Queering the Archive: Podcast with drag king Dorian T. Fisk

 

For the second podcast for Queering the Archive, Elliot sat down with Dorian T. Fisk to discuss representation in the drag scene and elsewhere.  

Dorian is just one of many of Scotland’s Drag Kings and performers. Dorian represented Scotland in EuroStars Drag Contest, drag’s answer to EuroVision, in which Dorian placed in the Top 5. Dorian also runs the collective Shut Up And King, a Glasgow-based platform for Scottish Drag Kings everywhere.

Dorian first got their start in Shanghai, beginning with stage management for shows for Pride and Qi Pow! Burlesque & Cabaret and was inspired by the King Ennis FW, which began the experience and the creation of Dorian T. Fisk. Dorian started as a ‘roadie’ and events manager, and is drawn from “experiences of being a teen in the 80s loving rock music and that sort of glam rock type vibe, and this guy Dorian T Fisk was a bit of a smush of some lead singers from bands I grew up liking long haired dudes and a bit of Johnny Depp thrown in there”. After growing as a performer in Shanghai and representing Shanghai Drag Kings, Dorian came to be in Scotland around 2018 and is now based in Glasgow and has performed across Scotland. 

Dorian has recently performed in London as part of ‘All The King’s Men’, an all Drag King ensemble for Tuck Shop West End at the Garrick Theatre, which also included performers Len Blanco, Tito Bone, Chiyo, Romeo De La Cruz, Louis Cyfer, Richard Energy, Manly Mannington, Sigi Moonlight, Oedipussi Rex, Max Ryder, and Rex Uranus. 

Dorian can also be seen performing in an upcoming gig with Drag Race star Gottmik at AXM Glasgow on the 10th September.  

In this podcast we discuss the drag scene in Edinburgh and Glasgow and wider Scotland, as well as Dorian’s time uplifting kings in the collective and workshops for Shut Up and King. We also discuss EuroStars and what influences Dorian’s drag and the creativity that goes into costuming and performing and much more.

 


Listen to the full podcast on Media Hopper here: https://edin.ac/3s68450

 

 

 

You can find out more on Dorian on their website: https://www.doriantfisk.com/  

And on their socials here:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/doriant.fisk/ 
Links: https://linkin.bio/doriant-fisk  

 

Shut Up and King details can be found here:  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shutupandking 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shutupandking/ 
Links: https://linktr.ee/ShutUpAndKing  

https://www.instagram.com/d_knstrkt/  

 

Dorian is currently in the UK and available for bookings: doriantfisk@gmail.com  

You can still get tickets for the Gottmik show at AXM here:
https://gottmik-glasgow-18.intix.com/  

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Queering The Man and Woman’s Love Song

 

An image of our Tale archive with a Progress Pride flag filter. The image includes cabinets, index card boxes on top, and shelving with books above.

 

 

 

Throughout Scottish tradition and history we have heard many iterations of the Love Song, be it through themes of unrequited love, courtship, lamentations at the loss of a lover, or even bawdy tunes and romance. No matter the theme, there is always one thing in common – that they are a man and a woman’s love song. There is not much in the way of recorded queer love in traditional Scottish songs, and it would have been near impossible for these to enter into the mainstream of known love songs. However, in my research on what we hold on the traditional Man’s Love Song and Woman’s Love Song, I have found some content that can be ‘queered’. Through a mix-up of pronouns in song or change of the gender of the singer and the protagonist we can find queer undertones and subtext within these traditional love songs. 

Within the Man’s Love Song, we of course have many examples of songs with a male protagonist describing his love or telling a tale of love about a woman. I will take you through a few examples of songs that can be ‘queered’ through being sung by a female singer and no change of the gender of the person the protagonist loves. Below are just a few example of songs that we hold that can be viewed through this lens. 

For example, there is “Mo Ghaol an Tè Nach Dìobair Mi”. This version, sung by Mary MacRae and recorded by Donald Archie MacDonald is a Man’s Love Song on how ‘he will always stand by beautiful Mary as being a woman of virtue.’ What I like about this version is that the lover is named, and through queering can be seen as a romantic tune about the virtues of women as recognised and sung by another woman. Listen to this track on Tobar an Dualchais linked below:

MacRae, Mary, “Mo Ghaol an Tè Nach Dìobair Mi”, recorded by Donald Archie MacDonald, The School of Scottish Studies Archives, SA1964.062, Tobar an Dualchais / Kist o Riches, http://tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/104516

There are also examples of unrequited love. “Och Mar a Tha Mi ‘s Mi nam Aonar”, sung by Peggy Morrison and recorded by Morag MacLeod is of a man’s love song for a beautiful girl from Lochcarron. The protagonist hopes she gets a man who is worthy of her. As this particular recording is sung by a woman, we can view this recording as being about a woman’s unrequited love for the beautiful girl from Lochcarron, but they cannot be together so she hopes she finds a good man who is worthy of her love. Listen below:

Morrison, Peggy, Och Mar a Tha Mi ‘s Mi nam Aonar”, School of Scottish Studies Archive, SA1975.210.A4a, Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches, https://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/track/108130?l=en  

There is also another about promises of marriage, sung by Nan MacKinnon, in “Gur Tu Mo Chruinneag Bhòidheach.” In this love song, ‘a man praises his beautiful darling. He would do many things if she promised to marry him’. Different from Och Mar a Tha Mi ‘s Mi nam Aonar”, this song allows for a reading of a woman promising many things to her lover if she married her, and is not about unrequited love or not being able to marry the lover described. Listen below:

MacKinnon, Nan, “Gur Tu Mo Chruinneag Bhòidheach”, School of Scottish Studies Archive, SA1958.132.5, Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches, https://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/track/97353?l=en  

 

 

There are also a few examples of The Woman’s Love song as sung by men about a man the protagonist longs for or is telling of love for him. Although we have less examples of men singing the Woman’s Love song, there are still more recordings of this type within the collections. 

 

The song “Ò Hù Tha Mo Ghaol air Òigear a’ Chùil Dualaich” is a, ‘woman’s love song to the young man with the beautiful hair.’ This version is sung by John MacLeod and recorded by Polly Hitchcock. Again, through the singer being male, we can hear the description of his love and admiration of the man with beautiful hair.  Listen below:

MacLeod, John, “Ò Hù Tha Mo Ghaol air Òigear a’ Chùil Dualaich”, School of Scottish Studies Archives, SA1951.43.A7, Tobar an Dualchais / Kist o Riches, http://tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/90295

 

In “Cha Bhi Mi Buan ‘s Tu Bhith Bhuam”, the singer, ‘will not survive if she is parted from her beloved, whom she has loved since she was young. She sits on the hillock, looking over the narrows seeing his boat passing.’ This version sung and recorded by Calum Iain MacLean can be viewed about the sadness of the childhood lover leaving for sea and being so in love it is difficult to part with him. Listen below:

MacLean, Calum Iain, “Cha Bhi Mi Buan ‘s Tu Bhith Bhuam”, School of Scottish Studies Archives, SA1953.79.1, Tobar an Dualchais / Kist o Riches, Tobar an Dualchais

 

  

 

 

With Queering the Archives, we are creating a finding-aid to help other’s locate queer and related records. If you are interested in responding to these recordings with your own work or researching our queer collections, please do just get in touch with us. Visitor Information | The University of Edinburgh 

Why not take a look at the material we hold remotely on Tobar an Dualchais and think of ways in which our sound recordings can be ‘queered’? If you are interested in recreating our material in any form, please get in touch with us or submit an access to digitised collections form directly. Access to Digitised Collections | The University of Edinburgh 

As always, we would love to hear thoughts on the material we hold and would love for you to work with us and our records. 

Queering the Archives will have our very first workshop held on the 25th August from 13.00 – 15.30. This is a public workshop and is open to all under the LGBT+ and Queer umbrella and allies. Get your tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/165396797273 

This will take you through understanding of queering, what we are doing for Queering the Archives, and working with our queer records and will involve discussion and practical work on improving our search-terms and catalogues. Access to event via QR code below:

 

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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

Upcoming Events Celebrating SSSA at 70

As part of our ongoing celebrations for our 70th Anniversary, we are delighted to announce some events which are coming up in August.

Fieldwork & Creative Engagement: Oral History of Port Glasgow Women

Thursday, 12 August 2021, 14:00-16:30.

Online, via Zoom.

Free, but ticketed via Eventbrite:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/157935676861

Our two presentations are rooted in the lived experience of women in the shipbuilding communities of Port Glasgow, recordings of which are held in our collection. Through our presenters’ fieldwork – undertaken almost 30 years apart – we see the importance of fieldwork, the collection and preservation of oral history recordings. It is from this perspective we will explore the value in creative reuse of archive recordings.

Speakers:

Dr Hugh Hagan, Head of Public Records Act Implementation at the National Records of Scotland, is passionate about the shipbuilding communities of Port Glasgow and Greenock on the lower reaches of the River Clyde, particularly in the inter-war period. These towns, being removed by some distance from the large and diverse economy of Glasgow, depended entirely on shipbuilding and they developed a very particular sense of community. This was the subject of his PhD research at the School of Scottish Studies in the 1990s and he will draw on that research, specifically the role of women in these communities, in his talk.

Martine Robertson and Hannah Wood, of GaelGal Productiions, were undertaking studies at the Department of Celtic and Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh, when they attended a lecture by Hugh Hagan, about his Port Glasgow work. They were galvanised to revisit this fieldwork, recording new material with the family of Cassie Graham, one of Hugh’s contributors. They have also been inspired to take these stories to centre stage, lifting the voices and experience of women of the Port Glasgow community and using these recordings in their creative practice. The presentation at this event is but one postcard-sized venture into their ongoing creative piece, What A Voice.

Q&A

After the presentations we shall have a short break, followed by a chaired question-and-answer session with our presenters. Participants are encouraged to submit questions in the chat facility during the papers and the break.

This session is open to anyone who wishes to attend and those with a particular interest in collecting, researching, or creating with oral history recordings. Please register for the event via the link to Eventbrite. Joining instructions will be sent with your ticket.

colour photograph of a reel to reel machine in action. The focus over the reels is blurred to show the fast movement

SSSA at The Edinburgh International Festival

There will also be two special events centring on the work of The School of Scottish Studies (Celtic and Scottish Studies Department) and on music, songs and singers within the collections here at SSSA. These events are hosted by EIF, and you can buy tickets from the website links provided.

A Folk Song Sharinghttps://www.eif.co.uk/events/university-of-edinburgh-a-folk-song-sharing

Sunday, 8 August, Old College Quad. 15:00

An intimate intergenerational exchange of songs and their stories: three artists share their favourite songs, how they came to sing them, the story behind each song and how their interpretation evolved. Features performances from Nancy Nicolson (Scots song and story), Josie Duncan (Scots, Gaelic and original song) and Arthur Cormack (Gaelic song).

 

The Living Archive – https://www.eif.co.uk/events/university-of-edinburgh-the-living-archive

Sunday, 8 August, Old College Quad. 20:00

A range of song, music and dance inspired by material from the School of Scottish Studies Archive. Performances inspired by material from the School of Scottish Studies Archives from Kirsty Law (Scots song), Mary MacMaster (clarsach, electro harp) and Mike Vass (fiddle, tenor guitar) with Sophie Stephenson (dance).

 

To be kept up to date with the events happening for our 70th anniversary, please follow our blog here or find us on twitter https://twitter.com/EU_SSSA

#SSSAat70

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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: CROW PIE: COOKERY FROM THE MACLAGAN MANUSCRIPTS

The Maclagan Manuscripts

Collected by: Elizabeth Kerr

Residence: Port Charlotte

Locality of Collection: Highland

Reference: MML0772b

Chosen by: Theresa Mackay

Five years ago I was completing my MLitt dissertation at the Centre for History, UHI, and like any student who is passionate about a topic, I couldn’t stop researching. The end result was one dissertation submitted for my degree—on the presence of female innkeepers in the early nineteenth-century Highlands—and a big pile of “extra” research on food. This data on what innkeepers cooked two hundred years ago kickstarted my Ph.D and led me to study The Maclagan Manuscripts at the SSSA.

The Maclagan Manuscripts (MM) consist of more than 9000 items of folklore from the western Highlands and Islands. Spearheaded by Dr. Robert Craig Maclagan in 1893, this project saw a team of collectors handwriting and submitting folkloric points of interest over nine years.

I have spent much time studying the MM to understand nineteenth-century foodways and practices of Gaelic-speaking women in the western coastal communities and I have to say this recipe for crow pie collected by Elizabeth Kerr is one of my favourites:

Pithean-cnàimheach. (crow pie.) Ingredients. The legs and breasts of a dozen crows. Two ounces butter; two tea cupfuls of flour; a little Baking powder; salt, pepper, and water.

___Method. Par-boil the meat in very little water, with a pinch of salt added. Put into a pie dish with the gravy and pepper. Make paste in the ordinary way, and cover the pie dish with it. Put a griddle on the fire, on which put the pie, and place a common pot over it, with its mouth downwards. Bake for Forty-five minutes.

 

From MacGillivray’s British Birds (1837)

Here we identify birds eaten on Islay, but if you look closely at this record, and others found in the MM, they help us to understand foodways practices of the past. Looking at the main ingredients, this recipe calls for “legs and breasts of a dozen crows” which sparks us to think about how the birds would have been caught (a job for boys with a sling, perhaps?) and how the remaining heads and feathers would have been used.

The prevalence of certain “supporting” ingredients in these cookery records point to foodstuffs that were considered staples, such as bread, whisky, cream, meals of barley and oat, and butter and salt (as seen here). In this recipe we also see that the pie covering was made “in the ordinary way” causing us to explore what specific foodstuffs were used in this “paste” and what practice was the “ordinary way”.

In terms of cooking equipment, here we see a “pie dish” referenced, a note that helps us to understand how a kitchen was outfitted. Along with pie dishes, the MM suggests that kitchens also included various sizes of barrels, three-legged pots, and buckets and bags for collecting whelks at the shore, giving us an understanding of nineteenth-century material culture and cooking technology.

It is the idea that this simple recipe for crow pie tells us so much about how women in the Gàidhealtachd fed themselves and their families that appeals to me so much. A recipe by collector Elizabeth Kerr that may have taken her only a few minutes to jot down has forever preserved the foodways of the nineteenth century western Highlands and Islands.

 

Theresa Mackay is a Ph.D candidate in History at the University of Victoria (Canada). Her research centres on foodways and practices of nineteenth century women in the Gàidhealtachd along the western coastlines of the Highlands and Islands.

To find out more about The Maclagan Manuscripts visit: https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/library-museum-gallery/cultural-heritage-collections/school-scottish-studies-archives/manuscripts-collections/maclagan

To read Theresa’s article on female innkeepers in the Highlands and Islands, see the Journal of Scottish Historical Studies: https://www.euppublishing.com/doi/full/10.3366/jshs.2017.0218

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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
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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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