What’s the Story? Folklorist Margaret Bennett to discuss a lifetime fascination with local tradition


A meeting with Margaret Bennett requires no enticement unless you are not aware of who she is. If a stirring has brought you to Scotland and the Isle of Skye, and you find yourself absorbed in the traditions of the people who have lived here and you endeavour to visit and study historical sites, listen to the music and read the books about them, our July meeting should be marked with a star and arrangements should be made to bring your friends who have these same interests. It should not be missed.

A little more allurement…if you have become obsessed with the culture of the Gaels and Scots and the Lowlands and the Highlands and the Isles, and if you hear the whisperings of the past that have created the voice of today and they send a trilling through your own spirit, Margaret Bennett right now is being added to your calendar and there is nothing that will prevent you from an evening with “Scotland’s foremost folklorist”!

Margaret comes from a family of tradition bearers, whom she describes: “A Hebridean, Gaelic-speaking mother and Lowland, Scots-speaking father, who both spoke English. One sang Gaelic songs, the other hee-durram-haw-durrams and played the bagpipes. One leaned far to the left, the other did not. They raised four children between two cultures, three languages, surrounded by a wealth of domestic, social, religious, cultural and political paradoxes.”

Bennett has written over ten books, including Scottish Customs From the Cradle to the Grave. She is a member of the Scottish Storytelling Forum. Her life has been filled with music, traditional and revival, and she has featured on media productions and music productions with her son, the late, sensational international star of the Celtic music scene, Martyn Bennett.

The folklorist, writer, singer and broadcaster will bring her wealth of talent and knowledge to the Edinbane Hall for an evening event at 7.30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 25, to talk about what inspired her to write about the traditions of Scotland and the Scottish diaspora. Her talk will be illustrated with fieldwork examples of recordings and photos of Skye tradition bearers, whose way of life, songs and stories are now recorded for posterity.

Everyone is welcome. Admission fee is £5; free for members.

Workshop: Earlier that day, Margaret will lead a workshop at the Shinty Club in Portree, at 2:00 p.m. She will instruct on how to research and record oral traditions for local archives and/or as an accurate resource for writers. The workshop will begin with an overview of the exemplary work undertaken by the School of Scottish Studies fieldworker, Eric Cregeen (1924-1983), colleague of Calum Maclean and founding member of the Oral History Society. Cregeen is regarded internationally as one of the most influential oral historians of our time.

The afternoon session offers an informal and practical introduction to oral history interviewing, with an opportunity to handle recording equipment and discuss some of the issues around oral history, life stories and memory. Topics include how to document the material to preserve local tradition and how writers can research and use the material in their own writing. The fee is £5; members are free. Please feel welcome to show up if you find you would like to attend. Skye Camanachd Shinty Clubhouse (Pairc Nan Laoch) is located on Struan Road across from the West Highland College, on the way out of Portree.

For more information about these events, Reading Room membership or general questions, please get in touch with us at skyereadingroom@yahoo.co.uk or message us on Face Book at the Reading Room – Skye.

Both the evening talk and the workshop are part-funded by the Live Literature Fund via the Scottish Book Trust.

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