Scots Folk Singers and their Sources

A Study of Two Major Scottish Song Collections


This book offers a detailed analysis of two major Scottish folk song collections, the Greig-Duncan Collection, and the Scots folk song material of the School of Scottish Studies Archives. This exhaustive study of song transmission includes all contributors, not only notable singers. The scattered information, marshalled into quantifiable data, throws light on such topics as transmission within and outside the family, the role of literacy, the public reticence of women singers, the association between the Travellers and the big ballads, and the impact of social changes in the late nineteenth century, and of broadcast music in the 1920s. The new opportunities opened up by digitisation are explored here for the first time.

Prices from (excl. shipping):

Add to Cart
Caroline Macafee, Ph.D. (1988), University of Glasgow, is a retired academic, author of numerous works on the Scots language, including quantitative studies. Her interest in the demography of folk song stems from work on the Tobar an Dualchais digitisation project.
“The extent to which song collectors exert an influence on their contributors during the fieldwork process has been an important consideration for ethnological disciplines over recent decades. It is a question that implicitly underpins Caroline Macafee’s thought-provoking and original study of song transmission […].”
- Eilidh Whiteford, Folk Music Journal, 2023.

"This volume should really be required reading for ethnological researchers with interests in the song culture and traditions of lowland Scotland, and will be of more general interest to others curious about the ways in which traditional songs reach us. While the audience is likely to be primarily an academic one, singers who use historic or archival sources to identify and develop repertoire may also find Macafee’s perspectives helpful and informative. However, perhaps the greatest value of her research lies in the tables of quantitative data found in the appendices, which will provide an invaluable resource for future researchers, whether or not they share Macafee’s thematic concerns or reach similar conclusions. In having done this ‘heavy lifting’, Macafee bequeaths a generous legacy to a new generation of scholars and reframes our understanding of traditional song culture in Scotland."
- Eilidh Whiteford, Folk Music Journal, 2023.

“Macafee’s discussion about the nature of the gaps and the reliability of the data tells readers a great deal about the debates surrounding Scots folk song collecting and the nature of the repertoire more generally.”
- Jane Pettegree, in Soundyngs: Conversations on the History of Scottish Music, July 2022.
Libraries, academics, students, and general readers interested in Scottish traditional song and ethnology, or in the Travellers. Researchers interested in song transmission or the potential of digital song archives.
  • Collapse
  • Expand