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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

A Taste of SpectreTown

30th July 2015

A new production incorporating the North East (Doric) dialect is due to hit the Edinburgh Fringe and then tour Scotland. The drama SpectreTown, performed by theatre company Stoirm g and Cumbernauld Theatre, was written by Fifer Elspeth Turner and is directed by Matthew Lenton, with music by Matt Regan. Turner took her inspiration from the archive recordings made by the late Hamish Henderson who interviewed people and ballad singers in North East Scotland. She said When I started listening to bothy ballads a couple of years ago I became really interested in what these songs were used for... and noted the political comments about the relationship between workers and employers, tradition, power, gender relationships, and an older rural way of life.


In the story a group of modern charity workers in the city begin to learn about the relationship between Doddie and Meg from an old cassette tape from bygone years and are introduced to the bothy ballad tradition which includes, of course, song in the Doric or North East dialect. The ballads vary from English through to Scots, often with a flavour of both. For instance, we learn about Doddies background in one song:


Doddie West wiz a chiel amang quinies.

Fae the time his fair face emerged


intae the squawking world

fae which daddy hid merrily skipped,

he wiz on his aen wi the women.

Stuck tae his mithers skirt,

he moved through the touns,

each hauf-year a new lesson,

and he learned and followed them

pinned hissel tae them

as a sinner tae the creepie chair.


During October 2014 an audience of various ages shared its memories of that older way of life, and of the ballad tradition, at a meeting in Tullynessle village hall, and there will be previews of the new drama at Cumbernauld Theatre on 31 July and 1 August. Following this SpectreTown will have its premier at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the Assembly (Rainy Hall) from 6th to 31 August 2015, performances at 1.30pm (except for the 12, 17 and 24 August). Tickets cost 14 with concessions available at 12 and 8. After the Fringe the drama will tour various places in Scotland. Please check our events section for further details.