam and Revision guide is aimed at any student looking for top tips and news on the help that’s available from the library and university services to help make their studying more successful.

A screen capture of the Exams and Revision subject guide

Our Dissertation Festival guide contains loads of useful resources for students based on the events that took place in our recent Dissertation Festival (March 2021). Check it out if you’re looking for advice on how to get started with your dissertation research, or are interested in finding out more about some of the collections available from our library suppliers. Just like a face-to-face event you can also pick up your Festival Bag from this page, jam-packed with videos, information and helpful tips. You’ll hear more about the Dissertation Festival from one of our student interns in the coming weeks so watch this space!

Over the summer we’re working on guides relating to Disability and Open Resources which will be published in the coming months.

Did you know we take requests?
If you think that there’s a previously untapped topic we should make a guide for, please let us know by leaving a comment on this post or emailing your Academic Support Librarian using the links on this page. We’d love to hear from you!

SarahLouise McDonald, Academic Support Librarian

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You made it! End of AY 2020-2021

Three snails are in a line, and look like they are crawling across concrete strewn with leaves. At the fore of the image there is a banner indicating the finish line, though the text is partially out of shot and out of focus.

It’s felt like a sluggish crawl to the finish line, but we made it! (Image by Jarmoluk via Pixabay)

Monday 24th May 2021 marks the beginning of the summer vacation, meaning that for the majority of students teaching has finished for the year and exams are over. Everybody who has completed a period of study during this confusing, stressful, and difficult year deserves recognition of the incredible effort they’ve put in. We want to acknowledge the great flexibility and adaptability our students in the School of Law (and across the University) have shown by managing to work on, submit assignments and complete courses of study. We’re proud to have played a part in keeping your education on track.

Library Services has been working incredibly hard behind the scenes to make swift transitions as seamless as possible, and while we know it hasn’t been an entirely smooth ride we appreciate the patience and grace shown to us by staff and students while we managed the changes as best we could.

Although the pandemic isn’t over yet we hope that when the next academic year begins in September we’ll be looking at a very different landscape, with a robust vaccination programme, more freedom and therefore a much anticipated return to normal opening for our beautiful and well-used libraries.

We recognise that many staff and students will be continuing to research throughout the summer and would like to highlight that we’re available to support your work all year round, not just in term time! If you require support or have questions about resources during the summer months please use our email address (law.librarian@ed.ac.uk) to contact us.

~ Donna and SarahLouise

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SSSA in 70 Objects: Psalm 118 to ‘Coleshill’

Contributor: Murdina and Effie MacDonald, Psalm 118 to ‘Coleshill’

Fieldworker: Thorkild Knudsen

Reference: SA1965.031

Link to recording on Tobar an Dualchais

Response: Clare Button

Visiting the Isle of Lewis with my parents at age fifteen seemed the ideal chance to use my newly acquired pieces of Gaelic. Back home in England I was a fervent convert, listening to all the Gaelic music I could find and devouring a book titled (more than a little misleadingly, as it turned out) Scottish Gaelic in Three Months. Thrilled as I was to hear the language around me on the streets of Stornoway, I lost the bottle to try it myself, save for a shyly squeaked ‘madainn mhath’ to a lady behind the counter in a charity shop. Bolstered by her kind reaction, I thought to repay her by purchasing something, and my eye was caught by a record titled Gaelic Psalms from Lewis, the cover emblazoned with J.H. Lorimer’s dramatic painting The Ordination of Elders in the Scottish Kirk.

Closer inspection revealed that it was Volume 6 in Greentrax’s Scottish Tradition Series, which showcased recordings from the School of Scottish Studies, a new name to me at that time. I hardly knew what to expect, but it was only twenty pence, and would just about fit in our suitcase. I suspect the lady behind the counter was somewhat bewildered to see this earnest English teenager expressing an interest in the devotional singing of her island.

It was around a month or two before I played the LP on my dad’s record player, but when I did, my musical landscape was changed forever. I had heard sacred music before, of course, but nothing like this, with the psalm being ‘lined out’ by the precentor, and the congregation following after in a heavily ornamented style, each person at their own pace. The effect was an ocean of sound, both alien and familiar, human voices locked in private devotion yet joined in communal worship.

I loved the richly dramatic congregational recordings, but I was especially struck by the singing of two sisters, Murdina and Effie MacDonald, of Balantrushal, north west Lewis. Recorded at their home in 1965 by Thorkild Knudsen, a Danish musicologist then on the staff of the School of Scottish Studies, they intone verses 15-23 of Psalm 118 to the tune ‘Coleshill’, their brittle voices trilling, soaring and swooping together in two barely separable strands. ‘Guth gàirdeachais is slàinte ta / am pàilliunaibh nan saoi…’ Their singing is particularly touching because it is domestic, sisterly, intimate. The notes to the recording mention that, although it was quite unheard of for women to precent, they may often ‘be heard singing Gaelic Psalms while at household chores.’ Now, years later, with many recordings of the MacDonald sisters available online via Tobar an Dualchais, the extent and depth of their skill at psalm singing can be truly appreciated.

A year or two later, I heard the same recording sampled by Martyn Bennett on another album which changed my life, Grit (2003). In the sleeve notes, Bennett tells the story of travelling to Balantrushal to see Murdina, then in her late eighties, to get her blessing to use the recording. She confided to Martyn her own initial misgivings back in the 1960s on recording these religious songs, a confession which he found reassuring. Of the resulting composition, ‘Liberation’, Martyn wrote:

‘I could not find any other way to express the profound feeling of losing faith, and the determination to find it again.’

It is both touching and strange to think of the sisters giving their blessing to this epic mashup of their voices with clashing rave beats, euphoric sonic whirls and Michael Marra’s best (and, I suspect, his only) attempt at being a minister. The track is radically different from Murdina and Effie’s world, but it does, I think, retain the kernel of purity found in Knudsen’s original recording.

Now, many years later, I have been entranced by sacred music of all kinds, from the astonishing Canu Pwnc tradition of Wales, to the heart-bursting ecstasy of Sacred Harp, to the simple grace of medieval plainchant, but the billowing swells of the Scottish Gaelic style hold a unique magic. My Gaelic may still not be much improved, but this recording grows with me all the time.

Clare Button is Archivist at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London.

 

Listen to Murdina and Effie MacDonald here: http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/fullrecord/67880/1

More about Martyn Bennett here: https://realworldrecords.com/artists/martyn-bennett/

Find out about the Gaelic Psalms from Lewis here: http://www.greentrax.com/music/product/Various-Artists-Gaelic-Psalms-From-Lewis-Scottish-Tradition-Series-vol-6-CD

 

 

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Dissertation Festival Blog: Engineering Village resources for dissertations

Introduction

The day has finally arrived, the end of my Dissertation Festival Blog series. To recap, the Library’s Dissertation Festival is a collaborative effort from the Library, Digital Skills department and Institute of Academic Development (IAD). They united to host a series of virtual sessions spanning over two weeks to provide students with the knowledge and resources required to make the most out of their dissertations. The Festival is a fantastic opportunity to learn tips and tricks to help you write, reference and uncover what support is available to you at the University. In this blog series, I review sessions I have attended and share my thoughts.

The Session

For my final event, I went subject-specific, as I attended “Engineering Village resources for dissertations” hosted by a staff member from Elsevier.  The session began with an explanation of Engineering Village and how it can help with your dissertation. To summarise, Engineering Village is a powerful search platform that provides access to multiple engineering literature databases. These reliable sources range from journals to conference proceedings and trade publications to press articles. It is essentially a one-stop-shop for all things engineering literature. If you are confused about how you could have missed such a powerful platform, don’t worry – you may already be aware of some of the databases found within Engineering Village; these include Knovel, Compendex and Inspec!

During the session, short tutorials of Knovel, Compendex and Inspec were given with their key features highlighted. I found Knovel to be most interesting as the database provides you with the opportunity to search materials’ properties, pulling this numeric data from handbooks, manuals, and databanks so you can access what you need quickly. It also allows you to search for equations and contains tools such as a unit converter and interactive graphs to aid your research.

Screenshot from Knovel website taken to illustrate Material Property Search

Screenshot from Knovel website taken to illustrate the Material Property Search feature

Both Compendex and Inspec are comprehensive bibliographic databases of engineering research covering engineering and applied sciences. Compendex is more holistic and is the broadest, most complete engineering database in the world. On the other hand, Inspec provides engineering research information on physics, electrical engineering and electronics, computers and control, production engineering, information technology, and more. Using Engineering Village, you can search both databases simultaneously, ensuring you are getting the most relevant and up to date information.

Thoughts and Conclusion

The session was highly informative and helped me understand how to use the unique search features and specialised Engineering Village tools to improve my research productivity.  I believe Engineering Village is a resource relevant to all STEM students or students whose work requires reliable scientific data. For dissertation use, the database can have a range of applications, so it is well worth further inspection. You can directly access Knovel, Compendex and Inspec from the University Library Databases page!

Thank you for reading this blog, and I hope you enjoyed it. Unfortunately, a recorded version of the session is not available, so you have to wait until the next Dissertation Festival to see the event live! However, you can access other Dissertation Festival recordings from a dedicated playlist HERE and read previous blogs in the series HERE and HERE.

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SSSA In 70 Objects: The Pictish Arts Society

Written by Stuart McHardy

In 1988 the School of Scottish Studies began to host gatherings of the Pictish Arts Society, both its committee meetings and its public lectures. The Society, formed to further interest in, and study of, all aspects of the Picts was originally conceived by myself and the American-born artist Marianna Lines.

Our presence was facilitated by linguist David Clement who was seconded to the School from the Celtic department. I had kept up a tenuous connection with the school since my undergraduate days. The three of us were joined as the inaugural committee by ethnologist Bob Brydon, historian Graeme Cruikshank, lawyer George Fraser and knitwear designer Heather Richard.

In 1992, due to a considerable level of public interest, our initial Newsletter developed into the PAS Journal, which presented a wide range of academically sound articles from a range of contributors, including archaeologists, historians and linguists, as well as professional artists, as the original mission statement of the Society had specifically laid emphasis on the corpus of Pictish Art and its potential to stimulate new work in the modern world.

The open meetings in the Conference Room were always lively and stimulating and within a couple of years the Society began to stage annual conferences, which were initially also held in the School, and which originally included exhibitions of contemporary Pictish inspired artwork.  Over time the conferences began to be held in other locations, most of which would generally be considered to be somewhat more appropriate than Edinburgh, even if tradition tells us that Arthur’s sleeping companions inside his Seat in Holyrood Park, are Picts.  This highlighted the situation that many members had to travel extensively to come to Edinburgh and in 2000 the PAS officially moved from 27 George Square to the appropriate location of Pictavia near Brechin, with the support of Angus Council through the commitment of my successor as President of the Society, Norman Atkinson.

illustration drawn by J D Moir and used with kind permission

Since then, the society has continued to hold regular meetings and conferences, currently on Zoom, and to publish a quarterly newsletter, the Journal having ceased publication after 17 issues. At the time when the PAS formed there were no books on the Picts in print and it is testament to the work of the membership that nowadays there are so many works available, both reprints and new works, and it is likely that the efforts of the early group in George Square has helped ensure that today’s Scottish archaeologists ad historians are much more involved with matters Pictish than was the case when first we met. Sadly, since our early days in the School of the Scottish Studies many of the original enthusiasts have passed on, including in 2018 our co-founder Marianna Lines, whose vibrant and colourful interpretations of Pictish Symbol Stones were so effective  in bringing so much of Scotland’s ancient culture to wider public notice.

Stuart McHardy is a Teaching Fellow, Centre for Open Learning, University of Edinburgh

Musselburgh

2021

Information:

The Pictish Arts Society logo is designed by Nick Simpson and the illustration of the stone is by JD Moir. We have used these with permission, please do not reproduce.

http://www.thepictishartssociety.org.uk/

The Pictish Arts Society Newsletter has an open access archive here: http://www.thepictishartssociety.org.uk/newsletters/4593763668

 

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Dissertation Festival Blog: How to use the library remotely for your dissertation

How to use the library remotely for your dissertation banner

Introduction

It’s time for the second blog! These dissertation festival blogs are an opportunity for me to share my thoughts on the Dissertation Festival Events I have attended. For those who don’t know, the Library’s Dissertation Festival is a collaborative effort from the Library, Digital Skills department and Institute of Academic Development (IAD). They have shared a series of virtual events to provide students with the knowledge and resources to make the most out of their dissertations or theses.  To find out more about the festival, click HERE, and you can see my previous blog HERE.

The Session

Hopefully, you should all be aware of the University Library and its associated buildings. Something you may not be conscious of are all the online and offline resources they have on offer. I must admit, even I (a student intern within the Library and University Collections department) am not 100% sure what “RaB” means or that you could easily filter your results on DiscoverEd (see the image below). I learned that and more in the “How to use the Library remotely for your dissertation” event.

Image showing how you can limit searches on DiscoverEd

How to limit search options on DiscoverEd

The session began by covering the basics of accessing resources. For online materials, that meant a comprehensive tutorial on how to search on DiscoverEd and a discussion as to why you may need to use the University’s VPN to obtain specific resources. Print was a little bit trickier to communicate (understandably), but directions were given to regularly check the Library Services Update page for the latest information in response to Government Guidelines.

For finding resources about a particular research area, Library Databases are a great place to go. They can give you a window into the literature you are interested in and contain specialist resources produced by experts. If you are unsure what you are looking for, the Library has made searching easier as you can browse databases based on by subject or as a complete A-Z list!

Now, I am sure at this point you are wondering what is “RaB”? During the session, I learned that if the Library doesn’t have the book you require, or it is only available as a print version, you can … Request a Book (RaB). It is such an excellent service that I am sure be beneficial for anyone, not only those completing their dissertation. Another valuable service feature offered by the Library are Inter-Library Loans (ILLs) which enable you to request digital copies of articles and book chapters from other libraries!

Thoughts and Conclusion

If I were to summarise this session in just one saying, it would be “It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks”. During the event, I was pleasantly surprised by all the new knowledge I gained, especially about DiscoverEd – a service I have been regularly using over the past 4 years! I was also reminded about other fantastic resources and features supported by the Library, which would help you with your dissertation, thesis, and even general studies!

If you are interested in the session and want to check it out, you can find it HERE!

Thanks for checking out the blog, see you at the next one.

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SSSA in 70 Objects: Hò Ro Gur Toigh Leinn Anna 

Contributor: Peigi Anndra MacRae, Mairi Anndra MacRae 

Fieldworker: Donald Archie MacDonald 

Reference: SA1964.062 

Link: http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/104487

Response: Dr Alison Mayne 

It’s extremely hard for me to pick one object from the School of Scottish Studies Archives.  I first discovered its treasures when Louise Scollay found a lever arch file full of clippings and letters about Cleekwork and she asked me to make a cleek glove based on a pattern found there.  This work developed into a Handmaking in the Archives event for the University of Edinburgh Festival of Creative Learning.  

Unsurprisingly perhaps, my interest in the SSSA focuses on the world of textiles and wool processing in particular.  The archive is packed with images, stories and songs of sheep, shearing, spinning and the transformation into cloth through knit or weave.  Louise herself selected a Barra waulking song as her favourite object, celebrating the community preparation of tweed.  Coming in a close second for my own favourite is the Tom Anderson 1960 recording of Rosabel Blance singing her own composition of ‘Roo the Bonny Oo which magically replicates the sound of a burring spinning wheel. 

However, I knew my special SSSA object had to come from Peigi Anndra MacRae.  With her sister, Mairi, Peigi opened her home to a young Margaret Fay Shaw in the late 1920s and introduced her to the crofting way of life, traditions, stories and music of South Uist.  After her marriage to ethnologist John Lorne Campbell, Shaw remained fast friends with Peigi Anndra as she developed the work which would become Folksongs and Folklore of South Uist. 

Mary and Peggy MacRae
Image used with kind permission from Alex MacRae.

The relationship between folklorist / ethnologist and contributor is fascinating:  There are ethical concerns we are more aware of now which can make the uneven power relations between collector and singer feel uncomfortable; the mantle of expertise may have been borne by the fieldworker, but the incredible depth of knowledge lays with the singer or contributor.  In many ways, the interest lies for me in the process of collecting, not necessarily the item itself. 

Peigi Anndra’s singing of  Ro Gur Toigh Leinn Anna was recorded by Donald Archie MacDonald (who worked at the SSSA between 1962 to 1994) in 1964.  It tells of a woman sad that she is unable to take part in waulking the tweed and was composed by Mrs Catriona Campbell of South Lochboisdale. 

What I love is the uncertainty of memory, repetition and occasional pauses of Peigi Anndra’s singing, the quiet interjections of MacDonald where she forgets the words, Mairi calling corrections from across the room, the whirr and click of the reel to reel tape.  Recordings like this are not only significant in recording traditional song and ways of knowing, but in reminding listeners and researchers down the years of the process of recording.  It is a precious reminder that we should not forget the relationships and labour of collecting which have constructed the archive. 

 

Dr Alison Mayne is a researcher in everyday textiles and wellbeing, with additional interests in digital communities and design for older people. She holds awards from Women’s History Scotland, The Pasold Fund and is a University of Glasgow 2020-21 Visiting Library Fellow, supported by the William Lind Foundation.

@knittyphd

 

Image used with kind permission of the MacRae family. Please do not reproduce.

Further resources

There are further recordings from The School of Scottish Studies Collections featuring Peigi and Mairi MacRae. Many of these are available to stream via Tobar an Dualchais.

http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/searchByTrackId?id=SA1964.062

http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/searchByTrackId?id=SA1965.118

http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/searchByTrackId?id=SA1966.081

For more information about Margaret Fay Shaw and her relationship with the MacRaes visit The National Trust:  https://www.nts.org.uk/stories/stories-songs-and-starlings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Collections

Default utility Image Edinburgh Research Archive: March 2021 Edinburgh Research Archive: March 2021 • https://era.ed.ac.uk March saw a record number of downloads for ERA,...
Default utility Image Edinburgh Research Explorer: March 2021 Edinburgh Research Explorer: March 2021 • www.research.ed.ac.uk The dip in download numbers which seemed to inflict...

Projects

Default utility Image Semply the Best: A Collection in Need of Some Love This week’s blog comes from Project Collections Assistants Anna O’Regan, Winona O’Connor and Max Chesnokov...
Default utility Image The Battle of Life: A look at the Dumfriesshire mental health survey “worried, dull and anxious, not quite up to the battle of life.” Widowed female, 45-54...

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