University joins national partnership to celebrate 250th anniversary of Walter Scott

University joins national partnership to celebrate 250th anniversary of Walter Scott

The University of Aberdeen will join global celebrations to commemorate the birth of one of Scotland's most celebrated authors.

An exhibition and range of events are planned to mark 250 years since the birth of Sir Walter Scott. Credited with popularising tartan, saving the Scottish banknote, and rediscovering the nation’s Crown Jewels, his string of best-selling books dominated the 19th century, changing how the world saw Scotland and Scotland saw itself.

The University of Aberdeen has a long association with the author – it is home to a Centre dedicated to the study of his work, is the custodian of an important collection of editions of Scott’s works and adaptations, and produced a popular free online course examining the life, work and legacy of the famous literary figure.

Professor Alison Lumsden, Regius Chair of English, has helped lead work to create the Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels - a complete, critically edited edition of all the works as Scott originally wrote them, revealing what he intended his public to read. She is now coordinating the development of the Edinburgh Edition of Walter Scott’s Poetry, a ten-volume edition of his poems.

Through this work Professor Lumsden has acquired unparalleled knowledge of Scott and his creative practices and developed expertise in reading his handwriting.

She will lead the University programme for the Scott250 celebrations as part of a national partnership of key organisations committed to demonstrating the continuing relevance of his life and works, which launches on March 20.  

She said: “Scott has often been given a bad press for producing a redundant image of Scotland that is based on tartan, stags and romantic Highland scenery but this is far from the full picture.

“The more we read his work and talk about it to those outside Scotland the more we recognise its complexity and the Scott250 celebrations are an important way to revisit his significance beyond Scotland.

“His work endures in the modern age because he realised that you don’t have to write about the moment you’re living in to write about the issues that are relevant to your own time. Scott was interested in hearing the lost voices and songs of the past, preserving languages and folk customs and in giving voice to those who were dispossessed in society. That is why his work is as significant today as it was when it was first published.”

The new 10 volume edition of Scott’s poetry being produced at Aberdeen will underpin an exhibition on Scott and Song and a number of related musical events.

“The love of landscape expressed in his work and the benefits he saw in it for mental health will be celebrated with a number of events encouraging participants to walk with Scott and experience the restorative power of nature through his eyes,” Professor Lumsden added.

“Scott was deeply receptive to the stories and experiences of other cultures and times, so much so that he collected artefacts and studied materials from across the world. He was able to appreciate the bigger picture of the human story in unique and refreshing ways.

“He was a historical writer who looked toward the future with his eyes wide open, embracing progress whilst fiercely protective of the social values he felt were under threat. In an uncertain world, his perspective and insight has never had so much to offer us.”

The University’s exhibition Scott and Song will launch on August 13 so that it is live in time for the 250th anniversary of his birthday two days later.

It will focus on the University of Aberdeen’s Walter Scott collections alongside musical recordings that explore Aberdeen’s connection to the folklore of the Border Ballads, how Scottish legend was transformed into Italian opera, and the meanings contained in well-loved songs such as ‘Bonnie Dundee’.

For further details of University of Aberdeen programme visit www.abdn.ac.uk/sll/research/walter-scott-research-centre/scott-250. The national programme is available at https://walterscott250.com/