The audio material available on this website comes from three major collections, namely: The School of Scottish Studies (University of Edinburgh); The National Trust for Scotland’s Canna Collection; and BBC Radio nan Gàidheal.
School of Scottish Studies
The majority of the recordings on this website are from the School of Scottish Studies Sound Archives at the University of Edinburgh. The School of Scottish Studies was set up in 1951 to collect, archive, research and publish material about the cultural life, folklore and traditional arts of Scotland. Oral content includes songs, stories, verses, customs, beliefs, biographical information, place names, local history and instrumental music. The recordings were made all over Scotland and its diaspora and, as a result, contain a diverse range of dialect and accents in Gaelic, Scots and English.
The early collectors, who included Hamish Henderson and Calum Iain Maclean, visited farming, fishing, and crofting communities and obtained information about their working and domestic lives, beliefs and customs. Urban life is also documented, with recollections of working in mills, schooling, street songs, and social activities. The oral tradition was rich among Scottish Travellers and this community was widely recorded by the School, singing songs, telling stories, and also talking about their way of life.
Instrumental music from the School includes an extensive range of recordings of individual pipers and their repertoires, different styles of fiddle music, ceilidh and dance band music; and accordion playing.
Not all material from the School is available on the website as cataloguing and permissions work is ongoing.
- Màiri Munro from Lochboisdale in South Uist sings the waulking song ‘Hò Fàil O-ho Ghràidh’ in a recording made by Donald Archie MacDonald in 1962.
- ‘Drumdelgie’ is a bothy ballad and is sung here by Jimmy MacBeath from Portsoy in a recording made in 1952 at the People's Festival Cèilidh. He is introduced by Hamish Henderson.
- Stanley Robertson from Aberdeen belonged to a family of Scottish Travellers. In this recording from 1982, he tells the story of an elderly couple and a magic bannock.
- Christine Shaw and Peggy Morrison from Ardhasaig in Harris give information to Morag MacLeod about old marriage customs, in this recording from 1977
National Trust for Scotland’s Canna Collection
John Lorne Campbell was the pioneer of the modern collection of Gaelic stories and songs. He and his wife, Margaret Fay Shaw, purchased the island of Canna in 1938 and together they amassed a collection of audio recordings, photographs, papers and publications which celebrate Gaelic culture and traditions.
There are around 2,000 items in the Canna Collection Sound Archive, with the earliest ones dating back to 1937. The collection consists of songs, tales and oral history from Gaelic speakers in Scotland and Nova Scotia, Canada. The Scottish recordings were primarily made in Barra, South Uist, Argyll and Canna.
The couple gifted Canna to National Trust for Scotland in 1981 and continued to live on the island until their deaths, leaving an internationally important legacy of Gaelic language and culture.
- Angus MacLellan from Frobost in South Uist recites ‘Duan na Ceardaich’, an Ossianic ballad which tells how Fionn MacCumhail and his men took Fionn's magic sword, 'Mac an Luinn', to an enchanted smithy to be tempered. It was recorded in 1949.
- ‘An Coire Riabhach’ is a waulking song sung here by Kate Buchanan from Castlebay in Barra, with others joining in. The recording was made in 1951.
- In this recording from 1949, Angus John MacLellan from Hacklete in Benbecula tells a humorous story about a tailor and his wife. The couple were in a dispute about which one of them should go to the well to fetch water and you can hear how it was resolved.
- Mary Morrison from Ersary in Barra sings a stathspey and reel in canntaireachd form, in a recording made in 1950.
- In this recording from 1957, Sister Margaret MacDonell from Inverness County in Nova Scotia sings ‘O ’s i Rùn mo Chéil’ a bh’ ann’. Sister MacDonell is introduced by John Lorne Campbell.
BBC Radio nan Gàidheal
National Mod recordings and recordings from some of BBC Radio nan Gàidheal’s output make up the majority of the BBC ALBA content on the website, with the earliest Mod recordings going back to 1946.
Recordings from Radio nan Gàidheal programmes include a large number from ‘Prògram Choinnich’, a magazine-style programme in which Kenneth MacIver interviews guests on a diverse range of topical themes, many of which will become social history items for future generation
There are also recordings from the programme ‘Dealan-dè’ which features interviews with people on both topical and historical subjects. ‘Dèanamaid Adhradh’ is a series of church services of different denominations recorded in various parts of Scotland and broadcast on Radio nan Gàidheal.