Finding Local Stories: Edinburgh, Scotland
His first act as our host for the evening was to turn his cap backwards and explain that the origin of this style is Scotland. In the fields, the men turned their caps backward so that the rain (a common phenomena to be sure) wouldn’t run down their necks.
Then Stuart McHardy continued by telling us the origin of this family name. A story that delights all but would certainly inspire a young McHardy to a life of bravery – to boldly choose his or her family over the demands of the ruling class.
And then he gave us a song.
And then someone else was up to share a story.
And so the evening went.
The Scottish Storytelling Centre
As individuals, communities and nations, we are the product of our stories.
The stories we hear and repeat help define us, affect our emotions and, to a large degree, determine our actions. I look for these important stories when I travel but rarely do I find an opportunity like I had in Edinburgh last month.
After observing the Scottish Parliament from the visitor’s gallery (I know, not every tourist does this but there are parallels between Scotland and Quebec so I was curious) I was walking up the Royal Mile and noticed the Scottish Storytelling Centre. I went inside to check it out and, as luck would have it, that night was their monthly cafe evening of storytelling, poetry and music. I had found the real thing.
I went for a bite at the pub on the corner and returned an hour later to watch. While Stuart held the evening together with his stories and songs, others got up and contributed as well. There was the local harmonium player and the singer from Korea. A local storyteller who used paper dolls and a woman from Eastern Europe who read a poem. Yes, it was Scottish storytelling but some people attend from away – to get a sense of place in their new home – and they contribute as well.
The Pubs of Edinburgh and Leith
As I said, for my dinner I went down the road to a pub – not mentioned as I didn’t enjoy the food nor the atmosphere. While Stuart McHardy has many books out, I have chosen to share a link to his review of pubs in Edinburgh and Leith so that you can enjoy that side of the city as well. (Click on the link and then on Stuart’s name and you’ll get a complete list of his books.)
* By the way, the town of Leith figures somewhere, beyond recollection, in my personal story. Leith is my middle name.
** And by, by the way – I argued the importance of storytelling in my Master’s thesis when my adviser reluctantly allowed me to study the role of feature film, works of fiction, on their ability to analyze, interpret, communicate and even debate history. Yes, I believe storytelling is important.
I didn’t shoot this video but it does give you a great sense of Stuart as both a storyteller and singer. Please have a watch.