Workshop celebrates heritage

LOCAL primary school pupils are to get the chance to learn about their town’s musical heritage.

Arbroath-born singer Steve Byrne is leading workshops for primary five children in an effort to bring traditional local songs back into everyday usage.

The songs all come from those once sung by Lichties and were recorded for Scotland’s folklore archive at the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

Recordings have been made since the 1950s and features material from over 50 Angus people.

Steve used to work for this project as a Scots song cataloguer, and is using his experience and this amazing resource to put on these workshops.

Over 110 primary five pupils are participating in workshops at Hayshead, Timmergreens and Warddykes primaries.

The workshops are funded by the Aberbrothock Skea Trust and run until early May and Steve hopes the enthusiasm generated by this project will help build a wider programme of projects in Arbroath and beyond.

One of the local singers was the late Mabel Skelton, who worked for a time at Peasiehill farm at Elliot, and latterly at Barry Camp.

Steve believes her son still lives in the town and is hopeful of making contact with him.

He said: “For a long time, these recordings were not easy to access by the general public as they were primarily used for university research. But now the ‘kist’ is well and truly open for people to get their own local culture back, that in many ways we have begun to forget about in this overwhelming digital age.

“These days we are so used to the internet, Google, the X-Factor and global culture, many of us are consuming the same stuff fed to us by large media corporations.

“We have begun to forget the art of remembering and passing on our own local culture and language, which is relevant and meaningful to us in terms of understanding the place we live, and that our own local culture is as worthy of a spot on the airwaves as anything else.

“I’m keen to emphasise to the children that everything has a story behind it, street names, landmarks, themselves and their families, and where you find stories you often find songs. As an example, one of Mabel’s songs is called “Awa Wi Ma Laddie”, about the Brothock Mill, the former home of the Herald!”

The original reel-to-reel tapes are now digitised and are available online for the first time through the Kist o Riches / Tobar an Dualchais trilingual project website, www.kistoriches.co.uk, which houses over 26,000 tracks of folksong, tales and other folklore in both Scots and Gaelic.