Essie Stewart

Born and brought up in Sutherland, Essie Stewart is the grand-daughter of one of the greatest Gaelic storytellers ever recorded, tinsmith Ailidh Dall, ‘Blind’ Alec Stewart (1882–1968). Essie (b. 1942) is one of the last of her generation who lived the life of the old travelling people.

(Growing up in a Gaelic-speaking community, Essie loved to listen to her grandfather’s sgeulachdan – ancient stories about Ossian and the warriors; stories of the supernatural, of humourous characters, or about encounters as they travelled from place to place. They were all part of the life that Essie knew, living in a bow tent, sitting by a campfire, or harnessing the horse, loading the cart, and heading for the freedom of the open road. Essie was also a pearl-fisher for many years, carrying on an ancient skill that is no longer practised.

(Though Essie no longer lives the life of a traveller, the stories she tells are those that she learned directly from her grandfather. As all Essie’s stories have been handed down orally through generations of tradition, significantly she is one of the Scotland’s last traditional tellers of ancient, epic tales. Very occasionally Essie tells the stories in English, much preferring to tell them here as she heard them – in Gaelic. Essie also talks about her life with folklorist Margaret Bennett, who interviewed her for this recording, which was made by a fireside in Perthshire in 2012.

Oisean stories by Essie Stewart -