Wednesday, 16 October 2013

My Regency Reunion

... and Gale's Pocket Companion Conundrum


Last night I was looking at old song collections in connection with a BBC query. I had a wonderful evening! It was so nice to look at the subjects of my doctoral research with fresh eyes, in a different context. And there they all were, sitting waiting to greet me -  the nice old Scottish gents that they were.

There was the ghost of poet and songwriter Allan Ramsay (father of the famous portrait painter), sitting shyly on the edge of the circle, then James Johnson, Robert Burns, Robert Archibald Smith - even the grumpy old northern English Joseph Ritson was pleased to see me.

So this morning, when I was compiling thumbnail sketch biographies of all our fiddle tunebook compilers, imagine my surprise and delight to find Smith, one of my special favourites, linked to a collection of flute tunes in Glasgow University Library. It's probably just a mundane collection, and if it has no basslines or accompaniments then it isn't any more use for my postdoc project than it would have been for the song-collecting research. However, if R A Smith is connected with it, then it's more interesting than I would otherwise have thought.

I went across to the Uni library this afternoon, to look at an old book about Scottish fiddlers, so I took the opportunity to call up the Glasgow-published Gales Pocket Companion while I was there.  I do have photocopies of the contents pages of all Smith's Scotish Minstrel books - and the Irish Minstrel - so I can at least check.  If this doesn't yield the answer, my next stop will be Dundee (good thing we're going there before the end of the month), to look at vol.2 of Gale's, in the vain hope that there might be something incriminating Smith in that book, if not this one!

Sadly, there was not a trace of Robert Archibald Smith to be found - at least, not on the face of it.  However, a cataloguer evidently once thought there was a link, so now I want to know what it was!  To begin with, I've taken a photo of the index page.  It doesn't look particularly Smith-ian to me, but I do have the photocopied indices of all his Scotish Minstrel books, and the single Irish Minstrel, so I have a reasonable chance of spotting any clear connection.  Or not.

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