Thursday 10 October 2013

More from Holyrood on Scottish Archives

I blogged earlier about my small participation on Tuesday in an exhibition organised by the Scottish Council on Archives at the Scottish Parliament to celebrate the brilliance of our country's archive sector (see I was back at Parliament this evening for a reception hosted by Jenny Marra MSP, at which many from the archive community and other associated bodies were present. So this is just a quick follow up report with some pics (and apologies - I didn't use flash in order not to distract the speakers, so one or two are a wee bit blurred!).

Only one way to say it - loud and proud!
Before the main event got under way I had a conversation with Douglas Roberts, who is the Education Development Officer for the Scottish Council on Archives. His role is to promote the use of archives in the education curriculum, and he mentioned some interesting project work in Aberdeenshire that was carried out on a pilot basis, concerning the First World War, which is being adopted into the curriculum. It was great to hear of such an active approach to getting kids interested in archival resources at a young age.

Once we were all assembled, Dr Irene O' Brien kicked off proceedings with a welcome, and then asked Jenny Marra to say a few words. As well as complementing the SCA on its exhibition, Jenny recalled how her own ancestry had been an influence on her decision to become a politician, with her great grandfather having been an important influence with his work in the trade union movement in Dundee. We then heard from Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, who gave a speech outlining how important the archive sector was to Scotland, both in economic terms for areas such as ancestral tourism, but also as the records that underpin our very culture. Following Fiona was John Wallace of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, who described the value of archive music, and who also described how the oboe was a Scottish invention! Irene then thanked everybody who had attended, participated in the exhibition and helped to set it up, as well as Jean Urquhart for agreeing to sponsor the event itself.

After a great performance of select pieces of music from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, it was time to mingle! I had a great conversation with Councillor Billy Buchanan from Falkirk Council about his connections to San Antonio in Texas and the Alamo, somewhere I know only too well having once filmed there in the past for an STV documentary when I worked in telly! He also revealed how as part of the First World War commemorations, Falkirk plans to raise its own 'Pals' battalion - watch this space!

I then managed to very briefly speak to Fiona Hyslop about ancestral research. She described some finds from the records on ScotlandsPeople, which showed her an Ayrshire connection that she had been previously unaware of, which had been quite a surprise, and also to discover connections to Broxburn in her constituency, for which she was grateful!

I also caught up with Natalie Summers and had a great chat about the role of Visit Scotland and ancestral tourism. The year 2014 is obviously important for Homecoming, but she is already engaging with the diaspora to promote the tourism themes which Alex Salmond announced recently in subsequent years for each year after Homecoming. It was an interesting discussion, not only about the role of Visit Scotland but on the nature of the diaspora itself across the world, and its different requirements and expectations concerning Scotland. George MacKenzie, the former Registrar General and Keeper of the Archives of Scotland, then joined us, and it turns out that following my recent blog post on the use of the 1841 and 1851 Irish census for pension applications post-1908 (see, and my request to NRS about a possible Scottish equivalent, he's been having a wee look himself, and mentioned some interesting finds!

It was a great evening, full marks to all at the Scottish Council on Archives!

Irene gets the show on the road
Jenny Marra MSP
Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP 
John Wallace
Members of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland perform

NB: Roseanna Cunningham MSP was also there this evening - and she blipped the SCA again earlier today! See :)


My latest book, Discover Scottish Civil Registration Records, is now available from (print) and (ebook), whilst Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet is available at My next Pharos Scottish course, Scotland 1750-1850: Beyond the OPRs, starts Nov 13th - see

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