Issued by: Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches
Leugh sa Ghàidhlig
More than 15,000 recordings from Scotland’s past will officially “go live” with the launch today (Thursday 9 December) of an online oral archive. http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/
The recordings, from all parts of the country and some dating back more than eight decades, are drawn from the archives of the School of Scottish Studies, the BBC and the Canna Collection. Over the past five years staff from the project Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches have digitised and catalogued material from Shetland to the Borders and Aberdeen to the Western Isles. Some of the recordings go back to the 1930s and were recorded on wax cylinders or wire and many of the stories and songs are centuries old. Digitisation of these recordings means that this vital part of Scotland's culture is preserved for future generations and the website will open the vast treasury of Scotland's oral heritage to the world at large for the first time.
Project Chair and musician Donnie Munro says the new website will open up Scotland’s past as never before:
“This is the most ambitious cultural digital heritage project anywhere in Europe if not the world. A visit to the website will be like talking to those who walked, talked, lived and worked decades ago. You will hear the real voices of mill workers, fishermen, crofters, Travellers and farm workers talking in their own language, be that Gaelic, Doric, Scots or the rich dialect of the Northern Isles. Renowned Scots and Gaelic singers and musicians feature on the website including Jeannie Robertson, Willie Scott, Lucy Stewart, Flora MacNeil and Joan MacKenzie. Well-known performers such as Barbara Dickson, Dick Gaughan, Archie Fisher and Norman Maclean can also be found. And the 15,000 tracks now available is just the beginning. In total 11,500 hours have been digitised, so the voices of the past will just keep arriving on your desktop. Through my involvement with the project it has become clear to me that the technical expertise, human resources and operational capacity which this project has created must be retained in the future in order to maximise the use of this precious digital archive.”
The website will be formally launched by the Minister for Culture Fiona Hyslop MSP at an event at Edinburgh University at 1800 on Thursday 9 December. Ms Hyslop said:
"Our linguistic heritage is an important part of who we are as Scots. This project makes available an enormous amount of rich material in Gaelic and Scots which will help current and future generations learn where they come from. That is why the Scottish Government is pleased to have been able to provide funding of £100,000 to assist in the transition and development phase of a new project which will develop this fantastic learning tool for all those interested in our heritage."
Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches cost £3 million, with almost half of the money coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Colin McLean, Head of HLF for Scotland believes the investment was well worthwhile.
“By simply clicking 'play' on the website we can eavesdrop into the lives of our ancestors – their worries, their hopes and the way they lived suddenly comes to life. The Heritage Lottery Fund is proud to be involved in a project which has not only saved these unique and irreplaceable songs, stories and interviews but made them available so that we can all learn from and treasure this important part of our heritage."
The Highland Council also funded the project and Councillor Hamish Fraser, Chair of the Council's Gaelic committee commented:
"Tobar an Dualchais is a vast resource and will provide assistance for example, teachers, young people, researchers, University lecturers, students, musicians, historians and various societies both at home and internationally. I am delighted that Highland Council is supporting this project, as it is both innovative and inspiring to see how Gaelic, Scots and technology is being used to develop and create a 'living' modern archive which is accessible to all world wide."
The range of material on the site is immense with bothy ballads, love songs, children's rhymes, laments and songs composed by village poets along with fairy stories, historical legends and tales of ghosts and kelpies. Birth, life and death customs and work practices are also recorded and variations of these, found across Scotland, can be heard.
Programmes and items from BBC Radio nan Gaidheal also feature. Margaret Mary Murray, Head of Gaelic Digital Service at BBC Scotland commented:
"We are delighted to have been part of this prestigious project and to have had the opportunity to contribute material. Through the Tobar an Dualchais website you can listen to up to 2,000 hours of recordings from the BBC's archives including coverage from the Mod and programmes such as Prògram Choinnich and 'Dèanamaid Adhradh'."
Today’s ceremony will take place at the University of Edinburgh, where almost sixty years ago the School of Scottish Studies was founded. According to Dr Margaret Mackay from the School, the online project is a natural, 21st century extension to their work:
“Our commitment to collecting and making available Scotland's wealth of Scots and Gaelic song, story, instrumental music, customs, beliefs, place-names, dialects and oral history takes a giant step forward with the launch of the Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches website.”
Relatives of some of the contributors to the website will hear for the first time in many years, or for the first time ever, the voices of family members. Duncan Currie from Islay was only a year old when his father Alistair died and Duncan was absolutely delighted when he found out that his father had been recorded by Calum Maclean of the School of Scottish Studies in 1953 and that these recordings would be available on the website. As Mr Currie explained:
"When I first heard the recordings of my late father I was overwhelmed by both sadness that I had never known my father and great pride that he had been such a wonderful singer. The recordings have made such an impact on my and my family's life and have been the catalyst for conversations about my father amongst many of his friends. One of the songs that he was recorded singing was 'Islay Dear Islay' and this had almost been lost to my generation on the island. It is now being sung at many a ceilidh by my son Alasdair who has learnt this song and indeed all the songs from his grandfather's recordings."