Hurrah! My tapes of Duncan have been digitised.
Stuart Robinson at the School of Scottish Studies has worked incredibly hard, baking tapes, finding the correct playing speeds and has digitised all the tapes not previously entered into the archives. At last I can let out an inner breath that I have been holding for years: the tapes are safe. I can let go of the secret fear that the tapes would be too old and unplayable. All the time, while writing and submitting the ACE bid and driving the tapes to Scotland, at the back of my mind a small voice was panicking – what will I do if it’s too late?!
Now I am full of relief and excitement. My computer and phone are full of downloads of Duncan. My ears and mind are full of Duncan’s voice. It is the Duncan I knew – and yet at the same time, it isn’t. When I knew Duncan, I was in my teens and 20s while he was in his 60s and 70s. Now I am in my 40s – and so is Duncan. He is telling many of the stories for the first time… I am hearing stories I know inside out, but they are full of a raw freshness.
I’ve spent the last few days listening to Duncan describing leaving his parents for the first time to go travelling with his brother, Sandy. He talks in astonishing detail, his memory clear and complete, walking each step again as he tells the journey. He has kept me company while I do the household chores and walk the hills so that I haven’t seen the washing up, or the land beneath my feet, but instead travelled alongside him, sharing his wonder and excitement at being out in the world.
On Friday I told ‘Travelling Together’ at BLAST! It is the story of my meeting Duncan as a teenager alongside his story of Jack and Beggar’s Island. It was a special – and vulnerable – place to tell it, in my club, in my community, sharing who I am as a storyteller and where I come from. For me, as I told it, there was a constant third strand weaving in and out, Duncan as a teenager, his words a counterpoint in my mind to the ones spoken out loud. I told the story of my apprenticeship to Duncan and his own apprenticeship echoed in reply. As Jack leaves home and I board a train to Cupar to visit Duncan, I felt Duncan’s wonder at seeing a train for the first time and his determination to one day ride on one. As I described Duncan taking me to Skye, stopping at friends and places he knew on the way, Duncan travelled with Sandy and his brother introduced him to the camping places and relatives he’d never met. When old Duncan sang me a rude version of Loch Lomond, Sandy persuaded teenage Duncan that a field of turnips was a field of roosting ducks.
I am only just beginning the journey of listening to this trove of story and memory. Already I am meeting a new side of Duncan – and rediscovering my Duncan, my own memories sparking and coming back to the surface. I really do have a time machine, the possibility to have answers to questions I wish I’d asked and a chance to meet the younger Duncan.
@artscouncilofengland, @ace_midlands, @ace_national, @artyaml, @sfs_uk @scotstoryfourm @EU_SSSA
#storytellingapprenticeship, #ScottishTravellerStories, #DuncanWilliamson #Passingontradition #TheScottishTravellingPeople #ScottishArchives #ReelStories