Papers of and relating to William Walker, bibliophile, ballad collector, and writer

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

GB 231 MS 2212 5 volumes containing lists and indices relating to ballads (and ballad collections) of the north east of Scotland, compiled by William Walker (1840 - 1931)

GB 231 MS 2306 Letters on Scottish ballads, from Francis J. Child (1825 - 1896), ballad-collector, Joseph Ebsworth, and others, to William Walker (1840 - 1831), 1890 - 1904. The letters from F.J. Child are printed in Letters on Scottish Ballads from Professor Francis J. Child to William Walker (Aberdeen: Bon-Accord Press, 1930)

GB 231 MS 2732 Personal papers of William Walker, relating principally to his work on Scottish ballads, together with a small volume of material relating to his other research interests. The collection comprises notebooks, loose notes and correspondence used by Walker in his works, The Bards of Bon Accord, 1375 - 1860 (1887); Peter Buchan and Other Papers (1915); Some Notes on Chap-Books (1931); in articles for local newspapers and periodicals; in compiling bibliographical and other lists for F.J. Child, English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882 - 1898); and in indexing the manuscript folk song and folk music collections of Gavin Greig and James Bruce Duncan.

Of the 21 notebooks in the collection, most relate to Walker's research on ballad collections and collectors. They contain both his own notes and extracts from contemporary printed sources, such as his indexes to items published in Ruddiman's Weekly Magazine (1768 - 1785), the Quarto Collection in Complete Collection, Old and New Songs and Ballads (London, 1735) and A. Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany (1724 - 1740). One volume also alludes to Walker's antiquarian interests, with notes and transcript of the Rickart manuscript, which he deposited in the University in c 1931 (GB 231 MS 2305 - see Related Units of Description for further details).

Correspondence in the collection was arranged in 7 distinct series prior to deposit, and this order has been maintained, viz.: letters from Rev. J. Ironside Still (1854 - 1927) of Banchory Devenick, to William Walker, regarding his uncle, Peter Still, the Buchan Poet, 1885 - 1887; letters from Gavin Greig (1856 - 1914) to a Mr Brown, on folk song and related topics, 1907 - 1914; letters from James B. Duncan (1848 - 1917) to Gavin Greig (1856 - 1914) on folk song and music, 1905 - 1914; correspondence between James B. Duncan (1848 - 1917), William Walker and Duncan's daughter, Katherine Duncan, during her father's last illness, 1914 - 1921; private letters from Miss M.A. Crichton and others re. the folk song collections of Gavin Greig (1856 - 1914) and James B. Duncan (1848 - 1917), 1914 - 1920; miscellaneous letters and papers concerning contributors to Gavin Greig's collection of ballads, 1923 - 1925; and correspondence between Gavin Greig (1856 - 1914), James B. Duncan (1848 - 1917), William Walker, Alexander Keith, Miss M.A. Crichton and others regarding the proposed publication of Greig-Duncan material by the New Spalding Club (complementary to correspondence in GB 231 MS 0998) [N.B. owing to the deaths of both men, and delays caused by the First World War, this project had to be abandoned and was replaced by Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs collected in Aberdeenshire, ed. by Alexander Keith (with assistance from Walker and Miss Crichton) (Aberdeen: Buchan Club, 1925). Alexander Keith (1895-1978), assistant editor and chief leader-writer of the Press and Journal until 1944, was author of Burns and Folk Songs (1922) and other works.]

Walker's notes and correspondence refer to many local ballad collections and collectors, including David Herd (1732 - 1810), William Christie (c 1817 - 1885), Dean of Moray, compiler of Traditional Ballad Airs (1876 and 1881), and his father, William Christie (c 1778 - 1849). However, his descriptions are often enigmatic and references to other published works have been difficult to verify.

GB 231 MS 2733 Calculation book for the manufacture of wool, containing notes on the manufacture of worsteds, preparing and spinning wool, and algebra, c 1861; with list of yarns, n.d. These items were deposited with Walker's folk song collection (GB 231 MS 2732) and accessioned separately. They are believed to have been made by him during his studies at the Mechanics Institute.

GB 231 MS 2774 Notebook compiled by William Walker, containing copies of an account of Aberdeen in 1850; poems of Lillias Skene, 1665 - 1696; and life of Edward Raban, 1851

GB 231 MS 3396 Papers of William Walker, comprising annotations to printed book, and including fragment from Gavin Greig collection, c 1914. 12 items, bound in 1 volume

GB 231 MS 3643 Papers relating to publication of Folk-Song of the North-East (Buchan Observer, 1907-11) with letter of G.(Taffy) Davidson and related newspaper cuttings

Administrative / Biographical History

William Walker was born in Aberdeen in 1840. He began running errands for his father, one of the last handloom weavers in the city of Aberdeen and leader of the local Chartist movement, when he was 8 years old, but by 1860 had entered the service of the Equitable Loan Company, Aberdeen, in whose service he remained until retirement c 1912 - 1913. By dint of hard work and part time study at the Mechanics' Institute in the city, he rose by 1909, to the position of managing director. In his retirement he devoted himself to his shared passions of book collecting, research and publishing works on Scottish ballads and local history. He also served on the committee of Aberdeen Public Library, and was, for a time, editor of the magazine of the Aberdeen Buchan Association. Some of his library, which excelled in song and ballad collections, Burnsiana, local history and literature, was bequeathed to the University of Aberdeen after his death in 1931, along with several manuscript collections. Some local history material, including a compilation of press cuttings and manuscripts of local interest collected by James Rettie, was also left to the Aberdeen Public Library. The remainder was sold by public auction, over a period of 12 days. Throughout his life he had offered help and encouragement to many local writers, including James Ogg, William McKisseck, Thomas P. Nicoll and Alexander Gibson, testimony to which is acknowledged in their various works.

Walker is best known for The Bards of Bon-Accord (Aberdeen,1887), a landmark study, and still a standard text on the poets and poetry of Aberdeenshire from the fourteenth to nineteenth centuries. He was an authority on the life and work of Peter Buchan, the Peterhead ballad collector, and his other principal work, Peter Buchan and Other Papers was published in Aberdeen in 1915. In 1890 he had entered into a series of correspondence on Buchan's work with Francis James Child, the American ballad collector, and author of English and Scottish Popular Ballads (orig. pub. 1857 - 1859; 2nd edn., 5 vols, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1882-98), offering guidance on local dialect words and points of historical and geographical information, pertinent to his work on Buchan's manuscripts. He also acted as an intermediary for Child in his enquiries to Gavin Greig (1856 - 1914), schoolmaster at Whitehill, New Deer, Aberdeenshire, who, from 1876 until his death, worked with James Bruce Duncan (1848 - 1917), minister of the United Free Church at Lynturk, Aberdeenshire, gathering and recording surviving songs of the ancient ballad tradition of the North East of Scotland. After Child's death, he continued this association, compiling an index for Greig's Folk-Song of the North-East, 2 vols (Peterhead: Scrogie, 1909-14), and, when Greig and Duncan died leaving their work unfinished, he added introductory notices to the texts of the ballads they had not been able to deal with, and prepared a report on the collection for the New Spalding Club. Greig and Duncan's manuscripts were subsequently deposited by him in Aberdeen University (GB 231 MS 701 - 790 and GB 231 MS 0998). They have been prepared for publication in 8 volumes by the School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh (1981-2002).

As well as his work on the Scottish ballad tradition, Walker was a keen local historian, and from 1886 until his death in 1931, published numerous pamphlets on wide-ranging topics of local history interest. Like The Bards of Bon-Accord, which had been published in newspaper articles prior to 1887, most of his pamphlets had first appeared in local periodicals and magazines such as Scottish Notes and Queries, The Aberdeen Book-lover and Brown's Bookstall.

For further details see Flora Ross, William Walker (1841 - 1931), Aberdeen University Review, 39 (1961 - 1962), 317-322, ill., and obituary in the Press and Journal, 28 Dec 1931.

Arrangement

None observed - most of the deposits described above are awaiting listing

Conditions Governing Access

Open, subject to signature accepting conditions of use at reader registration sheet

Acquisition Information

GB 231 MS 2212: source not recorded - probably bequeathed to the University by William Walker, c 1931; GB 231 MS 2212: source not recorded - probably bequeathed to the University by William Walker, c 1931; GB 231 MS 2306: source not recorded - probably bequeathed to the University by William Walker, c 1931;GB 231 MS 2306: source not recorded - probably bequeathed to the University by William Walker, c 1931;GB 231 MS 2732: source not recorded - probably bequeathed to the University by William Walker, c 1931; GB 231 MS 2732: source not recorded - probably bequeathed to the University by William Walker, c 1931; GB 231 MS 2733: source not recorded - probably bequeathed to the University by William Walker, c 1931; GB 231 MS 2733: source not recorded - probably bequeathed to the University by William Walker, c 1931; GB 231 MS 2774: source not recorded - probably bequeathed to the University by William Walker, c 1931; GB 231 MS 2774: source not recorded - probably bequeathed to the University by William Walker, c 1931; GB 231 MS 3396: source not recorded - deposited in the University in 1993; GB 231 MS 3396: source not recorded - deposited in the University in 1993; GB 231 MS 3643: gifted to the University in Nov 2000, by Colin T. Mearns, of Aberdeen.

Other Finding Aids

Descriptive lists available in the Reading Room, Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail: speclib@abdn.ac.uk) for GB 231 MS 2732; and GB 231 MS 2733.

Very brief collection level description for all other deposits available on Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online http://www.abdn.ac.uk/diss/library/

Alternative Form Available

No copies known

Conditions Governing Use

Subject to the condition of the original, copies may be supplied for private research use only on receipt of a signed undertaking to comply with current copyright legislation.

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Head of Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail: speclib@abdn.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. Where possible, assistance will be given in identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures

Custodial History

GB 231 MS 3643 was inherited by Colin T. Mearns from his father, John Mearns

Accruals

No accruals expected

Related Material

A substantial portion of William Walker's library, along with manuscript material found amongst his books, was purchased by the University of Florida after his death in 1931. The manuscript material was being prepared for publication by Dr Robert S. Thomson, of the Department of English, University of Florida in 1999.

William Walker's correspondence with Francis Child is deposited in the Houghton Library at Harvard University. It has been edited by Mary Ellen Brown and published as The Bedesman and the Hodbearer: the Epistolary Friendship of Francis James Child and William Walker, Elphinstone Institute Occasional publications, 2 (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 2001).

Other records relating to William Walker deposited in the University of Aberdeen include:Commonplace book of Anne M. Turner, of Turnerhall, Aberdeenshire, 1798 - 1889 (GB 231 MS 0560). Associated with William Walker Poems of Alexander Gordon with related material (GB 231 MS 0697). Associated with William Walker Autobiographical notes of Lewis Smith (1807 - 1880), wholesale publisher, bookseller and stationer, Aberdeen (GB 231 MS 0945). Associated with William Walker Poems by John Burness, with notes by William Walker (1840 - 1931) and J. Rettie (GB 231 MS 1013) Papers of and relating to Peter Buchan (1790 - 1854) , printer and ballad collector, and his family, collected by William Walker, 1811 - 1915 (GB 231 MS 2303) Papers of and relating to William Thom (1798/1799 - 1848), the weaver poet of Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, 1841 - 1963 (GB 231 MS 2304 and MS 2497). This collection was assembled by William Walker between 1841 and 1890, and includes some notes made by him, regarding the life and work of Thom. Papers of John Rickart (1678 - 1749), merchant, of Auchnacant (the Rickart manuscript), with transcript by William Walker (GB 231 MS 2305) Miscellaneous papers relating to persons in Northeast Scotland, 1652 - 1821 (GB 231 MS 2326). This small collection was compiled by William Walker, and includes 11 items relating to the family and descendants of Thomas Mitchell, Merchant in Aberdeen, with reference to trading transactions of Aberdonians, character references from parish ministers given to disjoined members of their congregations, etc.; and 6 items of correspondence between John Kynoch, James Sherrifs and others, all of Aberdeen, regarding militia, recruiting and other matters, 1810 - 1821. Extracts and bibliographic essays on William Walker (1840 - 1931), compiled by Flora Ross, 1961 (GB 231 MS 2410) Folk tunes associated with the Christie family, Banff, c 1750, deposited by William Walker (GB 231 MS 2422) Newsprint articles from J.D. Walker's On Scottish Poets and History (GB 231 MS 3240). Associated with William Walker Greig-Duncan folk song collection (GB 231 MS 701 - 790 and GB 231 MS 0998)

Bibliography

F.J. Child's letters in GB 231 MS 2306 are printed in Letters on Scottish Ballads from Professor Francis J. Child to W.W., Aberdeen (Aberdeen: Bon-Accord Press, 1930). They have been reprinted, with some additions and modifications based on examination of the originals, along with William Walker's letters to Francis Child in The Bedesman and the Hodbearer: the Epistolary Friendship of Francis James Child and William Walker, ed. and introd. by Mary Ellen Brown, Elphinstone Institute Occasional publications, 2 (Aberdeen: AUP, 2001).

Material in GB 231 MS 2732 was used by Walker in his publications, The Bards of Bon Accord, 1375 - 1860 (1887); Peter Buchan and other papers (1915); Some Notes on Chap-Books (1931); and in articles for local newspapers and periodicals. Bibliographical and other lists compiled from this material appear in F.J. Child, English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882 - 1898). The collection was also used by Alexander Keith in the preparation and editing of Gavin Greig's Last Leaves of Traditional Ballads and Ballad Airs collected in Aberdeenshire, ed. by Alexander Keith (Aberdeen: Buchan Club, 1925)

Additional Information

This material is original