How Time Flies

It’s difficult to believe that we are coming to the end of our initial 4-year study period in fair Dumfries and Galloway.  We’ll be continuing to support initiatives, such as fieldwork collecting, as well as individual projects, for example our collaboration with Moat Brae, for some time to come.  And our super colleague, Alison Burgess, will co-ordinate and facilitate ongoing activities so we’re looking forward to seeing how this Study will continue and develop into the future.  We are all excited to see, for example, how the fieldwork recordings might be used by school groups, researchers, artists, community groups and individuals to explore our shared history and also, perhaps, inspire new work.

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Fieldwork in Stranraer

Enjoyable and satisfying as it is, the process of editing a book is often quite a lonely task. 

Not so a few weeks ago, when an expedition to Stranraer in pursuit of background information for one of the planned Dumfries and Galloway Flashback publications, provided a hugely enjoyable, laughter-filled interruption to my usual solitary endeavours.

The Flashback I’m working on is based on the 40+ oral history recordings made by the Stranraer and District Local History Trust since January 1999.  The task of deciding what to include in my selection (or rather, what I have no choice but to leave out) has been challenging.  The interviews are packed full of significant material covering a wide range of themes across both rural and town life in the Stranraer area.  As my work progressed and the Introduction for the book began to take shape, I realised that I had a long (and growing) list of questions to ask those who’d been involved with this aspect of the Trust’s work.  After a chat with Mark Mulhern (Flashbacks general editor) we concluded that a fieldtrip to interview the collectors was needed and the Stranraer trip arranged.

Eric Wilson, Nancy McLucas, Christine Wilson and Caroline Milligan.

Left to right: Eric Wilson, Nancy McLucas, Christine Wilson and Caroline Milligan.

We set off to Stranraer in high spirits.  We would be meeting up with Christine Wilson, her husband, Eric, and Nancy MacLucas that afternoon, and we had a further meeting planned, with Donnie Nelson, for the following morning.  Continue reading

Fieldworker View

Tania Gardner

Tania Gardner

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.’

Tania Gardner,

Collin Calling!

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.

To Kirkcudbright and Stranraer and Back Again!

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.

Innovation & Experimentation

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.

Reflecting and Looking Ahead

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.

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Peat Cutting on Middlemoss, near Langholm.

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.

John Armstrong standing on Middlemoss with spade.

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