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Community / Can you help unlock the Kist o Riches?

Project is looking for past recording contributors

AN ORAL archive project that features nearly 2,000 tracks from Shetland is looking for help from the local community to find people recorded in the isles between 1954 and 1983.

Kist o Riches (Tobar an Dualchais in Gaelic) has almost 50,000 Scots and Gaelic recordings online at www.kistoriches.co.uk including a substantial group of Shetland recordings by the University of Edinburgh’s School of Scottish Studies.

Although over 150 contributors from Shetland have been traced, there are still almost 125 contributors whom the project would like to find.

The Shetland contributions include music, mostly fiddle recordings, and a variety of folklore, songs, history, traditions, stories, guddiks and poetry.

The earliest recordings on the Kist o Riches website were made by Calum Iain Maclean, a notable folklorist from the Isle of Raasay who visited Shetland in 1954.

Other fieldworkers who visited the isles included Professor Sandy Fenton, Peter Cooke, Alan Bruford and Elizabeth Neilson. Among the Shetlanders who made recordings for the school were Tom Anderson, Drew Ratter and John Graham.

Trust chairman Drew Ratter
Drew Ratter was one of the interviewers for Kist o Riches.

Some of the recordings offer fascinating insights into bygone lives and folk beliefs and people speaking in accents that have now gone, demonstrated in a John Graham interview with Jeems and Maggie Wilson of Fair Isle.

Kist o Riches copyright officer Fraser McRobert said: “We need to trace all contributors to seek permission to use their recordings on our website. Some of the material is fairly old and the passing of time can make it more difficult to find people, especially if they or their families have moved away. Where contributors are deceased, we are trying to find their next-of-kin.

“I very much depend on local knowledge to track people down and any information which people can give me will be a great help.”

Among the contributors who are being sought by Kist o Riches are a Mrs Robertson from Burravoe in Yell who was recorded in 1954 reciting riddles. She was recorded along with John Robertson, who may have been her husband.

Another was John Robertson from Fetlar who was recorded in 1959. His nickname was ‘Jackson’ as he always used to play the tune ‘Jackson’s Jig’. He had a wife called Annie and a daughter, Aileen, who married one of the Hughsons from Fetlar.

Kist o Riches is also trying to trace all members of the Shetland Folk Club Traditional Band. All of them were fiddlers apart from Billy Kay on piano. Members already identified are Tom Anderson, Willie Hunter Snr, Peter Fraser, Larry Peterson and Willie Anderson.

The full list of people whose copyright permission is being sought is here: List of Shetland Contributors- May 2020

If you have information about any of the people listed or their next-of-kin, e-mail Fraser McRobert at fm.smo@uhi.ac.uk or call him on 01471 888603.

For more general information about the project phone Elsie Maclean on 01463 794133.