School of Scottish Studies Archives
Getting started with the School of Scottish Studies Archives
A broad overview of the archives is available on this webpage.
The information below has been collated to support the navigation of the multitude of collections and resources available. However we always welcome enquiries from researchers so please do email HeritageCollections@ed.ac.uk with any research questions, or to arrange a visit to use our onsite resources and finding aids.
Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches is a collaborative project which has been set up to preserve, digitise, catalogue and make available online several thousand hours of Gaelic and Scots recordings.
Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches is Scotland’s online resource dedicated to the presentation and promotion of audio recordings of Scotland’s cultural heritage. Its primary content is songs, traditions and stories, music, history, and poetry, recorded from the 1930s onwards. The recordings were made all over Scotland and its diaspora and, as a result, contain a diverse range of dialect and accents in Gaelic, Scots and English. Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches’ principal aim is to ensure that Scotland’s rich oral heritage is safeguarded and made widely available for present and future generations.
The website contains material from three archives: The School of Scottish Studies Archives (SSSA); The National Trust for Scotland’s Canna Collection; and BBC Radio nan Gàidheal.
Not all material from SSSA is available on the website yet as cataloguing and permissions work is ongoing.
The Calum Maclean Collection Online Catologue is a flexible resource for academic researchers providing access in digital format to over 13,000 manuscript pages of transcriptions of mainly Scottish Gaelic folklore (primarily folktales as well as other materials) from the fieldwork of Calum Iain Maclean (1915-1960). The searchable catalogue was developed with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
Calum Iain Maclean was one of Scotland’s most prolific folklore collectors, and the collection (consisting of over 4,000 items) is one of the most important extensive repositories of oral tradition to be gathered in western Europe.
To register for access, please email us at HeritageCollections@ed.ac.uk.
Tocher was published by the School of Scottish Studies Archives from 1971-2009. The journal contains songs, stories, music, customs, beliefs, local history, rhymes and riddles transcribed from recordings held in the sound archive. Please contact us by email to request copies of any articles. Gaelic material has a facing translation, this allowing non-Gaelic speakers access to the culture as well as providing a service for learners. Scots dialects are also represented (many now on the verge of extinction) and material is glossed where necessary. Audio material is supplemented by items from the small collection of manuscripts held by the School and material from the Place-name survey and the Gaelic and Scots Linguistic surveys. Images in Tocher generally come from the School's Photographic Archive.
14 Miscellany: Frog Princess, AT 302, in Scots; wife taken by fairies; Gaelic repartee in verse; bothy song from Falkirk; children tales, songs, rhymes. 32pp.
18 Donald Sinclair, Tiree tradition-bearer; Fife nurses tale AT 328; songs, childhood memories, dyeing etc. 40pp.
21 The Stewarts of Blair, singers and storytellers in travelling family; fishing tragedy, comedy and hardship; Arran tradition, customs etc. 44pp.
22 Margaret Mackay, Gaelic singer from Harris; Greenland memories of whales, bears etc. tales of lairdsfools; Child 188; charms etc. 40pp.
44 Miscellany: including tribute to Willie MacPhee, traveller, tradition-bearer; tales; pipe tune; Gaelic and Scots songs; reviews etc. 64 pp.
45 Student issue, featuring research by undergraduates and post-graduates on diverse subjects: songs, reviews and obituaries. 64 pp.
46 Lewis Grant, a Highlander in Archangel; East and West coast fishing; Durness bards; Balquhidder dairy; Wigtown childhood; obituaries and tributes. 64 pp.
47 Isabelle Tooke, Gardenstown, herring gutting; Gaelic proverbs from North Uist; saying from North Yell; Gaelic stories; Gaelic grace with notes on place-names. 64 pp.
48/49 Double issue: Christina Paterson and Flora MacCuish, Berneray; courtship and marriage customs; songs; Gaelic tales; Mrs J J Leith, Orkney, tribute; reviews etc; David Buchan tribute. 112 pp.
50 Mary Martin, Harris, weaving and waulking; Mary Rae, Selkirk, Border tweeds; Gaelic and Scots songs; Alan Bruford tribute. 64 pp.
51 Student project issue: Edinburgh milk horses; Ayrshire village school; World War I diaries; Gaelic song from Skye; obituary; errata; Notes and Queries. 64 pp.
52 Memorial issue for the late Dr Alan Bruford: selections from his recordings of his informants all over Scotland and some of his compositions, plus work by his students. 64 pp.
53 The Orkney Ba game; Gaelic place names in Strathtummel; Rob Roy anecdotes; Our Goodman, a collection of songs in Gaelic and English; Peter Hall appreciation and song; reviews. 64 pp.
54/55 Double issue: Harvesting and farming in the Lothians, Glen Isla and Easter Ross; Norman MacDonald, biographical notes; Gaelic songs and tales; traveller tale from Betsy Whyte; CD and book reviews etc. 108 pp.
56 Jimmy Williamson, son of Duncan Williamson (Tocher 33), also a traditional storyteller, song writer and musician; Gaelic story and lament from South Uist; Shetland rhymes and story; Edinburgh reminiscences; CD and book reviews. 48 pp.
The Scottish Tradition series of CDs, published by Greentrax, contains material compiled from Archive recordings. There are collections of Gaelic and Scots song, piping, fiddle music, childlore, wedding customs, traditions relating to Orkney and more...
For further information about the Scottish Tradition series and to order copies please contact: Greentrax Recordings
Peter Cooke's study of fiddle music in Shetland
We are pleased to to publish this book online with the permission of the publishers Cambridge University Press who printed it as one of the series Cambridge Studies in Ethnomusicology in 1986. This was essentially the author's PhD thesis completed at the University of Edinburgh in 1982. The book has long been out of print despite requests from many scholars and fiddle music enthusiasts - especially Shetlanders - for it still to be available.
The book is delivered below as a Zip file alongside the 34 accompanying tracks released on cassette with the original publication. Please use the link to download it. Should you experience any problems please use the email below to report the issue and request assistance. The download should start automatically on clicking the link.
Music from Whalsay recorded by noted ethnomusicologist Peter Cooke.
The audio recordings featured in this website were made by ethnomusicologist Peter Cooke during the period 1969-1984 when he was researching the music of the Shetland Isles from his base in the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh.
The 120+ recordings of ballads, songs, rhymes and riddles comprise a rich sample of oral tradition and are preserved as a vivid example of the power of song to give expression to the hopes, fears and joys of this small community. Some of the songs were recorded from more than one person and as expected their versions often differ.
This is a joint project, for numerous islanders have collaborated with Peter Cooke to provide information on the singers (often their own parents and grand-parents) and have helped by checking texts, commenting on the songs and providing photographs. Their cooperation has been readily given and highly appreciated for it has added hugely to the interest and value of this site.
An important collection of folklore, customs and beliefs collected between 1893 and 1902.
Responding to a call from the Folklore Society, made at their annual meeting in 1889, to gather items of folkloric interest from various parts of the United Kingdom, Dr Robert Craig Maclagan (1839-1919), a doctor based in Edinburgh, embarked on a project which was to run for almost ten years, and which, in the fullness of time, would become one of the most significant and fascinating collection of manuscripts available to scholars of the folklore of Scotland.
Through a team of dedicated collectors, working in the West Highlands, Maclagan amassed an amazing array of material and during his lifetime he published a number of articles and books which reflected the diversity of the material that had been collected. The manuscripts, consisting of some 9,200 pages, with an as yet uncalculated number of individual items, covers material as diverse as folk medicine, customs and beliefs, hero tales, material culture, rhymes and children's games, recipes and weather lore, place-name legends, the natural world and much, much more.
Through this material it is possible to glimpse a different world and to understand better how men and women, living at the end of the 19th century, had negotiated and made sense of the world around them: a world which, within so few decades would be so utterly changed.
The size of the collection, and the nature of the organisation of the material contained within it, has, until now, made it a slightly cumbersome resource for academics to explore. We begun scanning of the Maclagan MSS in 2022 and while this process is ongoing you can find some of this material as an open resource via Open Books. A database to search the collection can be accessed on-site.
The Elizabeth Ross Manuscript - Original Highland Airs Collected at Raasay in 1812.
This important manuscript was discovered and bought for the School by Francis Collinson in 1954. It contains 150 airs of which about 100 are vocal airs, the others being instrumental dance tunes or slow airs. Dating from 1812 it is the earliest manuscript collection of Highland music: now typeset with the addition of texts, translations and detailed commentaries it is freely available for downloading as a pdf file (5.1 MB). The author Elizabeth Jane Ross left the manuscript behind in the library of Raasay House when she departed in 1813 to travel with her sister to India where she later married Baronet Charles D’Oyly.
Elizabeth Ross was a competent transcriber and her settings represent well the wide range of Hebridean music known to the islanders and in Raasay House, home of James MacLeod, laird of Raasay - Elizabeth’s uncle and guardian.
Click on RossMS.pdf. for the 190 page edition. A facsimile of the manuscript itself is also available. Click on ERossfacsimilesm.pdf for a small version.
Eliza Ross Manuscript (8.39 MB PDF)
Elizabeth Ross Manuscript Facsimile (5.92 MB PDF)
The print version of the manuscript is now available for sale through the Scottish Music Centre.
The John Levy Archive is a primary ethnomusicological resource of international importance, consisting of nearly 700 original field recordings of music from various parts of the world, several thousand photographs, and about 20 cine films.
There is also Levy's personal collection of approximately 400 commercial LP discs (including some he produced himself), books, papers and miscellaneous artefacts, plus some copies of other fieldworkers' recordings.
Levy's field recordings, which are generally of excellent quality, were made on a Nagra-S tape recorder between 1958-1972 in India (223 spools), Sri Lanka (55), Bhutan (48), Taiwan (101), China (81), South Korea (34), Iceland (35) and the UK (107).
The scope of the recordings is wide, and features the religious musics of these Asian cultures (and related communities in Britain, including Sufi and Sephardic), as well as court musical traditions and indigenous folk musics.
These recordings are unique sound documents, musically, culturally and historically. John Levy (1910-1976) was a skilled, sensitive and pioneering recordist who was also well-advised by leading scholars of his day. His recordings were mostly of complete performances in natural situations.
The musicians he recorded were among the very best at the time, and for reasons of privileged access and/or historical circumstance, several recordings are the sole extant documents of musical genres or styles which have disappeared or been radically transformed. John Levy's commitment to sharing his insights through LP publication and BBC broadcasts in collaboration with experts, particularly in his later years, is widely acknowledged. Many of his published recordings are now commercially available on CD, issued by Lyrichord, Smithsonian Folkways, Topic Records, and others.
History of the collection
Following John Levy's early, tragic death his collection (and the copyright on all original materials) was bequeathed to the School of Scottish Studies at a time when it was developing its ethnomusicological work alongside the Faculty of Music. Being left by its collector in a state of disarray, the School's priority has been to sort, house and maintain the collection, including its accompanying documentation.
With the help of students and visiting scholars, most of the material has been tagged and indexed. A chronological register of recordings, and a card index (including copies of John Levy's field notes) have also been prepared. Proposed future work includes the development of the resource, and further research and publication programmes.
Bibliography and discography
Items marked with * are available as custom-copy cassette or CD from Smithsonian Folkways.
- John Levy, Immediate Knowledge and Happiness (London 1951)
- John Levy, The Nature of Man According to the Vedanta (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1956 and 1970)
- Classical Music of India. Recordings and notes by John Levy.Nonesuch H 2014 [Warner]
- Music from South India: Kerala. Recordings and notes by John Levy. Additional notes by Peter Crossley-Holland. Folkways FR 4365 [Folkways F 04365*]
- Music from the Shrines of Ajmer and Mundra. Recordings and notes by John Levy. Tangent TGM 105 [CD: Topic Records TSCD911]
- Review (1973) by Reis W. Flora, Ethnomusicology 17(3):558-60.
- The Music of India, Vol 4: Karnatik Music. UNESCO Musical Anthology of the Orient. Recordings and notes by John Levy. Bärenreiter BM 30L2021 [Rounder Records]
- Review (1970) by Walter Kaufmann, Ethnomusicology 14(1):184-88.
- The Four Vedas. Recordings and notes by John Levy and J.F. Staal. Asch Mankind AHM 4126 (2 LPs) [Smithsonian Folkways F 04126]*
- Review (1972) by Bonnie Wade, Ethnomusicology 16(1):157-58. Review (1974) by Peter Crossley-Holland, Ethnomusicology 18(3):463-67. Review (1975) by Mireille Helffer, Yearbook of the International Folk Music Council 7:180-82.Islamic Liturgy: Song and Dance at a Meeting of Dervishes. Recordings by John Levy. Notes by Martin Lings. Folkways FR 8943 [Folkways F 08943*]Music of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue. Recordings and notes by John Levy. Folkways FR 8961 [Folkways F 08961*]*available as custom-copy cassette or CD from Smithsonian Folkways.
- A Panorama of North Indian Music: Hindustani Recordings and notes by John Levy. CBS / BBC Record Enterprises 63519 [Sony]
- A Panorama of South Indian Music: Karnatic Recordings and notes by John Levy. CBS / BBC Record Enterprises 63257 [Sony]
- Musique Bouddhique de Corée Recordings and notes by John Levy. Vogue LVL 253. [Newly edited CD reissue by Prof. Byongwong Lee in preparation]
- Review (1972) by Barbara B. Smith, Ethnomusicology 16(3):560-63.
- Korean Court Music Recordings and notes by John Levy. Lyrichord LL 7206. [CD reissue Lyrichord 7206]
- Korean Social and Folk Music Recordings and notes by John Levy. Lyrichord LLST 7223 [Cassette reissue Lyrichord 7223]
- Review (1973) by Robert Garfias, Ethnomusicology 17(2):368-72.
- Chinese Buddhist Music Recordings and notes by John Levy. Lyrichord LLST 7222 [Cassette reissue Lyrichord 7222]
- Review (1973) by Dale A. Craig, Ethnomusicology 17(3):570-73.
- Chinese Taoist Music Recordings and notes by John Levy. Lyrichord LLST 7223 [Cassette reissue Lyrichord 7223]
- Chinese Classical Music Recordings and notes by John Levy. BBC Record Enterprises REGL 1.
- Tibetan Buddhist Rites from the Monasteries of Bhutan 3 LPs. Recordings and notes by John Levy. Lyrichord LLST 7255-7 [CD reissue Lyrichord 7255-7]
- Review (1974) by Peter Crossley-Holland, Ethnomusicology 18(3):463-67.
- Review (1975) by Mireille Helffer, Yearbook of the International Folk Music Council 7:180-82.
- Tibetan and Bhutanese Instrumental and Folk Music Recordings and notes by John Levy. Lyrichord LLST 7258 [CD reissue Lyrichord 7258]
- Review (1974) by Peter Crossley-Holland, Ethnomusicology 18(3):463-67.
- Review (1975) by Mireille Helffer, Yearbook of the International Folk Music Council 7:180-82.
- Islamic Liturgy: Song and Dance at a Meeting of Dervishes. Recordings by John Levy. Notes by Martin Lings. Folkways FR 8943 [Folkways F 08943*]
- Music of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue. Recordings and notes by John Levy. Folkways FR 8961 [Folkways F 08961*]