Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Williamsons, Jess Smith and the Traveller Tradition

Centre Stage on the Storytelling Centre’s main auditorium sits a wooden chair with the name Duncan Williamson etched into it. It is to honour a man now passed but one that imbues the place with a strong sense of the storytelling tradition. Duncan hailed from a traveller family and was born in 1928, to an indigenous Scots family who continue to travel the land and in doing o preserve the culture. When other communities were settling into industrialised towns the travellers continued to move seasonally for work and continued to tell their children and family stories.

Duncan as a wee lad loved the tradition and would lesson and remember the stories he was told as his family moved about. The Scottish Studies centre at the Edinburgh University has recordings of him taling the tales and his wife Linda helped to record and now publish the stories in several books. The keepsake I have brought home is ‘The King and the Lamp: Scottish Traveller Tales’. Pictured is Linda and two of Duncan’s children.
Seated is Grace Banks who also honoured the traveller tradition by singing a song taught to her by Stanley Robertson and told a story of fellow traveller Jess Smith, ‘Lunaria’ from Jess’s collection ‘Sooking Berries”. Grace did a fantastic job of telling Jess’s story and created the eerie sense of mystery surrounding the beautiful women of the story. Her singing was superb and according to Marion Kenny she had echoed Stanley Robertson in timing and intonation. Some of the highlights, for me of All Hallow’s eve.

Edinburgh goes off on this night and the streets were full of young people dressed for the occasion .

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