CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Ref NoMS 3017
TitleAlexander Keith: journalist, author, farmer, broadcaster and historian: papers
Date16th century - 20th century
Extent41 boxes: 13.53 linear metres
Creator NameAlexander Keith (1895-1973), journalist, author, farmer, broadcaster and historian
Administrative HistoryAlexander Keith graduated from the University of Aberdeen, MA 1916, and worked as a journalist and assistant editor with Aberdeen Journals Ltd. from 1917 - 1944. In 1943 he purchased a farm at Eigie, Balmeddie, Aberdeenshire, and became Secretary to the Aberdeen Angus Cattle Society, a post which he held until 1955.

His publishing career began in the early 1920s, with titles relating to the lives and works of notable Aberdeenshire ballad collectors, Gavin Greig, Bruce Duncan and their associates: 'Mine Honourable Friends: Essays and Odd Papers' (Aberdeen: Wyllie, 1922); 'Gavin Greig and his Work' (Aberdeen: Wyllie, 1924); 'Gavin Greig, Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs collected in Aberdeenshire', ed. by Alexander Keith, Aberdeen University Studies, 100 (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University, 1925); 'William Walker, Book-lover', The Aberdeen Book-lover, 7 (1932), 29-34); 'Songs of the Northeast: a Pocket-book of Memories' (Aberdeen: Aberdeen Journals for the Sit Siccar Club, 1940). Subsequent works on the history of local businesses, individuals and agriculture, contributed to his growing reputation as a prominent local historian and author, and in 1967 his contribution to the literature of the North-east was formally marked by the award of LL D from the University of Aberdeen. He is perhaps best known for 'A Thousand Years of Aberdeen' (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1972); and 'Eminent Aberdonians' (Aberdeen: Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce, 1984), which was published posthumously from articles originally appearing in Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce: Journal.

For details of his life and works see Aberdeen University Review, 48 (1979), 103; Harold Watt, 'Alexander Keith: a Bibliography', Aberdeen University Review, 48 (1979), 61-67; I. B. D. Bryce and C. Graham, 'Alexander Keith: a Valediction', The Leopard , 44 (1978), 23-25; Dorothy B. Johnston, 'The Letters and Papers of Dr. Alexander J. Keith', AUL MS 3017, Northern Scotland , 4 (1981), 127; D. G. Gordon, 'Alexander Keith, M.A., LL.D. in Bennachie Again', ed. by Archie W. M. Whitely (n.p: Bailies of Bennachie, 1983), pp. 182-86.
SourceBequeathed to Aberdeen University by Alexander Keith, and deposited in 1979, with his library of printed books (see Related Material field, below). Additional deposit received in 1998 after the death of his widow, Lewella Keith.
DescriptionThis collection contains 16th - 19th century historical and literary papers of considerable local significance, as well as material covering the varied career of Alexander Keith (1895 - 1978) as farmer, journalist, broadcaster and historian. Although there is evidence that he carefully preserved these papers, with the intention of placing them in the University, the manuscripts were in no clear order upon his death. As a result, while most of Alexander Keith's own writings and personal correspondence can be identified, the provenance of earlier material acquired by him is sometimes difficult to determine. In particular, it appears that papers associated with William Walker and John Stuart have become detached from their original associations, and these sub-groups are likely to be augmented when detailed examination of the entire collection is possible.

Papers of Alexander Keith: Diaries, 1921-1973; catalogues and notebooks containing details of his library, and of books purchased, sold and reviewed by him, 1923-1942 and not dated; papers regarding management of Eigie Farm, Balmeddie, and related farming topics, including Aberdeen Angus herd material, 1942-1971; radio talks and plays, 1932-1963; notebooks and files containing text of lectures and papers delivered by him (various topics including ballads and ballad-collectors, agriculture, education, Scottish literature and authors), 1923-1963 and not dated; extracts of articles (principally newspaper cuttings) written by him, 1920s-1960s; papers relating to his work on folk songs, dialect, and Gaelic literature (including some papers of, and relating to, Gavin Greig, Charles Murray, and William Walker,), 1920s-1971 and not dated; correspondence received by him, 1920-1970; school notebooks, 1908-1911; papers and photographs regarding award of LL D from Aberdeen University, 1967; press cuttings and correspondence regarding publication of 'A Thousand Years of Aberdeen' (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1972), 1972; scrapbook of cuttings regarding his secretary-ship of the Aberdeen Angus Society and his associations with other local clubs and institutions, 1940-1962; papers regarding the Home Guard, including records of the Aberdeen Journals' Unit, 1939-1956; dinner menus, invitations and other personalia, 1967 and not dated.

Amongst his correspondence, 3 principal series have been identified thus far. These are letters from Lucy Broadwood, 1925-1929; letters from John Buchan, Lord Tweedsmuir, 1926-1937; and letters from James Devon, 1925-1938. Other correspondents represented in the collection include Marion Angus, J. M. Caie, Helen B. Cruickshank, W. J. Entwhistle, Anne Gilchrist, Alexander Gray, H. J. G. Grierson, A. A. Jack, E. Linklater, Pittendrigh Macgillivray, John MacIntyre (alias Jack Brandane), E. Muir, Nan Shepherd, A. G. Street, J. D. Symon and Lauchlan Maclean Watt.

Papers of, and relating to, William Walker (1840-1931), ballad collector, writer and book collector, 1748-1939: The William Walker papers in this collection include an inventory of his household effects and books, 1931; correspondence from John Fairlie, J. Scott Skinner, Mary A. Crichton and Alexander Keith, 1917-1935 and not dated; letters from Peter Still to his brother, William Still, 1839-1846; notebooks and papers relating to his research on Scottish ballads (including some original, early manuscripts) and Aberdeen printers, 1896 and not dated; commonplace book, not dated; annotated proof copy of F. J. Child's 'Letters on Scottish ballads' from Professor Francis J. Child to W. W., Aberdeen (Aberdeen: Bon-Accord Press, 1930); synopsis of minute books of Aberdeen Musical Society, 1748-1838; [? transcripts of the] Kirk Session and Deacon's Court minutes of Methlick Free Church, 1856-1867; and a copy of Alexander Keith's article on William Walker, 'Last of the Victorians' (Eminent Aberdonians, No. 23).

Papers of John Stuart (1751-1827), Professor of Greek, Marischal College, Aberdeen, and papers of the Stuart estates of Inchbreck, Glenbervie, 1559-1890s: the scope and content of these papers is extensive. The personal papers of John Stuart contain a considerable volume of material relating to his career at Marischal College, c. 1776-1834 and not dated, including class certificates; papers describing the teaching establishment of the college; notes on bursaries; correspondence with Mr. Kennedy regarding resignation of Greek Chair, 1782; papers regarding King's College's right of presentation to the Church at Glenmuick, 17th century; subscription appeal for scientific instruments, 1726; papers regarding condition of observatory building and its removal, 1795; papers regarding payment of salaries and memorial for raising of salary; and medical degree regulations, 1808. They also include 60 sermons preached by him, 1770s-1780s; and a variety of papers relating to his research and publications, 18th-19th century (including manuscripts of Essays, chiefly on Scottish Antiquities (1846); 'Etymology of Scots Words' by Dr W. Henderson, not dated; and his biography; fragments of his obituary; various Latin epigrams; ode by Dr. Beattie, Mr. Arbuthnott and others, 1760; and papers regarding posthumous publication of his writings).

Other papers - most, though not all relating to John Stuart (1751-1827) - include miscellaneous material relating to Aberdeen town and its government, 18th-19th century; rentals and tacks relating to properties in Aberdeen, 18th century; papers regarding travels, 19th century (including regulations governing foreigners in Canton, 1858; notes on Indians and language of British Guiana, 1830s; map of Peninsular War area, 1813; lecture courses in Leyden and Utrecht, 1817-1818); botanical notes and seed orders, 1786-1890 (including list of plants in the College gardens, 1786); papers relating to local and family history, late 18th-19th century; miscellaneous correspondence, 1890s (including letters from William Geddes to Alexander Ramsay, referring to legislation for the University of Aberdeen); and papers regarding maintenance of Ardo's tomb, St. Nicholas' Church, Aberdeen, 1845.

Family and estate papers relating to Inchbreck estate date from the mid sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, though most relate to legal and financial affairs during John Stuart's administration in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Some family papers, including marriage settlements and a small volume of correspondence are also present; and a note of compensation received for slaves, 1835, suggests that further details regarding the family's interests overseas may be forthcoming pending more detailed listing of the collection.

Papers of Alfred Wilford Keith, chemist, St. Andrews [Alfred Wilford Keith was Alexander Keith's brother]: a small collection of his personal papers are deposited here, including executry papers, 1967-1968; extracts of printed articles written by him, 1934-1949; texts of talks delivered by him, 1940s-1950s; material relating to mortars, 1950s and not dated; scrapbook containing personalia from the First World War and regarding military reunions, not dated; miscellaneous correspondence, 1930s-1960s; and lithographs by Albert Goethals, Bruges, 1946-1962 and not dated.

Related papers: a number of original records of uncertain origin, but probably associated with the research interests of both Alexander Keith and William Walker, were deposited with this collection. These include papers regarding the Buchan Club, including signatures of original members, 1796 and not dated; notes on dairy lectures given by Miss Gait at Kintore, 1891; student journal of Robert Wilson, 1867-1870; notebook containing account of the building of Roman Catholic Chapel at Preshome, 1788-1790; minute book of Deer Farmer's Society, 1793-1832; notebook containing chronological list of works printed in Aberdeen, and catalogue of volumes in University library, not dated; commonplace book of Alexander Keith (MA Aberdeen, 1880), 1880-1916; diary for the farming year, not dated [18th-19th century]; list of shareholders of Aberdeen Bank, 1779; circular letter from Sir William Forbes on behalf of committee for the abolition of the African slave trade, 1 December 1791; genealogical notes on Keith, Menzie and Skinner families, not dated; Aberdeen City Plan, 1889 and 1914; and Aberdeen University Arts Class photograph, 1912-1916.
AppraisalThis material has been appraised in line with normal procedures.
AccrualsNone expected.
Access StatusOpen
Access ConditionsSome personal papers and correspondence are subject to a closure period. Other papers are open, subject to signature accepting conditions of use at reader registration sheet.
Physical DescriptionNo physical conditions affecting use of collection.
Related MaterialPapers of and relating to William Walker (1840-1931), ballad collector, writer, book collector (GB 231 MS 2212; GB 231 MS 2306; GB 231 MS 2732; GB 231 MS 2733; GB 231 MS 2774; GB 231 MS 3396; GB 231 MS 3643).

Papers of John Stuart (1751-1827), Professor of Greek, Marischal College, Aberdeen (GB 231 MS M 0221; GB 231 MS 0365 and GB 231 MS 3141)

The Keith Collection (ref. KE). This collection of c. 4000 printed books, accumulated by Alexander Keith, 1910-1970s, covers a wide range of subjects including Scottish political, military and ecclesiastical history; nineteenth- and twentieth-century English literature with a substantial collection of detective fiction; European literature, mainly nineteenth-century French and Russian novels; folklore and ballads; printing; agriculture (cattle rearing); art; gardening and banking. Publications in the collection date from 1770-1970.
Publication NoteThe Letters and Papers of Dr Alexander J. Keith, author. Northern Scotland, Volume 4, Numbers 1-2 (1981), pp.127-34.

See Harold Watt, 'Alexander Keith: a Bibliography', Aberdeen University Review, 48 (1979), 61-67.
Add to My Items