Category Archives: sssa

SSSA in 70 Objects: The Tiree Clapperboard

On Sunday, August 22 1976, the School of Scottish Studies filmed an open air baptism in Tiree. This was the first baptismal service of its kind in several years and the community and church of Tiree were happy for fieldworkers from the School to capture the event for preservation.

For anyone who has visited us over the past few years, you may have seen this film playing in our foyer.

One of the objects we have in our archive is the clapperboard, which was used by the unit who went to Tiree to make the film.

Clapperboards, or sometimes clapsticks, filmsticks or slate, were used in film productions to assist in synchronizing of picture and sound, and to designate and mark the various scenes and takes as they are filmed and audio-recorded. It was operated by a Clapper loader.

 

This is a still from the film showing SOSS staff setting up. with Dr Margaret Mackay being the ‘Clapper loader’.

When I took the board out of its box, from the archive store, I was surprised at the weight and heft of it. Presumably it was used for other purposes over the years, as it appears to show the vague etchings of writing and so may have been used in other filming pursuits by the School. I am sad to say though, it also looks like it could have been used as someone’s coaster at one stage too!

 

 

These items are still used in film production today, but the modern equivalent – digislates – have an electronic display, the time code of which is synced with the cameras.

And, if you are wondering, of course I gave it a try and yelled “Action!” (into the set of the empty Scottish Studies Library). Mind you, I did not bring down clappper with any kind of dramatic snap – previous use as a coaster aside – it is an archival object after all!

 

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SSSA in 70 Objects: Plants used in traditional Shetland medicine

Contributor: Tom Tulloch

Fieldworker: Alan Bruford

SA Reference: SA1978.068

Chosen by: Jenny Sturgeon

My chosen object is a recording of Shetlander Tom Tulloch talking with interviewer Alan Bruford.

Recorded in Yell, Shetland (presumably in Tom’s house), Tom and his wife, Elizabeth, chat about the local Shetland names for plants. The recording opens with a list of plant names including arthie (chicken-weed) and blugga (marsh marigold).

I came across this recording whilst researching for a workshop I was running as part of an artist residency at the National Library of Scotland. Working with participants from across Scotland I ran four workshops exploring creative music and spoken word responses to a series of plant lectures given to University of Glasgow students in the 80s. Presented by Professor James Holmes Dickson, these lectures are housed in the Scotland’s Sounds archive and gave the group an insight to ecology and conservation of plants in Scotland. Alongside mentions of the common and Latin names of plants I was keen to explore local plant names and uses across Scotland, with particular reference to Shetland, which is where I live.

The thing that really endeared me to this particular recording on Tobar an Dualchais is Tom saying,  ‘I keyn the wirds but I dinna keyn deir proper names’. This struck me when I first heard him saying it because my interpretation is that he does know the ‘proper names’. It got me thinking about different names for plants and animals and how there is not one ‘proper name’. There is a Latin name, which is the accepted scientific name, but that does not mean much to a lot of people, myself included! Local names for flora and fauna root us to where we come from and there is a
cultural history and identity associated with them. Being able to delve into archives such as this is a way we can access and be inspired by our heritage.

Along with several other recordings from Tobar an Dualchais this recording of Tom features in one of the two pieces created during my residency. As with many of the recordings I came across from that time, you can clearly hear the ticking of a grandfather clock in the background. The finished sound pieces feature music, words and field recordings created by participants during the workshops.

You can listen to these pieces at the link below.
https://jennysturgeon.bandcamp.com/track/pushing-reaching-falling-replacing
https://jennysturgeon.bandcamp.com/track/as-far-north-as-anything-grows

You can listen to the original recording of Tom Tulloch on Tobar an Dualchais: http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/81445

Jenny Sturgeon is a singer-songwriter based in Shetland. In addition to her residency with Unlocking our Sound Heritage, Jenny has recently collaborated on an audio visual project based around  Nan Shepherd’s book, The Living Mountain. https://www.jennysturgeonmusic.com/thelivingmountain

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Tocher at 50: Morag Macleod and Tocher

We are incredibly grateful to Morag Macleod, who has written this week’s post about her recollections of Tocher and her wider work in the School of Scottish Studies, working with Gaelic material.

I was very fortunate during a break in my undergraduate career to be asked to fill the recently vacated post of Texts Transcriber in the School of Scottish Studies. That was in 1962, and my work was to write Gaelic stories and interviews and the words of Gaelic songs.  The material was mainly on 5” and 7” tapes, and some of those  were in a bad way.  With storing conditions that were not ideal, the tapes tended to dry, and this made them brittle. After a time I would sometimes make an attempt to collect the bits of tape that scattered around, and mend them, but it was mainly the work of the technicians to make the best of that. A story went around of a comment by Calum Maclean when bits of tape landed on the floor, “Catch that tape, it might be a grace-note”.

A device, a repeater, invented by Fred Kent, the chief technician, was indispensable for me. A short piece of spoken or sung text was recorded on to a short loop which could be played over and over to facilitate making a correct interpretation of the item on the original tape. As texts transcriber, I was given recordings from Harris , the easiest for me to understand. That material was then added to files in the library, ready for typing when required.

In my time, Mary Macdonald did most of the typing, and that familiarised her with the richness of the material, and encouraged in her the strong wish that it should be seen. Mary’s roots were in Islay although she had lived for some time in Barra. She loved the material held in the School and she it was who thought of publishing it, with eager support from Dr Alan Bruford. Dr Bruford was then the editor, with Mary his assistant.  Between them they came up with an A5-sized booklet,  Tocher,  TALES, SONGS, TRADITION, SELECTED FROM THE ARCHIVES OF THE SCHOOL OF SCOTTISH STUDIES.

The basic English translation of the Gaelic word Tochar is dowry, but it can convey collection or treasure, and had the advantage for us of  having a similar sound in English or Scots.

All members of staff were required to contribute to the booklet, leaving the choices and editing to Alan and Mary, and Donald Archie Macdonald, Cathie Scott and Joan Mackenzie were amongst those who were involved in its production over time, as well as Tony Dilworth.  Ralph Morton contributed fine illustrations by hand and edited photographs.

 

Personally, I was advised to write the Gaelic material in a way that let the reader know how the informant pronounced the words.  Of course I couldn’t be given the luxury of confining myself to my native Scalpay, Harris, Gaelic, and I remember well some difficulty I had with a waulking song from Lewis.  Waulking songs  accompanied the rhythmic beating of tweed on to a board in order to wash it and shrink it.  The form was solo and chorus, and a lot of the texts were spontaneous. The performer (and author) had to be familiar with the concept of assonance, at the ends of lines or between a word at the end of a line and one in the middle. O mo leannan, é mo leannan (Oh, my sweetheart, ay, my sweetheart) is the refrain to a very popular waulking song. There is a verse that goes:

‘S e mo leannan am fear donn

A chì mi  ? a’s an taigh-chiùil.

My sweetheart is the brown-haired

one whom I can see   ?  in the ceilidh-house.

 

That  ? word had to rhyme with donn, which is pronounced like English down. My colleague John Macinnes had to tell me that it was bhuam (along / across from me, pron. voo-um in my dialect) which would be pronounced  like fomm = fowm  in Lewis.

A greater leap was when John MacInnes asked me to transcribe stories and songs from the traveller Alex Stewart . His Sutherland Gaelic was very different from mine, and that created a steep learning curve for me. I was given me a lifelong awareness of the ties of spelling with pronunciations, especially in Gaelic.

Alexander Stewart, photograph by Sandy Paton
SSSA-HH14

An incident that stays in my mind connected with my contributions to Tocher is when I chose a song from the archive that I had known from childhood, to fit in with a fishing, sailing theme. I actually made no claim for its provenance, – thank Goodness, although I had thought it might possibly be from my native island – but that the singer was from Scalpay. In the next issue of Tocher , No 20, there was a notice from Dr John Lorne Campbell of Canna to say that the song was a version of one by John Campbell of Lochboisdale, South Uist, and was published in Orain Ghàidhlig le Seonaidh Caimbeul by J. MacInnes and J.L Campbell in 1936.  The notice in Tocher was probably much more polite than Dr Campbell’s private comment. Incidents such as those two made me aware of the tremendous knowledge there was around about the simplest things that I had taken for granted over the years, and of how ignorant  I was.

 

After a year another vacancy occurred when Gillian Johnston resigned as music transcriber. I had done Higher music in school, but I did not see myself as competent to produce written versions of melodies. When approached by the current musicologist, Thorkild Knudsen, a Dane, I tried to explain my limitations to him, and he boosted my morale so much by saying “You’re not the best, Morag, you’re the only one.” It is hard to believe now that at that time that was true. Anyone who had qualifications in music did not see this work as at all prestigious, and their being literate in Gaelic was immaterial. It was to the credit of Prof Sidney Newman, head of the Music Faculty in the University, that he was an enthusiastic member of the academic board of the School of Scottish Studies at its beginnings, but such a combination was unusual.

 

Transcribers in Tocher, apart from me, produced a tremendously accurate reproduction of the singer’s performance. One example of a song learned from the magazine showed me that an indication of speed was advisable. I hear the song on radio and the vocal reproduction is, to me, so slow as to be unrecognisable. Dr Emily Lyle at one time tried hard to persuade us to put together a collection of the material in Tocher, and I confess that I resisted that idea, which I now see is a pity – Sorry, Emily! It would, especially with, perhaps, some further editions have been an asset to folklorists.

 

But, how things have changed. Even by the 1960s,  more attention was being given to Gaelic music in education, and the interest of the Royal College of Music in Glasgow giving classes in Gaelic singing and piping, quickly brought about a greater prestige to the subject. Some of the first students from there – later the Conservatoire – are really well-known now. Tobar an Dualchais, was established officially in December 2010.  It consists of  archive material, mainly from the School of Scottish Studies, Canna and the BBC. It has made an incredible difference to the general knowledge of traditional Gaelic music.

 

Now there is a change in attitude to the rights of the informants. There were different kinds of implication in collecting traditional material. Sometimes we would be asked, “So when will we hear it?” as employees of the BBC were the most familiar carriers of microphones and recorders.  Others would almost require an oath that it would not be heard by anyone outwith the department. I remember one occasion when someone who had given us a large number of songs said something like. “Why should I give you songs when you just give them away to any  Tom Dick or Harry?” (I won’t try to think of a Gaelic form of that). A well-known singer had sung a song on radio which could only have come from one of our recordings and was completely recognisable as that. Of course, if a song or story was selected for use on radio, forms were produced for permissions.  Mary Macdonald saw the publication of a portion of the material as a way of passing on the treasures that she loved whilst keeping to the desire for confidentiality to a reasonable extent, and Tocher fitted her wish perfectly.

 

With Tobar an Dualchais there is little need to produce something like Tocher, and the last issue, no. 59, came out in 2009. I was responsible for one issue and was really surprised at the amount needed to provide a reasonable volume. It is still, I think, useful for items relating to particular themes, and particular informants.

Morag has was involved with several roles and projects in The School of Scottish Studies from music transcriber, fieldworker, Senior lecturer in Gaelic song, and working to create Tocher and the Scottish Traditions Series. Morag is now retired, but she remains a valuable touchstone of knowledge for us at the Archive. Thanks to her once again for writing about her memories of The School and Tocher.

If you would like to listen to some of Morag’s fieldwork recordings for The School of Scottish Studies Archives, you can listen to over 1000 tracks on Tobar an Dualchais.

 

Please do not reproduce images without prior permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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

 

SSSA in 70 Objects: Bàrdachd Ghàidhlig recordings by Rev. William Matheson

The Words and the Tunes

by Dr Anja Gunderloch

Back in the mists of time, in the second year of my undergraduate degree, the highlight of my week was the Gaelic poetry class with Ronnie Black.  We were working our way through songs from the sixteenth and seventeenth century, unpicking tricky bits of grammar, hunting in Dwelly’s dictionary for the best words to use in our translations, testing each word for its role in the rhymes and alliterations, discovering aspects of Gaelic history entirely unknown to us until then.  The material stretched us but it was also hugely rewarding when things finally clicked into place, sometimes through our own efforts, and sometimes with Ronnie resolving the conundrum for us with a flourish.  William J. Watson’s famous anthology Bàrdachd Ghàidhlig was our textbook, and I still recall my keen delight when I managed to acquire my own copy from ‘Wee Thins’ on Buccleuch Street for what was even then the quite acceptable sum of £4.20.

As we reached the end of each song, Ronnie would position a tape recorder so we could hear clearly and play a recording.  Every time, it felt like a reward for our efforts in making sense of a song.  Sometimes, the tune would go round and round in my head all day.  Suddenly, there was another dimension that we had not quite appreciated even as we took turns to read each stanza aloud before translating.  Not only did the tune show us the metre in greater clarity, each beat falling on a word that was then revealed to have a relationship with another one, it also spoke of the mood of the song, or of listeners of long ago joining in a chorus, or of a poet crafting words and tune into a whole that still resonated after so many years, as singer after singer learned and passed on the songs.  The recordings we listened to came from the Archives, of course.

Black and white image of a man sitting to the left of the frame. He wears a suit and tie. In front of him is a microphone and on the table in front of him there is a reel to reel recording machine

Reverend William Matheson. Image: SSSA Photographic Collection

The singer was the Rev. William Matheson, singing unaccompanied and unhurried, each word clear, important, relevant, just a few stanzas from each song, to illustrate how tunes and words interacted and complemented each other.  I still have my own copy of that cassette tape, latterly transferred to a CD when technology moved on.  It seems that all the songs in Bàrdachd Ghàidhlig that Matheson, a noted scholar of Gaelic song in all its manifestations, knew or tracked down a tune for are represented there.  Nowadays, my first port of call for these songs is Tobar an Dualchais where there are many more recordings of Matheson’s singing.  There is the pleasure of revisiting the songs as I first heard them, and then there is the thrill that comes with listening to another version that Matheson recorded, sometimes a longer one, and sometimes with subtle differences in words, tune, or emphasis, just as would happen in a ‘real’ performance.  I have learned so much about these songs over the years, and I still keep learning and understanding more about the words and the tunes.

 

Dr Anja Gunderloch graduated with First Class Honours from this university in 1990 as the first student who took the then new degree in Scottish Ethnology and Celtic. Anja is lecturer in Celtic at the department of Celtic and Scottish Studies. 

There are 750 tracks by Rev William Matheson – including material from Bàrdachd Ghàidhlig – on Tobar an Dualchais. You can listen online by following this link.

Queering the Archive: Drag in the School of Scottish Studies Archives

For our second blog and part two to the last blog Queering the Archive, join us as we celebrate the cultural records of ‘drag’ in the archives.  

Drag is described as a gender performance artform for entertainment. The term itself developed in British theatre circles in the 19th century but drag has been around as a theatrical and performance artform since ancient history. Drag as performance in Britain is often cited back to being historically popularised in theatre and the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. As was the same with performance in ancient Greek plays, male players could take the stage and thus would have to dress as women for their performance. While drag on stage was acceptable, off the stage is another story entirely. Cross-dressing was illegal and clothing was strictly regulated to gender, and arrests were made if individuals were not viewed as wearing enough articles of clothing within their perceived gender. Generally, theatric circles were one of the only places where drag was accepted in the general public sphere. LGBT+ identities were kept underground due to criminalisation and societal attitudes. Drag was kept in the sphere of performance, literature, bawdy tales, ballads and broadsheets with a few popular and break-out drag and impersonation performers. Drag itself has thrived in queer circles throughout history and has been an important aspect of queer art, performance, and transgression and identity. The first person to self identify as the ‘queen of drag’ was William Dorsey SwannIn the UK, the first drag queen is credited as Princess Seraphina and was a staple of “Molly Houses.” In British stage circles, male impersonation was popular in the Music Hall scene and elsewhere with performers such as Vesta Tilley. 

Within the School of Scottish Studies Archives, we have examples of ballads, songs, and cultural tradition that describes drag as performance and entertainment. While the records I have selected are not evidence of queer transgression and identity that comes with drag and gender performance, it is evidence of what exists in the Scottish public sphere of tales and cultural life alongside the previous blog of the ‘Cross-Dressing’ ballads. These oral history accounts describe cultural aspects and accepted fluidity of performance and tradition.  A kind of  ‘drag performance was relatively popular in some Scottish cultural traditions. Through Christmas and New Year’s guising and galoshins customs, both children and adults would often dress in a form of drag for fun and fancy-dress. Guising involved groups of people going from door to door or taking part in singing, playing music, dancing and festivities. Hugh Jamieson, recorded in Gott, Shetland, describes some of the outfits when recorded by Alan J. Bruford.  ‘The guisers dressed in home-made outfits with false faces [masks] bought from the shop. The men dressed as women and the women as men. They would dress in wigs and wide skirts, with whiskers made from sheepskins.’ (SA1974.216) Jamieson fondly recalls this custom when asked of dressing up and guising and the fun that was had. 

Wat Ramage, recorded at Westruther, describes the songs that were sung and traditions of guising, and how as children: ‘the laddies were made to dress up in women’s clothes, and the lassies would dress in the boy’s clothes.’ (SA1977.205)

Drag and dressing up as characters and creatures was also common in galoshin’s plays themselves and drag in Scottish cultural tradition and customs can be viewed as a form of shared fun and taking part in festivities and theatrics. Of course, drag was not the term that would be used, but the theatrics of dressing up is remembered fondly and put quite simply by Jamieson and Ramage. Drag is also something that exists in many other culture’s traditions and plays outside of Scotland and can be an example of how drag has been shaped by cultural tradition and forms of theatrics and has always existed in different forms in the accepted public sphere throughout history.

Of course, this is just a brief example on the history of drag and performance as well as Scottish cultural traditions and is not a complete history. Drag goes beyond the binary and remains a transgressive artform that is a key part of queer history and the history of performance and tradition. This blog is an attempt to illustrate how our records can show fluidity and societal attitudes in Scottish cultural tradition and theatric spaces.

 

The records selected from our collection can be accessed via Tobar an Dualchais. This includes but is not limited to: 

Hugh Jameson, ‘Guising at Old Christmas anNew Year’. Recorded by Alan J. Bruford. (SA1974.216) http://tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/48475 

Donald John MacDonald, ‘Duan na Callaig’. Recorded by John MacInnes. (SA1966.064) http://tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/57790  

Wat Ramage, ‘Galoshins’. Recorded by Dr. Emily Lyle. (SA1977.205) http://tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/42571 

 

 

 

This blog is part of the ‘Queering the Archive’ initiative, which involves intervention workshops as well as blogs of application of queer theory. See past blogs for further details of ‘Queering the Archives’. If you are interested in taking part in the workshops, or if you are interested in researching LGBT+ recordsusing our collections for your work, or working with us, please contact eholmes@ed.ac.uk  

 

Written by Elliot Holmes. 

Elliot is one of the Archives and Library Assistants at the School of Scottish Studies Archives and uses He/They pronouns. You can also find him on twitter @elliotlholmes  

Follow @EU_SSSA on twitter for updates and sharing our collections. 

SSSA in 70 Objects: Òganaich Dhuinn a Rinn M’ Fhàgail

Contributor: Barra Waulking Women

Fieldworker: Thorkild Knudsen

Reference: SA1965.109.004

Response: Louise Scollay

I have a lifelong love – some might say obsession –  of textiles and craft and often this spills over into our collections.  I am always seeking out the hand-made in our archives.

Whilst working from home, I have been listening to material from the sound collections related to wool and spinning. The song Òganaich Dhuinn a Rinn M’ Fhàgailwas performed in Barra as a waulking song – beat-driven songs, performed by women during the process of fulling the newly spun cloth . It is noted that this particular song was also used to accompany spinning and, upon reading that, I didn’t need much convincing to get my spinning wheel out and give it a go myself.

Accompanied by the Wauliking Women of Barra, I spun prepared Zwartbles fibre (a breed of sheep from the Netherlands, which is well established in the UK) and then plyed that yarn with Hebridean wool. These were the two kinds of wool I had to hand – I wouldn’t ordinarily spin two similarly coloured breeds together. It was a pleasing spinning experience doing it to music – although it was hard to keep time  – some breeds of wool and different preparations prefer a slower tempo to others! That beat and the vocables though, stayed with me a long time after the spinning wheel was put away.

While the spinning was a pleasant experience, it was less easy to film oneself in the process at the same time. Nonetheless, here is my spun response to Òganaich Dhuinn a Rinn M’ Fhàgail. 

 

Louise Scollay is Archive & Library Assistant at The School of Scottish Studies Archives.

 

Is there an ‘object’ or connection to the School of Scottish Studies or our archive that you would like to write about or respond to? It could be a recording, an image, a manuscript or something else! Find more information here: https://libraryblogs.is.ed.ac.uk/sssa/sssa-in-70-objects/

 

 

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Queering the Archive: An Announcement of a New Initiative

We are excited to announce the work on our new Queering the Archive initiative. This initiative aims to increase representation of LGBT+ records within our collections. 

Queering the Archive will hope to investigate the gaps in our collections and cataloging to improve LGBT+ representation with aims for further development and active archiving in the future. The initiative is a part of our 70th Anniversary plans and will be included in a series of events over the rest of the year. The initiative will allow us to go forward in improving marginalised and underrepresented voices and material. 

 

An image of progress pride. It Includes the rainbow flag design, with arrows to the left of the trans flag and representation of people of colour in pride and the community.

Progress Pride Flag


There are unfortunately little accounts of LGBT+ histories and recordings in the School of Scottish Studies Archives. 
In particular, there is little representation on queer folklore, folk narratives, or songs in a wider historical and archival setting. LGBT+ histories are sometimes ‘hidden’ histories, either through historical context on discussion of LGBT+ identity and topics, lack of archiving or archival interest, or a lack of appropriate and inclusive search-terms and cataloging that reflects queer identities.

 

Queering the Archive will begin with an intervention and discussion workshop.

 

The workshop will provide a starting point to actively work with the community to discuss our collections, representation, as well as crowd-source search-terms for improvement of cataloging developed by and for the LGBT+ community. 

Workshops will allow participants to engage with our records and active intervention through crowd-sourcing and discussion. It is our aim to work with the community, skill-share, and offer meaningful collaboration and discussion as much as possible throughout the initiative. It will introduce you to our collections, queer theory, and investigations into our LGBT+ and related records.

Workshops will be completely free and led remotely via Zoom, and will utilise other platforms.

Dates are to be announced. 

 

 

We will also be producing a series of blogs exploring the initiative and application of queer theory to our collections with further discussion. 

The next blog will explore queering the collections through the popular and infamous ‘cross-dressing’ ballads and exploring the queerness and issues of LGBT+ representation in the context of the selected ballads and traditions.

We will also be exploring the work ‘behind the scenes’ of Queering the Archive through our blogs and we will include other exciting material and updates!

 

 

If you are interested in taking part in the workshops, researching LGBT+ recordsusing our collections for your work, depositing your work and records, or working with us for Queering the Archive, please contact Elliot.Holmes@ed.ac.uk  

 

Written by Elliot Holmes. 

Elliot is one of the Archives and Library Assistants at the School of Scottish Studies Archives and uses He/They pronouns. You can also find him on twitter @elliotlholmes  

Follow @EU_SSSA on twitter for updates on the 70th Anniversary, Queering the Archive, and sharing our collections. 

#SSSA70 #QueeringSSSA

 

 

 

The term Queering has been used by many across the Gallery, Library, Archive, and Museum, (GLAM), sector with many launching queering initiatives to expand and represent LGBT+ histories. We will be using the term Queer as a catch-all term, and the term Queering in regards to application of queer theory and approaches. We will also be using the term LGBT+ throughout the initiative. 

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Meet the Team

It is a pleasure to bring the SSSA blog into the world and given that this is our 70th Anniversary it would seem that introductions are long overdue.

Fran Baseby, CRC Services Manager

I am responsible for services that provide access to collections at the School of Scottish Studies Archive & Library, and the Centre for Research Collections. This includes our online enquiries, collections-based teaching, and virtual and physical access to collections. I love that my job enables people to access the collections and experience the immense heritage that they include. Listening to a sound recording or sitting in front of a manuscript creates a unique connection between us as individuals and our collective histories.

 

Colin Gateley, Audio Visual Resources Technician. Digital Library

I started here in 2006 digitising audio for the Tobar an Dualchais project and now I mostly work on the archive’s photo collection. I like the variety of work – digitising photographs, image processing, video editing, and other AV work. And the collection is such a treasure trove – a sometimes surprising record of former lives and culture.

 

Elliot Holmes, Archive & Library Assistant

Elliot sits in the library. There are shelves of books behind him

II am one of the Archives and Library Assistants with the SSSA and have been with the team since early 2020. I have particular interest in Welsh and Scottish folklore and I have written about folklore and the field for my undergraduate as well as my MSc in Information Management and Preservation. For the 70th Anniversary, I will be focusing on LGBT+ collections and developing representation and LGBT+ voices in the archive. One of the things I love about our archive and collections is the sheer amount of oral history and invaluable accounts from a wide range of voices, of which I hope to take even further this year.

 

Cathlin Macaulay, Curator 

I have been working at the School of Scottish Studies for the past twenty years or so, mainly in the Sound Archive, though more recently I have had the opportunity to become more familiar with the Photographic Archive. As Curator I help to care for the archives, to enable people to find material, to make connections and to contextualise the collections.The Archives are full of voices, each with a different story to tell, a different song, a different tune. With its rich variety of knowledge and artistry, the SSSA is a place of continual exploration.

 

Stuart Robinson, Audio-Visual Digitisation Technician 

Stuart sits to the right of a reel to reel machine. He is holding a booklet open and looking at it

II am an Audio-Visual Digitisation Technician for the School. I have been digitising the collections here for over 10 years, I also manage our digital file storage and contribute to our databases and technical systems. I came from a background working in community radio and commercial recording after studying Electrical Engineering.I enjoy working with and maintaining the fragile legacy audio and video carriers and the various devices that allow us to play them and transfer them to new (and hopefully) future-proof formats to ensure they can be accessed safely for many years to come. As a musician I also particularly enjoy hearing performances of traditional music and songs.

 

Louise Scollay, Archive & Library Assistant

Louise is standing in side profile in a card index. She is showing a card to the camera

I’ve been Archive & Library Assistant since SSSA opened the public service in 2017, but my history with the School goes back further as I studied there for my Scottish Ethnology degree and graduated in 2011.

It is an absolute joy working at the front-facing services of SSSA; I love seeing people connect and engage with our collections, particularly our sound archive, it’s like watching someone open a treasure chest! It’s hard to choose favourites amongst the collection, but I have a deep connection to our material from Shetland.

 

Kirsty Stewart, Archivist

I am Kirsty Stewart (Ciorstag ‘sa Ghàidhlig) and I’ve been the archivist for the School of Scottish Studies Archives, one day a week, since we re-opened in 2017. I have a degree in Gaelic Studies from Aberdeen University and did my postgraduate in Archival Studies in University College Dublin, next door to our old friends at the Irish Folklore Archive.

Initially my role was to re-establish the search room service and since then have focussed on managing the needs of our library/special collections and the manuscripts, in particular our administrative records, which tell the story of our 70 year history. One of my favourite things about SSSA is hearing different accents through recordings or their transcripts, these diverse voices that tell the story of our nation.

 

This year is our 70th Anniversary and we look forward to sharing events and content with you. If you would like to be kept up to date with our posts then please subscribe to get new posts straight to your inbox. You can find the subscribe box at the bottom of the page.

You can also follow us on twitter too https://twitter.com/EU_SSSA

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