This is the blog for the study being conducted by the European Ethnological Research Centre in partnership with the people of Dumfries and Galloway. Find our website at www.dumfriesandgalloway.hss.ed.ac.uk.
Monday, 16 October 2017
As part of the
EERC’s partnership with D&G Libraries and Archives, the EERC has
contributed to the Let’s Talk Project run by Alison Burgess at the Ewart
Library, Dumfries. This project gathers together photographs, objects and sound
clips in 20 themed packs which are used by community groups across the region
in reminiscence sessions.This
imaginative use of 200 clips from the over 350 interviews form the Dumfries and
Galloway: A Regional Ethnology Study meets one of the main aims of the project
– to give back to the people of D&G their own material.It is great to know that the work of the EERC
is now being used to allow the people of D&G to talk freely and openly
about their lives.It is also gratifying
to know that those who make use of D&G Libraries and Archives ‘Let’s Talk’
project get an immense amount of enjoyment and fun out of it all.
The huge task of
selecting appropriate sound clips fell to our transcriber, Sheila Findlay, and
here she writes about her experiences and shares with us transcriptions from
some of the material she chose.
I believe that the
oral histories should be made available to a wide audience so this initiative
really appealed to me.To use excerpts
from the fieldwork recordings in this way seemed a great way to enable a wide
range of listeners to hear the material and by doing so generating engagement
After agreeing to take up the challenge I was duly given access to approximately
300 sound files, some of which had been transcribed and many which hadn’t. I was also supplied with a list of topics and given
advice about the length of the extracts to choose.Where possible, the final selection was to
reflect the various accents heard in the region and include the memories of
both men and women.
I was to select ten extracts for each of these chosen topics: Clothes,
Clothing and Textiles; Dumfries and Galloway; Education and schools; Fairs and
Customs; Family Life; Food and Drink; Hotels and Hospitality; Industry; Men; My
Community; Occupations; Shops and Businesses; Sport, Leisure and Tourism;
Women; World War One and World War Two.
Where to begin and how to go about the task?The thought of listening to all the material
from beginning to end was daunting and wouldn’t have been best use of the time
I had been allocated for the task. Searching the transcriptions was one way of
quickly assessing the suitability of the content and a plan was needed.Where no transcription was available I
developed the skill of listening to the audio files speeded up.I created folders for each topic with one
file for the extracts and another for the timing data.Each time I found a suitable piece I popped
it into the relevant file.However, often
the chosen extract fitted neatly into more than one category, such as in this
recollection of the Land Army uniform recalled by May Taylor:
MT:Well the very first thing we had to do, when we arrived at the farm, of
course, our uniforms were there and the excitement of getting into uniform, you
know, so we both got dressed up in wir Land Army uniform and we thought we were
toffs [laughter].Not what other people
thought but we thought we were toffs.
KR:And can you describe the uniform?
MT:We had a great-coat which was a three-quarter coat and breeches, a hat,
a green jumper, we had brogue shoes, heavy stockings that we pulled up, like
knee length stockings.What else did we
have?Of course we were supplied with
the overalls, overcoats, all that was necessary really.
KR:Did you have Wellingtons?
MT:Wellington boots, yea, wellington boots which we used when we were going
into the byres.
Where should it
go, Women, World War Two or Clothing and Textiles?I put in ‘Clothing and Textiles’ but would
you have?As the work progressed
extracts were often shunted from one file to another as I reconsidered where
they would most suitably fit.
I was concerned that when I had located a suitable quote that removing it
from its context might weaken its relevance.Gladly, in most instances, the opposite was the result.By taking away the geographic and personal
detail the information became more general.For example, when Heather Miller from Kirkcudbright was asked by Tanya
Gardener if she could remember Cooper’s shop she said:
‘Yes, aye, it smelt lovely of coffee when
you went in, it was aw the coffee beans, they used to grind them in the shop.’
memory of the grocers’ shops in my own home town, many miles from Dumfries and
Galloway, making me think back to those days of the big steel coffee grinder on
the counter, beside the bacon slicer and the cheese wire, long before
supermarkets came along to change the shopping experience.I knew that this had to be used and popped it
in the Shops and Businesses file.
I’ve already mentioned that I’d been asked to use the regional accents
from the area and this was mentioned when Mark Mulhern interviewed Kenneth
KB:The Stranraer folk are different from us,
they talk different [laughter].Call
them Galloway Irish.
MM:Well, the accent is very different.
KB:The accent’s different, aye it is.It is quite a nice accent, actually, there’s
nothing wrong with their accent.They
just talk different from us.
MM:Then, if you go over to Langholm there, the
accent’s different there, again.
KB:Different again, Annan’s the same.
KB:Annan, they have a kinna funny way of talking
in Annan too.And it’s not far from us
[laughter].That’s just common all over,
MM:Aye, yes indeed.
So, here was a perfect extract
to use in the Dumfries and Galloway topic, and I must admit that by the time I
finished this task I was very aware of the differing regional accents, and yes,
I could detect a touch of the Ulster in the Stranraer accents.
Working my way through the files I occasionally came across wee
stand-alone gems that didn’t fit neatly into any of the listed categories so
another category, Miscellany, was added.One example from this selection harked back to the days of food
rationing during and after World War Two when there was a Government initiative
to encourage the public to collect rosehips which were then sent away and
processed to extract the vitamin C content.Isobel Gow from Lochmaben recalled taking part in this:
PG:Did you have to collect anything for school days or-?
IG:Yes, well the wild flowers was one thing, the other thing were
rosehips.We got a wee card an we’d take
in so many pounds of rosehips and it would be noted in the card an ye got some
money, ah can’t remember how much it was.An ah remember complainin tae ma other that it was only me collectin it
an the Gibson boys all got loads because there was loads o them to pick the
rosehips.An ah remember them getting
weighed and Miss Dunbar was the secretary, she stamped the card or wrote on the
card, and ah think you maybe got a badge when you got so many pounds but ah
never got enough to get the badge.
Most of the recollections of childhood memories were covered by the
Family Life and the School and Education topics so it was interesting to hear how
children spent time out of doors, away from the watchful eyes of adults, and another
section, Child’s Play, was subsequently added to the topics.There is a huge contrast between these
memories and how youngsters spend their time today.No digital devices or computers to play games
on, no social media to use to communicate with friends.Instead they seemed to be free to roam the
countryside, guddle for fish, ferret for rabbits, enjoy nature and landscape in
all its glory while learning life skills such as risk assessment and
self-reliance.For those living in towns
it was safe to play out in the street enjoying games of peevers and marbles
with their friends without constant road traffic interrupting their fun.
I came across so much of
interest while I was going through the interviews, making my selections.I found the next two related items very
powerful and thought-provoking.First is
Margaret Livingstone-Bussell, from a military family, who was interviewed by
Mike Duguid recalled the start of World War Two:
ML-B:From there, one day we were crouched round
our wireless set listening to the old King talking and we’d had the Abdication
and we were anxious about him because he had this terrible stammer and he
started to quote ‘I said to the man that stood at the gate of the year’ he
paused, there was a terrible pause, and we held our breath that he would go on,
and he managed and after that I walked round the corner and joined up in the
ATS [Auxiliary Territorial Service], enlisted myself, I was seventeen and three
MD:So, what did your parents think about you
ML-B:Oh, thrilled to bits.I was a soldier’s daughter and that was where
I ought to be, serving my country.
I’m sure that King
George VI’s speech will be familiar to many of us, as it has been heard time
and time again over the years in different media, but here was someone who
actually heard it on the day and clearly remembered the occasion.This, I had to use.
Alan Faulds, from
Isle of Whithorn, also recalled the early days of World War Two as he told
AF:Ah went to school at five, the year war broke out, an the first thing ah
can remember about the War was the old lady along the road when ah was comin
home for ma lunch, ah was to tell ma father that France had capitulated an ah
didnae really know what that meant but ah went in and told them, they were
sittin havin their lunch an they were very, he was very down in the mouth
cause, ah mean, ah think he thought the Germans would be here the next week,
reactions of the Mrs Livingstone-Bussell, a teenager ready to join up and do
her duty for her country with the recollection of the elderly lady who had
presumably lived through World War One and was anxious to pass on the latest
news to Alan’s father (and then his own despondent reaction) reflect the impact
of the War on different generations.
Moving on to happier subjects, here’s an extract from the Child’s Play
file in which Ronnie Waugh, brought up in Throughgate, is talking to Margaret
mean ah had the most happy childhood and we never had the facilities like kids
have got now, ah mean we had literally nothing, one or two toys, mostly what
the Germans had made us, but we had very little, but the whole countryside was
our playground.We didn’t want anything
else we were happy, we had never known anything better so we never missed
things and the countryside, was our playground, you know what ah mean, we
would, in the good weather we were literally away from morning till night.
MS:So, what kind of things did you do?
RW:Well, I will get round to the mischief an the stuff but, generally
speaking, when we went away for a day we weren’t getting up, we just loved
roamin the hills, goin intae the woods an we lived off the countryside, we
would eat all the wild berries, the raspberries, there was one, there was a
patch o strawberries at one place.You
would have your hazelnuts, your gooseberries, and the odd wee turnip that ye
would pinch out o a field somewhere.And
most wee boys would have a pocket knife then and we would skin the turnip an
eat it, you know.How we never ended up
wi serious stomach aches, but we never did, but we always had a, most boys had
a penknife and there was an old man lived just up the road from me, a right old
worthy, and he always used to say ‘Boy, if ye’ve got a penknife, a piece of
string and a penny in your pocket, ye’ll never go wrong.’That was what he used to tell us.So we would start walking around wi a
penknife and a penny but we never had a penny, we might have a farthing, which
is a thing of the past as well.But the
whole countryside was a playground and we would literally roam from morning tae
night and sometimes we might have a biscuit or something in oor pocket but
normally we jist lived off the country and then of course you’d go home at
night, you’d be dead tired, ye’d be filthy dirty and, back in these days, you
couldnae go home and get intae a nice hot bath or a shower, didn’t exist.
By the time I had completed the task I had chosen extracts across the eighteen
topics and felt that I had a good knowledge of Dumfries and Galloway.This was confirmed during a recent holiday in
the region when place names on road signs were all familiar to me and
information and anecdotes that I had listed to came to mind.The Let’s Talk material contains a wealth of
information which is likely to tug at the memories of those who use it and I’m
glad to have been involved in a project which enables us to shares some of the
material which has been gathered during the EERC D&G Study.