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The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection

29 Sep 97 - 07:27 AM
Susan of DT 29 Sep 97 - 04:39 PM
dick greenhaus 13 Nov 02 - 12:35 AM
MMario 13 Nov 02 - 08:26 AM
Jeri 13 Nov 02 - 09:26 AM
GUEST 13 Nov 02 - 10:19 AM
GUEST,MCP 13 Nov 02 - 11:06 AM
Joe Offer 08 Jul 03 - 03:26 PM
Burke 09 Jul 03 - 02:42 PM
Peter Kasin 19 Jun 10 - 05:25 PM
dick greenhaus 19 Jun 10 - 06:01 PM
Joe Offer 19 Jun 10 - 07:02 PM
Joe Offer 19 Jun 10 - 07:30 PM
Joe Offer 19 Jun 10 - 07:38 PM
Paul Davenport 20 Jun 10 - 11:04 AM
dick greenhaus 20 Jun 10 - 02:56 PM
Peter Kasin 20 Jun 10 - 04:00 PM
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Subject: The _Greig-Duncan Folk-Song Collection_
Date: 29 Sep 97 - 07:27 AM

Blatant, self-interested posting:

I'm finally getting to actually buy the ultimate, The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection. I've been slavering & covetous about having it since it was announced. Staggering work. All the songs Greig & Duncan gathered in the NorthEast of Scotland from source singers. With tunes. A huge number of them collected at the same time Child was collecting from books on the theory they were "dead" and no longer sung. With phenomenal scholarship bringing it all up to today's date including current discography & literary references. Now I'm going to do it. From the blurb on the publisher's web page:

>P SHULDHAM SHAW & E B LYLE (eds) >The largest and most important manuscript collection of >Scottish ballads and folksongs is nearing completion. It will form a treasure house for students of the Scottish tradition and folk music generally.

And that's true.

It's complete now except for Vol 8, the general index, which isn't expected for another year, anyway. Still, the songs are so well organized I can live with that for now. (I've pored over 4 volumes from Inter-Library Loan & expectations were met. And more.)

On the other hand, it's sorta costly. James Thin (Edinburgh) wants UK P36.75 just for shipping. only has volumes 2 & 3 and that's only a big maybe.

The good Wally at Camsco Music makes me this offer... If I can talk somebody else into buying a set too, he'll deliver it to my door for $450. (I tried to get him to guarantee it would be personally delivered by a Playboy bunny, but he wouldn't go for that.) If a third person buys he's able to knock off 5% more.



I am Abby Sale - (That's in Orlando)
I moved this message here from another thread on the same topic.
-Joe Offer-

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Subject: RE: The _Greig-Duncan Folk-Song Collection_
From: Susan of DT
Date: 29 Sep 97 - 04:39 PM

This is a good price. I have been paying $70/volume.

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Subject: The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 13 Nov 02 - 12:35 AM

While not as well known as the work of Francis James Child, the Greig-Duncan Collection (roughly contemporaneous with Child) is a magnificent collection of songs and ballads (mostly with tunes) from Scotland. Comprising 8 volumes, it's a must for anyone with a serious interest on folksong--especially Scottish folksong.

It's been issued in bits and pieces over the past decade or so, and has been commanding a price of about $70 apiece for each of 8 volumes.
Volume 8 has just been printed, and CAMSCO has made a deal wherein any volume, or the entire set can be purchased at a substantial discount.

Individual volumes: $47 (US). Amazon gets between $58 and $70 per volume, Barnes & Noble gets $70 and ScotPress and Unicorn charge $75.

The entire set can be purchased from CAMSCO for $305 (Unicorn gets a flat $500)

All prices are exclusive of actual postage costs--they'll go out media mail, so this shouldn't be excessive. CAMSCO takes Visa, Master and Discover cards, as well as personal cheques. For UK residents who don't use cards, we can arrange for payment by cheque or money order in pounds.

this is a deal!

800/548-FOLK (3655)

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Subject: RE: The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection
From: MMario
Date: 13 Nov 02 - 08:26 AM


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Subject: RE: The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection
From: Jeri
Date: 13 Nov 02 - 09:26 AM

Dick, I'd love it. I got the first 7 volumes when I had money to spend on things like that. I'm sorry to say I can't afford the one book now.

This volume is the index, no?

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Subject: RE: The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection
Date: 13 Nov 02 - 10:19 AM

Yes, Index, plus some fragments not in the other volumes, and , I understand, upgrades of notes on some pieces.

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Subject: RE: The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection
Date: 13 Nov 02 - 11:06 AM

For UK buyers, I post part of an e-mail from Catherine Read at Mercat Press:

"All 8 volumes of the Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection are available (Volume 8 has just been published!) from our distributor, BookSource on 08702 402 182 (or +44 141 558 1366 from outside the UK).

Each volume costs £35.00 and a full set of 8 is available at the discounted price of £225.00. Unfortunately, there is no discount for buying part of the complete set.

Best wishes,

(The last sentence was because I was interested in vols 4-8)

For comparison, at todays rate of 1.57 $ to £ that makes Dick's price around £30 a volume or around £190 for the set. Looks like a good buy to me.


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Subject: RE: The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection
From: Joe Offer
Date: 08 Jul 03 - 03:26 PM

I came across this review (click) at I have to say the Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection was the best three hundred bucks I've spent in a long time. Susan of DT wasn't sure I'd like it, but I'm glad I bit the bullet and bought the books. It's a vast collection of songs and tunes, certainly the most significant collection I've seen from the UK. Heck - it might well be the most significant collection of songs anywhere.
It does help to have that eighth index volume, which wasn't published until 2002 (Volume 1 came out in 1981). I think the collection is fully indexed at, so that may be a help to Jeri and others who didn't get that volume.
-Joe Offer-

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Subject: RE: The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection
From: Burke
Date: 09 Jul 03 - 02:42 PM

Dick are this prices you list here still good?

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Subject: RE: The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection
From: Peter Kasin
Date: 19 Jun 10 - 05:25 PM

Hello, Dick -

Do you still carry these? I was just reading about this collection, then found this thread.


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Subject: RE: The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 19 Jun 10 - 06:01 PM

Sadly, it's out of print (I think that Berlinn Press still has many copies of v.1. I've asked them for a license to re-issue it, but have had no response as yet.

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Subject: RE: The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Jun 10 - 07:02 PM

Jeri, did you get your Volume 8? Any copies left of volume 8, Dick?

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Subject: RE: The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Jun 10 - 07:30 PM

This is a reveiew by Jame Porter from Western Folklore, Winter, 2000

Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection

The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection, vol. 5. Edited by Patrick Shuldham-Shaw, Emily B. Lyle and Adam MacNaughtan. (Edinburgh: Mercat Press, 1995. Pp. xxii 656). The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection, vol. 6. Edited by Patrick Shuldham-Shaw, Emily B. Lyle and Elaine Petrie. (Edinburgh: Mercat Press, 1995. Pp. xxvii 608). The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection, vol. 7. Edited by Patrick Shuldham-Shaw, Emily B. Lyle and Sheila Douglas. (Edinburgh: Mercat Press 1997. Pp. xxvii 557. Acknowledgments, introduction, glossary, notes, index of titles, index of singers/sources)

In 1966, I recall vividly taking the train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen with Basil Megaw, then Director of the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh, to examine the manuscript volumes of the Greig-Duncan folksong collection. These meticulously drawn bound volumes, locked away behind a grille in the vault of King's College Special Collections of Aberdeen University Library, were at that time the focus of determined efforts to make them available, simply because they constituted one of the largest and most significant collections ever made. This was at the height of the Folksong Revival, when young singers, eager for sources of material, were learning from print and manuscript as well as from older singers. Shortly after, as an emissary from the School to the English Folk Dance and Song Society, I was invited to a EFDSS Board meeting chaired by Ursula Vaughan Williams in order to propose a collaboration in publishing the Greig-Duncan collection. Subsequently, Patrick Shuldham-Shaw, as a senior folksong scholar, was appointed General Editor, and at that point he began to lay the basis of the editorial plan, which was to issue the collection in eight volumes over a number of years.

As the issuing of this great work, then, nears its conclusion (with Volume 8, due to be published by the end of 1999) after some thirty years of preparation, all scholars of folksong must salute the prodigious effort that has gone into its production. First, we should recognize the incomparable labors of Gavin Greig and James B. Duncan in compiling perhaps the greatest-certainly the most voluminous-collection of English-language folksong from one delimited region. Their devotion, as local enthusiasts and collectors of song steeped in the cultural matrix of Northeast Scotland and its agricultural and seafaring traditions, was no less than that of Cecil Sharp, Phillips Barry, or any of the other figures we admire and rely on still today. To imagine this great collection being put together, in the decade or so preceding World War I, is to leap via the persona of a village schoolmaster (Greig) and a United Free Church minister (Duncan) into a timewarp of rigid social class observances, farmyard male bothies, and a humor-laced paganism that underlay the conventional Presbyterianism of the region. The flavor of the period is caught very well in the seven volumes so far published.

Second, we must applaud the sterling work of Dr. Emily Lyle in particular (as General Editor) in pressing ahead with the plan originally drawn up by Patrick Shuldham-Shaw who died, sadly, in 1977 before the first volume could be published. Dr. Lyle, who edited Volumes 1 (nautical, military, historical songs, 1981) and 2 (narrative songs, 1983) has been aided by various editors in her task: by Peter A. Hall (vol. 3, songs of the countryside, home, and social life, 1987), Andrew R. Hunter (vol. 4, songs of courtship, 1990), Adam MacNaughtan (vol. 5, 1995), Elaine Petrie (vol., 6, 1995), and Sheila Douglas (vol. 7, 1997), the last three devoted to songs of love. Dr. Lyle is currently editing the final volume, which will contain songs of parting, children's songs and rhymes, indexes, and commentaries (including notes on the tunes). The first four volumes were published by Aberdeen University Press, and the present three by The Mercat Press in association with the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh, where Dr. Lyle is a Research Fellow.

The introductions by the editors for these three volumes are rather short, and one might have wished for a somewhat deeper setting of the scene (in the manner of Peter Hall with vol. 3). Throughout the volumes the songs are numbered continuously, so that Volume 5 begins with song no. 929 (the tuneless "Love") and ends with song no. 1078 ("The Fisherman's Daughter"). Variants in text and tune are duly included, with the names of the singers from whom they were collected. Greig, of course, contributed a weekly column on folksong to the local newspaper, The Buchan Observer, and his acknowledgment of the singers and correspondents from whom he received texts and tunes (in FolkSong of the North-East, 1963) is a notable feature of his gracious concern for their knowledge. The tunes are mostly reproduced in the handwriting of Greig and Duncan, with printed music for a tune originally set down in solfa notation. Some tunes stand on their own without texts, and vice versa, though normally both are given. Some texts are lengthy enough, such as some of those for "The Hireman Chiel," for example, which vary from 13 to 58 stanzas (vol. 5). Ballads such as those contained in F. J. Child's compilation of texts and G. M. Laws's catalogue of ballad plots appear side by side with ditties of local or subliterary interest. Many of the songs, after all, came as much from broadsides or chapbooks as from oral tradition, although Greig and Duncan tend to emphasize the latter mode of transmission in their remarks.

Greig and Duncan collected the texts and tunes from a wide range of social classes: farm servants, professional people, and their own family members, both male and female. But it would be an exaggeration to claim that the songs were gleaned from a complete class spectrum: the semi-nomadic travelers in particular are conspicuous by their absence. Socially, travelers were invisible, living on the margins of a society rooted in Victorian and Edwardian convention. Their valuable oral tradition (affected in minor ways by print) was only to be uncovered much later, after World War II, in the phase of folksong collecting led by people like Peter Kennedy, Hamish Handerson, Sean O'Boyle, Ewan MacColl-and Alan Lomax, who played a pivotal role in focussing some of the ongoing work of the 1950s. It would be appropriate, too, to mention here the collecting activity of James Madison Carpenter, who came from the United States to Britain to collect ballads in the late 1920s and early 1930s at the instigation of G. L. Kittredge at Harvard. Although he collected songs from some of Greig's and Duncan's singers-such as Mrs. Goodall of Alford, Mrs. Lyall of Skene, Isaac Troup of Ythan Wells, and Alexander Robb of New Deer-Carpenter used a Dictaphone cylinder to record them, whereas Greig, Duncan, and their helpers had the difficult task (like Cecil Sharp) of notating the tunes by ear because recording technology, while available, was in its infancy and not always easy to get hold of. The valuable Carpenter Collection is now in the Library of Congress.

Like Sharp, Greig and Duncan balked at writing down the bawdy texts of some songs, and so the collection as we have it is not as representative of the erotic material contained in ribald songs like "The Ball o' Kirriemuir." Volume 7 redresses the balance to some extent, as Sheila Douglas mentions in her introduction to that volume. Duncan tended to write the words of bawdy songs in shorthand, adding comments like "words... understood to be objectionable" (song 1330, "Sarah Kelly") or "indelicate" (song 1442, "The Howes o' Glenorchy"). Greig, addressing the Buchan Field Club in 1905, remarked that "long ago songs were sung in the family circle and in mixed companies that an editor now-a-days would hesitate to print. We must be careful, however, not to confound a standard of taste with an attitude to morality." Greig and Duncan were certainly aware of sung bawdry, but like Sharp again had to observe the constraints of middle-class taste, the audience for which they were catering and to which they also belonged. Their collection is of its time.

But it is also, of course, in another sense beyond its time. For while it celebrates the song culture of a society at the very heart of the British Empire, when the imperial writ of Victoria and her successors ran from London to Calcutta, Pretoria, Adelaide, Wellington, and a hundred other colonial centers administered by civil servants and functionaries from areas just like Aberdeenshire, many of the songs are both centuries old and still sung today. But the conflicts latent in this society-and in Europe in general-were about to burst out in World War I; and some of the class resentment within the agricultural community, for example, is evident in John Ord's later collection of Bothy Ballads (1930), in which farmers are roundly castigated and satirized for their callous treatment of laborers. Ord was a correspondent of Greig, and the latter acknowledges his help in Folk-Song in the North-East. Greig's affection for the region where he grew up perhaps led him to celebrate the positive aspects of the culture and to downplay those aspects less favorable: the sclerotic class structure, the taciturnity (even dourness) of the people, the paganism of sexual mores suppressed under a genteel Presbyterianism, the treatment of social misfits (e.g. the travelers) as social pariahs.

When all is said and done, however, this is a great collection that stands as a testament to the vision and perseverance of two men, who were humble enough to recognize the wisdom that flowed from the mouths of their singers. It is to the eternal credit of all those who have taken part in the editing of the various volumes that the work is now almost complete. Complete but in a different sense not finished, for the work on the Carpenter Collection will add another chapter-though by no means a final one-to the recording and transmission of folksong in the Northeast. In terms of editorial method in these three volumes, the name of the singer or source is given after each song version, with the initial G (Greig) or D (Duncan) below. The material already published in the seven volumes appears in Steve Roud's computerized Folks Index (Hisarlik Press). The editorial matter includes historical and comparative notes on each song at the end of every volume.

And the singers. Let's not forget the singers whose minds and lips carried many of these songs through the generations. The list of singers in each volume is to be supplemented by mini-biographies in Volume 8, which will also contain further indexes and commentaries on the airs. Memorializing the singers helps to offset a tendency to fetishize the collection-as some local enthusiasts already do-by regarding it as a mass of texts and tunes cast in granite, so to speak, and never to be equaled, rivaled, altered, or changed. It's striking to note, again, that Miss Bell Robertson, Greig's most prolific transmitter of texts, did not sing. She was, as Bronson once aptly remarked, one of the black swans of balladry. But she too must be counted as one of the outstanding figures that leap out of the pages of this collection, having given Greig well over 380 songs or song variants. In the main, though, the tunes themselves form a most striking and substantial part of the collection, and speak to the power embedded in the sung communication. With the final volume of Greig-Duncan, perhaps, and the availability of the Carpenter recordings, we will be able to see more clearly not only the structure and character of the tunes, but also the voices of the singers, the mechanisms of performance, and the conditions of song context and transmission that lie behind this inspired, and awe-inspiring, collection.

University of Aberdeen Aberdeen, Scotland

Copyright California Folklore Society Winter 2000
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved


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Subject: RE: The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection
From: Joe Offer
Date: 19 Jun 10 - 07:38 PM

And an excerpt from another review:

The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection. Volume 8

Journal article by Eddie Cass; Folklore, Vol. 115, 2004

The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection. Volume 8. Edited by Patrick Shuldham-Shaw, Emily B. Lyle and Katherine Campbell. Edinburgh: Mercat Press, 2002 xxxix + 756 pp. 35.00 [pounds sterling] (hbk). ISBN 1-84183-0127
The publication of the Greig-Duncan folk song collection has surely been one of the most important events in the folksong world of the past three decades. The appearance of this volume brings the project to a close. The editors of this volume, however, prefer to see the publication as a beginning: "We hope and anticipate that the publication of these volumes has laid a foundation for further study and research as well as making all the song versions immediately available to singers" (p. xxi). This must be the reason for publishing any great collection of folk material. The project was initiated in the late 1960s and Patrick Shuldham-Shaw was appointed as editor in the early 1970s. Unfortunately, he died in 1977 before the first volume was published. Nevertheless, it was Shuldham-Shaw's overarching view of the collection that determined how the songs were to be divided in order to bring some satisfactory structure to the eight volumes. His name has remained as an editor for all of the volumes, while Emily Lyle has fulfilled the role of General Editor in addition to editing some of the volumes. In accordance with Shuldham-Shaw's original intention, this volume contains songs of parting, children's songs, nonsense songs, dance songs and rhymes, and a miscellaneous section.
It is not the completion of the song collection, however, that gives this particular volume its special importance, but the scholarly apparatus with which the whole series is rounded off. There are the indices to the whole collection that one would normally expect; an index of song titles and first lines, a melodic index, and an index of singers and sources. In addition, there is an index of Child and Laws songs as well as a list of Roud index numbers. But there is also a list of the place names that appear in the songs. This has been compiled by W. F. H. Nicolaisen and often the place names have some words of explanation, such as "Bridewell (Bridle, Brindle), prison in London" (p. 607). There are extensive notes on the songs in volume eight and additional notes on the songs in the earlier volumes. All of these are the working tools scholars and singers will need in order to access the collection. The editors have gone further in this volume and set out to contextualise the collection. Ian Olson has written biographical essays on both Gavin Greig and James Bruce Duncan; Katherine Campbell has provided an essay on the music of the collection; and Emily Lyle, one on the formation of the collection. This latter essay takes the reader through the collecting activities of the two scholars, year by year. It also includes an index of the places from which the two men collected, which supplements the index of place names within the songs provided by Nicolaisen. The volume finishes with brief biographical sketches on twenty-five of the people who contributed to the collection. The choice of the people who appear in this section is necessarily biased, but as Lyle explains, "It would be inappropriate to attach a value judgement to the selection of a person for this treatment ... The selection was made in the light of what information was available at the time the edition was being prepared and also with a view to giving due weight to singers who did not have the kind of achievements in other directions that earned biographical attention" (p. xxii). Whatever the reasons for the choice, it is of considerable value to know something of the people who contributed to the collection.
The development of electronic publication has transfigured the opportunities for the presentation of material such as that in the Greig-Duncan Collection. The launch in 2003 at Sheffield University of the online catalogue to the James Madison Carpenter Collection at the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress and the publication on CD of the Francis James Child collection also in 2003 is evidence of this. Nevertheless, books remain essential working tools of the scholar (as Child is published on CD, a new edition of his work is in course of publication by Loomis House Press of Minnesota in five volumes). Lyle says in her introduction to the book under review, "There will, however, be many people that ...

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Subject: RE: The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 20 Jun 10 - 11:04 AM

I have them all except vols 5 & 6. I don't know why these are so rare compared to the others.

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Subject: RE: The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 20 Jun 10 - 02:56 PM

They were released over a period of several years, with varying press runs.

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Subject: RE: The Greig-Duncan Folk Song Collection
From: Peter Kasin
Date: 20 Jun 10 - 04:00 PM

Thanks. I found one this afternoon at


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