William Macmath, 1848 – 1922, grew up in Galloway before moving to Edinburgh as a young man and his huge and largely unacknowledged legacy was in helping the great American ballad collector and academic Francis Child with his definitive publication: English and Scottish Popular Ballads 1882 – 1898. Although working entirely in his spare time, Macmath worked tirelessly and meticulously over a period of almost thirty years, to track down and verify details relating to the Scottish ballads included in Child’s collection. He continued the work after Child’s death, and two books of songs have been re-discovered.
Songwriter and community choir director Alison Burns found Macmath’s handwritten notes and letters in Broughton House, Kirkcudbright, 10 years ago. Now she is working with folk music historians Alison McMorland and Geordie McIntyre, and musicians including Emily Smith, Robyn Stapleton and Clare Mann to bring this collection to life. Ms Burns said. “We are singing them back to life.”