Professor Margaret Bennet has a long connection with Mull having lived in Tobermory for a time during the late 1970s and it was a pleasure to welcome her back. Although Margaret has a PhD in ethnology she much prefers to be known as a folklorist. Along with many other interests, she also has an enduring love of the folk music of the Highlands and Islands as we were to learn during her very interesting talk.

In 2009 Margaret established the charity Grace Notes Scotland (SCO40434) which is dedicated to identifying and handing on traditions to new generations. All the projects document (whether in written or oral form), conserve, nurture and promote Scotland’s languages and dialects, traditions and skills, oral history, songs, tunes and stories. The charity works to broaden awareness of, and ‘share our love of, Scotland’s ‘intangible heritage’ (UNESCO 2003) and invites people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to participate in projects’. The charity says, ‘In giving voice to every generation, we recognise and value the elderly, and encourage the young to appreciate their heritage.’ Projects enable all generations to benefit from the skills and values of the past so that they may enrich their own lives and communities.

One project set out to transcribe Eric Cregeen’s notebooks which include a wealth of information about Mull, recorded from remarkable tradition-bearers, from the mid-1950s to the early 1980s.  The project (now completed) was initiated by Eric R. Cregeen’s widow. Cregeen first came to Mull to set up Extra-Mural lectures for outlying communities.  He soon found that the folk who attended, such as the late Angie Henderson, the blacksmith in Tobermory, were full of local history and traditions, (even more interesting than the lectures!) and he began recording them.

In 1966 Cregeen joined the School of Scottish Studies, where all his tape-recordings have been archived.  The notebooks, however, remained with Mrs Cregeen until she asked folklorist and ethnographer Margaret Bennett if she could help.  Though there was a recent TV programme, it was disappointing that there was no mention of Mull, especially as the late Rev. Donald MacKenzie (minister on the Isle of Ulva from June 1918) collaborated with Cregeen.  Professor Bennett decided to set the record straight and acknowledge the contribution of Donald Mackenzie which she did in the introduction to The Cregeen Journals: pathways to sustainability of land-use, language and culture.

Margaret’s lecture covered the work that had been recorded by Cregeen in his journals, notebooks and recordings with particular focus on Mull. Along with slides, and the occasional song, we were held in rapt attention. Her enthusiasm for her work and Cregeen, in particular, shone through and we were happy to continue listening for as long as Margaret wanted to talk.

The evening was part-funded by The Scottish Book Trust                  Anne Cleave, Chair MH&AS