CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Ref NoMS 998
TitleJames Bruce Duncan, folksong collector: papers
Date1796 - 1982
Extent10 boxes: 3.3 linear metres
Creator NameDuncan; James Bruce (1848-1917); minister and folksong collector
Administrative HistoryJames Bruce Duncan was born in 1848 in the Aberdeenshire parish of New Deer. He graduated MA at Aberdeen University in 1869, and was ordained minister of the United Free Church at Lynturk near Alford, Aberdeenshire in 1876 and served there until his death in 1917. From 1903 he collaborated with Gavin Greig (1856 - 1914) in the recording of the extensive collection of folksong and ballad MSS which was subsequently deposited in Aberdeen University Library, to which these papers are closely related.

Many of the ballads and folksongs were noted from the personal recollections of Duncan himself and his brother, George F. Duncan (b.1860) and sister Margaret Duncan 9Mrs Gillespie) (1841-?1910), from the singing of their parents and others. Contributions of others are also preserved here, together with correspondence between them and Duncan, especially that of Miss Bell Robertson (1841-1922), New Pitsligo (MS 998/15/1-51) and Miss Mary Ann Crichton (MS 998/14/1-50). Miss Crichton had previously acted as amanuensis to Gavin Greig and was also to assist William Walker and Alexander Keith in the preparation of material for publication.
Custodial HistoryAll the manuscripts were seemingly collected or compiled between 1903 and 1917, with the exception of MS 998/17 and 18; these volumes of music mss. dated c.1796 and 1815 were probably acquired by J.B. Duncan from the library of Gavin Greig between 1914 and 1917. After the death of Duncan in 1917 his papers were in the hands of his daughter, Miss Katherine Duncan. Many were copied by Miss M.A. Crichton and used by William Walker in his compilation of indices to the volumes of ballads and folksongs collected by Greig and Duncan. When the New Spalding Club no longer found it possible to publish the projected work on the folksong of the North East of Scotland upon which Greig and Duncan had been collaborating, the material collected by Greig was presented to the University together with certain volumes compiled by Duncan and William Walker.
SourceDeposited by the family on permanent loan, 1959 (as were MSS 786 - 789).
DescriptionVolumes containing records of folksongs and folk-airs, and compilations of relative information from printed sources and indices, 1905 - 1915;
Notes and notebooks containing words of folksongs obtained from various contributors, Undated;
Notebooks containing notes by Duncan on ballad collections other than his own, Undated;
Notebooks containing copies of ballads from the collection of Gavin Greig, Undated;
Notebooks containing music of folksongs recorded in solfa notation with words, generally of first verse only, in longhand, and notes on entries in shorthand, Undated;
Volumes containing indices for volumes of folksong words and airs collected by him, Undated;
Papers containing versions of folksongs and correspondence with persons contributing these, 1905 - 1908;
Drafts of notes on ballads, with references to variant forms in different versions, accompanied by copies of versions as given by contributors, some with music, Undated;
Notes on or of lectures, cuttings of reviews, etc., reports of lectures, formation of folk-lore committee of Buchan Field Club, 1904 - 1915;
Cuttings from Buchan Observer, containing articles by Greig on 'Folk-Song of the North-East', Nos. I - CLXXX, 1907 - 1911;
Cuttings from the Glasgow Weekly Herald, containing series of articles by John Muir on 'The Auld Scots Sangs', 1905 - 1906;
Two 'Song Supplements' issued with People's Journal, 1906 and 1909;
Letters and papers sent by Greig to Duncan concerning folksong and related topics, collaboration on production of volume of folk-music, etc., 1903 - 1914;
Letters written by Miss Mary Ann Crichton to Duncan after death of Greig, concerning the transcription or copying of folksongs or airs and related topics, 1914 - 1916;
Letters from Miss Bell Robertson to Duncan concerning folksongs and ballads known to her, commenting on sources and autobiographical information, 1914 - 1917;
General correspondence on folksongs and related topics, 1906 - 1916;
Music manuscripts, containing instrumental music, including jigs, reels and strathspeys, with some versions of folk tunes and other music, 1796?, 1815; 1905; 1908; photocopies of correspondence concerning research on these papers, 1959 - 1982.
AccrualsNone expected.
ArrangementAs this material is on permanent loan it has been listed in the order in which it was stored apart from the grouping together of versions of words or tunes for the same ballad or folksong or of letters or papers by the same person. When this has not been practicable cross references have been utilised and mention made of complimentary MSS in MS 2732 or elsewhere. Some reference has also been made to Keith's 'Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and ballad Airs Gavin Greig' (1925) and to Child's 'English and Scottish Popular Ballads' (1882 - 1989) but these references are not exhaustive.

Abbreviations and short-titled used -
'Last Leaves' - Alexander Keith's 'Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and ballad Airs collected in Aberdeenshire by the late Gavin Greig' (1925)
'Child' - Francis James Child's 'English and Scottish Popular Ballads' (1882 - 1989)
'Peter Buchan' - William Walker's 'Peter Buchan and other papers' (1915)
'Folk-Song' - Gavin Greig's 'Folk-Song of the North East of Scotland' 1st and 2nd series
Access StatusOpen
Access ConditionsThe records are available subject to the signed acceptance of the Department's access conditions.
Physical DescriptionThe collection consist of a number of variously sized volumes or notebooks ruled to record words in longhand or Pitman's shorthand, and music in solfa or staff notation, of folksongs and ballads: indices ot these; collections of notes, song and ballad versions, correspondence, newspaper-cuttings and papers relevant thereto. The majority of the volumes were compiled by JB Duncan using shorthand for much of the text: he also used shorthand when drafting replies to correspondents and in annotating material received, composing lectures etc. Letters from his brother, George F Duncan, and his friend Stewart Milne, are also in shorthand. Many are marked as having been copied or transcribed.
Related MaterialMuch of the material in the notebooks has been copied into MSS 786 and 788 which were indexed by William Walker in MSS 787 and 789.

MSS 701 - 790 Gavin Greig Folk Song Collection
MS 2212 William Walker Ballad Collection
MS 2732 William Walker Folk Song Collection
Publication NoteCollections of texts and music of ballads and folk songs of the North East, with related correspondence, 1876-1917. Northern Scotland, Volume 1, No. 2 (1973), p.229.
Related RecordMS 701-790
Add to My Items