Category Archives: Archives in 70 Objects

SSSA in 70 Objects: Linguistic Survey of Scotland: Gaelic grammar materials 

By Dr Teàrlach Wilson 

The first time I ever visited the SSSA, I was being given a tour by my supervisor to-be. I hadn’t officially submitted an application to do a PhD at the University of Edinburgh yet, but I had come up to Edinburgh from London to meet with my supervisor to-be, Dr Will Lamb, and to have an introductory tour of the University and the resources I hoped to work with. The SSSA was one of the reasons that attracted to me to Edinburgh. It was especially the moment that Will was showing me the Linguistic Survey of Scotland materials (collected between 1951 and 1963), and my eye was caught by a folder on which was written ‘St Kilda’. Anybody with an interest in Scottish history, culture, and identity will be fascinated by St Kilda, and there is often a nostalgia for what once was. As a linguist with a particular interest in geographical variation (‘dialects’), I was immediately excited and saddened by a very simple fact represented by the words ‘St Kilda’ on a document containing linguistic material: when a community ceases to exist, its special variety of speech also ceases to exist. The loss of the St Kilda dialect is not just a loss of localised language and cultural knowledge, it is also a reduction of the Scottish Gaelic language more generally. We have to be eternally grateful to the organisers and fieldworkers of the Linguistic Survey, or else this dialect – and others – could have been lost forever. We may never regain these dialects, but at least we have some idea of the linguistic patterns that existed within them. A great frustration for those studying linguistic variation is the lack of data available from previous periods of history, and it would be a great shame to have failed to collect this data in the 20th century when recording methods and technologies were available. 

St Kilda isn’t, of course, the only ‘lost’ dialect to have been captured for posterity in the Linguistic Survey of Scotland. Another painful fact for those interested in Gaelic – be they linguists or from other disciplines – academic or not – is the generally northwesterly withdrawal of Gaelic across Scotland, so that the majority of mainland dialects are now obsolete and the Outer Hebrides are the last stronghold of the language. If you open the Linguistic Survey materials, or the only publication to come of the Linguistic Survey – ‘The Gaelic Dialects of Scotland’ (Ó Dochartaigh (ed.) 1997) – you will find this map of Scotland that represents the location of speakers who contributed their speech to the archive material: 

 

 

click on image for larger size

 

Look at the geographic extent of the fieldwork activity! From as far north as Srathaidh (Strathy) in Sutherland to Sean-achaidh (Shannochie) at the most southerly tip of the Isle of Arran – and from as far west as Hiort (St Kilda) to Bràigh Mhàrr (Braemar) in Aberdeenshire – the entire Gàidheatachd (‘Gaelic-speaking region’) seems to be represented (except Loch Lomond, the Cowal peninsula, the Isle of Bute, and the south end of the Kintyre peninsula). By looking at this map and not looking at census data, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Gaelic was in a strong position – having so many speakers across the Scottish territory. However, the Linguistic Survey fieldworkers were also quite thorough in their note-taking and hints at the impending shift can be found in the notes that they took. On a number of occasions, fieldworkers talk about struggling to find speakers or note that the speakers have few, if any, fellow Gaelic speakers within their local social networks. Take into consideration that the majority of the contributors to the Survey were elderly (most being born in the 1880s), and you realise that the fieldworkers arrived at the cusp of a tipping point where traditional local Gaelic dialects go from ‘just holding on’ to ‘no longer existing’. Some fieldworkers even suggest that ‘linguistic decay’ (a term I absolutely loathe) is observable in the speech of those Gaelic speakers who represent the last speakers of their areas and who have perhaps not spoken Gaelic for years, even decades. The implication of this is that some of the material in the Survey don’t not, in fact, represent the traditional local dialects of some areas (Another term used is ‘linguistic attrition’, but I describe it as ‘contact-influenced change’ in my work to show that linguistic changes are natural and that ‘contact’ with the dominant language – English in our case – are driving some of those changes). 

When I commenced my fieldwork – with the intention of comparing dialects of the Linguistic Survey with the dialects of speakers of a similarly elderly age today (who represent the grandchildren – or at least the grandchildren generation – of the contributors to the Survey), I found that the geographical extent of my fieldwork was going to be far more restricted than the range had by the fieldworkers who collected the Survey data around 60 to 70 years ago. Imagine the excitement of seeing historical linguistic forms mixed with an overwhelming sadness that they are lost. The emotions were, and still are, sometimes debilitating. I’d be looking at materials in the SSSA, with people around me in silence also looking at materials, and the rollercoaster of emotions would go from wanting to scream, “WOW!” to wanting to cry. I’m sure I wasn’t alone. There is sometimes a melancholy in the SSSA (which should never put you off going there) because visitors and researchers are all feeling the pain of loss – a loss that was so unnecessary. Sometimes you did not speak to fellow visitors or researchers, and so you had no idea what they were looking at or that they were feeling loss. Yet you still sometimes knew. As though a united purpose of capturing loss and criticising the unnecessary causes of loss was reverberating around the building. As I said: don’t let the melancholy put you off – it is a form of human bonding and communication. And that silent bonding is sometimes the most powerful. 

It should go without saying that it’s not always melancholy. As I said, there are some moments of almost extreme excitement. One of the things that I enjoyed most about my research was finding contributors to my fieldwork who remembered or were related to contributors to the Linguistic Survey in the 1950s and 1960s. Reading fieldworkers’ notes about people – probably based on short experiences with the people and making assumptions sometimes driven by the fieldworkers’ own assumptions – and hearing stories about the same people from their neighbours and descendants made my cheeks hurt from smiling so much. Seeing a name written in the Survey and then asking a contributor, “did you know X?”, which then led to information not recorded in the Survey was like finding a precious treasure trove – the dialectological equivalent of finding Tutankhamun’s tomb. The similarities or differences between the accounts of people’s personalities and type of Gaelic was always amusing. I remember in particular one fieldworker noting how a female contributor had been quite conservative – almost archaic – in her use of Gaelic grammar, and then a neighbour of this woman (who must have died some half a century ago) recounting how forced her Gaelic sometimes seemed, how pious she was, and how miserable she was! She’d apparently often come to the door as she saw people passing her bothy on her croft just to lament at the state of the world! Something not noted in the fieldworker’s accounts, but you could certainly sense that it was the same woman! Maybe the fieldworker hadn’t been around long enough to witness her lamentations, or maybe she was on her best behaviour with the fieldworker, or the fieldworker wasn’t a member of her close social network. Nonetheless, the fieldworker’s comments about her Gaelic being old-fashioned made me think as I heard stories about her, “yes, it makes sense that someone like that would have some very old-fashioned speech!”

 

An example from Gaelic Linguistic Survey Transcriptions from speaker from St Kilda (GLS0987)

 

My fieldwork ended up being restricted to the Hebrides – both Inner and Outer. I went to the most northerly inhabited point of the Hebrides (Nis, Leòdhas, or Ness, Lewis in English) and to one of the most southerly (Port na h-Abhainne, Ìle, or Portnahaven, Islay). It was not easy to find contributors and my fieldwork is not as exhaustive as the Linguistic Survey. But combining Archive research with fieldwork in rural island communities has certainly been one of the most enriching experiences of my life, that has really informed who I am today and helped me develop my views and feelings about rural island communities, minority languages, and the importance of cultural – tangible and intangible – in a post-colonial, urban-centric, and land-facing society. I didn’t look at these people’s contributions to Lowland life, but make no mistake about it: rural island communities know how to survive when most Lowland urbanites only know how to go to a supermarket. Island communities are at the forefront of action against climate change because they know how to work their land sustainably while they will be the first to see the consequences of the climate crisis, as big cities invest in infrastructure to protect themselves from rising sea levels. All the while, the members of these communities are the guardians of our cultural and agricultural heritage, who provide us with food and energy. It’s not just their speech that needs to be protected. Their speech is just one facet of their entire way of life that needs to be protected. You may not see that when you look in the St Kilda folder and see that the typical Hebridean pronunciation of bàta ‘boat’ (sounds a bit like paaaaahhhhtuh) was not a feature of St Kilda dialect, even though St Kilda is a considered a Hebridean island (they said something more like baaaatuh). But all these issues are interlinked and the voices calling for respect and understanding of our world ring out through the records of their speech. This is worth thinking about while COP26 is going on in Scotland’s biggest city, i.e. how linguistic minorities protect the planet and what those (mainly male) world leaders need to do to protect them. Linguistic diversity is a part of our planet’s biodiversity, and so the loss of a dialect is like the extinction of a species and the SSSA like the Natural History Museum in those terms. 

 

Dr Teàrlach Wilson is a former University of Edinburgh student, who completed his PhD in Celtic and Scottish Studies in 2021, looking at the links between Gaelic grammar, dialects, and geography. He now lectures Scottish Gaelic at Queen’s University Belfast and is the founding director of An Taigh Cèilidh, a nonprofit Gaelic community hub in Stornoway, Outer Hebrides.

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SSSA in 70 Objects: Photograph of Sorley Maclean and Ian Paterson

 

a black and white image of two men sitting at a table.  They are turned into one another in conversation


Sorley MacLean and Ian Paterson in the School of Scottish Studies tea room, Summer 1981. © The School of Scottish Studies Archives, Ref: V_2b_8119

 

This week saw the 110th anniversary of the birth of Raasay poet Sorley MacLean (26 October 1911 – 24 November 1996) and so today’s blog is a great opportunity to share with you a photograph from the collection that I really like, for two reasons.

 

Here are Sorley and Ian Paterson, sitting at the tea table in the School of Scottish Studies. Ian Paterson was a native of Berneray and worked at The School of Scottish Studies first as a transcriber and then began collecting fieldwork of his own. In July 1974 and November 1978, Ian recorded Sorley reciting his poems at The School. You can hear these recordings via Tobar an Dualchais by following the Reference links below:

SA1974.174

SA1974.175

SA1978.147

It is an incredible gift to be able to listen to one of our greatest contemporary Gaelic poets reciting his own work in fine, resounding voice. 

 

I like the candidness of this image too; such a lack of ceremony. Two people, taking their ease, caught in a conversation while having a cup of tea. And that is the other thing I like about this image. It was taken in the Tea room at 27-29 George Square, in the School of Scottish Studies building and for anyone who worked, studied or had connections in the building, the tea room and the tea table was a special place indeed.

From special occasions to plain old elevenses, there was always a community feel about that room and you were never quite sure who else would be joining you for your tea. When the Celtic and Scottish Studies department and the Archives moved in 2015 the tea table was much mourned as that hub. We often hear stories from people who have memories of being at the tea table and so we thought it would be great to share some of these here on the blog, along with some more photographs from our collections. If you have any memories of occasions in the tea-room, no matter how long or short the tale, please drop us a line at scottish.studies.archives@ed.ac.uk, or leave us a comment below. 

 

 

Louise Scollay, Archive & Library Assistant

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SSSA in 70 Objects: Filling the Creative Well: A Tribute to Joan W. Clark

Manuscript: The Joan Clark Collection

Response by: Elaine MacGillivray

 

Out of a thousand possible options, I have chosen to respond to the manuscript collection of Scottish botanist Joan W. Clark (1908-1999) – in particular, her wildflower specimen books

Pressed plant specimen, ‘Water Speedwell’, pinkish broiwn stem with seeds and leaves

Pressed plant specimen, ‘Water Speedwell’, collected by Joan Clark from a ditch on North Uist, August 1976 (SSSA: Joan Clark Collection)

Joan Wendoline Clark grew up in Kincardineshire and Sussex. Fluent in French and German, skilled in shorthand and a trained typist, she worked for a time at the Foreign Office in London and at the British Embassy in Paris. In the 1930s she returned with her Scottish husband to Scotland and together they settled in Lochaber, where she remained until her death on 6 July 1999. Shortly after her death, her daughter, Anna MacLean kindly gifted Joan’s manuscript collection to the School of Scottish Studies Archives. The collection includes her correspondence and botanical research notes dating from the 1970s right up until 1999, along with three specimen books containing almost 350 pressed wildflowers collected around Onich, Ballachulish, North Uist and Glencoe in around 1976.

Pressed plant specimen, ‘Bitter Vetch’

Pressed plant specimen, ‘Bitter Vetch’, collected by Joan Clark at [B]allachuil[ish], May 1976. (SSSA: Joan Clark Collection)

 

Joan Clark’s wildflower specimen books are made up of three A4 sized sugar paper leaved scrapbooks.  Turning the pages, I found each leaf contained between one and three pressed wildflower specimens. Bedstraw, iris, sea pinks, sundew, dog’s mercury and so many more are all represented, carefully laid out and attached with tiny strips of paper glued at either end. Beside each specimen the name of the plant, the location it was found, the date collected and additional notes are recorded in blue or black ink. The addition of this metadata means that the specimen books are not purely aesthetic but also scientifically valuable.

Joan Clark’s manuscript collection is testament to her incredible contribution to botanical science. Her meticulous and painstaking research informed Richard Pankhurst and J. M. Mullin’s Flora of the Outer Hebrides (1991), and she collaborated with Ian MacDonald of the Gaelic Book Council to publish Gaelic Names of Plants / Ainmean Gàidhlig Lusan (1999). Many have paid tribute to her calibre as a botanist, not least the renowned and respected botanist A. C. Jermy of the Natural History Museum (Watsonia, 2000).

Pressed plant specimen, ‘St John’s Wort’ (also known as Goat Weed), A stem with two fat green leaves at the bottom. two further up and two yellow flower heards

Pressed plant specimen, ‘St John’s Wort’ (also known as Goat Weed), collected by Joan Clark from the shore at North Ballachulish, July 1976. (SSSA: Joan Clark Collection)

Jenny Sturgeon wrote in her response to Alan Bruford’s recording of Tom Tulloch (11 Jun 2021), “local names for flora and fauna root us to where we come from and there is a cultural history and identity associated with them.” Growing up on the west coast of Argyll, I was taught the names of the local wildflowers there by my mother and grandmothers. During my post-graduate studies in Liverpool, my mother once sent me a snapdragon – collected, pressed and placed between two pieces of tissue paper in a card. On the card was a scribbled note: “snapdragons are out and so I thought you would like to see one!” For me, and for many, flora and fauna offer up a very tangible connection to people, place and time.

Pressed plant specimen, ‘Dog’s Mercury’, This is a burgundy in colour with eight or nine leaves terminating at the top of a long stem

Pressed plant specimen, ‘Dog’s Merury’, collected by Joan Clark at Duror, April 1976 (SSSA: Joan Clark Collection)

With this in mind and inspired by Joan Clark, earlier in 2021 I set out to collect some of my own herbarium specimens. I packed up my rucksack with the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland’s Guide to Collecting and Pressing Specimens, my phone (for the camera), a pair of scissors, a pack of coffee filters (in place of parchment paper), and Delia Smith’s Complete Illustrated Cookbook (the weightiest book in my library and my makeshift flower press).

Pressed plant specimen, ‘Bluebell’, collected by Elaine MacGillivray at the Den of Scone, June 2021.

I collected around 10 specimens from a local Perthshire woodland. Some of them I knew well, like the common broom, vetches, campion and bluebell; others left me scratching my head.

Pressed plant specimen, ‘Unidentified’, collected by Elaine MacGillivray at the Den of Scone, June 2021.

Pressed plant specimen, ‘Unidentified’, collected by Elaine MacGillivray at the Den of Scone, June 2021.

 

In attempting to identify my specimens, I found myself poring over Francis Buchanan White’s Flora of Perthshire (1898), the Perthshire Society for Natural Science’s Checklist of the Plants of Perthshire (1992), and an old copy of the Readers’ Digest Guide to Wildflowers of Britain (1996). I compared my specimens to photographs that I had of Joan Clark’s specimen books, and to images and descriptions on the webpages of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Wildflower Finder, and the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. The result is that some of my metadata remains lacking until such a time as I can identify and name the plant, or until my newly acquired membership of the botany section of the Perthshire Society for Natural Science pays dividends!

Pressed plant specimen, ‘Common Broom’, collected by Elaine MacGillivray at Nether Balgarvie / Parkfield House, Scone, June 2021.

 

The creative process of collecting, pressing, identifying and documenting was completely absorbing. Through it I have learned to pay greater attention to my environment, gained a deeper understanding of my locality and the interdependence of people and plants. One of the many privileges of working so intimately with archival collections is that we are repeatedly offered a unique opportunity to develop knowledge and interest in a person, subject or era that otherwise may well have eluded us. In trying to see the world through the botanical wisdom of Joan Clark, the present-day natural world has opened up to me in a way I might never have imagined. I have an even greater respect for the knowledge, work, tenacity, dedication and patience that she and others must have brought to their botanical studies. I wonder what Joan Clark would have made of my amateur attempt to emulate her. I hope that she would be pleased that her legacy has inspired, and is able to continue to inspire, a new found passion to know, understand and protect plants and their environment.

 

 

 

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Louise Scollay, Caroline Milligan and Dr Ella Leith for their encouragement, prods, and proofreading.

 

Images are copyright, please do not reproduce.

 

Sources and further information:

Jermy, A.C., Obituary of Joan Wendoline Clark (1908-1999) in Watsonia, No. 23, (2000), pp.359-372 (http://archive.bsbi.org.uk/Wats23p359.pdf)

Murray, C.W., In Memorium – Joan W Clark (Rust) 1908-1999 in BSBI Scottish Newsletter, No. 22, (2000), pp. 12-13 (http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=2BC0FC507955B7D126E651E0C6CFE287?doi=10.1.1.659.2850&rep=rep1&type=pdf).

 

Elaine MacGillivray was the School of Scottish Studies Project Archivist, 2014-2016

 

 


Is there an ‘object’ related to the School of Scottish Studies that you would like to write about or respond to? It could be a recording, an image, a manuscript or something else!
We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us at scottish.studie.archives (at) ed.ac.uk

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SSSA in 70 Objects: Cassette of Annie Arnott Recordings

 

Recently this object was received back to SSSA.

The tape contains several recordings of Gaelic songs performed by Mrs Annie Arnott, of Skye. Born and raised in Linicro, in the Kilmuir district in Skye, Annie learned a large number of songs from her mother, who was descended from the Macdonald bards. Annie was regarded as a great tradition-bearer and she was recorded many times by fieldworkers from the School of Scottish Studies.

You can listen to over 150 recordings of Annie Arnott singing, from SSSA collection on Tobar an Dualchais .

The tape was made for Annie’s Grand-daughter, also named Annie; She sent us a letter to say she had listened to the tapes (this is one of a few she has) many times over the years and she hoped that we might be able to fix it for her.

After a lovely telephone call with Annie, we learned that she remembered well the fieldworkers from the School bringing their huge recording machines to Skye to record with her grandmother. We asked her if she wanted the recordings put on a CD, which she did, but she also was keen to see the tape fixed – if it was possible – as the cassettes are an important item to her.

Fix it we could! It took short work from Stuart, our AV technician, and here it is almost as good as new. This is winging its way back to Skye today.

The same tape as before, but this has now been fixed!

Stuart is going to do a little video for us on tape repairs like this, but in the meantime, here is one he made earlier on fixing a microcassette.

 

It is always special to hear from people who were recorded by the School, or who have memories connected to their family or local area and the recordings in the archive.  Do you have any connections to The School of Scottish Studies or our archives? We would be delighted to hear from you. Drop us an email at scottish.studies.archives@ed.ac.uk or telephone (or leave a message) at 0131 650 3060.

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SSSA in 70 Objects

“Too Principled, Too Honest”

Thomas Ferguson Rodger, Professor of Psychological Medicine

Response by: Dr Sarah Phelan

Recording: Interviews relating to Thomas Ferguson Rodger (1907-1978), interviewed by Sarah Phelan, Various dates (School of Scottish Studies Archives, University of Edinburgh)

Contributor: Dr Sarah Phelan

 

Professor Rodger giving his lecture ‘Some Observations on Mental Health Services in Scotland under the National Health Services Act’ to the Medical Institute of Kiev, 1955.
Image Credit: University of Glasgow Archives & Special Collections: MS Morgan H/1/2.

I have chosen to respond to my own contribution to the School of Scottish Studies Archive: a series of oral history interviews relating to the Glasgow-based psychiatrist, Thomas Ferguson Rodger (1907-1978). Thomas Ferguson Rodger was first Professor of Psychological Medicine at the University of Glasgow (1948-72) and a consultant psychiatrist at several Glasgow hospitals. I conducted these interviews with Rodger’s family and former colleagues as part of a PhD on Rodger’s contribution to twentieth-century psychiatry which was undertaken at the Medical Humanities Research Centre at the University of Glasgow and completed in 2018. Upon being awarded my PhD, I submitted the audio recordings and transcripts of these interviews to the School of Scottish Studies Sound Archive, grateful that my interviewees’ recollections would be carefully preserved and rendered accessible for researchers.

Rodger, known as Fergus to family and friends, was born in Glasgow on 4 November 1907[1] to Thomas and Ellen (nee Allan) Rodger.[2] Rodger had three brothers: William, James and Alan, and the family lived in Glasgow’s West End area.[3]

Upon being awarded a BSc in 1927 and an MB ChB in 1929 from the University of Glasgow,[4] Rodger worked as ‘assistant to Sir David Henderson, at Glasgow Royal Mental Hospital’.[5] Concurrently, he was awarded a Diploma of Psychological Medicine (D.P.M.) from the University of London in April 1931.[6] He then worked under the ‘most influential teacher of psychiatry, Professor Adolph Meyer at the Johns Hopkins University Baltimore’. Between 1933 and 1940, Rodger was again employed at Gartnavel, now as Deputy Superintendent, and also as an Assistant Lecturer in Psychiatry at the University of Glasgow.[7] Working as a military psychiatrist in the Second World War, Rodger was promoted to the ‘rank of Brigadier’ and made important contributions to personnel selection methods.


Sarah Phelan, Trees of Gartnavel, 2020.
Image Copyright: Sarah Phelan

After the war, Rodger took up a position as Senior Commissioner on the General Board of Control for Scotland until 1948, when he was offered the professorship in psychological medicine. He established his department at the Southern General Hospital. During this time, he also fulfilled many prominent positions in official bodies, both domestic and further afield. He received a CBE in 1967.[8]

In 1934, Rodger married Jean Chalmers.[9] They had three children: a daughter, Christine, who became a doctor, practising in cardiology and acute general medicine;[10] a younger son, Ian, who became a quantity surveyor; and an elder son who was Alan Ferguson Rodger, a prominent lawyer, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry and Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.[11] Though Rodger possessed many connections to Scottish psychoanalytic circles, he enjoyed a particularly long friendship with John Derg (Jock) Sutherland (1905-1991),[12] who became Medical Director of the Tavistock Clinic in 1947 and, after his retirement, helped to establish the Scottish Institute of Human Relations in 1970.[13] Outside of work, Rodger was enthralled by computers and cybernetics, enjoyed ‘sketching’[14] and was a keen ‘bird-watcher’.[15] Rodger retired in 1972 due to illness in the final year of his professorship and suffered ill-health until his death on 1 June 1978.[16]

My PhD research focused primarily on Rodger’s personal papers held at the University of Glasgow Archives Services.[17] This collection retains a plethora of material from Rodger’s work life including copious typescript and manuscript draft lectures, talks to public and professional audiences, correspondence and intricate patient case records. Rodger’s career, as reconstructed from these papers, supplemented by other archival and published documents, can be viewed as an absorbing opening onto developments in twentieth-century psychiatry. Thus far, the published articles which have stemmed from my PhD have centred upon the interwar and post-war period. In an article for History of the Human Sciences, I explore how Rodger’s heretical psychoanalytic-psychotherapy unfolded within the so-called ‘dream books’, labyrinthian patient case histories recording the dream analysis of five male patients in the 1930s. In these books, Rodger’s contrasting therapeutic allegiances to Freudianism and a pragmatic ‘commonsense’ psychotherapy coalesce, allowing the patient’s shifting trust in and resistance to psychoanalysis to emerge.[18] In a co-authored paper for Cultural Geographies, Prof Chris Philo and I bring Rodger’s interwar psychoanalytic-psychotherapy into dialogue with the ‘new walking studies’, exploring a patient-authored account of a walk in Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens as a ‘psychiatric-psychoanalytic fragment’.[19] Finally, the first paper I published during my PhD contextualises Rodger’s post-war eclecticism, a combination of physical, psychological and social approaches, in relation to his psychiatric education as well as the deinstitutionalisation of psychiatry and the insufficiency of knowledge around certain treatments in the 1950s and 1960s.[20]

Although the archive offered up a rich and cogent portrait of Rodger’s career, oral history-type testimony summoned those more elusive and emotive elements of his life. Rodger’s daughter Christine and son Ian elaborated on Rodger’s youth, disposition and interests, while former colleagues elucidated how his psychiatric leadership manifested and how his personality affected the direction of his psychiatry. These interviews are qualitatively distinct from the archival material I examined, disclosing how Rodger was thought of or remembered by others. They offer a more impressionistic portrait of his standing in relation to his psychiatric contemporaries. In particular, they convey how Rodger was unique or atypical at least in fostering the collegial exchange of psychiatry and psychology. Kenneth Clarke, a psychologist who worked in Rodger’s department, stated that ‘one of the hallmarks’ of Rodger was his integration of psychoanalytically inclined staff with ‘quite hard […] biologically minded psychiatrists’.[21] The psychologist Professor Gordon Claridge evoked the genial, egalitarian atmosphere of Rodger’s department which facilitated this eclectic collaboration. Claridge explained how the department,

was just an unusually relaxed place, both personally and from a professional point of view […] there was nowhere else in the country, I don’t think, where psychologists and psychiatrists could get on so well, were almost treated as an equal really in the face of, you know, a certain amount of tension between psychiatry and psychology and, you know, it was a very rewarding period of my life I have to say (LAUGHS) and, you know, very enjoyable as a place to work […] It was just Glasgow and somehow the department fitted into that, you know, a sort of rather warm inviting place really.[22]

It is difficult to see how something as subjective and evanescent as the sense of easy community recalled by Professor Claridge, and indeed also by his colleagues could be conjured as vividly, if at all, from the written texts in Rodger’s archive.

Rodger was memorably characterised by a psychiatric colleague, Dr Reginald Herrington as ‘too principled, too honest’ and a person who ‘could see a problem from every angle’ (Herrington Interview 10).[23] Researching developments in twentieth-century psychiatry through the biography of a self-effacing and self-critical figure such as Rodger has likely benefited my research, making visible some of the difficulties and instabilities of psychiatric practice during that period, potentially hidden by a more self-satisfied practitioner.

 

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Louise Scollay for assistance and advice during the preparation of this blogpost. I would also like to thank the individuals I interviewed for my PhD. I am grateful to the University of Glasgow Archives and Special Collections for permission to reproduce an image of Thomas Ferguson Rodger in this blogpost and to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives for permission to reference archival material. Thanks also to Dr Gavin Miller and Prof Chris Philo for discussing this research with me during my PhD.

This blogpost draws on PhD research which was funded by a Lord Kelvin Adam Smith PhD Scholarship from the University of Glasgow.

 

[1] ‘Biography of Thomas Ferguson Rodger’, (26 February 2013). University of Glasgow Story. http://www.universitystory.gla.ac.uk/.

[2] Christine Rodger: Personal Communication.

[3] Christine Rodger, Interviewed by Sarah Phelan, 2 December 2014, School of Scottish Studies Archives, University of Edinburgh, 13.

[4] ‘Biography of Thomas Ferguson Rodger’, (26 February 2013). University of Glasgow Story. http://www.universitystory.gla.ac.uk/.

[5] A.M.S. (1978) ‘Obituary: T. Ferguson Rodger’, British Medical Journal 1(6128): 1704.

[6] Christine Rodger: Personal Communication; Letter of application, 26 April 1937, Dr Thomas Ferguson Rodger (c.1933-1963), Staff Records of the Physician Superintendent, Records of Glasgow Royal Mental Hospital, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives, Mitchell Library, Glasgow, HB13/20/179, 2.

[7] A.M.S. (1978) ‘Obituary: Professor T. Ferguson Rodger’, The College Courant 30(61): 39; Letter of application, 26 April 1937, pp. 2–3.

[8] A.M.S. (1978) ‘Obituary: Professor T. Ferguson Rodger’, The College Courant 30(61): 39; A.M.S. (1978) ‘Obituary: T. Ferguson Rodger’, British Medical Journal 1(6128): 1704; ‘Biography of Thomas Ferguson Rodger’, (26 February 2013). University of Glasgow Story. http://www.universitystory.gla.ac.uk/; Timbury, G. ‘Obituary: Thomas Ferguson Rodger.’ Psychiatric Bulletin, 2(10): 169.

[9] Christine Rodger: Personal Communication.

[10]  Christine Rodger, Interviewed by Sarah Phelan, 2 December 2014, School of Scottish Studies Archives, University of Edinburgh, 1.

[11] Administrative/Biographical History for Papers of Thomas Ferguson Rodger, 1907– 1978, Professor of Psychological Medicine, University of Glasgow, Scotland (Archives and Special Collections, University of Glasgow, May 2012); accessed (16 August 2021) at: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/search/archives/89c87074-8f6c-33e7-8811-b9960fa6c1b0.

[12] Christine Rodger, Interviewed by Sarah Phelan, 2 December 2014, School of Scottish Studies Archives, University of Edinburgh, 6.

[13] Haldane, D., and Trist, E. ‘Obituary: Jock Sutherland.’ British Journal of Medical Psychology, 65, (1): 3.

[14] Christine Rodger, Interviewed by Sarah Phelan, 2 December 2014, School of Scottish Studies Archives, University of Edinburgh, 11, 12.

[15] Ian Rodger, Interviewed by Sarah Phelan, 26 January 2015, School of Scottish Studies Archives, University of Edinburgh, 12.

[16] Timbury, G. ‘Obituary: Thomas Ferguson Rodger.’ Psychiatric Bulletin, 2(10): 169-170.

[17] Thomas Ferguson Rodger Papers, 1907-1978, University of Glasgow Archives and Special Collections, GB 248 DC 081, Catalogue can be viewed at: https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/search/archives/89c87074-8f6c-33e7-8811-b9960fa6c1b0.

[18] Phelan, S. (2021) ‘A “Commonsense” Psychoanalysis: Listening to the Psychosocial Dreamer in Interwar Glasgow Psychiatry’, History of the Human Sciences (34)3-4: 142-168.

[19] Phelan, S. and Philo, C. (2021) ‘“A Walk 21/1/35”: a psychiatric-psychoanalytic fragment meets the new walking studies’, Cultural Geographies (28)1: 157-175.

[20] Phelan, S. (2017) ‘Reconstructing the Eclectic Psychiatry of Thomas Ferguson Rodger’, History of Psychiatry 28(1): 87-100.

[21] Kenneth Clarke, Interviewed by Sarah Phelan, 31st January 2015, School of Scottish Studies Archives, University of Edinburgh, 3.

[22] Gordon Claridge, Interviewed by Sarah Phelan, 30th January 2015, School of Scottish Studies Archives, University of Edinburgh, 10.

[23] Reginald Herrington, Interviewed by Sarah Phelan, 8th December 2014, School of Scottish Studies Archives, University of Edinburgh, 10.

Dr Sarah Phelan is an Affiliate in School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow. She was awarded a PhD in Medical Humanities from the University of Glasgow in 2018. Prior to this, she undertook an MSc in the History and Theory of Psychology from the University of Edinburgh. She has published peer-reviewed articles in the journals History of Psychiatry, Cultural Geographies and History of the Human Sciences. Her research interests include the history of psychiatry, the history of psychoanalysis, and the history of dreaming. 

 

 

 

Images are copyright to those attributed in the captions and used with kind permission

SSSA in 70 Objects: A Seer Saw a Full-Rigged Ship

Response by Gill Russell, Artist

 

Material from the archives of the  School of Scottish Studies forms a central part of South West by South, An t-Eilean Fada, The Long Island: A Poetic Cartography,  an exhibition of new work I created for An Lanntair in Stornoway, and Taigh Chearsabhagh in North Uist, in 2021. 

My recent focus as an artist, explores the dynamic relationship between sea and land – ‘South West by South’ is the result of many visits to the Western Isles. Along the extent of the liminal shore the interplay of tidal currents and weather is complex and, from a human perspective, fickle, authoring dramatic, sometimes destructive, events. In ‘South West by South’ these are expressed through a ‘poetic cartography’, in an installation of large-scale prints, vinyl wall drawings, audio recordings, and maps. 

The dense interplay of sea, land, and light in the northwest of Scotland, and in particular the Western Isles has captivated me since childhood. I often imagined living there. Although I felt a deep attachment to the place and however much it inspired my practice, I came to realise that I would always be a tourist, a spectator, on the outside of an entrenched culture looking in. It was important to make connections.

I listened to sea lore stories on the  Tobar an Dualchais website, oral history interviews recorded by fieldworkers from the School of Scottish Studies Archives. The stories were hugely powerful, giving first-hand accounts of the lore of these waters – including ‘South West by South’, in which an apparition changes the course of a ship. This story was given by Peter Morrison, North Uist, recorded by Gun Forslin (SA1968.109.A3)

In another tale, a seer spies a full-rigged ship approaching from the direction of St Kilda, years before the vessel was wrecked on rocks between Heisker and North Uist – this story was also recorded by Gun Forslin, told to her by Angus MacKenzie (SA1968.110.A5)

The interviews held so much more than the words they spoke. They flooded me with intense and emotional visual imagery.  In response to the stories, I began creating large drawings on a graphics tablet. The process became utterly meditative. I drew until the stories of the sea came back to me, producing hundreds, choosing just a few. It would be impossible to replicate any particular one, as I became lost in them.  

 (click on each image to open it fully)

Seer , 2021  

 

 

 

An Lanntair May-July 2021 ( photo c. John MacLean) 

 

Audio recordings of the stories were played in the gallery at a low volume, looping continuously. 

Selected extracts from the stories were made into a booklet: ‘A seer saw a full rigged ship’ 

Through seeking permissions to use the material, and my visit to North Uist in 2019, I met Catherine and Alastair Laing from North Uist. Alastair’s father Andrew Laing had given an account of the Van Stabel, a ship wrecked off the coast of Heisker. Andrew’s father in law, Donald John MacDonald, was stationed on Heisker as the Receiver of Wrecks c.1900. Catherine also showed me her daughter Mary’s dissertation about Heisker.  You can hear Andrew Laing’s recording with Donald Archie MacDonald on Tobar an Dualchais (SA1968.150.A7)

Catherine told me a story of a man she knew, who had stood out on the headland at Tigh a’ Ghearraidh, North Uist, watching a ship floundering in the sleet and gales with her sails torn. The day we visited that same headland it was very stormy. We walked to the point where the man had watched from, and the vision in his tale came to me vividly. It led me to explore shipwrecks, in the theme of ‘Lost Ships’. 

Hundreds of ships were wrecked around the coasts of the western isles to the sea and weather, war, or navigational error. I trawled through the maritime archaeological archives from Canmore mapping, absorbed by the detailed records of events: loss of life and cargo, weather conditions, accidents. The immense journeys some of these ships made a hundred or so years ago, crossing oceans to other continents, and coming to grief on the Islands. 
 

Map for Lost Ships, 2021 

 

 

Poem for Lost Ships,  2021 

in gale force winds and snow showers

her sails torn and tattered

lying on her side

thumping heavily in six fathoms

at Aird an Runair

north west of Shilley

blown off course

back and forth

demasted

a severe westerly gale

ripped her sails

and drove her through

the sound of Monach

to the sands of Baleshare

in dense fog she struck

a sunken rock

and was holed on the Uisgeir reef

at daybreak a heavy sea breaking

all around them

struck heavily on a rock

in the sound of Monach

during a gale in the night

a brocket washed ashore

at Hanglum Headland

with iron canons

struck by a huge wave

in rough weather off Barra

St Ilfonsado sank in ten fathoms

off the Butt of Lewis

three casks of whisky

marked ‘Glasgow Distillery Company’

floated on

St Kilda was sighted

off the port bow

by 6:30 pm the light

at Barra Head 

 

****** 

 

Thanks to  

Louise Scollay, from the SSSA who pursued permissions for the eight stories on my behalf. 

Dougie MacDonald, for translation of the two Gaelic stories. 

 

Gill Russell, 2021 

https://www.gillrussell.co.uk/

 

Images are copyright and used with kind permission. Please do not reproduce.

 

Thanks so much to Gill, for sharing her process with us and letting us glimpse at how the recordings in SSSA have inspired and motivated her beautiful work.

If you would like to tell us about a project which has been inspired by the work of the School of Scottish Studies. our recorded contributors or fieldworkers, we would be delighted to hear from you. Email us at scottish.studies.archives (AT) ed.ac.uk

 

 

 

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SSSA in 70 Objects: Puzzling Black Cats

Do you suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia or Mavrogatphobia? Perhaps don’t read on!

Today is Friday, 13th August – Friday the Thirteenth! The day, it is said, that is purported to be unlucky or be shrouded in superstitious or even supernatural belief, although nobody really knows why! Nevertheless, we are always keen for an opportunity to delve into the collections related to superstitions.

I found this letter in a box of correspondence (SSSA/Box141) related to Alan Bruford, Archivist and lecturer at the School of Scottish Studies. This letter was sent from a school in Aberdeen by Class 1K and is dated January 1980; the query is on black cats and luck!  The class had been learning about superstitions, but had a burning question for Professor John MacQueen, the Director of The School of Scottish Studies at that time.

 

 

“Most of the things [superstitions] that we have thought of we have found a solution to them, but there is one thing that has had us puzzled, BLACK CATS. We don’t know why they are lucky or unlucky, so that is why we are writing.”

The letter was signed by 19 students.

You can really feel that sense of bewilderment and that vehement thirst for knowledge of Class 1k.

 

As you can see, the secretary at the School was perhaps unsure who was best to answer this question and suggested Alan Bruford or Jack [John] MacQueen might have the answer. But did they? Did Class 1K get a response?

Often with correspondence such as this, a copy of the response was kept with the letter and there was no response with this one. I hope that we might be able to give some information today, if it isn’t too late.

 

 

page 81 of "The cat, a guide to the classification and varieties of cats and a short tratise upon their care, diseases, and treatment" (1895)

page 81 of “The cat, a guide to the classification and varieties of cats and a short treatise upon their care, diseases, and treatment” (1895)

 

It is true, there are conflicting reports – sometimes Black cats seem to foretell good and bad luck. Perhaps one reason for this is that black cats were associated with being the devil or with the alleged ill doing of witches. The persecution of people as witches is a blog post for another day!

Perhaps (like “witches”) it’s all down to individual beliefs and who the luck is intended for. Often the cats came off worse!  Here are a few examples from our collections.

 

Bad Luck?

Nan MacKinnon told Anne Ross about a black cat that followed a man who had jilted his wife. The man’s mother had to speak to the minister before the cat, mysteriously, stopped appearing. Was this black cat really a wronged woman, come to seek out revenge?

BANA-BHUIDSEACH MAR CHAT. Nan MacKinnon (contributor), Anne Ross (fieldworker). SA1964.078.B. https://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/track/23715

 

In the Maclagan Manuscripts (1893-1902) there are a few mentions of Black cats and mostly of them related to bad luck. A female contributor in Newhaven, Edinburgh, told if men were to meet a black cat on their way to go fishing, they would just say to one another ‘We hae gane far enough the day’, and they would turn back, for they would be quite sure their luck was gone. (MML8840)

This practice was also observed in St Ninians; miners there held that it was unlucky for one to meet one. When they returned home after the encounter, they did not go out for the rest of the day, simply on account of a black cat having crossed the road before them! (MML9112). Also from Maclagan is a statement from an Lewis contributor, who stated that the breath of a black cat was pure poison (MML3847a)

 

Good Luck, but for who?

Another entry in the Maclagan manuscripts details another fishing-related black cat tale, this time from Westray, Orkney. An old man was often asked to secure good weather for the fishermen and he did this by putting a black cat under a creel while the boats were out. On one occasion a boy (who became the reciter’s brother in law in time) let the cat out for mischief. This apparently caused a sudden storm at sea from which the fishermen managed to escape from (MML 6771-6772).

 

Donald John Stewart, of South Uist, told a curious tale of a Glasgow man who went to stay in the highlands for his health. An old woman told him about a particular mirror in one room in the house he was staying in, and said that anyone who looked in it when the full moon was shining on the sea outside would turn into a cat. The man did just that, and turned into a big black cat. The old woman then told his family to submerge the cat in the well seven times by the light of the full moon, and that when they let him go the seventh time, he would be restored!

AN SGÀTHAN ANN AN TAIGH COIRE BHREAGAIN. Donald John Stewart (Contributor), Donald Archie MacDonald (fieldworker). SA1975.113.B3. https://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/track/76886

 

Stanley Robertson told a tale to Barbara McDermitt about a woman who sold her soul to the Devil for some wishes. Before her time came to spend the afterlife with the Devil, she wished to be young and beautiful and for her black tom cat to be made into a man to love her. Sadly – for both, presumably – ‘Big Tom’ was lacking somewhat!

An old spinster wished for her cat to be turned into a handsome young man, Stanley Robertson (Contributor), Barbara McDermitt (Fieldworker). SA1971.13.A1. https://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/track/65452

 

Good Luck – they just are!

In my own upbringing I was always told that a black cat crossing your path was good luck indeed. According to my Nannie, they just are lucky!

I can’t find too many examples from our material available on Tobar an Dualchais, but Donald Sinclair, from Tiree. told John MacInnes that it was fortunate to have a Black cat around the place {SA1968.024) and Eileen McCafferty, from East Lothian, told Morag MacLeod and Emily Lyle that the tail of a black cat could cure warts (SA1974.24). If that isn’t good luck, then what is?!

Thankfully, we don’t only have to look to the archives to find out the answer to the query. We took to the twitter hivemind and this is what they had to say (well, 42 of them!)

poll which reads 64.3% of respondents think black cats are good luck

 

 

Class 1k, from Bankhead Academy, 1980 I think it is safe to say there is no real solution to this one.

What are your own thoughts, reader?

 

We will leave you to ponder your own superstitious beliefs with two bonny black cats belonging to Archive & Library Assistant, Elliot.

 

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SSSA in 70 Objects: Two Alder Branches

 

Despite this series being called The Archive in 70 Objects, we don’t actually have a great deal of artefact-type objects. We have lots of very interesting collections related to sound (and sound-related objects) and manuscripts etc, however the few artefacts we do have are related to material culture. One such item needed to be checked for conservation purposes recently and we thought you might like to see.

These are two branches of Alder. They come from Kintail and we’ve had them in the archive since about 1988. They have lasted fairly well over the years considering they have not been perhaps stored in the best location.

Why would we have two branches of alder in our archive?

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These branches are actually stilts, or cas-mhaide “wooden legs. They were donated by Duncan “Stalker” Matheson (1929-2010) , Camusluinie, Kintail. Duncan was visited by fieldworkers on a few occasions and contributed material related to place names, as well as local tales and traditions.

Duncan Matheson of Camusluinie, Kintail © SSSA / Ian MacKenzue

In the 1980s there was a fieldwork trip to Kintail to capture video film of Duncan thatching a roof. While they were there, Duncan told Donald Archie MacDonald about the practice of using stilts to cross the River Elchaig.

Duncan told us when he was young, in the sparsely populated Gaelic-speaking community, any of the local people who had occasion to cross the River Elchaig regularly made use of stilts… these stilts were home made, quickly cut and shaped from the local scrub woodland. They were often of alder, but any suitable sapling with a branch projecting at a convenient angle would do. Generally, there were a pair of stilts left suspended on the low branches of trees, on either side of the river, for the use of anyone who needed them.

[…]

Among notable users of stilts in Duncan’s boyhood was a famous local character, strongman, poacher and ‘smuggler’ (illicit distiller) Alex MacKay, better known as Ali Mal. Ali was reputed ro have been able to carry a full ten-stone sack of meal, tied to his back, across the river on stilts. Ali’s brother Donald, also known as ‘The Bard’, was another regular user, as was their sister Liosaidh/Leezie (Elizabeth), a diminutive woman who could perform the remarkable feat of crossing the river, hopping on one stilt.

Donald Archie MacDonald, Tocher No 58

We are not 100% sure if the stilts show in the picture with Duncan are the same stilts that we have in the archive, but these certainly came to us from that visit. The images taken on that day were by the late Ian MacKenzie, fieldwork photographer and Photographic archive curator. He captured this wonderful image of Duncan being film, using the stilts in the river.

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Last week, Caroline Milligan wrote about Ian and his fieldwork photography. If you haven’t already enjoyed that post you can read it here:  https://libraryblogs.is.ed.ac.uk/sssa/object-12/ ‎

 

 

We wrote a short post about another artefact-type object here: https://libraryblogs.is.ed.ac.uk/sssa/object10/

Information:

There is a poem The Stilt Men of Kintail, by Helen Nicholson https://magmapoetry.com/archive/magma-38/poems/stilt-men-of-kintail/

Duncan Matheson’s obituary in the Scotsman: https://www.pressreader.com/uk/the-scotsman/20101122/284047663253164

 

 

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SSSA in 70 Objects: A Superstar

Ian MacKenzie: More of a superstar than an object,  but very much SSSA.

by Caroline Milligan

Black and white image of two women in side profile, Dr K Campbell looks at her interviewee Lizzie Angus. They smile openly towards eachother

[i]

From dozens of ideas on my ‘What shall I write about for my SSSA in 70 objects blog post’ mind map I finally chose to share with you this photograph, of Kath Campbell[ii] and Lizzie Angus which I have loved and admired from the moment I first encountered it, which was probably in a Scottish Ethnology 1 lecture in my first year.

When I worked at the School of Scottish Studies (2004-2018) I would give a couple of lectures a year on Fieldwork Practice and this picture was very often the opening image for my PPT presentation.  I love ethnology and thank my lucky stars that I found my way to the School as a mature student in 2000 and for me this image encapsulates so much of what I admire about my discipline.

At its very essence, ethnology is a conversation and an opportunity to share community and pass on knowledge that we, as researchers, can collate, interrogate and then describe in order to understand our shared cultural lives. In this photograph, both Kath (ethnomusicologist) and Lizzie (a sprightly 106 year old who had been a pupil of the great north-east song collector, Gavin Greig) are  very obviously enjoying their time together: they’re leaning into each other, meeting each other’s gaze, and smiling like a pair of Cheshire cats.  This photograph, and the others discussed in this blog post, were created by my fine, much loved and greatly missed colleague, Ian MacKenzie, who was the School’s photographer and photo-archivist for the best part of 25 years.

Ian was a photographer with a splendid eye for detail who created beautiful images across a range of themes.  I especially like his portraits.  He was a sociable man who loved people, and his photographs are a lasting testimony to that.  He also possessed a great ability to notice, successfully photograph and develop images which celebrate and draw attention to distinct textures and details.  In this image of Kath and Lizzie, just look at Lizzie’s cardigan, with its heart-shaped pattern, and the heart-shaped pin brooch on her dress.  Kath and Lizzie look at each other as if through a mirror: Kath may be seeing the old woman she hopes she will one day be, while Lizzie sees the enthusiasm of youth and, perhaps, a reflection of the young woman who rests inside her own ageing body. I never tire of looking at this photograph, and always I see the sheer joy of sharing knowledge and life stories that is at the heart of many ethnological fieldwork sessions.

black and white image of adam sitting back in a chair in each hand he holds a newspaper style pamphlet. He is smiling broadly

 

[iii]

 

Another portrait by Ian which I adore is this one of singer, songwriter, antiquarian book-seller, teacher, researcher etc. etc.- the splendidly marvellous and multi-talented, Adam McNaughtan.  This portrait seems to capture the essence of Adam: his laughing eyes, always with a ready smile, but also self-effacing – he’s almost hiding behind copies of the song-sheets he takes such a delight in.  The Songs & Parodies pamphlet he holds, headed ‘The funniest book in the world’ is an entirely fitting choice given Adam’s own song-writing genius when it comes to the comedic – Skyscraper Wean, Cholestoral and Oor Hamlet being particular favourites.  This photograph says to me, ‘Life’s a laugh!’, which is exactly the feeling I have whenever I’m in Adam’s company.

For T C Smout, ‘studying photographs [can convey] an untold wealth of detail in social history, and [raise] all sorts of odd questions’.[iv] While the portrait shot of Kath and Lizzie, and the one of Adam, are beautiful in their simplicity, there are other portraits by Ian which work in a very different way, with settings which can be read like a book.  For Ian, this was clearly no happenchance.  The settings are deliberately recorded so that we can read and understand the people being photographed, as well as the time, place and space they inhabit.

 

black and white image of a group of people in a sitting roo,. a man stands with a fiddle , two others are seated with fiddles.

[v]

One example of this is Music in the Home, Forrest Glen, Dalry, Galloway, 1985.  To my mind, Ian leaves us in no doubt that the seated musician in the middle of the photograph is the most important person in the room.  All the others in the photograph seem to look and lean towards him.  Although seated, your eyes go first to him, rather than the standing fiddle player to his left, or any of the other figures on the periphery.  There’s a stillness and reverence to the gathering: the only hands visible belong to the musicians, the curtains are drawn over: this is all about the music.  I also love the textures in this photograph and can readily conjure to mind how the cold tiles on the fire surround, or the textured pattern of the wallpaper, would feel to the touch.  This textural richness is something I think Ian worked hard to reveal when he made his photographic prints.

The craft and skill of Ian as a photographic developer and printer is clear in this image.  I well remember visiting Ian in his warren of rooms in the basement at 27-29 George Square.[vi]  His darkroom, especially the lingering chemical smells, reminded me of evenings spent at the Street Level gallery darkrooms in Glasgow, painstakingly practicing the nuances required in producing photographic prints from my negatives.  I remained pretty much a novice, but I remember the thrill of producing a print which I could be proud of and which reflected the nuances of the image I wanted to reveal.  I believe working in the darkroom would have been a particularly immersive and rewarding aspect of Ian’s creative practice and this is evident in the subtle precision he consistently managed to achieve in his work.

A series of photographs which illustrate Ian’s skills as an ethnologist and his eye for texture and detail are those he made of the Gourdon fishers. In contrast to the images discussed so far, these photographs were created in a much more dynamic setting.  In my chosen image, the woman baiting the fishing lines for the next launch hasn’t time to look up: she’ll be racing to get the baited nets ready in time for the next launch and taking her eyes off the task in hand looks likely to result in injury.  Her fingers are working more quickly than the camera shutter and her surroundings are entirely functional and efficient.  You can tell at a glance that this is tough, cold, dirty, smelly work and way too important to be paused for a mere photograph.  Again, I love the contrasting textures: the startling gleam of the mass of baited fishing line in the tray, the stained buckets, the wall and doorway coverings.  We can glimpse a small table and chair in the background, maybe to allow for a short rest if work is going well and there’s time for a 5 minute breather.

This image is one which allows us to appreciate how Ian brings a painter’s eye to his photographic work.  Like Vermeer’s, The Lacemaker, this photograph contains everything we need to see so that we can understand what is essential: in this instance about both the baiter and the bait-netting task.

 

black and white image of a woman, head down, bust at work baiting lines

[vii]

 

The next photograph is another work-related one.  The photographs of Kit Sked, taken in 1987, are perhaps some of the most well-known of Ian’s ethnological portraits.  Kit was the fourth generation of the Sked family to work as blacksmith at the Cousland Smiddy, and, when this series of photographs were made, he had recently announced his retirement.  With no-one yet identified as his successor, one wonders what Kit’s thoughts were during this session or when he is moving around the workshop.[viii]

Black and white image of a blacksmith who is sitting on the edge of a fireplace, a flame behind him. TThere are chalk drawings on the breast of the chimney. Light is streaming in a window just out of shot

[ix]

Again, we’re in a functional work-space, one that has not changed for perhaps hundreds of years.  However, unlike the previous image, this space has a feeling of permanence.  This is Kit’s domain.  There’s a strong feeling of ‘a place for everything and everything has a place’ about the smiddy.  A space that is as much part of the man as the man is part of the space.  Like the fish-baiting station, the space is functional and work-ready: the fire is going strong, tools laid out, strong sunlight streams through the window and Kit’s jacket hangs such that we can believe it hangs in that exact place every working day. This time Kit meets our gaze square on.  I love his clothing and the precision of the light and the way this falls into the room and over the left side of Kit’s body.  Again, this image, like many created by Ian, is like a painting and can be looked at, considered and enjoyed time and time again.  The surface of the brickwork, Kit’s shirt, the chalk markings on the fireplace lintel and the wide array of tools (what are they for?), all merit closer attention, yet all of it can also be appreciated and enjoyed in a single glance.  Yes, Ian has left us an impressive body of work, but he also left us too soon.

I remember the occasion of Ian’s final resting which took place at Inerinate, Kintail in February 2010 on a cold, clear, bright-blue day.  I recall feeling so angry that such a lovely man should be taken so early and of being quite overwhelmed by the sad truth of this.  But I also remember feeling happy that so many lovely people had been brought north, to be together, by their love of the man.  There was a real sense of joy on that day.  Ian was a simple-living, funny, warm man who loved life.  He told me more than once that there were few things in life as good as discovering that the pear you had just bitten into was at the absolutely perfect moment of ripeness for eating.  This about sums up Ian’s approach to life and the joy he found in it.  He lived a very good, albeit far too short, life and I remember him fondly for his humanity, humour, generosity of spirit and for his great artistry and craftsmanship and the wonderful legacy he has left within the cabinets and catalogues of the SSSA photographic archive.

It has been a pleasure to choose Ian as my ‘favourite object’ from the SSSA collection and to have the excuse to set aside a little time to spend in his company and renew our friendship.  It feels like he’s given me the gift of some of his quiet joy in return and I think he’d be chuffed (if a little abashed) to be called to mind and remembered by us.

Self portrait of Iain inset on an image of autumn foliage

[x]

Grateful thanks to Louise Scollay for helping me with the images and photograph credits for a number of items included in this blogpost.

Caroline Milligan, July 2021

All Images by Ian MacKenzie,  © The School of Scottish Studies Archives.

[i] Dr Katherine Campbell and Lizzie Angus, Ythanvale Nursing Home, Ellon (Aberdeenshire), 2000

[ii] Dr Katherine Campbell was ethnomusicologist at the School for a number of years and worked on the Greig-Duncan song collection with Dr Emily Lyle.

[iii] Adam McNaughtan – song book, 1989

[iv] To See Ourselves, Dorothy I Kidd, with preface by T C Smout, NMS 1996

[v] NII/8a/8774. Neg. A6/228/19. 6 December 1985.  Gathering of Galloway musicians in the house of Robbie Murray at Nether Forrest, Forrest Glen, Dalry, Glenkens, Galloway, From L to R: Alyne Jones, Davy Jardine and Robbie Murray.  Evening recorded by Jo Millar.

[vi] Ian wrote to me in 2008, when he was coming back to work after a long period of ill health and he thanked me particularly ‘for keeping the place [his archive] company’.  Re-reading this letter, I smile at that line, remembering again the quiet calm of the photographic archive, the back door often open to the garden, the little zen garden on the wide windowsill, the frequent stream of people seeking Ian out for guidance, discussion and good company.  He was very much part of that space, as it was very much part of him.

[vii] BIII6c1/8599

[viii] The smiddy had been in Kit’s family continuously since 1882.  Kit had announced his intention to retire in 1986, and then retired in 1989).

[ix] BVIII/7/g1/8782

[x] Collage image by Colin Gateley using one of Ian’s self-portraits.

 

Caroline Milligan is Archives Assistant with the Regional Ethnologies of Scotland Project, at Centre for Research Collections. She is also Research Assistant, within the European Ethnological Research Centre, University of Edinburgh. 

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SSSA in 70 Objects: Bha Là Eile Ann

Response by Fraser MacBeath

Hello, I’m Fraser MacBeath, a sound artist/electronic music producer from the Isle of Lewis, currently a postgraduate Sound For The Moving Image student at The Glasgow School of Art and a follower of the archive for the past 5 years or so.

Image: Fraser MacBeath

I became aware of the archive while working at An Lanntair Arts Centre on Lewis. I had been looking for ways in which to integrate aspects of Hebridean life into ambient/electronic music and the archive offered a unique sonic resource to draw inspiration from.

This work was created in response to an open call for soundworks from Radiophrenia Glasgow. I’d always found the folk stories and lore really fascinating. The sense of mysticism alive in the culture with talk surrounding the existence of fairies, mermaids and witches that has been very much stamped out in modern culture is something that seemed worthwhile to try and contemporise. I wanted to further dramatize it however by also building atmospheres and using music to formulate it into a kind of sonic journey. Creating a more immersive listening experience inspired by the kind of emotions and environments that might have surrounded the stories when they were told.

The finished piece is a fully homegrown product of Scotland, although unfortunately I’ve had to rely heavily on the English material due to my very limited understanding of Gaelic at this point, but everything heard is either sourced from the archive or recorded on the Isle of Lewis. The music is made from recordings of small snippets of various traditional instruments and other sounds you might hear floating around the islands. Once recorded there are an infinite number of things that can be done to twist the sound into any kind of music you can think of. The compositions here are made primarily from looping very small segments of audio, after which these can then be time stretched, pitch altered and mapped to the keys of a keyboard, allowing a new instrument to be born out of virtually any sound while still retaining the source texture.

It’s a bit of a crude first attempt production wise, In the future hopefully more of these will materialise with a bit more Gaelic. My hope is that It could develop into an interesting topic for a dreamy podcast series, whilst also providing an educational resource for folklore enthusiasts and Gaelic learners to immerse themselves in the language.

Hope you enjoy it.

 

You can find more of Fraser’s work on his website: Home | Fraser MacBeath – Music & Sound Design (wixsite.com)

All archive recordings used from SSSA as listed below:

Contributor Title Fieldworker
SA1973.160 Betsty Whyte A changeling baby banished and the real baby restored Peter Cooke and Linda Williamson
SA1976.109 Betsy Whyte A fisherman saw a mermaid sitting on a rock, Linda Williamson
SA1975.107 Betsy Whyte A man was changed into a woman and had a family before being… Linda Williamson
SA1972.176 Duncan MacKinnon An Ataireachd Àrd Ian Paterson
SA1957.041 Essie and Alec Stewart Essie Stewart gives a description of a fairy she saw. Hamish Henderson
SA1955.094 Brucie Henderson A woman was rescued from a cliff prison by her lover. Calum Maclean
SA1957.043 Alec Stewart The contributor discusses his fondness for storytelling. Hamish Henderson
SA1989.045 John James Santa Cruz Margaret Bennet and Stephanie Smith
SA1964.067 Gordeanna McCulloch The Shoals o Herrin Norman Buchan
SA1971.072 Dolina Maclennan Dh’fhàg mi ‘n Seo na Shìneadh e Peter Cooke
SA1985.057 Thomas David Edgar Unknown/Gypsy Woman Peter Cooke and Jo Miller