Booklet (12 pages) included with the CD
Katherine Campbell sings ballads and songs from the unique family repertoire of sisters Amelia and Jane Harris who inherited a wealth of ballads and songs from a Perthshire family tradition dating back to the mid 1700s. The collection includes well known ballads such as Mary Hamilton (Child 173), Captain Wedderburn (Child 46) and The Cruel Brother (Child 11) but many of the Harris ballads are rare and, in the case of several, this may well be their first recording.
A CHANCE DISCOVERY in an Edinburgh bookshop warehouse in 1955 brought to light an important early collection of Scottish ballads. This was a lost manuscript of a unique traditional ballad repertoire of two sisters, Amelia and Jane Harris who, in the mid 1800s, had written down a family repertoire of songs and ballads they had learnt from their mother Grace Harris at their home in the village of Fearn in the hills of Angus.
Amelia (1815-1891), the elder daughter, was only 12 years old when she first wrote down some of her motherÕs ballads for the Aberdeen collector Peter Buchan who included them in his Ancient Ballads and Songs of Scotland (1828). The Edinburgh manuscript was compiled by Amelia a few years later in 1859 and sent by her from her then home in Newburgh, Fife to the ballad scholar Professor William Aytoun who had recently published his Ballads of Scotland in 1858. When the great American ballad scholar Francis James Child heard of the manuscript, enquiries were made on his behalf but the manuscript was never found. However, Amelia Harris had by 1872 compiled a second manuscript of the family ballads with words and tunes and this was passed to Child who included many of them in his famous work The English and Scottish Popular Ballads published between 1882 and 1898.
What makes the Harris ballad collection particularly important is that many of the ballads that Grace Harris taught to her daughters had been part of a family tradition dating back two further generations (to the mid 1700s) to the manse of GraceÕs maternal grandfather the Rev Patrick Duncan of Tibbermore in Perthshire. Grace had been orphaned at the age of seven and was put in the care of an old family nurse Jannie Scott who had been in family service since the birth of GraceÕs mother in 1745 at Tibbermore. It was from Jannie that Grace picked up many of her ballads and, in her older years, she often remarked of JannieÕs rich repertoire that Ōshe had only a tithe of old Jannie ScottÕs balladsÕ.
Peter Shepheard © 2004
A companion book The Song Repertoire of Amelia and Jane Harris edited by Emily Lyle, School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh University with Kaye McAlpine and Anne Dhu McLucas is published by the Scottish Text Society at 27 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LD.