Book Linda Williamson
As a protégé of the indomitable master of Scots song and story, Hamish Henderson, Linda first heard of the Scottish Travelling People in the School of Scottish Studies where she was a postgraduate student in the 1970s. Following in the footsteps of the Scottish and Gaelic folklorists who created the Sound Archives of the School, Linda carved her own path with the Travellers and contributed an unparalleled wealth of folktale, ballad, song and local tradition in recordings.
During her fieldwork research she met and married the Argyllshire traveller Duncan Williamson. Together they brought the world of Scottish storytelling into Scotland’s schools and to the public at large through the medium of educational broadcasting for national television and radio, and by way of Scottish, English, Italian and American publishing houses – Canongate, Penguin, Cambridge University Press, Mondadori and Crown. The Scottish Storytelling Centre grew from the seed planted by Duncan and Linda Williamson’s work, the agency of ‘Traditional Storytellers’ serving schools throughout Scotland.
Linda Williamson became a storyteller for schools herself in the 1990s when she visited the Western Isles on several extended trips under the auspices of the Scottish Arts Council’s Writers in Schools/Public scheme, now the Scottish Book Trust. This was the most influential experience of her career, sharing the repertoire of Duncan Williamson and the folk tales from hundreds of storytellers, folklorists, singers, travellers and non-travellers who gathered regularly in live sessions at the Williamson’s fireside. Transcribing, editing and organising Duncan Williamson’s life in story began to take second place to Linda’s role as a tradition bearer herself.
Since the death of the master himself in 2007, the past decade has seen a unique development in Linda’s style and repertoire. Honing a life experience not shared by other academics and practitioners; as a mother of two traveller children under canvas, in a culture far removed from academia and government, Linda was permitted access to the treasures of an orality that has been passed from tongue to ear since before the first king. It was this ancient in the word which enchanted and inspired Linda to gracefully use her own skills as a transcriber of the recordings she made at home, to see through the starry veil which hangs between orality and the written word. Linda does not improvise stories, but rather seeks to share with us across time and borders the tale in which our past is our way forward; with attention to measure and cosmic orientation, with great reverence for the ancient oral word, Linda speaks. The star lore of ancient Greece, India and native America now connects with the wonder tales of Duncan Williamson and the Travelling People in creative programmes celebrating the folk tale and its source in myth on an international platform.