Part III

Part III
Early Travellers in the North East, 1700-1850

Colin McLaren

The starting-point is the bibliography of travels and tours in Scotland compiled by Sir Arthur Mitchell (1901, 1905, 1910). Born in Elgin and educated at the University of Aberdeen, Mitchell was a national authority on the treatment of the insane and no less eminent as an antiquarian and bibliographer. He was also a proto-ethnologist, investigating superstitions of the Highlands as they related to insanity. The value of his bibliography is enhanced by its preface, whose section headings alone reveal the problems he encountered (Difficulty as to Including or Excluding, Books of Little Value not Excluded, Narratives still in Manuscript, Narratives Hidden in Biographies or Magazines, Misleading Titles, Changes in Late Editions) and the variety of genres in which travels and tours could be found (Excursions of Scientific Societies, Guide Books and Itineraries, Botanical, Geological, and other such Excursions, Books showing state of North Britain, Travel with a Special Object). Under the heading Books entered with Hesitation Few, Mitchell explained that his principle had been to include rather than exclude. As a result, his bibliography runs to over 1,000 entries. Of these, 48 date from before 1600, 69 from the period 1600-1700, 49 from 1701-50; 128 from 1751- 1800; and 352 from 1801-50. 

The chronological spread of Mitchell's list corresponds with that of British travel literature overall, as first the Grand Tour, then tourism in general, grew in popularity, and travel became easier, faster, and cheaper. It also reflects the pace at which the remoter parts of Scotland were mapped and measured, and the dramatic changes in taste which prompted at least some of the English to sublimate acute Scottophobia in admiration of Scottish mountains, myths and moors. While most of these seekers after the sublime and the heroic, together with the majority of sportsmen, headed straight for the Highlands and Islands, a number toured the entire country, taking in the North East on the way: the draughtsman John Claude Nattes, for example, included Aberdeen, Banff, Moray and Inverness in two of his four volumes of 'accurate drawings on the spot', subsequently engraved by James Fittler and published as Scotia Depicta (1804). In addition, there were some who visited the North East for its own sake: the water-colourist George Fennell Robson, for example, illustrated his Scenery of the Grampian Mountains (1814) with 'forty etchings in the soft ground'; while James Christie, 'gamekeeper', enlivened his Journal of a Tour in the Highlands above Marr Lodge (1817) with 'Humorous Poems and Songs, chiefly in the Buchan Dialect'. 

Mitchell's list has lengthened in the course of the century, not least with the addition of manuscript travel diaries. He himself added several, including two compiled by James Robertson on tours in the North East in 1767 and 1771 (1901, 622, 624). More recently they have been found in collections of personal and family papers as these have been made available for research in national, university and local libraries and archives. Aberdeen University Library, for example, has several such texts, details of which can be accessed through its website ( Similar accounts can also be found beyond the border: of some 600 travel diaries in the county record offices of England and Wales, over 150 cover Scotland (Gard, 1989, 51). Diaries remaining in private hands have been discovered through surveys made by agencies such as the National Register of Archives (Scotland)[NRA(S)] and its opposite number in England [NRA]. Indexes to the surveys of both agencies are available on the NRA website. NRA(S) surveys themselves are available in electronic format in the National Archives of Scotland. 

The best guide to material from the 18th and 19th centuries in the list of 26 key works published by James Kellas Johnstone (1914, 154-6). To classics such as Daniel Defoe's Tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain (1724), Samuel Johnson's Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775) and James Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (1785) he added the well-known accounts of Edward Burt (1754), Thomas Pennant (1769 and 1772) and Thomas Thornton (1804); all three are sampled in Youngson (1974). Finally and most importantly, he listed a number of less familiar travel narratives, demonstrating the diverse and sometimes obscure nature of the genre: James Macky's epistolary Journey through England (1723), for example, unexpectedly covers Scotland in its third volume; James Ray's travels are interwoven with his Compleat History of the Rebellion (1749); Robert Heron, in Scotland described (1797), includes in his topographical descriptions of each county 'the rural industry and manners of its peasantry'; James Hall, in his Travels in Scotland by an unusual route (1807), combines with 'hints for improvements in Agriculture and Commerce' a selection of 'characters and anecdotes'; Isabella Spence intersperses her Sketches of the Present Manners, Customs, and Scenery of Scotland...with incidental remarks on the Scottish Character (1817).; Beriah Botfield's privately-printed Journal of a tour through the Highlands of Scotland (1830) deals extensively with the North East as - stranger still - does Catherine Sinclair's Shetland and the Shetlanders (1844). 

Introducing his collection of travellers' accounts of Scotland composed before 1700, Peter Hume Brown declared that '[they] bring before us with a vividness beyond the genius of any historian what essentially constitutes a national individuality' (1891). Add 'regional and local' to 'national', and that statement effectively represents the view prevalent among historians and, indeed, scholars in other disciplines, until the 1970s. To many writers, the immediacy and idiosyncrasy of travel narratives made them the verbal equivalent of a woodcut or engraving, livelier in tone than the Old Statistical Account, wider in scope than the General Views of Agriculture. More recently, however, they have been approached with the sensitivity applied by anthropologists and ethnologists to European accounts of exotic culture (see Stagl 1995) - appropriately enough, since the inaccessible Highlands and Islands were perceived as 'exotic' until well into the 18th century. As a result, narratives of travel in Scotland are gradually being reinterpreted in terms of the relationship between the observer and the observed, the representation and the represented, and in the context of changing artistic and literary styles. The process can be seen, for example, in Batten (1978); at cameo length in Schama (1995); and at its best in Rogers, who claims that 'Johnson's transit of the Caledonian hemisphere turns out to be similar to a South Sea voyage, in its anthropological, scientific and cultural framework' (1995, 87). 

A valuable complement to travel narratives themselves are the guidebooks published for travellers and tourists. Mitchell listed only rarer items, like Daniel Paterson's New and accurate description of all the Direct and principal Cross Roads in Britain (1771-1826) and The Steamboat Companion (1820). Other guides, notably those published for railway travellers in the North East, are available in the O'Dell Collection of Aberdeen University Library (Anderson- Smith, 1984). They include Alexander Ramsay's Guide to the Great North of Scotland Railway (1854) and George and Peter Anderson's Handbook to the Inverness and Nairn Railway (1856), both works of local authors, whose strong interest in North Eastern traditions is reflected in their pages. 

Further reading:

  • Anderson-Smith, Myrtle I. 'Special Collections in Aberdeen University Library', Aberdeen University Review 50 (1984), 265-87. 
  • Batten, Charles L. Pleasurable Instruction: Form and Convention in Eighteenth- Century Travel Literature (Berkeley, 1978). 
  • Brown, Peter Hume, ed. Early Travellers in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1891). 
  • Gard, Robin, ed. The Observant Traveller: Diaries of Travel in England, Wales and Scotland in the County Record Offices of England and Wales (London, 1989). 
  • Johnstone, James Kellas. A concise bibliography of....the shires of Aberdeen, Banff, and Kincardine. Aberdeen University Studies, no. 66 (Aberdeen, 1914). 
  • Mitchell, Arthur. 'A list of travels, tours...relating to Scotland', Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 3rd series, 11 (1900-1), 431-638. 
  • Mitchell, Arthur. 'Supplementary list....', PSAS, 4th series, 3 (1904-5), 500-27.
  • Mitchell, Arthur.. 'Supplementary list....', PSAS, 4th series, 8 (1909-10), 390-405. 
  • Rogers, Pat. Johnson and Boswell: The Transit of Caledonia (Oxford, 1995). 
  • Schama, Simon. Landscape and Memory (London, 1995). 
  • Stagl, Justin. A History of Curiosity: The Theory of Travel 1550-1800 (Chur, 1995). 
  • Youngson, A.J. Beyond the Highland Line: Three Journals of Travel in Eighteenth Century Scotland (London, 1974).
Red Sandstone and Grey Granite: The Victorian Ethnography of Hugh Miller and Walter Gregor

James Porter

Among the indefatigable Victorians who delved into the folklore and customs of the North East Lowlands, the names of Hugh Miller and Walter Gregor stand out boldly. Both took a deep interest in popular traditions, and each distinguished himself in different ways. Hugh Miller (1802-56), geologist and writer, born in Cromarty, lost his father at the age of five and had a rebellious career in various schools. Apprenticed as a stonemason at 16, he worked with stone for the next 17 years, developing an interest in fossils while devoting the winter months to reading, writing and natural history. In 1829 he published Poems Written in the Leisure Hours of a Journeyman Mason, and followed it by the more famous Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland (1835). Marrying the daughter of an Inverness businessman, he became a bank accountant for a few years (1834-39); but, having written a savage open Letter to Lord Brougham (1839), he found himself involved in the controversy over church patronage that led to the Disruption of 1843 and the founding of the Free Church of Scotland. He was invited to Edinburgh to start up The Witness, the newspaper of the anti- patronage evangelicals, and as a journalist became their most ardent champion. At the same time he penned a series of geological articles in The Witness, later collected as The Old Red Sandstone (1841). 

Something of a character himself in his appearance, Miller was 'tall and athletic and had a large head, made to look huge by a rusty profusion of not very carefully remembered hair', as one visitor described him. Miller visited England for the first time in 1845, recording his visit in First Impressions of England (1847). It is with Miller that popular science books began, in such anti-Darwinian publications as Footprints of the Creator (1850), The Testimony of the Rocks (1857) and Sketchbook of Popular Geology (published posthumously in 1859). His folkloristic bent shows itself, at the same time, in the portrait of his youth, My Schools and Schoolmasters (1854). Aware of the Clearances in the cultural borderland of Cromarty where he grew up, Miller was haunted by the wretchedness of the rural poor, the living and working conditions of farm labourers, fishermen and Highland crofters as the glens were emptied to make way for sheep. These impressions produced some of his finest, most powerful essays: 'Peasant Properties', 'The Cottages of Our Hinds', 'The Bothy System', 'The Highlands', 'The Scotch Poor Law', 'Pauper Labour', 'The Felons of the Country', and the scathing piece, 'Sutherland as it Was and Is, Or How a Country May Be Ruined'. This last is a sustained, seven-part attack on the folly and callousness of the wealthy Sutherland family on two counts: the clearing of the people and the refusal of the Duke to allow the Free Church to build on any of his vast lands. 

The young Miller, rooted in village fishing culture, was also part of a literary culture that mingled landscape, folktale, magic and myth as well as autobiography. In The Old Red Sandstone (1841), which ran into 26 editions, Miller invoked the voice of the Romantic wanderer, making natural history a personal journey across the open landscape. Working-class themes of labour and intellectual quest rub shoulders within the psychological framework of his own life-story set in the northern Scottish landscape. The Hill of Cromarty, for example, where Miller played as a boy, was a breeding ground and context for his interest in the natural history and folklore of the region. Drawing on Gilbert White's Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne (1789) as a model, Miller's 'traditional history' took its cue from White's 'parochial history', although Scenes and Legends of 1835 has actually more in common with the tide of local antiquarianism than with White's natural descriptions. 

Miller's accounts are valuable because through them we can trace the later condition of folklore in the area. New beliefs and narratives have emerged, for instance:as D.A. Mackenzie noted (1935), the Clach Malloch - a large boulder exposed at low tides and noted by Miller in one of his family stories - is more recently said to be cursed because a fisherwoman left her child there while she gathered bait and the child was drowned by the incoming tide; curses are delivered by an individual standing or kneeling bare-kneed on Clach Malloch. Customs, too, have been revived: the Saint's Well at Navity, barely used as a rag well in Miller's day, was reportedly decked with rags in 1934; and even today, children tell of the Green Lady, who haunted houses in Miller's childhood, being alive and well in the tower of the school. Visited constantly by a sense of the praeternatural around him, Hugh Miller tragically put an end to his life. But his contribution to legend study in particular is immensely important - for one thing because it blurs the dividing line between oral tradition and creative fiction: in his detailed study, The British Folklorists (1968), the American folklorist Richard Dorson devotes more than 14 pages to Miller and his work. 

The Rev. Walter Gregor (1825-97), in contrast, was born in the very centre of the North East, at Fogieside, near Keith, where he was educated at the parish school and later at King's College in the University of Aberdeen. After graduating in 1849 he became schoolmaster at the Macduff parish school in the fishing village of Gamrie on the Moray Firth. During his ten years there he also took classes in Divinity and was subsequently licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Turriff in 1857. In 1859 he was became minister in the farming parish of Pitsligo; Gregor was thus in the unique position, for a folklorist of the North East, of having worked both in a fishing and a farming community. He had ability with languages, moreover, having studied Hebrew with Ernst Renan in Paris. Gregor was also a local enthusiast for the study of folklore, and became a member and president of the Buchan Field Club and convenor of the Archeology Committee of the New Spalding Club. He also held membership in the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and in the Ethnographical Committee of the British Association. 

Gregor's best-known contribution to the study of folklore is his Notes on the Folk-Lore of the North-East of Scotland, which was issued by the Folk-Lore Society in 1881 as its first published field collection. Covering much the same ground in content as had the antiquary James Napier in his Folk Lore; or, Superstitious Beliefs in the West of Scotland within this Century (1879), Gregor mined his oral sources and organised his materials more fully. He always reproduces the texts in dialect: charms, riddles, counting-out rhymes, formulas, holiday songs, and sayings all appear in his collection. His experience of distinct and separate kinds of community is reflected in contrasting chapters on farming and fishing. In another short chapter, 'Evenings at the Fireside', Gregor reveals the kind of entertainment practised in the family circle by the light of fir candles or oil lamps in front of a peat fire: songs, riddles, supernatural tales of fairies, waterkelpies, ghosts, the Devil, and the black art (witchcraft). 

Gregor contributed regularly to periodicals such as the Transactions of the Banffshire Field Club, the Folk-Lore Journal, Revue des Traditions Populaires, and Transactions of the Dumfries & Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society. As a local collector of North East lore, he was much in demand, and his writings cover life-cycle topics such as the folklore of birth, marriage and death, burial at sea, well superstition, thirteen at table, farming customs, folklore of the sea, children's amusements, singing games and rhymes, the folklore of trees and animals, the horse in folklore, weather lore, and guardian spirits of wells and lochs. Gregor's real strength was not as a comparative folklorist continually drawing comparison between customs in different parts of the world: this kind of ethnological comparativism was meat and drink to his contemporaries in London like E. B. Tylor or Andrew Lang. Gregor was content to be an accurate collector of local lore, tapping into the reservoir of custom and rite, game and tale, reproducing it accurately and with attention to context. 

Gregor's other full-length works on folklore repay study: The Dialect of Banffshire with a glossary of words not in Jamieson's Scottish Dictionary was published by the Philological Society in 1866; An Echo of the Olden Time from the North of Scotland (1874) appeared anterior to the better-known Notes of 1881, The Counting-Out Rhymes of Children (1891), and Kilns, Mills, Millers, Meal, and Bread (1894) each contribute to a deeper knowledge of the folk customs of the North East in Victorian times. Both Walter Gregor and Hugh Miller added substantially to our knowledge of popular habit in the North East before two World Wars, in whose wake many of these customs were to be swept away as technology, emigration and legislation profoundly affected the fabric of traditional life in the North East. Without their devoted work, our understanding of that fabric would be very much poorer. 

Further reading:

  • Alston, David. 'The Fallen Meteor: Hugh Miller and Local Tradition', in Hugh Miller and the Controversies of Victorian Science, ed. Michael Shortland (Oxford, 1996), 206-29. 
  • Dorson, Richard M. The British Folklorists: A History (London, 1968). 
  • Mackenzie, D.A. Scottish Folklore and Folklife (Glasgow, 1935). 
  • Macpherson, J.M. Primitive Beliefs in the North-East of Scotland (London, 1929). 
  • Paradis, James G. 'The Natural Historian as Antiquary of the World: Hugh Miller and the Rise of Literary Natural History', in Hugh Miller and the Controversies of Victorian Science, ed. Michael Shortland (Oxford, 1996), 122-50. 
  • Rosie, George. Hugh Miller: Outrage and Order (Edinburgh, 1981).
Modern Ethnological Views of the North East

James Porter

There are many ways of representing a society and its culture. One way is that of the insider, the native who knows its history and personality intimately, even if that view is nevertheless coloured by gender, occupation and social class. A contrasting view is that of the outsider or the immigrant, who can bring fresh perceptions to the way a community acts and sees itself: such a person, while lacking the detailed knowledge of the insider, can often tell better to what degree that society is able to adopt new ideas, from inside or outside, and benefit from them. A third kind of perspective is that of the transient who passes through the community and whose economic presence or cultural influence can be either fleeting or longterm depending on whether he or she is, for example, an oil worker, seasonal farmworker, commercial traveller, itinerant salesman/saleswoman, or cultural tourist. Representation, then, is relative to the vantage position of the observer, and is subjective since it brings the biases and predispositions of the observer into play. A full representation of any community means giving voice to many different points of view.

But this idea of representation is postmodern and relatively recent. The North East, before Gregor and Miller, was represented mainly in terms of an antiquarian archaeology which - especially from the 18th century - sought to record Scotland's past. The founder of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries in 1780, David Steuart Erskine (1742-1829), was the 11th Earl of Buchan. Like many of his fellow aristocrats, Buchan was an enthusiastic antiquarian keen to chart Scottish history, mainly through tracing a material record of its past. He was thus a museologist, and encouraged field surveys of such iron age forts as that on Hill o' Noth in Aberdeenshire and the collecting and description of artifacts from different stages of history. Buchan's establishing of a National Museum of Antiquities ultimately led to the founding of the Royal Scottish Museum in 1854. Other Scots antiquarians, like Robert Chambers (1802- 71), showed an intense interest in customs and oral traditions. Antiquarianism itself was succeeded, in the 19th century, by an interest in the later historical development of regional culture, and a growing sense that material culture and oral tradition could not be rigidly separated. This is now the prevailing view among ethnologists, who tend to take a more holistic view of communities than their predecessors. The museum and the sound and photographic archive are in fact complementary and interdependent ways of aiding knowledge and understanding of the past. 

It was the brilliant amateur folklorists in the Folklore Society (founded 1878) who supported the publication of the Rev. Walter Gregor's Notes on the Folk-Lore of the North-East (1881) as the first of the Society's field collections to appear. After Gregor, the North East was characterised mainly in relation to its Lowland song culture. The great collection of Gavin Greig and the Rev. James B. Duncan before World War I, now approaching publication of its eighth and final volume (1999) is seen by some as the crowning glory of North East tradition. Consisting of some 3,050 texts and 3,100 tunes, it is one of the largest compendia of its kind anywhere in the western world, and rivals the collections made by Cecil Sharp in England around the same time. It was mined by Alexander Keith for his Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs (1925), which collates versions of the 'classic ballads' as sought after and prized by scholars such as Francis James Child at Harvard. Child published his magisterial compilation, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, between 1882 and 1898. These ballads, usually composed anonymously and existing in multiple variants, have been praised for their succinctness, objectivity, and a fatalistic bent that place them on the highest poetic and communicative level. But the Greig- Duncan collection too is of its time, and reflects the perceptions and preferences of its collectors. Greig himself contributed many articles to The Buchan Observer, a local newspaper, from 1907-11, and these often contain fascinating snippets of information on local events and customs. Most of the singers with whom he and Duncan communicated were middle- or working-class folk native to the farming communities of Aberdeenshire. The Travelling clans, however, are absent as singers from the collection because they were socially invisible in a class- conscious Edwardian era. 

An American folksong enthusiast, James Madison Carpenter, who recorded singers - some of them known to Greig and Duncan - in Scotland and England with the phonograph in 1930, offers in his collection a valuable supplement to Greig-Duncan, which was amassed without the benefit of a tape-recorder or phonograph. The bothy songs recorded by John Ord in his Bothy Songs and Ballads (1930) in some ways continue the celebration of the lowland agricultural life, though with a more pronounced sense of satire on the conditions endured by the fee'd labourer. Rising at 5 a.m. for a ten-hour day was the rule rather than the exception for the farmhand who dossed in these huts or bothies, and it is not surprising that the songs often tell of hardship and the tyranny of the farmer who hired him. They tell of events outside that local world, too, of love affairs, army service, even the whaling that was a marked enterprise from the ports of Aberdeen, Peterhead and Dundee in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The songs are full of humour, at times, and poke fun at tight-fisted farmers and their dominating ways. Many ditties are still sung and enjoyed - in recreated 'meal-and-ale' events or folksong festivals such as that held annually in the town of Keith - even though the world that these songs and these events represented is gone: banished by the passage of time, two World Wars, technological change, and European Union regulations. 

The singers and musicians of the North East over the past fifty years - Jeannie Robertson, John Strachan, Jane Turriff, Jimmy Macbeath, Jock Duncan, Lizzie Higgins, Elizabeth Stewart and many others - are well enough known, and their place in an ethnology of the region is crucial since it is in song and music that identity is often most soulfully expressed. Oral tradition carries the local knowledge, sometimes in coded form, through the generations but oral tradition itself is part of the wider picture. There is a contiguity among oral tradition, expressive forms, and custom and belief that is at its most fluid in the tradition of the Travellers, whose pattern of life defies the kinds of boundary and segmentation evident in the legalities and obligations of modern life. Where Traveller habits and customs meets those of the local population, an interesting interface results. Jane Turriff, for example, a renowned Traveller singer and song composer, married Cameron Turriff, a farm servant, in 1957 and as singers they possessed quite different repertoires, singing only a very few songs in common. Yet when Hamish Henderson and the writer visited them in Fetterangus to record them in 1972 and 1973, there seemed already a closer bridging of the social gap - and more patently the cultural gap - between Traveller and settled population. Other ethnographic studies of the North East - by the American folklorist Kenneth Goldstein, or the Canadian sociologist Frank Vallee - have confirmed this fusion of horizons within the last thirty years as Traveller life and mores are better understood. Compulsory education and resettlement in council housing, however, have not always been a solution to the open-air wanderlust that Travellers habitually prize, as Traveller singers and storytellers such as Stanley Robertson (Jeannie's nephew) or Betsy Whyte have insisted in their books.

The culture of song, story and music in the North East is, then, a primary index of its personality - or at least one side of its personality, for it is the rural life of the uplands, rather than the coastal life of the fishing villages, that benefits from such an interpretation. Why? Because the life it represented has always seemed more stable, possibly, than the fraught, religion-driven culture of the coast? Humour is omnipresent in the bothy ballads, while to the fisherfolk, life was a serious business, with sudden death on the tempestuous seas never far away. Here, a tangled skein of beliefs dominated the cultural complexity of life on the shore, in the boat, on the deep, and the hymn or psalm take, or took, precedence over the ballad or lyric song. Thus the cultural personality of the North East has not one, but two or more strands to it, especially if one adds the culture of the Highland glens to the immediate west, a culture now strongly modified by English- or Scots-speaking incomers. These strands are in effect oppositional and challenge the view of the North East as having a unified cultural personality. 

The landscape of the North East lowlands, and some of its customs, have been well described by such writers as John R. Allan. The ethnologist Alexander Fenton, brought up in Auchterless, has discussed the agricultural history of the inland region and noted the differences of recent times: the change in women's roles, and the male attitudes to these; the decline in churchgoing is no longer as obligatory as it once was; the rise of the welfare state in taking care of society's weaker members. The weather and seasons, though, remain much the same, and regulate behaviour as they always did. In the fishing villages, the religious intensity might not be as great as it once was because of dogmatic and doctrinal differences among sects. The stoicism relating to fishermen lost at sea has given way, rather, to a determination to use technology in raising the bodies for proper burial on land. Technology has thus had a profound impact, not only on occupational means but also on the beliefs and traditions of fisherfolk around the Buchan and Moray coasts. 

More recently, an ethnological view of any region of Scotland must now take account of the 'heritage' notion that accompanied the setting up of the Heritage Lottery and various associated academic institutes such as the Aberdeen Heritage Unit at the Robert Gordon University in 1992. Numerous 'heritage centres' cover the North of Scotland, from the professionally-organised Angus Folk Museum, Highland Folk Museum or Marischal Museum to smaller, shoestring attempts to represent a locality. The problem with the concept of heritage is mainly one of selectivity, and who determines what constitutes a region's heritage. In this context, attempts to draw a more democratic picture of heritage, by involving as many views as possible and not delegating judgments about financial support to the Scottish Arts Council, are a step in the right direction. Support for the arts means, for example, funding local groups of traditional fiddlers as much as symphony orchestras. These are issues in which the ethnologist can wield influence, for they speak to the personality and traditions of a region such as the North East, and to the need for change. Thus the role of the ethnologist too is changing: formerly, that role was as observer and interpreter of local customs and attitudes. Now, as these customs are under threat - from metropolitan or transatlantic popular culture, primarily, as they are transmitted through the media and in nightclubs - the ethnologist can assist and advise in discussions of 'heritage' and of the values that local communities in the North East believe to be important. 

Further reading:

  • Bell, A.S. ed. The Scottish Antiquarian Tradition (Edinburgh, 1981). 
  • Fenton, Alexander. 'Aspects of the North-East Personality,' in The Shape of the Past: Essays in Scottish Ethnology (Edinburgh, 1985), 56-67. 
  • Fladmark, J.M. ed. Heritage: Conservation, Interpretation, Enterprise (Aberdeen, 1993). 
  • ____________. ed. Cultural Tourism (Aberdeen, 1994). 
  • ____________. ed. Sharing the Earth: Local Identity in Global Culture (Aberdeen, 1995). 
  • Henderson, Hamish. Alias MacAlias: Writings on Songs, Folk and Literature (Edinburgh, 1992). 
  • McLaren, Colin. 'Preservation, Publication and Promotion: The University Library and the Culture of North East Scotland', in Northern Scotland, vol. 18, ed. James Porter (1999), 135-45. 
  • Porter, James. 'The Turriff Family of Fetterangus: Society, Learning, Creation and Recreation of Traditional Song', Folk Life 16 (1978), 5-26. 
  • ___________. 'Aims, Theory and Method in the Ethnology of Northern Scotland', in James Porter ed. Northern Scotland, vol. 18 (1999), 1-25. 
  • Porter, James and Herschel Gower. Jeannie Robertson: Emergent Singer, Transformative Voice (Knoxville, 1995).
  • Robertson, Stanley. Exodus to Alford (Nairn, 1988). 
  • Whyte, Betsy. Yellow on the Broom (Edinburgh, 1979.)
The Field Study of Oral Tradition

James Porter

Disciplines such as ethnology derive much of their effectiveness in cultural analysis from fieldwork - that is, the interactive study of human beings in their cultural setting. Fieldwork began as an outgrowth of the 18th century Enlightenment, when scholars began to realise that the study of humanity must involve more than simply bookish application. Key figures in this kind of thinking were the Italian, Giambattista Vico, and J.G. von Herder in Germany. Around the same time Thomas Blackwell, Principal of Marischal College, Aberdeen, was recommending that young people should seek, 'along with their Studies at home, to look much view a variety of Objects -- Towns, Fields, Forts, Harbours, Magazines, and especially to converse with Men of all Characters, Professions and Trades' (Memoirs of the Court of Augustus, 1753-63). It is not surprising that these sentiments took up a strain already apparent in 18th century antiquarianism - that of field observation rather than archival research - and went on to develop it during the 19th century into the fully-fledged disciplines of ethnology, anthropology and folklore.

It is these disciplines which, profoundly influenced by a Darwinian vision of cultural development throughout the world, were to lead to grand syntheses in the late 19th and early 20th century such as Sir James Frazer's The Golden Bough (1890, later expanded into 12 volumes, 1907-15), a study of fertility - worldwide in scope - that was nevertheless completed at Frazer's desk rather than in the field. Frazer, born in Glasgow, drew on the findings of British colonial administrators, missionaries, and so on in compiling his analysis of magic in different societies; he saw magic as preceding religion and, in turn, the science, or scientific outlook of Victorian and Edwardian Britain. North East scholars contributed similarly to this formative phase of ethnology: J.F. McLennan (1827-81), born in Inverness, studied the ritual of bride capture and marriage outside the group (coining the terms 'exogamy' and its opposite, 'endogamy'); and William Robertson Smith (1846-94), born at Keig, Aberdeenshire, was the leading authority of his time on Semitic religious ritual and traditions. The British folklorists, meantime, inspired by the work of the Brothers Grimm in Germany, were divided into those who concentrated on amassing data from diverse sources and attempting synthesis, such as the Scot, Andrew Lang (1844-1912), and those who felt that field study and local collecting was fundamental to developing the discipline. Lang's Custom and Myth (1884) and Myth, Ritual and Religion (1887) added important insights to the study of these topics worldwide. 

But such attempts at synthesis were rejected by a circle of anthropologists who, after World War I, were to revolutionize the study of culture by insisting that the laws of cultural development can only be studied in the field: Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1922), a Polish national who later taught at the London School of Economics, along with A.R. Radcliffe-Brown (1881-1955), and E.E. Evans- Pritchard (1902-73) at Oxford. Malinowski - perhaps the best known of the group - echoed the work of the American anthropologist Franz Boas (1858-1942) in insisting that the laws of culture could only be described and analyzed by studying their operation in single, small-scale societies - that is, by means of fieldwork. This led to a reorientation of ethnology and anthropology between the World Wars that was very much predicated upon field research in what would be known today as Third World societies - communities that were remote from 'civilization' and were, in some sense, 'timeless'. Paradoxically, comparison of these societies became problematic as the differences among them were made plain through the rigorous ethnographies which ensued. Thus a comparative synthesis of the kind that Tylor or Frazer had envisaged receded as the details of individual societies came to the fore, and ethnology as a comparative field suffered in consequence. 

The influence and growth of British and American anthropology after World War II somewhat eclipsed its sister disciplines, therefore, although folklorists reasserted themselves in the period 1960-90 by detailed work on oral tradition, in contrast to the topics that engaged anthropologists - mainly kinship and myth. In North America, especially, folkloristic fieldwork began to assess the rich multicultural fabric of society in the United States in the wake of its Bicentennial celebration in 1976. All of this was important to folklorists and ethnologists in Britain. Ethnologists there had already begun to orient themselves towards the newer field of 'European regional ethnology', which grew to some extent from the museum collections of material culture in various European countries. A 'general ethnology' - that is, an ethnology that aims at cross-cultural comparison, its original objective - was still to some extent retained as an umbrella concept, though it became practically synonymous with cultural anthropology in the United States. 'European regional ethnology' on the other hand, recognized the need for research on material culture and oral tradition to grow towards each other if any kind of holistic concept was to be achieved, and this meant, again, a broader conception of field research through teamwork. The development of the tape recorder was to stimulate fieldwork, especially after 1950. 

The folkloristic influence from North America after World War II was patent in the North East fieldwork of Kenneth Goldstein (1927-95), who spent a year in Scotland (1959-60) on a Fulbright Fellowship. Introduced to the region by Hamish Henderson, he focussed on Buchan, using the village of Strichen as his base. Goldstein, seeking to build a methodical basis for folklore study, used his idea of 'induced natural context' in applying psychology in field research. Aware that the contexts of performance were changing, Goldstein sought to recreate to some extent the original flavour of situation for studying oral genres. In his book, A Guide for Fieldworkers in Folklore (1964), Goldstein wrote about riddling, narrative traditions, and most of all, folksongs and singers. It was in the little village of Fetterangus that he recorded Lucy Stewart, for instance, one of the great Traveller singers of the North East; he immortalised her gentle voice on a landmark Folkways LP (FG 3519, 1961) devoted to her singing. Other songs he made known through the Riverside series of ballad and folksong recordings. Goldstein also drew attention to the folk artist William Robbie, who made many hundreds of representations of the great Clydesdale horse of the North East in water-colour or mixed media. Together with the recording forays of Henderson, Goldstein's work in the North East brought its traditional folklore to international attention. 

Hamish Henderson's fieldwork in the North East is better known within Scotland than that of Goldstein, and indeed precedes it. He was singlehandedly responsible for exploring the culture of the Lowland Travellers, living with them in their summer bivouacks and uncovering their amazing oral traditions. His finding, through Traveller contacts in Aberdeen, of the singer Jeannie Robertson in 1953 is well known. He eased both Kenneth Goldstein and Alan Lomax into familiarity with the North East, and brought together the visiting Kentucky folksinger Jean Ritchie and local ballad singers. Henderson's field technique was impressive because he was able to win, most of the time effortlessly, the confidence and trust of tradition-bearers of all sorts, Traveller and non-Traveller alike. As a poet at heart, Henderson sought out and found a treasure trove in the North East: kenspeckle singers such as Jimmy Macbeath, Jeannie Robertson, Jeannie's daughter Lizzie Higgins, Davie Stewart, John Strachan, Lucy Stewart, John MacDonald the mole-catcher, Cameron and Jane Turriff, and lesser-known figures such as James ('Pipie') Robertson, the composer of the celebrated tune 'Farewell to the Creeks' in 1915. Henderson, hearing it played in the piazza of Linguaglossa, Sicily in 1943 by the massed pipe band of the 153 Brigade of the 51st Highland Division, adapted it for his own song, 'Farewell to Sicily', which became popular and appears regularly in the programmes of the folk club circuit. Thus, fieldwork and composition can come together in the course of creative interchange between scholar and tradition-bearer. 

The final word on fieldwork as a humanistic methodology should note the recent effects of reflexive anthropology (and hermeneutic philosophy) on field research: that is, the notion that fieldwork is not simply a matter of 'collecting' data from an 'informant' but of creating a relationship between fieldworker and subject that is, at heart, ethical and presupposes the idea of reciprocity - not just the reciprocity of payment for services rendered, but a true reciprocity of learning through intersubjectivity. This intersubjectivity supposes that the truths of traditional lore are more than just 'facts' to be recorded in an appropriate context. It is a more sophisticated way of conducting 'feedback' through the establishing of relationships that do not filter just one way, from subject to researcher, but which allow intersubjective notions of 'truth' to be negotiated, understood, and thus respected. It is no longer acceptable, in this view, for the fieldworker to pose as the learned scholastic with superior airs, treating the subject loftily and with condescension. Rather, there is the recognition that many truths are embedded in one's perception of tradition; and that the ethnologist's task is to register his or her bias, come to terms with it in the field situation, and learn from the discourse of experience. The 'collecting' of ethnological data, therefore, while valuable and necessary, needs to be qualified by sensitivity to both the notion of exchange (or reciprocity) and to the relationships that are created in the course of a well-thought-out field research programme. 

Further reading (and listening):

  • Back o' Benachie: Songs and Ballads from the Lowland East of Scotland. Notes by Peter Hall (London, 1968)[Topic 12T180]. 
  • Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures (New York, 1973). 
  • Georges, Robert A. and Michael Owen Jones. People Studying People: The Human Element in Fieldwork (London, 1980). 
  • Goldstein, Kenneth S. A Guide for Fieldworkers in Folklore (Hatboro, PA, 1964). 
  • ________. 'William Robbie: Folk Artist of the Buchan District', in Folklore in Action: Essays for Discussion in Honor of MacEdward Leach (Philadelphia, 1962). 
  • Greig, Gavin. Folk-Song in Buchan and Folk-Song of the North-East, ed. Kenneth S. Goldstein and Arthur Argo (Hatboro, 1963). 
  • Jackson, Bruce. Fieldwork (Urbana and Chicago, 1987). 
  • John MacDonald: The Singing Molecatcher of Morayshire. Notes by Hamish Henderson (London, 1975)[Topic 12TS263]. 
  • Porter, James. 'The Turriff Family of Fetterangus: Society, Learning, Creation and Recreation of Traditional Song', Folk Life 16 (1978), 5-26. 
  • Jeannie Robertson: The Great Scots Traditional Ballad Singer (London, 1959)[Topic 12T96]. 
  • Davie Stewart. Notes by Hamish Henderson (London, 1978)[Topic 12T293]. 
  • Lucy Stewart: Traditional Singer from Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Vol. 1: Child Ballads. Edited by Kenneth S. Goldstein (New York, 1961)[Folkways FG 3519]. 
  • Jane Turriff: Singin' Is Ma Life. Edited by Thomas A. McKean (Kingskettle, 1996) [Springthyme SPRCD 1038, SPRC 1038].
Filming and Recording North East Traditions

This section is under construction

The Uses of Folklore: Teaching and Publication of Research

James Porter

For many people the idea of folklore and its study (folkloristics, or ethnology) is marginal to the true business of scholarship, namely the establishing of objective facts and precision of thought. To make this assumption is, however, to misunderstand the nature and purpose of ethnology and the role of folklore and popular culture in the modern world. Ethnology is not history, and folklore is not literature with an oral twist; ethnology is more concerned, certainly, with 'truths' than with 'facts', and folklore has a longer shelf-life than most elite cultural productions. That does not mean that the scholar who analyses and interprets folklore is somehow dealing in imponderables. Folklore and popular culture can be very precise in their identifying and representation of, for example, values in society at a specific point in time - more so, often, than the top-down view of culture that at one time informed British broadcasting, as culture brokers first realised the power of the media to influence and shape popular taste. The business of ethnology is in the analysis and interpretation of popular traditions, wherever they are and whatever condition they happen to be in. Clarifying the nature of these traditions helps us to understand some of the hidden tides of both history and creativity at the popular level.

The boundary between 'folklore' and 'popular culture' is, of course, vague. These concepts have often been distinguished on the basis of dichotomies: rural vs. urban culture, for instance, or 'tradition' vs. 'innovation'. But such distinctions are suspect and do not hold up on scrutiny. All cultural life is susceptible to change and adaptation, and change comes from within as well as from outside. As individuals change, so too do communities, and whole societies however we define them. Studying change at the level of the individual is now accepted as a promising way of understanding how communities themselves change. The culture of the renaissance, the Reformation, the annual cycle or life cycle, the French and Russian Revolutions, the World Wars, the age of technology and its effects - all these are topics which the ethnologist can illumine through the study of popular activities, attitudes, and tastes. Peter Burke has dealt with many of these on a European-wide level in his wide-ranging study, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (1978, 1994) and has drawn attention to the huge effect, for one thing, that folklore had on the Romantic movement in literature and the arts. In Scotland we should not forget that it was the Ossianic poems of James Macpherson (1736-96), born in Kingussie, that excited a whole continent in believing that these epic lays in English translation (1760-63) were the equivalents of a latterday Homeric tradition in the Scottish Highlands. Napoleon and Thomas Jefferson. among others, were both enthralled by the poems, which carried an elegaic as well as an heroic ring to them. They marked effectively, however, the swansong of a noble Gaelic oral tradition in the Highlands, and a concept of the Highlands - and Scotland in general - that was to be exploited even further by Sir Walter Scott and others in romanticising the Jacobite political threat to the British state, which had vanished with the Battle of Culloden in 1746. By the time James Boswell and Sam Johnson made their historic trip to the Hebrides in 1773, the Highlands were 'safe' for viewing by tourists. 

Ethnology, folklore and anthropology all emerged as significant humanistic fields in the mid-19th century, just when the Romantic movement in literature and the arts was gathering steam. Ethnology itself was first named in France in the 1830s and quickly became a field grounded in comparative observation. Galvanised by the poems of Ossian and by Bishop Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765), J.G. von Herder in Germany posited the importance of popular poetry to an awakening national consciousness throughout Europe. He also coined the term 'folksong' (Volkslied). In Scotland, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Jamieson, and William Motherwell sought out singers, folksongs, and in particular ballads - those anonymous creations that seemed to capture, in their concise narrative, the soul of a community. The influence of the Brothers Grimm, who issued their Kinder- und Hausm┼árchen (Children's and Household Tales) in 1812 suggested that the presence of variants of the tales (such as 'The Frog Prince') in other parts of Europe could lead to a reconstruction of the original tale. This historic-geographic suggestion was later to predominate as interest in the roots of the Indo-European languages grew together with the field of comparative philology. The founding of the Folk-Lore Society in London in 1878 saw the vigorous beginning of scholarly interest, but by enthusiasts who were amateur scholars, and the field was not granted institutional status in Britain and Ireland until the 20th century. Meanwhile, the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh and the Country Life Section of that Museum (1959) laid the groundwork for the study of material culture in Scotland. 

Although ethnology was well established as a university subject in Central Europe and Scandinavia, it only arrived as an academic subject in Scotland with the founding of the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh in 1951. The initial research and field collecting at the School was supplemented by postgraduate and then undergraduate teaching from the 1970s. It is now possible at Edinburgh to take a single Honours four-year degree in Scottish Ethnology, as well as postgraduate study. A Chair in Scottish Ethnology was established at Edinburgh in 1992, and another at the University of Aberdeen in 1995. Aberdeen is currently offering a suite of courses that includes Introduction to Ethnology, Research Methods, Oral Tradition, Material Culture, and Custom and Belief. Together, these amount to a minor within the four-year degree. Continuing Education at Aberdeen University is also offering a set of courses in ethnology. Thus the field has established a secure foothold in two of Scotland's universities. For what professional careers can ethnology train its students? 

The answer is: a number of diverse fields, including arts management, heritage conservation, environmental design and management, archiving, museum curatorship, and so on, as well as a professional academic career as a research postgraduate and lecturer. The influence of such graduates in ethnology can increase public awareness of traditional culture - not just as a historical curiosity but as a living and dynamic way of thinking and feeling, within local communities, that is transmitted through the generations by habit and custom rather than formal training. The presence of computer technology makes the task of analysis both easier and more difficult: easier in that large amounts of information can be stored and accessed in data banks, more difficult in that ethnology and its interpretive stance in research depends to a large extent on face-to-face communication and human interaction. Computers can assist greatly in archival work and research data, but need to be complemented by other methods in research and teaching. The distinguishing methodological feature of ethnology, folkloristics, and anthropology is fieldwork: that is, empirical research which is not only observation, but engagement in the lives of the people who contribute so vitally to culture at the popular level. Folklore as definable subject matter has its uses in society, first, as a way of transmitting vital cultural information, and second, as a means of channelling identity formation. For the student of these functions and uses of folklore, there are two fundamental problems: 1. the nature of human communication, and 2. the nature of cultural values, usually with reference to a specific community. Broadly speaking, these are the problems that will continue to engage ethnologists in the Scotland of the next millennium. 

Further reading:

  • Bauman, Richard ed. Folklore, Cultural Performances, and Popular Entertainments: A Communications-Centered Handbook (Oxford, 1992). 
  • Burke, Peter. Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (London, 1978; 1994). 
  • Dorson, Richard ed. Handbook of American Folklore (Bloomington, 1983). 
  • Fenton, Alexander, 'Scottish Ethnology: Crossing the Rubicon: Inaugural Lecture for the Chair of Scottish Ethnology', Scottish Studies 31 (1992-93), 1-8. 
  • Fladmark, J.M. The Wealth of a Nation: Heritage as a Cultural and Competitive Asset (Aberdeen, 1994). 
  • Fladmark, J.M. ed. Heritage: Conservation, Interpretation, Enterprise (Aberdeen, 1993). 
  • _______ ed. Cultural Tourism (Aberdeen, 1994). 
  • _______ ed. Sharing the Earth (Aberdeen, 1995). 
  • Georges, Robert A. and Michael Owen Jones. Folkloristics: An Introduction (Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1995). 
  • Porter, James. 'Aims, Theory and Method in the Ethnology of Northern Scotland', Northern Scotland 18 (1999), 1-25.
A Brief Guide to Resources

Myrtle Anderson-Smith

1.0 Resource Centre

  • 1.1 The Elphinstone Institute in the University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen AB24 3UB tel +44 (0)1224 272996 fax 272728 E-mail: Internet:
  • 1.2 The Special Collections and Archives department, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen AB24 3SW tel +44 (0)1224 272598 fax 273891 E-mail has a large Local Collection covering all aspects of local studies relating to the North East from Nairnshire to Kincardine, including good runs of local literature and local newspapers. There is also printed material in all subjects from the 15th century to the 20th and many collections of estate, family and personal papers. The main library catalogue (or OPAC) enables searching by author, title or keyword. The detailed summary and descriptive lists of the archival collections have been mounted in a single searchable database. 
  • 1.3 The Queen Mother Library, University of Aberdeen, Meston Walk, Aberdeen AB24 3UE tel +44 (0)1224 272579 fax 487048 E-mail Internet holds general current material on ethnological topics, mainly with the social sciences on Floor 1. A large proportion of the 40,000 glass negatives, dating from the 1850s to 1908, preserved in the George Washington Wilson Photographic Archive in the Library, with a computerised database, relates to the North and North East. 
  • 1.4 Marischal Museum, Marischal College, Broad Street, Aberdeen AB10 1YS University of Aberdeen, Marischal College, Broad Street, Aberdeen AB10 1YS tel +44 (0)1224 274301 fax 645519 E-mail offers, with its 'Encyclopaedia of the North East' exhibition, a representative visual overview of virtually all aspects of the local culture, from prehistoric times to the present. The computerised catalogue of the collections (which include some 10,000 local antiquities, traditional artefacts, University treasures, coins and paintings) is being enhanced as part of a project funded by SCRAN (Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network) to include the addition of images. 
  • 1.5 The Centre for Scottish Studies Department of Geography, Elphinstone Road, Aberdeen AB24 3UF 3UF tel +44 (0)1224 272328 fax 272331 E-mail has been fostering interest in local and wider Scottish life since 1966, mainly through research, day conferences, and publications. 
  • 1.6 Aberdeen City Libraries, Central Library, Reference and Local Studies Department, Rosemount Viaduct, Aberdeen AB25 1GW tel +44 (0)1224 652511 fax 624118 E-mail contains a well-established and extensive Local Collection relating to Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Banffshire and Kincardine, with excellent runs of Aberdeen newspapers, including newscuttings. 
  • 1.7 Aberdeen City Archives, Town House Branch, Broad Street, Aberdeen AB10 1AQ tel +44 (0)1224 522513 fax 522491 E-mail Internet is the finest medieval and early modern burgh archive in Scotland, with documents dating from the 12th century. It houses also good holdings of records of the later local authorities, churches, businesses, organisations, families and individuals. These are being progressively entered in a database that can be searched by computer. 
  • 1.8 Aberdeen City Art Galleries and Museums, Schoolhill, Aberdeen AB10 1FQ tel +44 (0)1224 646333 fax +44 63213 display and store a wide range of objects and documentation covering many aspects of local life. The Maritime Museum deals with local people's contact with the sea from earliest times to the latest developments and impact of the oil industry. 
  • 1.9 Aberdeenshire Library and Information Service, The Meadows Industrial Estate, Meldrum Meg Way, Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire AB51 0GN tel +44 (0)1651 871219 fax 872142 combines the stock of the former county libraries of Aberdeen, Banff and Kincardine. There is a comprehensive collection of local studies reference material at the main library in Oldmeldrum, with smaller area- related collections in the local libraries. It holds good runs of local newspapers, and useful files of cuttings and illustrations on specific topics and areas, as well as some archival material. 
  • 1.10 Aberdeenshire Archives [currently administered in Old Aberdeen House by Aberdeen City Archives], Old Aberdeen House, Dunbar Street, Aberdeen AB24 1UE tel +44 (0)1224 481775 E-mail Internet contains educational records for the North East, including school log books, which throw considerable light on local community life and conditions; as well as other records of local government,, business, institutions, societies and families. 
  • 1.11 Aberdeenshire Heritage, Aden Country Park, Mintlaw, Peterhead, Aberdeenshire AB42 5FQ tel +44 (0)1771 622906 fax 622884 operates the museums located throughout Aberdeenshire, the largest being the Arbuthnot Museum in Peterhead. Holdings particularly rich in material relating to agriculture, fishing and shipping comprise museum objects, archival records - literary, personal, educational, business, fishing/shipping/port registers - photographs, prints, slides, film. 
  • 1.12 North East Folklore Archive, Aden Country Park, Mintlaw, Peterhead, Aberdeenshire AB42 5FQ tel +44 (0)1771 623938 fax 623937 E-mail Internet was established in 1997 by Aberdeenshire Council for the preservation and study of North East Scotland's music and song and the customs and spoken history of its people. Based at Aden Country Park, Mintlaw, it is mainly a virtual archive operating through a Web site at URL The present emphasis on farming and fishing communities will be gradually extended. It contains locally produced material in text, image and sound form, and links to sites of interest to its users. 
  • 1.13 Moray Council Local Heritage Services, Grant Lodge, Cooper Park, Elgin, Moray IV30 1HS tel +44 (0)1343 563413 fax 549050 have well established library and archive facilities centralised in the Local Heritage Centre in Elgin, where the highly developed indexes to local studies resources, including newspapers, map references and monumental inscriptions, are found in their computerised LIBINDX. 
  • 1.14 Moray Council Museums Service, Falconer Museum, Tolbooth Street, Forres IV36 0PH tel +44 (0)1309 676688 fax +44 (0)1309 675863 E-mail Internet produces an extensive range of useful Museum Information sheets, available in the network of local museums, covering many aspects of working life on land and on the sea. It has a well developed Website including catalogue search facilities. 
  • 1.15 The School of Scottish Studies, 27-29 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LD tel +044 (0)131 650 4167 fax +044 (0)131 650 4163 E-mail Internet in the University of Edinburgh has been systematically recording folklore and regional ethnology since 1951 in written, sound and visual archives. It publishes the academic journal Scottish Studies, a newsletter The Carrying Stream and, in the magazine Tocher and the cassette and CD series Scottish Tradition, selected contents of the tape archives. Through its PEARL project it is developing Internet access to excerpts taken from the Tocher magazine and other resources. 1.16 The National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, EDINBURGH, EH1 1EW tel +44 (0)131-226 4531 fax +44 (0)131-622 4803 E-mail Internet the most comprehensive collection of written material, including maps, relating to all aspects of Scottish life. Its computerised catalogue, available on the Internet, lists accessions from 1976; older catalogues are being computerised. You may search by name, title and keyword. It produces the Bibliography of Scotland. 
  • 1.17 The National Archives of Scotland (until 1998 the Scottish Record Office) HM General Register House Edinburgh EH1 3YY tel+44 (0)131 535 1314 fax 557 9569 E-mail comprise an exceptionally wide variety of original public and private records, for which helpful guides and resource leaflets are available. More detail is available in Guide to the National Archives of Scotland, edited by Alison Rosie, Stair Society Publications 3, (Edinburgh: Stationery Office, 1996). The National Register of Archives (Scotland) surveys and compiles lists of archival collections held privately in Scotland. The Index of Survey titles may be accessed in local archives offices From January 1999 the NAS is developing the Scottish Archives Network, a 'searchable database of holdings records of collections throughout Scotland and abroad'. 
  • 1.18 The National Museums of Scotland has a Main Library and the Scottish Life Archive based in the Royal Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh tel +44 (0)131-247 4137 fax 4311 E-mail and the Scottish United Services Museum Library at the Castle tel +44 (0)131-225 7534 fax 3848 E-mail Internet are all open to the public by appointment for reference purposes. The Scottish Life Archive, founded in 1959 as the Scottish Ethnological Archive, preserves documentary and illustrative material to support the Museum's social history collections. 
  • 1.19 The European Ethnological Research Centre, c/o National Museums of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF tel +44) (0)131 247 4084, 4085, 4086 is an independent body, set up in 1989 under the directorship of Professor Alexander Fenton, to promote and publish the results of research into the whole framework of Scottish society, considered in a European perspective. It publishes two series, Flashbacks and Sources in Local History, based on oral and manuscript records of personal experiences of people in different localities and walks of life; Occasional Papers and Books; The Compendium of Scottish Ethnology, and the journal Review of Scottish Culture (ROSC), aimed at both the specialist and the general reader. 
  • 1.20 Guides to resource centres
  • 1.20.1 Throughout the area a growing range of local history and heritage societies and centres is actively collecting material. Grampian Information Local Studies and Archives Group is compiling a Directory of Local Studies and Archives Resources Relating to Grampian, making available in one source information about locations and holdings of institutions, societies, groups, businesses, individuals, etc., both locally and further afield. It is intended that the database will be available locally throughout the area and on the Internet; meantime enquiries should be directed to the University of Aberdeen, Department of Special Collections and Archives, [1.2, above]. 
  • 1.20.2 For resource centres in neighbouring areas or national institutions, a useful guide is Exploring Scottish History : a directory of resource centres for Scottish local and national history in Scotland, edited by Michael Cox for the Scottish Local History Forum, (Motherwell: Scottish Library Association, 1992). A new, much enlarged, edition is in preparation. 
  • 1.20.3 For access to information on and lists of holdings specifically of archival and manuscript resources relating to British history, you may log-on to ARCHON, hosted and maintained by the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts.

2.0 Reference books

  • 2.1 The Compendium of Scottish Ethnology is a major current project of the European Ethnological Research Centre planned in 13 volumes. 
  • 2.2. David Moody, Scottish Local History: An Introductory Guide (London: Batsford, 1986). 
  • 2.3 The Concise Scots Dictionary, edited by Mairi Robinson (Aberdeen: Aberdeen UP, 1985) is a one-volume abridgement and updating of A Dictionary of the Old Scottish Tongue [DOST], from the twelfth century to the end of the seventeenth, founded on the collections of Sir William Craigie (Chicago, then Aberdeen: Aberdeen UP, 1931- ), of The Scottish National Dictionary [SND]...containing all the Scottish words known to be in use or to have been in use since c.1700, edited by William Grant and David D. Murison (Edinburgh: Scottish National Dictionary Association, 1931-76), in 10 volumes, and of Scots material in the Oxford English Dictionary for that part of the alphabet not yet reached by DOST. 
  • 2.4 The Scots Thesaurus, edited by Iseabail Macleod (Aberdeen: Aberdeen UP, 1990), based on The Concise Scots Dictionary. 
  • 2.5 Details of reference works, including bibliographies and major periodicals, relating to the wide range of more specific topics encompassed by ethnological studies, may be sought in A. Walford, A Guide to Reference Material, multi- volume, frequently updated.

3.0 Periodicals

  • 3.1 Elphinstone Institute: newsletter of the Institute, 1 (1997- ) for news of research developments, events and publications; also on the Internet at
  • 3.2 Leopard Magazine (Aberdeen), 1974- , monthly, publishes articles on local culture at the popular level. 
  • 3.3 Buchan Field Club, Transactions (Peterhead), 1887-.
  • 3.4 Deeside Field Club, Deeside Field (Aberdeen), 1-8, 1922-38; 2d series 1-6, 1953-70; 3d series 1-2, 1974-78; 16, 1981-.
  • 3.5 Banffshire Field Club, Transactions (Banff), 1880/81-1939. 
  • 3.6 Heirskip (Peterhead, Buchan Heritage Society), 1985- , includes items of interest on music and language. 
  • 3.7 Aberdeen University Review (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Alumnus Association), 1, 1913-. 
  • 3.8 Northern Scotland, a historical journal (Aberdeen: Centre for Scottish Studies), 1-, 1972/73-.
  • 3.9 Scottish Studies: Journal of the School of Scottish Studies (Edinburgh), 1957- , publishes occasional review articles and bibliographies. 
  • 3.10 Tocher (Edinburgh: School of Scottish Studies), 1971- consists mainly of transcriptions of oral material from the sound archive of the School in two issues per year. 
  • 3.11 Review of Scottish Culture [ROSC](Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland), 1984- includes a strong ethnological component. 
  • 3.12 Scots Magazine: a monthly miscellany of Scottish life and letters (Dundee: D.C. Thomson), first published in 1739, has been publishing articles of general cultural interest since 1924. 
  • 3.13 Scottish Historical Review, 1947- , includes an annual bibliography and list of articles in periodicals and books. It succeeds Northern Notes & Queries, then The Scottish Antiquary, 1886-1928. 
  • 3.14 Books in Scotland (Edinburgh: Ramsay Head Press) has since 1978 provided quarterly coverage of recent publications by Scottish writers, books about Scotland and books in general. 
  • 3.15 Scottish Notes and Queries, 1st and 2d series, 1887-1907, Aberdeen Journal Notes and Queries, 1909-15, and Scottish Notes and Queries, 3rd series, 1923-35 are all informative sources. 
  • 3.16 Folklore (London, Folklore Society), 1889- includes Society lectures, research articles, notes and comments, and reviews. 
  • 3.17 Folk Life: A Journal of Ethnological Studies (Cardiff: Society for Folk Life Studies), 1963-.

4.0 Newspapers

  • 4.1 The main daily newspaper serving the North East of Scotland is The Press and Journal (Aberdeen: Aberdeen Journals), 1922- , also now available on the Internet: Its predecessors have a long history from 1748: 
  • 4.1.1 Aberdeen Journal, Dec. 1747/Jan. 1748-1922, weekly, becoming daily in 1876, the Weekly Journal continuing also until 1957. There is a typescript index to 1861, mainly of names, but with some subjects, in 1.2 above. 
  • 4.1.2 Aberdeen Free Press (Aberdeen), 1853-1922, daily. 
  • 4.2 Aberdeen Herald (Aberdeen), 1832-76, weekly. 
  • 4.3 Bon-Accord and Northern Pictorial (Aberdeen), 1926-58, weekly. 

Other old established North-East newspapers include: 

  • 4.4 Banffshire Journal (Banff), 1845- , weekly. 
  • 4.5 Buchan Observer (Peterhead), 1863- , weekly. 
  • 4.6 Huntly Express (Huntly), 1863-.
  • 4.7 Kincardineshire Observer (Laurencekirk), 1907- , weekly, a continuation of Laurencekirk Observer, 1902-7. 
  • 4.8 Northern Scot (Elgin), 1897- , weekly, also on the Internet at: and its predecessor, Moray and Nairn Express, 1880-97. 
  • 4.9 People's Journal, Aberdeen City ed. (Dundee), 1913-68, in continuation of Aberdeen People's Journal. 
  • 4.10 People's Journal, Aberdeen, Banff and Kincardine ed. (Dundee), 1913- , weekly. Runs of varying length of all of these works are held in 1.2 above and/or local libraries, where files of newscuttings act as useful partial indexes. Microfilming projects have made the runs more widely available. The need for complete indexing may yet be met through digitising projects. Current and back issues are` excellent sources of relevant news items, articles and series. 
  • 4.11 NEWSPLAN: Report of the NEWSPLAN Project in Scotland September 1994 (Edinburgh: SLIC, 1994) contains the fullest available publication and location details of all Scottish newspapers.

5.0 Bibliographies

  • 5.1 Bibliography of Scotland [BOS], compiled in the National Library of Scotland, is the most comprehensive and useful general source of relevant references to current and recent publications, including books, articles from periodicals and books, and other media. The database, indexing publications since 1988, is accessible on-line Mon-Fri 8.30-20.30 (UK time) at Work is progressing on converting records from the 1976 to 1987 printed annual volumes. The database is also available as a CD-ROM updated annually. 

Judicious use of the search facilities by author, keyword, and subject, including topographical subject headings, should reveal most significant items in any field. There is a separate database of the List of Journals Indexed. 

The 1976-87 annual volumes contain a List of Journals indexed, a Topographical section, a Subject section, a Name index, and a List of publishers. Publication of the Bibliography for Scottish Ethnology is now nearing completion in the European Ethnological Research Centre; older bibliographies in this subject area retain their value. Still in daily use is 

  • 5.2 J. F. Kellas Johnstone, A Concise Bibliography of the History, Topography, and Institutions of the Shires of Aberdeen, Banff, and Kincardine, Aberdeen University Studies, 66 (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University, 1914), with an index of names and places. 

BOS continues the work of Arthur Mitchell, C G Cash and P D Hancock: 

  • 5.3 Arthur Mitchell and C. G. Cash, A Contribution to the Bibliography of Scottish Topography, Scottish Historical Society Publications, Series 2, 14-15, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh U P, 1917). 2 vols. References are arranged in volume 1 by place, in volume 2 and the supplement by subject. 
  • 5.4 P. D Hancock, A Bibliography of Works Relating to Scotland 1916-1950 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1959-60). This is compiled from secondary sources, including a limited range of journal articles, and excluding literary works. Part 1 is arranged by County, subdivided by relevant subject headings and places; Part 2 by subject. 

More comprehensive coverage of popular and academic periodicals and newspapers will be found in the

  • 5.5 Subject Index to Periodicals, (London: Library Association), 1915-61, and its successors
  • 5.6 British Humanities Index, (London: Library Association), 1962- 92. 
  • 5.7 British Humanities Index (Plus), (London: Bowker-Saur), 1985- , on CD- ROM. 
  • 5.8 The annual International Folklore Bibliography, edited by Rainer Alsheimer in the University of Bremen, records publications on research methods and results in other countries. It was published as Die Internationale Volkskundliche Bibliographie (IVB) for the year 1917-1983/84, 1919-1988; now as the International Folklore Bibliography (IFB) for 1985/86- , 1991- . [For the year 1995 published in 1998, it lists 7,244 titles.]

6.0 National Databases

  • 6.1 BOS See above 5.1 Bibliographies. URL:
  • 6.2 SCRAN (see 1.4 above) Abden House, 1 Marchhall Crescent, Prestonfield, Edinburgh, EH16 5HW tel +44 (0)131 662 1211 fax +44 (0)131 662 1511 E-mail is a Millennium Project and part of the National Grid for Learning. It is making available a growing fully searchable resource base in text, image and sound of items that are of cultural significance from and relating to all areas of Scotland.
  • 6.3 ARCHON See above 1.20.3, Guides to Resource Centres
    6.4 National Register of Archives (Scotland). See 1.20, Resource Centres. The index of survey titles of privately held archives is available on paper and as a computer searchable disk in local archives offices. 
  • 6.5 National Register of Archives lists covering the whole of the United Kingdom may be searched on-line at

7.0 Internet Sites to Watch

8.0 Overview articles that indicate the state of ethnological studies in Scotland in the 1990s

  • 8.1 Cheape, Hugh. 'Ethnographical studies in Scotland and beyond', British and Bulgarian Ethnography, edited by Elizabeth I. Kwasnik (Liverpool, 1992), 18-23. 
  • 8.2 Fenton, Alexander. 'Scottish ethnology : crossing the Rubicon', Scottish Studies, 31 (1992-93), 1-8. 
  • 8.3 Fenton, Alexander. 'Folklore and ethnology : past, present and future in British universities', Folklore, 104 (1993), 4-12. 
  • 8.4 Olson, Ian . 'Ethnology in the North-East', Aberdeen University Review, 56 (1995), 43-57.
  • 8.5 Porter, James. 'The Folklore of Northern Scotland: Five Discourses on Cultural Representation' [Sixteenth Katherine Briggs Memorial Lecture, November 1997], Folklore 109 (1998), 1-14
  • 8.6 Porter, James ed. Northern Scotland, vol. 19 [Special Ethnological Issue], April 1999. 
  • 8.7 Porter, James ed. Journal of American Folklore, vol. 112 [Special issue on James 'Ossian' Macpherson], forthcoming, 1999.