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School of Scottish Studies Archives, University of Edinburgh

Phone 0131 650 3060
Address 29 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LD
The School of Scottish Studies Archives has now relocated to 29 George Square following redevelopment.
SSSA is open from 10:00-16:00, Tuesday to Friday. Production requests should be made by 11:00 for consultation from 14:00.
While no prior arrangement is necessary, should you wish to discuss your visit or needs, please email or telephone via the details provided.

Collection Highlights

'The Twa Brothers', sung by Sheila Stewart (1955), from the sound archive collection. Click here to listen.
This tragic ballad tells the story of two brothers, William and John, who have a wrestling match, in the midst of which a ‘little penknife slipped out of William’s pocket’ wounding John, a wound that proves mortal. The song appears in The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, collected by Francis James Child during the second half of the 19th century, but has also been transmitted orally, particularly among Traveller communities.
There are many versions of The Twa Brothers in the School of Scottish Studies Archives. This one was recorded from Sheila Stewart in 1955 by Hamish Henderson. Sheila Stewart (1935-2014) was one of the Stewarts of Blair, a famous Perthshire Traveller family. Her mother, Belle, and sister, Cathy, were also singers and her father, Alex, was a piper and storyteller. Sheila learned her songs from her family. She is a very expressive singer and describes this gift for conveying the feeling of a song as the ‘conyach’: ‘When I sing a ballad I sing the ballad to myself, telling myself the story over again. We live the ballad we sing and that puts the conyach in’. 


Kit Sked, Blacksmith, Cousland Smiddy, Midlothian. Photo by Ian MacKenzie (1987): The earliest histo...

Cure from Maclagan (1893-1903): In 1889, Dr Robert Craig Maclagan (1839-1919) responded to a call fo...