Scottish cultural treasure to return to the Firth of Forth readers north of the border may be interested in this press release from American folklorist Bob Walser, who has been working to return ‘dreg song’ work songs used in the oyster fishery to the Firth of Forth.

I’m fascinated by the development, and particularly delighted that he has been able to join up with the Scottish Coastal Rowing movement, the progress of which I have often reported, and followed with interest since the building of the first St Ayles skiff. What’s more it sounds like a great night out!

After a Century, Scottish Cultural Treasure Returning to the Firth

Portobello, June 2012

‘On the 20th of June, an international collaboration will restore to the Firth of Forth the ancient ‘dreg songs’, unique traditions of the local oyster fishery. From 7:30pm, just off Portobello Promenade near the Dalriada Bar, Boatie Blest, Rowporty and Newhaven Coastal Rowing, three Scottish Coastal Rowing clubs, will offer their interpretations of these rowing songs both in their boats (weather permitting) and in the pub.

‘Using recently discovered wax cylinder recordings and typed texts from the 1920s and 30s the clubs will recreate these songs assisted by American folklorist Bob Walser. Wednesday evening will be the first singing of these songs on their home waters in a century!

‘To add to this festive occasion, Edinburgh Museums & Galleries will be bringing traditional fishwives costumes from Newhaven and a display of photographs related to fishing in the Firth.

‘Councillor Richard Lewis, culture and leisure convener, said: “Edinburgh Museums & Galleries are a real treasure trove of the city’s history. Our Newhaven collection is especially cherished by those who live or have lived in the area. This event will showcase some of the artefacts we hold in our collection, providing a fascinating insight into the lives of Newhaven residents from days gone by.”

‘In addition, a special ‘Dreg Songs Ale‘ has been brewed by Inveralmond Brewery and will be available on the night. Of course, a celebration of oyster fishing songs requires oysters and Michael Pollington of Pollington’s Fine Food and Drink has arranged with a local fishmonger to have fine Scottish oysters to enjoy.

‘This will be a truly historic occasion. Recognizing this, both Edinburgh Napier University and Celtic and Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh will be sending students to document the evening, interview participants and create an archival record of this once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

‘The event is being created with the help of the James Madison Carpenter Collection Project, Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen and the Library of Congress (USA), which holds the wax cylinders where these songs were discovered. In addition to all the participants, thanks are due to the National Endowment for the Humanities (USA), the American Folklore Society and The British Academy for supporting the research that will enable these communities to celebrate their traditions in this unique way.

‘Come enjoy an evening by the Firth celebrating these unique and fascinating Scottish song traditions!’