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Roy Palmer Lecture 2024

Seasonal Customs Beyond Our Borders

The Roy Palmer Lecture for 2024 will be given by the Scottish Folklorist, Award-Winning Author, and Singer, Margaret Bennett , as part of the Whitby Folk Week.


'Seasonal Customs Beyond Our Borders'


In discussing seasonal or calendar customs, practitioners and participants sometimes point out how local they are. The name of their town or village is generally attached to the name of the custom, and some declare that it doesn't occur anywhere else. Others maintain that their custom is “the right way" regardless of variants that take place a few miles away. For example, the Shrovetide handball game is a highlight in the calendar of the Scottish Borders town of Jedburgh, where folk may tell us that the Jeddart Ba' [Jedburgh Ball] is not like the Liliesleaf Ba'  (11 miles away), it's a bit like the Alnwick Ball in Northumberland (45 miles away) – they both have a castle, they explain, although they play with a different shape and size of ball, and they have different kinds of bagpipes.


This presentation discusses examples of Calendar or Seasonal Customs that punctuate the year in Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland and the Isle of Man. In searching for their significance, both past and present, we reflect on our perception of 'local' and the relevance of geographic borders in discussions of calendar customs.


Based on fieldwork and printed sources, the lecture is Illustrated by photos, audio-recordings and video-clips.


Originally from the Isle of Skye, Margaret Bennett grew up in a family of tradition bearers, Gaelic on her mother’s side, and Lowland Scots on her father’s. She spent school years in Skye, Lewis and the Shetlands, then moved to Glasgow in 1964 where she joined the student folk-club (with an international outreach) and the Glasgow Folk Song and Ballad Club.  Singers and song-makers in the ''folk scene' sparked her interest in the social, political and cultural background to songs, so in 1968 she moved to Newfoundland to study Folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland.  She spent eight years in Canada, making recordings and documenting the social history and songs emerging from experiences of emigration and work in the Maritimes and Quebec. Returning to Scotland she worked as a teacher, then from 1984 to 1996 was a lecturer and collector at Edinburgh University’s School of Scottish Studies. In 1996 she joined the part-time staff at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland while continuing to research, write and share traditional songs though concerts and festivals.  Author of fifteen books and many articles, Margaret has contributed to broadcasts, films and recordings and is the recipient of several awards.


We are grateful to Whitby Folk Week for having, again, agreed to host the Roy Palmer Lecture. The date and time will be announced nearer the event but will be during the week 19 - 23 August. A video of the lecture will be available on YouTube shortly after the event.

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