The "Travelling People" of Scotland are the traditionally nomadic minority group known also by the derogatory term "tinkers."
Traveling in groups or in their individual caravans along the high roads and byways of Scotland, they have established a distinct identity and mode of life for themselves that preserves centuries-old cultural beliefs. For their skill as storytellers, as well as ballad singers, they are internationally recognized for the richest storytelling traditions of the world.
One of their best-known storytellers is Duncan Williamson. He was fascinated by storytelling from an early age and dedicated himself to keeping the wisdom of traveller culture by learning as many stories as possible. While this book focuses on a number of individuals, both Duncan's skill as a storyteller and his extensive knowledge of traveller storytelling traditions are prominently featured through a series of performance transcriptions and interview excerpts.
Although their oral tales have been compiled and collected in other volumes, this book is the only full-length study that analyzes the stories of the Travelling People. Through an examination of their words, narratives, and songs, it brings readers close to Travellers' own voices and to their distinctive practice of storytelling.
Indeed, this analytical appreciation of the culture shows how the story performances preserve the history of the Travelling People and reveal the shape and substance of the storytellers' own lives. It renders too the rich variety of stories, the interrelationship of stories and the community, the construction of the teller's identity within the story, and the story's way of understanding and shaping human experience.
Although concentrated on these Scottish storytellers, this book imparts insights into the process of storytelling in general and contributes understanding of the place of stories in human communities and to human identity.
Donald Braid, assistant director of the Center for Citizenship and Community and a lecturer in English at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, is a co-editor ofA Folklorist's Progress: Reflections of a Scholar's Life. His work has been published in theJournal of American Folklore,Text and Performance Quarterly, andThe Encyclopedia of Folklore and Literature.