Orkney storytelling festival of 22nd October-25th, 2015 was a wonderful experience, shared in the company of some lovely folks. Mine host Tom Muir guided us through the events with his team of Fran, Andy, Ema, Marita and good friends. Guests Grace Banks, Erin Farley and Scott Gardiner and I were ferried on boat, plane and car to some cracking Orcadian venues. Fran kick-started the festival with a tour of St Magnus Cathedral graveyard (Kirkwall). You'd never think that such a tour could be exciting but Fran is a teller of tales and with her magic brought the dead back to life. Her husband Andy is an expert in the Island's war stories so Grace and I had a nostalgic and very interesting time at the Ness Battery sharing tales, poems and songs. Highland Park house in Kirkwall saw Grace do a workshop in the afternoon and then in the evening with Erin we enjoyed a lovely audience. Betty's Reading Room with 'Tales of Near and Far' was a never to be forgotten experience- beautiful people. A fly-over to Papa Westray with the gang led to a brilliant night with the good folks of the little island. Another excellent night over at the Sands hotel with Marita as host was so funny and entertaining. Tom gave us one of his special tales as only he can. Our finale was in Stromness Town Hall and what a cracking end to a great festival. Full house, traditional tales, personal laughter ones, songs and lots more. Great food, yummy cakes and gallons of wine, what more can I say. A perfect Storytelling Festival which leaves fantastic memories that time cannot erase.
The Jess Smith Blog
As a consequence of campaign to save the Tinker's Heart many minds have come together to work not just towards educating people on our culture but in sharing it in a positive vein. Heart of the Travellers (HOTT) was born from our new found friendship, a charity organisation, registered SCO454146. (Can also be found on Facebook) Our aims are simple with a combined wish to bring the culture of Scottish Travellers together for the good of future generations. We are dedicated to promoting our culture and to share with schools, societies, groups etc. Chairman Gavin Macgregor, Secretary Fiona Macallister, Treasurer David Smith, Spokesperson Jess Smith, members Edith Townsley, Cathy Macguigan, Jade Smith. We have a growing membership of friends with our own flag.
Give the Tinkers' Heart of Argyll back to the Travelling People.
This was a long and at times difficult campaign to educate both Historic Scotland and Parliament about the significance of the little white quartz stones, in a heart shaped circle, embedded in the ground at the old junction of Hell's Glen and the A815 road to Struchar, Argyllshire. For centuries it had served as the wedding place for Scottish Travellers. Also to bless the dead and the new born. In 2008 I was first alerted that it was in danger of cattle hooves and dung. In 2010 MSP Mike Russell came on board. We began a parliament petition in 2014 gathering over a 1000 sigs and 200 positive comments. We also formed a dedicated group called HOTT (Heart of The Travellers). Historic Scotland would not be moved however and refused to schedule, stating that it did not meet their criteria. Thankfully petitions committee invited them to take a look at their criteria in relation to Scottish Travellers. They then undertook a public consultation to find out how well entrenched the culture is in Scotland. This proved a great success when on June 18th 2015 Historic Scotland changed their minds and decided that the little Tinker's Heart was worthy of scheduling. They said, "1) it gives us a great understanding of the traditions and material heritage of Scottish Travellers. 2) It is a rare example of a permanent physical monument of Scottish Travellers; 3) and it holds a high significance in the consciousness of Gypsy Travellers and the people of Argyll as a symbol of Scottish Travellers and their heritage. In light of this, we intend to place Tinker's Heart on the Schedule as a monument of National Importance".
Article 12 are modern young Travellers who share their culture and customs with schools and many young people's groups. The Scottish government have successfully funded these vibrant youngsters, I hope they continue to do so. Article 12 love their roots but also they have a great deal of respect for their country.
I believe that if all our young minds take on board this pride in 'self and place' the future will be in the best hands.
throughout my books I mention 'the Bobbin Mill' at Pitlochry, Perthshire. It was my maternal Granny's wee house and the place where we'd both sit at the fire and she'd tell me tales both fact and fiction of the old Tinker ways. Indeed chunks of my ancestral history were fluently relayed as I laid my head upon her knees and she puffed upon an old clap pipe.