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The Glenbuchat Ballads

The Glenbuchat Ballads

Edited by David Buchan & James Moreira
Paperback : 9781617039393, 274 pages, September 2013

A trove of previously unpublished Scottish ballads


Sometime in the early nineteenth century, most likely in the year 1818, the Reverend Robert Scott, minister of the parish of Glenbuchat in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, compiled a collection of traditional ballads that until now has not been published. Most of the ballad collections produced during the Scottish Romantic Revival were eventually anthologized in Francis James Child's seminal English and Scottish Popular Ballads (five volumes, 1882-96). Yet, the Glenbuchat manuscripts, containing sixty-eight ballads in four folio volumes, were not included in Child's volumes. The complete work only came to light in 1949 when it was donated to the Special Collections of the Aberdeen University Library by a descendent of the original compiler.

Scott did not give the precise locations of where he collected his ballads or name the performers, but the texts are unique and appear to have been drawn from oral sources. As such, the ballads reveal a great deal about the nature of traditional music at the time they were collected.

The Glenbuchat Ballads were originally prepared for publication by David Buchan, one of the leading ballad scholars of the twentieth century. Upon Buchan's death, his former student James Moreira took up and completed his work and wrote the detailed introductory essay and annotations in this volume.


"This eagerly awaited edition of the most substantial unpublished manuscript collection of nineteenth-century Scottish ballads, The Glenbuchat Ballads, which has been prepared by Dr. James Moreira, along with his deceased senior partner, Professor David Buchan, is a fine production which gives us meticulously edited texts along with the broad context for the particular versions of ballads found here, which sometimes have their closest parallels in the broadside tradition and sometimes are totally unique. I have been very interested to read Moreira's findings about the collector, the Reverend Robert Scott, and his life in the remote parish of Glenbuchat. Although, sadly, the manuscript does not name the singers, Moreira does what he can to set the oral tradition from which these ballads were drawn in its physical and social environment."

- Dr. Emily Lyle, honorary fellow in Celtic and Scottish studies, University of Edinburgh, and editor of several collections of Scottish ballads and songs

"The late David Buchan and Jamie Moreira have done a wonderful job of breathing life into an early nineteenth-century collection of Scottish ballad texts. Their painstaking research illuminates the life of the collection's compiler, and it grounds these song texts firmly in the culture of a particular community. These are old texts, but with Buchan and Moreira's framing, it is easy to see that they still matter and that they still ring true."

- Burt Feintuch, professor of folklore and English and director of the Center for the Humanities, University of New Hampshire

"Although it contains over fifty ballads collected in the song-rich Northeast of Scotland during the early 1800s, the Glenbuchat manuscript was not known to Francis James Child when he compiled his canonical anthology of The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. Building on work by the late David Buchan, who edited and annotated the ballad texts, James Moreira has done a superb job in bringing this volume to press, and especially in contributing a lengthy essay on the agrarian context of a long-ago ballad-singing community."

- Roger deV. Renwick, professor of English, University of Texas at Austin