Wednesday, 3 September 2008
The Stories of Scotland's Travelling People
Pilgrims in the Mist. The Stories of Scotland's Travelling People. Sheila Stewart, Perthshire singer, storyteller and author, is one of the last in the line of Scotland's travelling people. The way of life of the old travellers, tramping the country roads, camping in the woods, hawking, fortune-telling and temporary work on farms, has now all but died out. Before the memories melted away like winter snow, Sheila gathered from family and friends this wonderful collection of travellers' tales. Here are the stories that she and her parents used to listen to by the camp fire as the shadows of night clustered around. There are magical tales here, tales of hauntings and sudden deaths, tales of lovers and childbirths, tales of cruel hardship in a land where all too often the travellers were spurned as social outcasts.There are happy stories too, in which the travellers outwit their persecutors and prosper. Many of the stories recount true events that happened to Sheila and her relations. Running through them all is a vein of humour, laughter in the face of adversity. These aren't polite versions of folk tales that are suitable for the nursery or the Disney studio. They can be rough and tough and earthy, and show with unblinking clarity the rawness of life on the edge. But they have the grotesque and haunting imagery, the depth and power of the real folk tradition. This collection of stories, written down when they were on the point of vanishing into oblivion, has in it the potential to become a classic of its kind. Pilgrims in the Mist: The Stories of Scotland's Travelling People.