The king o the black art : a study of the tales of a group of Perthshire travellers in their social context
The thesis consists of an introductory chapter, three chapters of family history and three of tale study, two appendices, the first containing sixteen stories in all known versions and the second seventy eight stories recorded by me, based on field recordings fran Alec, Belle and John Stewart and Willie MacPhee, 1978-84. The introductory chapter examines theories of the origins of Highland travellers and sets out the historical, psychological and aesthetic concerns of the tale study. The family history sets out the material recorded frcm informants. The first chapter deals with Belle's early life in Blairgowrie which is the geographic focus of the family's later history. The second traces the fortunes of the Stewarts in Perthshire and Ireland, showing how they adapted to altered circumstances when they returned to Scotland. The third chapter covers the period since the Second World War, during which Alec's family became well-known through the Folk Revival and their children began to integrate with the settled community and lose their oral culture. The historical tale study shows the links with Gaelic tradition to be found in the story collection. The psychological chapter reveals the functions the stories had in travellers' lives: teaching ancestral wisdom, strengthening kinship ties, reinforcing values, passing on skills for survival, containing fears. The aesthetic chapter looks at the structuring of stories and demonstrates the use of signal words and phrases to guide the listener's ear, as well as giving story tellers a means of recreative transmission. Styles and versions are compared and aesthetic principles deduced frcm the use of different kinds of language and imagery.