There are few places in Europe that can boast such a vast and rich store of folklore than the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Gaelic culture is particularly strong in folklore. The number of folklorists who have mined these rich seams is an enduring testament to the riches of music, song, poetry, tales and clan legends kept alive by oral transmission until they were recorded.
The beginnings of folklore recording
The scientific study of folklore began in 19th century Europe with the famous Grimm Brothers. The impact and popularity of their various publications, in particular Grimm's Fairy Tales, was soon felt.
One of the greatest folklorists the Highlands produced was John Francis Campbell (1821-1885), who set about the systematic collection of Gaelic oral tradition mainly in the West Highlands and Islands. Part of this vast amount of material was edited and later published to popular acclaim as 'Popular Tales of the West Highlands' (1860-62).
The collection of Gaelic folklore continued through the work of Alexander Carmichael (of 'Carmina Gadelica' fame), John Dewar ('The Dewar Manuscripts') and more recently John Lorne Campbell, Margaret Fay Shaw and Calum MacLean.
The future for folklore
But it was not until the foundation of the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh that the collection of Gaelic (and Scots folklore) began in earnest. An exciting new project 'Tobair and Dualchais' ('Kist o' Riches') will make this vast and rich collection available online.
If a book listed in the bibliography below is available from the Highland Libraries it will be indicated by a book icon -
'John Lorne Campbell (Fear Chanaidh), 1906-1996'
Folk Music Journal, vol. 7, pp 540-42, 1998
The Folklore of the Scottish Highlands
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