Oral archives return to Canna

Mairead MacDonald, Director of Tobar an Dualchais, and National Trust of Scotland's Stewart Connor.

Mairead MacDonald, Director of Tobar an Dualchais, and National Trust of Scotland's Stewart Connor.

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Representatives from the Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches project were recently in Canna to present a digitised copy of the Canna oral archive material to Stewart Connor and Magda Sagarzazu of the National Trust for Scotland.

The sound recordings which amounttt to over 1,500 Gaelic songs and 350 folktales were collected by John Lorne Campbell over 30 years whilst owner of the island of Canna from 1938 until he gifted it to the nation under the stewardship of the National Trust for Scotland in 1981.

And Campbell also started marking recordings in Barra and South Uist in 1936-7 before visiting eastern Canada to record Gaelic oral tradition among the descendants of 18th and 19th century Scottish emigrants.

Over the last several years Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches has been digitising and catalouging this material and a significant proportion of it is now available on its website www.tobarandualchais.co.uk

Mairead MacDonald, Director of Tobar an Dualchais, commented: “We are very pleased to have been able to play a part in the preservation of John Lorne Campbell’s work and to make some of the sound recordings available worldwide.

“It has been a privilege to work with these recordings,” she added.

John Lorne Campbell was a pioneer in the collecting and recording of Gaelic song and story and used the latest technology of the time to capture sound recordings.

His first recording device was an Ediphone Recorder using wax cylinders and he then progressed to Webster wire recording machine, a Presto Disc Recorder and subsequently to magnetic tape recorders.

The Ediphone Recorder he used can be seen in Canna House, were he and his wife Margaret Far Shaw lived; and the wax cylinders are stored in the British Library as part of Historic Ethnographic Recordings and are recognised on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.