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TITLE
What fired your interest in your subject? - Margaret Bennett
EXTERNAL ID
AB_SGI_02_MARGARET_BENNETT_Q_02
PLACENAME
Inverness
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona
DATE OF RECORDING
2009
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Margaret Bennett
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
41012
KEYWORDS
conferences
emigration
lecturers
audio
audios
subjectinterest

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As part of Homecoming Scotland 2009, a three-day international conference - Scotland's Global Impact - was held at Eden Court theatre, Inverness from 22-24 October. Prominent academics, historians and other experts came together to provoke healthy discussion on the history of migration and the influence of Scots abroad.

Am Baile interviewed several of the speakers during the conference. In this audio extract, Dr Margaret Bennett answers the question:

'What fired your interest in your particular area of expertise?'

'My father emigrated to Canada when I was about, I was eighteen, I think, and away he went, and my mother stayed behind, and she got a flat in Glasgow because my sisters and I were all students or - nursing students were two of us and teaching students for the other two - and she stayed there. And then, when I was nineteen, I decided I'd visit him and, he was in Newfoundland, but in a quite a remote part; there was a hundred and ten miles of dirt road into the place that he lived, a place called Marystown. He was building a fish plant and he lived in a construction camp; there was thirteen trailers, they were thirty foot long. And so I went out to visit him, and apart from - I've never lived in such a sort of situation before. People called me Mr Bennett's little girl; I wasn't used to that but that was alright.

And there was no - they were quite near a community - there was no electricity, the adjacent village had no electricity, and I saw, gosh me, a way of life that I had only really imagined existed maybe at the turn of the twentieth century where people really were quite poor. Not poor like I'd seen in Scotland, occasionally, but they had lived very subsistence way of life. They were fishermen but they were, they had definitely fallen on hard times; I saw children wearing clothes that were made out of flour bags and, you know, they'd have 'Cream of the West' written on the back and 'Aunt Jemima's Pancakes' on the front, and I remember my father, who was a smoker then, finished his cigarette and he rolled down the window and threw the butt out and there was a scramble for the cigarette butt. And I was amazed and also the children came up without any kind of embarrassment or self-consciousness, and they stared in the window at us, and it was as if we'd landed from - I better not say outer space - this was a little place called Spanish Room; it was eventually resettled.

Anyhow, that was all part of an experience. That, and, discovering that there was a folklore department at the university in St Johns - the main university. A folklore department, which had just begun, and they were just beginning to collect songs from what they call the outports. Now that was certainly an outport. I mean, a hundred and ten miles of dirt road down to the place. And so I, I was in St Johns with my father, and I decided to go and visit this place, this folklore department, and although I knew about the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh, I had absolutely no idea, though I was Scottish and I'd been a student in Glasgow, no idea that there was any access to this place. My mother had recorded for them - I knew there was tapes in there - but that was it.

However, this place had just begun, and somehow it was, the door seemed to be open much wider, and so when I found out what they were doing, they were recruiting students who were interested in folklore. So I thought, 'Well. Gosh. Sounds like a cushy number to me.' And yes, I suppose I'll admit that I wasn't looking for some hard work, I can tell you, I was looking for something that would really interest me. I'd done alright at college, I suppose, but, you know, teacher training, and I'd enjoyed it. I'd enjoyed it immensely, but I didn't feel really stretched. And I love teaching; I love being in schools, I love being with young people, so I wasn't, it's not as if I was about to launch on a career that I'd dislike, and I wouldn't have made a, you know, a rotten teacher who wasn't going to like this. I'd have loved it. But there was just something I longed to do to make me feel stretched, if that makes any sense.

So, I went back to university when I - I graduated in Glasgow and then went back out - and within a year I'd finished the, the basic degree requirements, then went, I applied to do a postgraduate degree, and I got a scholarship, I suppose based on my reasonably good academic performance but mostly, I would say, on my enthusiasm, yes.'


BIOGRAPHY

Dr Margaret Bennett was brought up in the Isles of Skye, Lewis and Shetland. She emigrated to Canada in 1967 as a post-graduate student in Folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland. In 1975 she was Folklorist with The Museum of Civilization's Quebec-Hebridean Project, returning to Scotland in 1976. From 1984 she lectured at the University of Edinburgh, recording oral history and traditions of Scots at home and abroad.

Image: Duncan MacNab
Now part-time at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, her books include 'Scottish Customs from the Cradle to the Grave' (1992) and two prize-winning studies on emigrant traditions, 'The Last Stronghold: Scottish Gaelic Traditions in Newfoundland' (1989) and 'Oatmeal and the Catechism: Scottish Gaelic Settlers in Quebec' (1999).

She features on several CD recordings, has sung at international festivals and has contributed to several theatre productions. In 1998 she received the Master Music Maker Award in celebration of a lifetime of musicianship and teaching, and in 2003, the Celtic Women International award for 'lifelong service to Scottish Culture'. For Homecoming Scotland 2009 she has published a book with double-CD of songs spanning three centuries, 'Dìleab Ailean-A Newfoundland Homecoming Cèilidh' (Grace Note Publications).

Image: Duncan MacNab

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What fired your interest in your subject? - Margaret Bennett

INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona

2000s

conferences; emigration; lecturers; audio; audios; subjectinterest;

Am Baile

Scotland's Global Impact

As part of Homecoming Scotland 2009, a three-day international conference - Scotland's Global Impact - was held at Eden Court theatre, Inverness from 22-24 October. Prominent academics, historians and other experts came together to provoke healthy discussion on the history of migration and the influence of Scots abroad. <br /> <br /> Am Baile interviewed several of the speakers during the conference. In this audio extract, Dr Margaret Bennett answers the question:<br /> <br /> 'What fired your interest in your particular area of expertise?' <br /> <br /> 'My father emigrated to Canada when I was about, I was eighteen, I think, and away he went, and my mother stayed behind, and she got a flat in Glasgow because my sisters and I were all students or - nursing students were two of us and teaching students for the other two - and she stayed there. And then, when I was nineteen, I decided I'd visit him and, he was in Newfoundland, but in a quite a remote part; there was a hundred and ten miles of dirt road into the place that he lived, a place called Marystown. He was building a fish plant and he lived in a construction camp; there was thirteen trailers, they were thirty foot long. And so I went out to visit him, and apart from - I've never lived in such a sort of situation before. People called me Mr Bennett's little girl; I wasn't used to that but that was alright. <br /> <br /> And there was no - they were quite near a community - there was no electricity, the adjacent village had no electricity, and I saw, gosh me, a way of life that I had only really imagined existed maybe at the turn of the twentieth century where people really were quite poor. Not poor like I'd seen in Scotland, occasionally, but they had lived very subsistence way of life. They were fishermen but they were, they had definitely fallen on hard times; I saw children wearing clothes that were made out of flour bags and, you know, they'd have 'Cream of the West' written on the back and 'Aunt Jemima's Pancakes' on the front, and I remember my father, who was a smoker then, finished his cigarette and he rolled down the window and threw the butt out and there was a scramble for the cigarette butt. And I was amazed and also the children came up without any kind of embarrassment or self-consciousness, and they stared in the window at us, and it was as if we'd landed from - I better not say outer space - this was a little place called Spanish Room; it was eventually resettled. <br /> <br /> Anyhow, that was all part of an experience. That, and, discovering that there was a folklore department at the university in St Johns - the main university. A folklore department, which had just begun, and they were just beginning to collect songs from what they call the outports. Now that was certainly an outport. I mean, a hundred and ten miles of dirt road down to the place. And so I, I was in St Johns with my father, and I decided to go and visit this place, this folklore department, and although I knew about the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh, I had absolutely no idea, though I was Scottish and I'd been a student in Glasgow, no idea that there was any access to this place. My mother had recorded for them - I knew there was tapes in there - but that was it. <br /> <br /> However, this place had just begun, and somehow it was, the door seemed to be open much wider, and so when I found out what they were doing, they were recruiting students who were interested in folklore. So I thought, 'Well. Gosh. Sounds like a cushy number to me.' And yes, I suppose I'll admit that I wasn't looking for some hard work, I can tell you, I was looking for something that would really interest me. I'd done alright at college, I suppose, but, you know, teacher training, and I'd enjoyed it. I'd enjoyed it immensely, but I didn't feel really stretched. And I love teaching; I love being in schools, I love being with young people, so I wasn't, it's not as if I was about to launch on a career that I'd dislike, and I wouldn't have made a, you know, a rotten teacher who wasn't going to like this. I'd have loved it. But there was just something I longed to do to make me feel stretched, if that makes any sense.<br /> <br /> So, I went back to university when I - I graduated in Glasgow and then went back out - and within a year I'd finished the, the basic degree requirements, then went, I applied to do a postgraduate degree, and I got a scholarship, I suppose based on my reasonably good academic performance but mostly, I would say, on my enthusiasm, yes.'<br /> <br /> <br /> BIOGRAPHY<br /> <br /> Dr Margaret Bennett was brought up in the Isles of Skye, Lewis and Shetland. She emigrated to Canada in 1967 as a post-graduate student in Folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland. In 1975 she was Folklorist with The Museum of Civilization's Quebec-Hebridean Project, returning to Scotland in 1976. From 1984 she lectured at the University of Edinburgh, recording oral history and traditions of Scots at home and abroad. <br /> <br /> Image: Duncan MacNab<br /> Now part-time at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, her books include 'Scottish Customs from the Cradle to the Grave' (1992) and two prize-winning studies on emigrant traditions, 'The Last Stronghold: Scottish Gaelic Traditions in Newfoundland' (1989) and 'Oatmeal and the Catechism: Scottish Gaelic Settlers in Quebec' (1999). <br /> <br /> She features on several CD recordings, has sung at international festivals and has contributed to several theatre productions. In 1998 she received the Master Music Maker Award in celebration of a lifetime of musicianship and teaching, and in 2003, the Celtic Women International award for 'lifelong service to Scottish Culture'. For Homecoming Scotland 2009 she has published a book with double-CD of songs spanning three centuries, 'Dìleab Ailean-A Newfoundland Homecoming Cèilidh' (Grace Note Publications).<br /> <br /> Image: Duncan MacNab