Monday, 15 May 2017

How Time Flies

It’s difficult to believe that we are coming to the end of our initial 4-year study period in fair Dumfries and Galloway.  We’ll be continuing to support initiatives, such as fieldwork collecting, as well as individual projects, for example our collaboration with Moat Brae, for some time to come.  And our super colleague, Alison Burgess, will co-ordinate and facilitate ongoing activities so we’re looking forward to seeing how this Study will continue and develop into the future.  We are all excited to see, for example, how the fieldwork recordings might be used by school groups, researchers, artists, community groups and individuals to explore our shared history and also, perhaps, inspire new work. 

This move from one phase of the project to the next provides a great opportunity for us to reflect on the project so far and over the coming weeks we’ll be posting blogs from some of the many people who have contributed to our work together. On the spoken word side of the project over 300 fieldwork recordings have been made by 49 volunteer fieldworkers, covering subjects as diverse as experiencing Armistice Day as a small child to the challenges facing rural communities in the 21st century.  On the written side one of many highlights for me has been the publication of The Pocket-books of a Dumfriesshire Drover, edited by Willie Waugh, which can be read online   If you were at the Castle Douglas study gathering last November then I’m sure you will have enjoyed Willie Waugh’s talk about the family source material which led to this publication. 

The first Regional Flashback, based on the recordings made between 1999 and 2016 by The Stranraer and District Local History Trust, is now at the final proof stage with publication expected early summer 2017.   Trust members Christine and Eric Wilson, Donny Nelson and Nancy McLucas have been tremendously supportive during the preparation of this Flashback and we shall all be raising a glass when the copies arrive from the printers. 

If you’ve been involved in the Study and would like to write a piece for the blog, then please do get in touch with me at  There’s so much to discuss and to celebrate about the past four years, and the blog is a great space to do this.  The next blog post will be from Sheila Findlay, who reflects on the perils and perks of transcribing.

Caroline Milligan
Research Assistant

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Study Gatherings

Study Gatherings

In October and November of 2016 we will be holding a series of 3 events to share the results of our endeavours in D&G with the people of D&G and beyond.

These events will provide those attending with a flavour of the material generated and of the ways in which that material will be presented.

The events will be:

Easterbrook Hall
Saturday 1 October 2016 1-5pm

North Castle Hotel
Saturday 5 November 2016, 1-5pm

Castle Douglas
St John’s Hall
Saturday 19 November 2016, 1-5pm

Further announcements, including programme details, will be made available shortly.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Fieldwork in Stranraer

Enjoyable and satisfying as it is, the process of editing a book is often quite a lonely task.  Not so a few weeks ago, when an expedition to Stranraer in pursuit of background information for one of the planned Dumfries and Galloway Flashback publications, provided a hugely enjoyable, laughter-filled interruption to my usual solitary endeavours.

The Flashback I’m working on is based on the 40+ oral history recordings made by the Stranraer and District Local History Trust since January 1999.  The task of deciding what to include in my selection (or rather, what I have no choice but to leave out) has been challenging.  The interviews are packed full of significant material covering a wide range of themes across both rural and town life in the Stranraer area.  As my work progressed and the Introduction for the book began to take shape, I realised that I had a long (and growing) list of questions to ask those who’d been involved with this aspect of the Trust’s work.  After a chat with Mark Mulhern (Flashbacks general editor) we concluded that a fieldtrip to interview the collectors was needed and the Stranraer trip arranged.

Left to right: Eric Wilson, Nancy McLucas, Christine Wilson and Caroline Milligan.
We set off to Stranraer in high spirits.  We would be meeting up with Christine Wilson, her husband, Eric, and Nancy MacLucas that afternoon, and we had a further meeting planned, with Donnie Nelson, for the following morning.  Mark and I had last met with Christine, Eric and Donnie when I was first involved with the Dumfries and Galloway Regional Ethnology study and we had visited them, along with Ted Cowan, to collect the interviews which marked the first oral material donated to the project.  It was great to be going back to meet up with them again.  Armed with copies of the draft outline for the book, and lots of questions, we arrived at Christine and Eric’s home in bright sunshine.  Mark had barely time to set up the recording equipment before we were off.  Everyone talking ten to the dozen: remembering the early days of the Trust, their aspirations and prodigious output over the years (as well as the 40+ interviews, the Trust has published 28 titles and administers grants and scholarships with the funds raised from publication sales and membership), and sharing personal anecdotes about many of the interviewees and the interview sessions.  Nancy MacLucas, who is the fieldworker for 35 of the Stranraer interviews, shared some lovely insights with us, such as the time she interviewed a chap who showed her many, many photographs of sheep.  He proudly highlighted particular favourites and asked Nancy for her opinion.  Nancy, a confirmed town lass, remembered ‘So many sheep.  They all looked the same to me’.  Christine, Eric and Nancy went through the draft outline for the book and provided lots of information and comments on the subjects and interviewees selected for inclusion. Before we knew it, two hours had passed and we decided to call it a day.  Nancy was off home to dinner, while Christine and Eric had a meeting of the Antiquarian Society to get to.  These two hours were like an elixir.  The group’s enthusiasm for the book outline, combined with their generosity in sharing their memories with Mark and I, gave me just the encouragement I needed for the final push to complete the Stranraer Flashback. 

Left to right: Caroline Milligan, Christine Wilson and Donnie Nelson.
The following morning saw us back at Christine and Eric’s for a short interview with Christine (again to gather information for the Flashback Introduction) and then Donnie Nelson arrived for our interview.  Mark and I have already met with Donnie a number of times as he plays an important role in this Flashback.  Donnie worked with the Stranraer Free Press for many years and, together with Christine, Eric and Nancy, has been involved with the Trust since the early days.  At the Free Press one of Donnie’s roles was as Picture Editor and he is known for his huge, and impressively well-organised, collection of photographs.  As well as supplying us with photographs for the Flashback, we have also asked Donnie to make a personal selection of 10-12 photographs and to provide supporting narratives for these images which would tell the stories behind them.  At our meeting we went over his selection and he shared more funny stories with us, often with Christine and Eric adding details too.  One of the selected photographs was from a Stranraer Operatic Society performance.  Donnie was in the photograph - one of the main male singers and he explained that both Eric and Christine had been involved too: Eric as Musical Director, and Christine as Wardrobe Mistress.  Christine told me that this particular production had a wardrobe of 300+ items, and, as with other productions, both operatic-related and Historical Trust publications, the physical items were often given a home (short, or long term) in Christine and Eric’s home.

Spending time with Christine, Eric, Nancy and Donnie has been inspiring.  They are full of enthusiasm and encouragement, and it’s infectious.  Each has had a busy professional life: three as teachers, plus Donnie in publishing - yet each has also contributed so much to the local community – and, indeed, they continue to do so.  Writing in 1910, Arnold Bennett expressed his concern that working people were doing very little other than working and then recovering from work by doing very little.  He argued that work consumed only eight hours of the day, leaving twice as much again for other pursuits and he encouraged productive leisure time in order to promote good health and ensure well-being.  This seems to be a philosophy that Christine, Eric, Nancy and Donnie adhere to whole-heartedly, and very successfully! 

Caroline Milligan
30 March 2016

Monday, 24 February 2014

Fieldworker View

Tania Gardner

Tania Gardner from Kirkcudbright reflects on her experience of conducting fieldwork:

‘I have interviewed ten people in Kirkcudbright since the beginning of this project.  I am always extremely nervous before the interview, despite being well prepared with the protocol and the outline of questions I wish to ask. I have had to reassure and bolster the confidence of each of them as they are anxious and uncertain of what I could possibly want to know of their life which is of any importance. Once the interview is underway I have found that we relax and enjoy the opportunity to "remember ".
Each and every interviewee has said at the end that they have really enjoyed sharing their memories and that other memories have been sparked during the conversation. I have been so privileged to hear the stories and to have been trusted with their memories. I hope I help them to realise the importance of keeping the next generation informed of their local history through the actual voices of the older generation. I certainly have learnt a great deal about "my town" from all of these generous people. ‘

Tania Gardner


Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Collin Calling!

After the Winter holiday break new activity began in January with a a presentation of some of our findings to the Collin Social Club on Tuesday 21 January 2014. 

At a well attended meeting, we outlined the aims and objectives of our Study and demonstrated the range of material being generated by playing some clips form interviews conducted. This was an enjoyable occasion as the audience members made interesting comments about the clips played and provided information which added to the material already collected. In fact, such was the level of interest that a number of people agreed to provide interviews and a new volunteer fieldworker was recruited.  

This direct community engagement was productive for the Study and for the people of Collin. We intend to repeat this exercise across Dumfries and Galloway as the Study continues.

Monday, 25 November 2013

To Kirkcudbright and Stranraer and Back Again!

Members of the Study Team have been out talking about the work undertaken and the oral material gathered thus far.  On 13 November we spoke to the Kirkcudbright History Society followed a week later on 21 November with a talk to the Wigtownshire Antiquarian and Natural History Society.  In these well-attended talks an outline of the 136 interviews conducted to date was given. Some of the themes to emerge in these interviews were highlighted and exemplified with a selection of audio clips being played.

Those who came along to the talks were encouraged to participate in the Study and further such talks will be given through the life of the Study.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Widened Participation

Our oral pop-up event held in the former Baker's Dozen shop at Midsteeple, Dumfries was a great success.  Through the course of the day we had many visitors to our small exhibition about the town and about our Study. 

Many of those who came along were interested to hear of our work in Dumfries and Galloway. This interest has resulted in a good number of people asking to participate by being recorded and by conducting interviews. This encouraging level of interest and engagement leads us to consider repeating this exercise in other places across the region.