Monday, 23 June 2008

The Summer Walkers

It was with interest that I watched one of the articles on Countryfile in the early hours of the morning the other week. They were reporting on the Ullapool Book Festival and, in particular, a woman called Essie Stewart, who was a tradition bearer (her words), i.e. one who keeps the oral tradition for their area.

Ms Stewart was a member of a travelling community in the Highlands, referred to as The Summer Walkers, (or tradition bearers), of which there is a book of the same name by Timothy Neat. These were native, Gaelic speaking people that travelled the countryside in summer, taking goods to sell to those that had not access to suppliers. They also had a tradition of oral storytelling; a tradition that told the tales of the areas which they traversed.

This reminded me of the traditions of indigenous Australians, wherein certain individuals remember all the stories of the landscape in their area, thus you can traverse the continent and hear all the tales associated with almost every speck of the country you can see. I am wondering if this is the case with Summer Walkers. It would be fantastic to find such a tradition in the British Isles.

There was a short snippet of Essie telling one of those tales at the Ullapool Book Festival, and I was disappointed that there wasn't more. I have tried searching for information about these people on the internet, but have not had much success. So, if anyone out there in cyberland know of any events where Essie, or anyone else of her ilk, is performing, please get in touch with me, via this website, as I am keen to hear these stories in person.

I am curious, too, if there are any young folk who are interested in learning these stories and passing them on as an oral tradition.

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