T: Teine, Furze in the Scottish Gaelic alphabet
|Duncan Williamson, Traveler|
I plan to write more about it in another blog post, because this one is dedicated to that National Treasure of Scottish folklore and folktales, Duncan Williamson (1928-2007), one of the last of the Travelers, and a storyteller and singer I wish I had met before his death.
|Travelers in a Barrikit Tent,|
Canvas over Withy Frame
For a woman who'd been proud of being respectable, I think this homelessness gave her a fellow feeling for the Travelers, a minority people who roamed the byways of Scotland and the Borders of England from the 1600s, when many of their forebears were turned off the land in the Highlands. Indigenous to Scotland, they aren't the same as the Romany or Gypsies. The Travelers' language, the Beaurla-regaird, or Cant, was in some ways a kind of secret code. Some of the words date from the 13th Century; many have been adapted from Gaelic.
|Travlers near Pitlochy|
Duncan’s parents were illiterate, but his father was determined his sixteen bairns wouldn’t be, so every autumn they’d settle on a bit of waste ground outside the village of Furnace in Argyle in order for the bairns to attend school for a few months. Duncan was often so hungry he’d skip class to catch and cook shellfish. He left home at 15 to go out on his own so there’d be more for the nine younger children.
|Belle Stewart, Traveler Singer|
My family thought that Granny was the tail-end in our family of a bardic tradition from the Highlands and Islands, so I think she would’ve enjoyed talking with Duncan. I am thankful that she passed on so many tales and tunes to me, and grateful to him for doing that through the collections of his stories that I’ve been able to find.
“Stories are something you carry with you, something to last for your entire life to be passed on to your children, and their children for ever more. Telling a child a story implants a seed in their mind, and you know when you are gone from this world that that child is going to tell the tale you told them, and remember you.”
|Duncan Williamson, passing along the tales|
I hope that you have a fire in the heart to share your stories and songs!