Dr Thomas McKean

Dr Thomas McKean
Dr Thomas McKean

Dr Thomas McKean

PhD, University of Edinburgh (1993); AB, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH (1983)



The Elphinstone Institute MacRobert Building King's College Aberdeen AB24 5UA


I am a folklorist specializing in Scots and Gaelic song, along with custom and belief, community craft traditions and their relevance in today's world, and fieldwork methodology. Of particular interest is the relationship of traditional practices to the individual, the role of creativity in tradition, and how traditional skills can help build individual and community resilience in challenging times.

As part of the James Madison Carpenter Project team, I have been working with cylinder and disc recordings of North-East singers made between 1929 and 1935, leading towards publication of a critical edition of the collection. The project has been funded by the British Academy and the National Endowment for the Humanities under the auspices of the American Folklore Society, and in association with the Library of Congress, Washington, DC (www.abdn.ac.uk/elphinstone/carpenter).

Ongoing research with boatbuilding traditions looks at the idea of 'knowing by doing': how people young and old learn embodied craft skills by imitation, proximity, and osmosis, and how these skills enhance people's cultural confidence and self esteem.

My postgraduate teaching includes Custom and Belief, Scots and Gaelic Song, along with Fieldwork and Archiving methodology. I have organized a number of conferences, including the 1999 and 2007 Kommission für Volksdichtung ballad conference.

In 1993, I established the North East Folklore Archive at Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire as part of my work as Traditional Music Resident for Banff and Buchan District Council (now Aberdeeenshire), 1993-1996. The archive has continued to develop under the direction of Gavin Sutherland and much of my fieldwork material is now available on the web at the Banff and Buchan Collection.


Current Research

Current research includes:

  • Scotland's fire festivals, particularly the burning of the Clavie in Burghead, Moray;
  • Creativity within traditional forms
  • Craft traditions and knowing by doing
  • New England vernacular architecture;
  • The effects of field collection in the North-East;
  • Macaronic song traditions;
  • The relationship of memory and song in west coast Gaelic communities.

Page 3 of 4 Results 21 to 30 of 40

  • Stewardship and Evolving Fidelity in a Scottish Fire Festival

    McKean, T.
    Traditiones, vol. 41, no. 1, pp. 23-36
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Review of Tales from Highland Perthshire Collected by Lady Evelyn Stewart Murray.

    McKean, T.
    Other Contributions: Other Contributions
  • The Dialect Conundrum in Transcribing Early Sound Recordings

    McKean, T.
    Vom Wunderhorn zum Internet. John, E., Widmaier, T. (eds.). WVT, pp. 209-224, 16 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters (Peer-Reviewed)
  • Le souvenir des cultures disparues dans l’Écosse gaélique: tradition orale, James Macpherson et la nature de la mémoire

    McKean, T.
    Mémoire, oralité, culture dans les pays celtiques. Rio, J., Chappe, F., Postic, F. (eds.). Presses universitaires de Rennes, pp. 147-165, 19 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters (Peer-Reviewed)
  • David Atkinson, The English Traditional Ballad: Theory, Method, and Practice

    McKean, T.
    Estudos de Literatura Oral, vol. 13-14, pp. 349-351
    Contributions to Journals: Reviews of Books, Films and Articles
  • Gettin the Wey o a Sang: Creativity in Ballad Singing

    McKean, T.
    Emily Lyle. Fischer, F., Rieuwerts, S. (eds.). WVT, pp. 154-168, 15 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Tradition and Modernity: Gaelic Bards in the Twentieth Century

    McKean, T.
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Entries for Encyclopedias and Dictionaries
  • The Stewarts of Fetterangus and Literate Oral Tradition

    McKean, T.
    The Singer and the Scribe: European Ballad Traditions and European Ballad Cultures, pp. 181-207, 26 pages
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
  • Introduction: The Flowering Thorn, International Ballad Studies

    McKean, T. A.
    Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Forewords and Postscripts
  • The Flowering Thorn: International Ballad Studies

    McKean, T.
    Utah State University Press, Logan. 394 pages
    Books and Reports: Books
Show 10 | 25 | 50 | 100 results per page


Books and Reports

Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings

Contributions to Conferences

Contributions to Journals

Contributions to Specialist Publications

Other Contributions