More about this examination of life around Callander in the 20th Century

Last year we wrote about the first phase of the Oral History project, which outlined the project aims, set out the project timetable, and identified how our volunteer interviewers/interviewees would be recruited, as well as the equipment required to carry out the project.

Thanks to Dr Monica Holloway of Callander Heritage Society for coming back to tell us about the next phase of the project.

At the beginning of Phase two, which started around the Summer of 2019, we issued a successful call for Oral History volunteers. A poster was designed and displayed in shops and other venues in and around Callander and we advertised on various relevant websites/press. We decided that volunteers would be prioritised based on locality, experience, and interests to ensure long-term commitment to the project.

The commitment expected of each volunteer was approximately five days (not including the three days of training) over the course of the initial twelve-month phase of twenty interviews. Volunteers were welcome to contribute to the progress of the project and their progress/ability was monitored by me and my colleague Dr. Ross Crawford to ensure consistency between interviews. We also welcomed volunteers helping on the project beyond the initial twenty interviews. Interviewee volunteers were selected around July/August/September 2019.

Oral History PosterBy October 2019 we had a team of ten volunteers, varying in age and with an array of skills that would enhance our project. Our first training session was held in November 2019 and was delivered over two days in the Callander Youth Hostel by Dr Lorna Barton and Professor Arthur McIvor from the University of Strathclyde Scottish Oral History Centre. The training session involved learning about different approaches to oral history, the ethics of interviewing, and how best to archive recordings for safe keeping. Lorna and Arthur also incorporated practice sessions to allow our volunteers to try out their interviewing techniques on each other! The training was well received and we were now ready to set-up our first batch of interviews.

Towards the end of Phase one, we were given several lists of prospective interviewees prepared by the Callander Heritage Society committee, and we also spoke to friends who we knew had been ‘born and bred’ within Callander’s landscape. The interviews would take place in the Callander Visitors Centre, and would be attended by three people: the interviewee, the interviewer and another Oral History team member, either to shadow the interviewer or to assist with setting up the equipment.

Our first interview, which took place on 23rd September 2019, was with a friend of mine, whose parents came from Callander and had run several businesses in the town. It was during this interview that we found out about the Beatles’ visit to Callander and the Roman Camp in 1964, which had been much to the excitement of the local teenage population! Our second interview was with one of the Callander Heritage Society committee members, who had been a teacher in the town for many years and whose parents had been local farmers. This interview provided us with an interesting insight into life growing up on a farm in the 1950s and 1960s.

By the end of February 2020, we had carried out seven interviews and were well ahead of schedule. By the end of February 2020, we had four further interviews pending. However, we did not anticipate the COVID-19 pandemic that was to halt our face-to-face interviews for the foreseeable future. We did give our prospective interviewees the option of a virtual interview using Zoom or some other virtual meeting tool; however this was not a popular option, at least initially. We think that many people wanted to “hold out” for a face-to-face interview, but as time has gone on, it is noticeable that people have grown more accustomed to virtual meetings.

Despite the COVID-19 lockdown, we were still able to go ahead with our second volunteer training session, which took the form of a virtual meeting on 10th June, run once again by Dr Lorna Barton from Strathclyde. This was a great opportunity to catch up with our volunteers in a virtual space and part of the day focused on everyone’s reflections of their experiences thus far. There was also some training on how best to conduct remote interviews over Zoom and other platforms.

Despite our inability to carry out face-to-face interviews, work continues behind the scenes as our first batch of interviews are currently being transcribed by our volunteers. This is very time-consuming work, but it offers a rich resource for future researchers. During lockdown, we started to work on a new mini-project: ‘Callander under COVID-19’. I took photographs around town of eerily empty streets, locals in facemasks, and long, socially distanced shopping queues. During this time, Ross undertook a few remote interviews with locals and volunteers to capture their experiences of lockdown. We feel it is important to recognise that this current pandemic will be an important part of Callander’s rich oral history in years to come and therefore we should record snapshots of everyday life “in the moment”.

If you have any experiences of living or working in Callander and the surrounding area, we’d love to speak to you. Even a short one-hour phone-call can unearth countless valuable memories that deserve to be preserved! Get in touch with Ross to find out more and arrange an interview with one of our fantastic volunteers: