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‘There wis a lady dressed in green’: William Montgomerie’s Recordings of Children

  • 07/03/2023
  • 18:00-19:30
  • Online talk

‘There wis a lady dressed in green’: William Montgomerie’s recordings of children in the streets of Dundee, 1952

A Folklore Society online talk by

Prof. Margaret Bennett (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland)

Tuesday 7 March 2023, 18:00 GMT

William Montgomerie and his wife Norah began collecting childlore in the 1920s and 30s as they were interested in conserving local dialects, sayings, rhymes, songs and games. They published their first book in 1946 (Scottish Nursery Rhymes) and several others followed.

As William was interested in finding versions of Child ballads sung by children as well as adults, he began to use a wire-recorder in the mid-1940s. In 1952, he acquired a reel-to-reel tape-recorder and in Hilltown, Dundee, recorded 48 tracks of children’s songs and games. The recordings, which Montgomerie donated to the School of Scottish Studies, conserve not only the vitality of the voices, but also the Dundee dialect, traditions, and other aspects of life.

Margaret Bennett was brought up in a family of tradition bearers, Gaelic on her mother’s side and Lowland Scots on her father’s. She studied Folklore in Newfoundland, and from 1984 to 1996 lectured at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Scottish Studies, before becoming part-time lecturer in Folklore at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. She is Honorary Teaching Fellow at St Andrews University, Honorary Professor of Antiquities and Folklore at the Royal Scottish Academy (Edinburgh) and has contributed to archives on both sides of the Atlantic and published widely.

Her book Dundee Street Songs, Rhymes and Games: The William Montgomerie Collection, 1952 (Ochtertyre: Grace Note Publications, 2021) was awarded the 2022 Opie Prize by the American Folklore Society.

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