minstrel: Bards, Ceilidhs, and Ye Olde Englyshe

mn13189 at WCUVAX1.WCU.EDU mn13189 at WCUVAX1.WCU.EDU
Thu Apr 24 21:42:01 PDT 1997

I'd just like to respond to several things that have been talked about on
this list of late.

First off, the practice of using all these "y"s and "e"s.  For a time
during the development of Middle English, "y" and "e" were
interchangeable, much like "u" and "v" were.  So thys would be just as
correct as this.  Alfredo can  help me on this one.  However, the practice
of adding superfulous "e"s on the end of words that otherwise don't have
them was a Vicortian romantic convention to make something sound archaic.
So "Ye Olde Englishe Shoppe" is horribly incorrect (unless you are trying
to sound Victorian).  Also not that "ye" meaning "the" (as in the previous
example) is Victorian also.  Now Middle English did use "e"s on the end of
words when needed, and "ye" was in the vocabulary as "you."  But these
things were not used in the way we stereotypically see them used on store
signs and what not.

That being said, let us move on to things more bardic (if I am still
allowed to say that)  =-)

CEILIDHs:  Tangwystle asked for more resources on ceilidhs.  A brief
search of my reference books has not turned up much.  Unfortuately, I
don't think I'll be able to find much, at least that dates the practice
back to pre-1600.  This is not to say that the practice did not exist back
then.  It is just that not many people were interested in recording the
ways of teh poor, rural Highlander before the 1700s, so anything about
them is a gem.
That being said, the majority of my knowledge of ceilidhs comes from a
class I took called "Introduction to Scottish Folklore" taught by Dr.
Margaret Bennett.  Dr. Bennett formerly taught at the Edinburgh University
School of Scottish Studies, and is author of the book, _Scottish Customs:
>From the Cradle to the Grave_.  My notes from the class on ceilidhs are
dated 7/8/96.  I have down that she mentioned that "ceilidh" means
"visit."  This was a nightly activity done for entertainment.  She then
detailed the common thatched roof cottage these took place in (I have a
diagram f the common floor plan).  It will serve our purpose here to say
only that the common room had a peat fire in the center, usually with a
few low stools around it.  If you visited, you knew you were welcome if
the hosts pulled the long bench (usually kept in the bedroom) into the
heated common room.  It mean they wanted you to stay a while.  Stories
were often told that were hours long.  Oftentimes they were drawn out over
several days, told in parts every night.  Common stories included the
"Jack Tales" that we now associate with Appalachia, but were originally
Scottish in origin.  They exist both in Gaelic and the Scots tongues.
Dr. Bennet told a wonderful story (in Scots, not Gaelic, although she
speaks Gaelic--her student's didn't!), "Silly Jack and the Factor, or The
Day it rained Porridge" which I got on tape.  She mentioned a tinker by
the name of Duncan Williams as a modern day source for folklorists in
search of stories.  He knows over 3,000!  Usually at the ceilidh, songs
would be sung about local people.  This was a form of social control.  You
could spread gossip, make fun of someone, express admiration or love for
someone, spread bad news about someone, ruin the reputation of someone,
just by singing a song about them at a ceilidh, or inserting their name
into an already existing song.
When speking of ceilidhs, Dr. Bennet was speaking of the pre-Culloden
Highlands, although her dating did not get more specific on this matter.

One book I recently aquired and have not had time to read all the way
through yet is _Highland_Folk_Ways_ by I. F. Grant.  This was originally
published in 1961 (towards the beginning of the Scottish Folk Revival) but
was republished by Birlinn Limited in 1995. (We sell it at the Tartan
Museum, so I thought I'd give it a read).  It does mention ceilidhs on pp.
"The social life of the old Highland communities had its centre in the
_Ceilidh_.  It very different to what now often goes by that name--an
informal concert in the village hall or school.  In the Hebrides, till the
turn of the century, the men and lads, and to a lesser extent, the women,
would gather during the winter evenings in a favoured house where they
would be sure of a welcome.  The _Fear_an_Tigh_ (Man of the House) would
be well able to take the lead and to tell the first tale and everyone else
was expected to contribute to the night's entertainment.  There might be
some singing or playing, but the time was generally mainly spent in the
telling of stories and personal anecdotes, the asking of riddles and
quoting of sayings (of which from ancient times the Highlanders have been
fond) and in a great deal of discussion upon topics of all kinds from the
Supernatural to the practicle."

_The_Concise_Scots_Dictionary_, edited by Mairi Robinson (Aberdeen UP,
1985) has this to say about "ceilidh":
pg. 89
"ceilidh _20-_, kailie &c _19-20_, _chf_Uls_ ['keli;_Uls_also_'kelji]
	_n_ 1. _orig_ an informal social gathering among neighbours, 
	with or without singing, playing instruments, story-telling,
	etc, spontaneously performed by some or all of those present;
	a visit, chat, gossip _19-_,_Highl._
	2. an organized evening of entertainment (in a hall, hotel, etc)
	of Scottish music, etc, with some at least of the performers
	engaged in advance _20-_. _vi_ visit, chat, gossip _20-_,
	kailier- a person who outsatys his welcome _e20_, _Ross_Inv_Uls_
	[Gael _c`eilidh]"
This basically tells us that ceilidh has been used in the Scots tongue
since the nineteenth century, in the Highlands and in Ulster (which I find
strage, as Uster Scots were originally Lowland Scots), but in the 20th
cent., has come to mean a more organised performance.  However, it is
important to note that this is how long the word has been in the Scots
tongue, and says nothing as to its Gaelic antiquity.  The CSD does say it
was originally a Gaelic word.  I have no sources able to tell me how old
of a Gaelic word it is.

On BARDS:  I have researched some information for an article I am writing
on period role models for Scottish performers (up to 1560).  It is meant
to be a brief overview of our entire period, not an indepth study.  I have
not written the articlee yet, but I have completed the research, and I
would like to share some of my more interesting findings with you, which
may shed some unexpected light on the nature of a "True Bard."  However,
it is late, and I rambled on about Ceilidhs longer than I intended to, so
I will devote another post to that.  See ya then.


           "I brought ye to the ring.  Now dance best ye can."
    ------------------------<mn13189 at wcu.edu>-------------------------
   Matthew Allen Newsome            |	    Lard Eogan Og Mac Labruinn
   intern consultant/curator	    |       Altantian Royal Bard
   Scottish Tartan Museum           |	    Chronicler, MSoB
   & Heritage Center	    	    |	    (Militant Society of Bards)
   http://intertekweb.com/tartans/  |	    Clan Og, SCA
   <tartans at dnet.net>               |       "IT'S ONLY A GAME!"
    --------------------"Bring Forrit The Tartan"---------------------

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