A things (may) Come tae an End – –

Jack gets to do the Monday book and his usual Wednesday guest post while Wendy’s at a conference –

Two things are sadly coming to an end –

  1. After nearly fifteen years our annual small group tours of Scotland and Ireland are coming to a finish. The last one, of the highlands and islands should have taken place in 2020 but Covid got in the way. In addition, my friend, co-host and driver Colin died suddenly and unexpectedly. The pressures of organizing the tours had also already begun to take its toll on me so it was time.

But we have many great memories and have made many friends along the way.

  • When Wendy came to Scotland and we married, one of the friends she inherited was Pete Heywood, who had started a very high quality folk music magazine called The Living Tradition. It has been going for over thirty years and is recognized as one of the best covering the traditional music of the British Isles. Wendy helped Pete with grant applications and for a few years was the education editor for the magazine. More recently Pete’s daughter Fiona took over control and we started writing a regular series of articles called Transatlantic Connections. That’s been great fun. But this morning I received an email telling me that the next edition will be the last one. The pressures of producing and publishing a print magazine are enormous compared to organizing a tour!

As I was writing this my phone rang and it seems that my radio show may be picked up by other stations – there’s always light at the end of the tunnel!

The Monday Book – The People’s Past

Monday book review by Jack Beck – –

The People’s Past (Edward J. Cowan 1980)

I recently reviewed ‘The Folk River’ by Fraser Bruce which describes the Scottish folksong club scene of the 1950s and 60s very accurately. So I thought it would be useful for me to re-visit a book I was given as a present by a friend when it was first published in 1980. Cowan’s book is actually a collection of papers presented at a series of lunch time seminars during the then recent Edinburgh Folk Festival. The idea was to completely turn the usual ‘fringe’ on its head and have a fairly academic event to the side of the much more populist and folk entertainment style main festival.

What’s really interesting is that most of the contributors are specialists in fields not associated with folk arts but have a personal interest in them. There are experts in art history, Scottish history, bagpipe history, and literature. In addition there are a few actual folklore scholars such as Norman Buchan and Hamish Henderson.

If you think it might be a bit dry you’d be wrong. It’s actually very readable and I suspect the various chapters may have been adapted from the original papers by the authors for that very reason.

Hamish Henderson described the vehicle by which folksongs and ballads were carried down the centuries and between different cultures as ‘the carrying stream’ with eddies, boulders and banks, and he appropriately has three different chapters in the book to expand on that.

For anyone interested in how Scottish folk culture unusually intertwined with the more ‘upper class’ or even ‘dumbed down’ strands of the nation’s arts, compared to other European nations, I can thoroughly recommend this book.