Scotland's Year of Stories 2022 Project: Telling Old Stories and Singing Songs, Journey to the Isles: Marjory Kennedy Fraser plus The Loves of Mary Queen of Scots

Programme strand in the Hippodrome Silent Film Festival March 2022. The strand included a new commission for Marion Kenny: one of Scotland’s leading storytellers, and award-winning musician, singer and songwriter: Mairi Campbell, to respond to two films in the National Library of Scotland (NLS) Moving Image Archive featuring Marjory Kennedy Fraser (1857 – 1930). Fraser was one of the foremost folksong collectors and composers in Scotland. She visited many of the islands to the west of Scotland, recording traditional songs with a wax cylinder phonograph. She later arranged them for voice and piano, or sometimes for harp or clàrsach —an instrument her daughter Helen Patuffa played. The arrangements, with words translated to English by the Rev. Kenneth MacLeod, were published in her three-volume Songs of the Hebrides in the years 1909, 1917 and 1921. A fourth volume, From the Hebrides: Further Gleanings of Tale and Song, followed in 1925. One of the songs included in this collection eventually came to be widely known by the title "Eriskay Love Lilt".

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This event provided a mesmerising glimpse into the landscapes, folktales and songs that inspired one of Scotland's great early collectors of Traditional Arts. Kennedy-Fraser began collecting Hebridean songs in 1905, fired by a desire to preserve and celebrate the musical riches of the islands' people. These disarming films, made by Kennedy-Fraser herself - provide a snapshot of her work and the culture of the people she devoted her life to studying. All the while revealing the warmth of her personality and the profundity of her passion for the rugged beauty of the Hebrides. (See links below to the National Library of Scotland's Moving Image Archive).

Marion Kenny (storytelling, piano, flute, gu-xheng), Mairi Campbell (voice, viola)

This event also toured the Scottish Highlands and Hebrides supported by the BFI Film Audience Network with National Lottery funding as part of CURIOUS.

In addition, the event included the world premiere of the new restoration of ‘The Loves of Mary Queen of Scots’ (1923) with Storyteller Andy Cannon; and an illustrated talk on the cultural representations of Mary in film, novels and other media by Donald Smith, Director of the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Donald’s talk included a rare screening of ‘The Execution of Mary Queen of Scots’ (1895) an 18 second film showing the “gruesome” beheading of Mary Queen of Scots, believed to be earliest surviving screen representation of Scottishness, from original preserved in Museum of Modern Art, New York. The feature film was supported with programme notes on the film by Donald Smith and notes on the restoration by the archivists involved at Celluloid Tapestry and Archive Film Agency.

This event was supported by the Year of Stories 2022 Community Stories Fund. This fund was being delivered in partnership between VisitScotland and Museums Galleries Scotland with support from National Lottery Heritage Fund thanks to National Lottery players.


Image of two musicians, one holding a violin.
Ⓒ Kat Gollock, 2022, courtesy of Falkirk Council Leisure & Culture

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