Tania Gardner from Kirkcudbright reflects on her experience of conducting fieldwork:
‘I have interviewed ten people in Kirkcudbright since the beginning of this project. I am always extremely nervous before the interview, despite being well prepared with the protocol and the outline of questions I wish to ask. I have had to reassure and bolster the confidence of each of them as they are anxious and uncertain of what I could possibly want to know of their life which is of any importance. Once the interview is underway I have found that we relax and enjoy the opportunity to “remember “.
‘Each and every interviewee has said at the end that they have really enjoyed sharing their memories and that other memories have been sparked during the conversation. I have been so privileged to hear the stories and to have been trusted with their memories. I hope I help them to realise the importance of keeping the next generation informed of their local history through the actual voices of the older generation. I certainly have learnt a great deal about “my town” from all of these generous people.’
After the Winter holiday break new activity began in January with a presentation of some of our findings to the Collin Social Club on Tuesday 21 January 2014.
At a well attended meeting, we outlined the aims and objectives of our Study and demonstrated the range of material being generated by playing some clips form interviews conducted. This was an enjoyable occasion as the audience members made interesting comments about the clips played and provided information which added to the material already collected. In fact, such was the level of interest that a number of people agreed to provide interviews and a new volunteer fieldworker was recruited.
This direct community engagement was productive for the Study and for the people of Collin. We intend to repeat this exercise across Dumfries and Galloway as the Study continues.
Members of the Study Team have been out talking about the work undertaken and the oral material gathered thus far.
On 13 November we spoke to the Kirkcudbright History Society followed a week later on 21 November with a talk to the Wigtownshire Antiquarian and Natural History Society. In these well-attended talks an outline of the 136 interviews conducted to date was given. Some of the themes to emerge in these interviews were highlighted and exemplified with a selection of audio clips being played.
Those who came along to the talks were encouraged to participate in the Study and further such talks will be given through the life of the Study.
Our oral pop-up event held in the former Baker’s Dozen shop at Midsteeple, Dumfries was a great success. Through the course of the day we had many visitors to our small exhibition about the town and about our Study.
On Thursday 14th November, between the hours of 10am and 3pm, we will be trying something new. We will be running a pop-up event in a shop at Mid-Steeple, Dumfries.
We have mounted a small photographic exhibition and will be on-hand to tell interested folk about our Study and to encourage them to participate. Please feel free to come along and meet members of the Study team.
Having now posted clips from 30 interviews on our Study website, it is timely to pause to reflect. What do these clips tell us about life and society across Dumfries and Galloway?
Before doing so, it is first useful to outline the extent of interview activity undertaken. There are now 25 volunteers who have conducted, and are conducting, oral fieldwork as part of the Study. These fieldworkers have interviewed a total of 88 individuals. In addition, the Stranraer and District Local History Trust have kindly shared 33 interviews which they have conducted in and around Stranraer over the past 10 years or so.
The interview clips which are on the website therefore represent c. 25% of the number of interviews conducted thus far. Seventeen men and 15 women are heard on the clips, ranging in age from 21-94 years. Each clip is approximately 2 minutes in length and is drawn from interviews which, on average, run for 50 minutes.
John Armstrong has worked as a herd on the hills near Langholm for 46 years. Part of his wage for this work is the use of a peat hag on Middlemoss which lies to the east of Langholm on the road to Newcastleton.
In May 2012 John spoke to Mairi Telford Jammeh about his work as a herd and about peat cutting and gathering. Here a brief account is given drawing on John’s words which can be heard at our Study website.
John Armstrong standing on Middlemoss with spade.
The Sources in Local History series was created by Professor Alexander Fenton, former head of the School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh, and founding director of the European Ethnological Research Centre. His aim was to publish and promote research into the diaries, account books, letters, journals and other ‘ego-documents’ of individuals from all walks of life, but in particular ‘those holding lowlier positions in the world – in other words, the great majority’. Six volumes were published between 1994 and 1997 making available a range of original documents from the diary of an Orkney farmer, 1766-76, to that of a Dundee millwright, 1864-65.
Such documents are a rich source of information for local historians and ethnologists – they not only allow the voice of the private individual to be heard, but also offer information about everyday life not often found in other historical records.
A clip from an interview of Irene Brown, who worked as a milk tester for the Scottish Milk Records Association in the 1950s, has been added to the Study website.
Milk Testers travelled from farm to farm across a district to, amongst other things, analyse the milk for butter-fat content and measure the volume of milk produced. This was important work as it enabled farmers to monitor production and helped to increase yield.
Further interview clips will be added to the website on a regular basis. We shall let you know via this blog and our Twitter feed when new material has been published.
Our new Study website has now been published. We will be regularly adding further material drawn from fieldwork to the site.
We will be regularly adding further material drawn from fieldwork to the site. Currently we have examples drawn from that fieldwork which give an insight into our activities and which show what we are uncovering about life and society across Dumfries and Galloway.
We would encourage you to have a look at the site and to get in touch with any comments you may have on its structure or content.