College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Echoes of the past to reach fresh audiences

A series of programmes produced by BBC Radio nan Gàidheal is showcasing a treasure trove of recordings from Scotland’s past

The broadcasts highlight a precious digital archive of songs, stories, customs and beliefs that includes hundreds of items recorded by University of Edinburgh researchers.

Interviews taped by celebrated Edinburgh folklorists Hamish Henderson and Calum Maclean in the 1950s and 60s are a key part of the archive’s 40,000-plus recordings.

Valuable insights

Recorded throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, the interviews offer valuable insights into what was by then a fast disappearing way of life.

Established in 2006, Kist O Riches/Tobar an Dualchais also includes material from the National Trust for Scotland’s Canna Collection and BBC Radio nan Gàidheal.

Its recordings date back to the 1930s. Project Director Flòraidh Forrest is presenting three programmes, based on her personal journey through the archive.


We were delighted to welcome Floraidh to the archives. It’s always special when people discover we have a recording of a relative's voice. It really shows the value of this fantastic resource.

Cathlin MacAulayCurator of School of Scottish Studies Archive

Treasured recording

The first programme begins with a treasured recording of Floraidh’s grandmother, Flora MacInnes of Eriskay, singing Òran Eirisgeigh—a song written by Donald MacDonald, who was also from the island.

The original recording is housed at the School of Scottish Studies Archive, based at 29 George Square, which Floraidh visited recently.

As well as being able to see and hold her grandmother’s recording, Ms Forrest was able to learn more about the archive and get a better feel for the material and its context.

I don’t think we can overstate the importance of the material contained within the walls of number 29 George Square in Edinburgh to Scotland’s cultural heritage.

Flòraidh ForrestDirector of Kist O Riches / Tobar an Dualchais

Cultural traditions

The School of Scottish Studies was established in 1951 to collect, preserve, research and publish material relating to the cultural traditions and folklore of Scotland.

Collectors travelled the length and breadth of the country to record all aspects of a precious oral culture that was in danger of being lost forever.

The three programmes are scheduled for 12 noon on three consecutive Tuesdays from 29 October – with repeats on Sundays 3, 10 and 17 November at 10am.

The broadcasts can also be accessed through the BBC Sounds app.

Related links

Kist O Riches/Tobar an Dualchais

Celtic and Scottish Studies at Edinburgh