This year, for me, has been all about Scottish Traveller, Duncan Williamson. I’ve been working on a project, digitising and listening to his recordings of traditional stories and songs as well as reminiscences about his life. I’ve had time to think about what I learned during my storytelling apprenticeship with him, why stories are so important and consider how best to take the tradition on.
One of the many new connections and friendships I’ve made through the project is with Heather Yule. Heather is working with another great Scottish Traveller tradition bearer’s material, Stanley Robertson, in a similar way to my work with Duncan’s stories and songs. Both Stanley and Duncan had a huge repertoire of Jack tales. Jack is a central figure in all Western folklore, but particularly to the Travellers. He is fundamental to the values, ethics and soul of The Travelling People. It happened one time that Heather was telling a Jack story at an event. A woman came up to her afterwards to ask, “Why Jack? Why is it always Jack? Why can’t we have a female heroine?”
This made Heather – and me – think. Neither of us had ever had a problem with Jack. Jack is Jack. But we both began to question our relationship with those stories. Continue reading “The Cradle of All New Jack Tales”