Lives and life around Callander in the 20th Century

We are involved in a range of heritage projects, from archaeological digs, to examining Callander’s Gaelic heritage, to capturing the experiences of local people and their lives in this beautiful location through the Oral History Project.

This was launched towards the end of 2018 as a joint project between Callander Heritage Society and Callander Landscape Partnership, with support from Stirling Council. Dr Ross Crawford, who is the Community Heritage Advisor for Callander Landscape Partnership, initially led the project; he was joined by Dr Monica Holloway in February 2019. Both have social/history research doctorates and many years’ experience in researching and recording social narrative.

Although it has been disrupted by the COVID-19 lockdown, the Oral History Project has made good progress, and we asked Monica to give us an overview. How did she become involved, what does the project entail, and how will it benefit us all?

I had completed my social research doctorate in Hertfordshire and moved back to Scotland in 2018, and I was delighted to be offered this voluntary position with the Callander Heritage Society. Co-managing the project with Ross would provide me with the opportunity to use the social research skills I had acquired during my doctoral studies, while gaining an in-depth knowledge of the town and surrounding landscape, which had recently become home to me.

Camera with screen flipped open, showing woman being interviewedOral history projects involve passing on and recording memories, experiences and knowledge provided through storytelling. Informal storytelling through the years has provided us with today’s history, myths and folklore, while more formal oral history ventures using interviews or focus groups provide us with historical archives about a specific area, event or era. The personal nature of our project will provide us with an insight into the lives of the people who lived in and around the Callander landscape in the 20th Century.

The Callander Heritage Society identified an increasing demand for storytelling in the area across the generations. The evidence for this is contained within the Callander Community Action Plan: 2012 – 2017. Our project will build on an oral-history initiative that was delivered in 2016/17 by the team at Callander Library, which aimed to engage older people in Callander in conversations about the past. Some minor oral history work was also carried out in the area in 2014, but the results are not easily accessible.

As part of the project, we aim to ensure that our documentation is digitised and widely available to meet local and visitor interest, while enabling an ongoing base of data for current and future research purposes. Another aim is to upskill a group of volunteers who will initially interview and help analyse the resulting data. It is hoped our volunteers will continue with the project in the future, and also will have acquired the skills to embark on their own self-directed projects.

Other project beneficiaries will include local, regional and national history and heritage groups; local businesses and organisations; local property and estate owners; primary and secondary schools in the area and finally the local community itself. It will strengthen the community by bringing people together and by heightening historical and heritage interest. We are also hoping that the recordings will be of interest to Callander’s diaspora across the globe, especially since the Society has established many links with families who have social ties to the town.

Finally, being part of our project as an interviewee should bring its own benefits, such as meeting new social connections, while the power and benefits of reminiscence – especially for older people – is well recorded.

Camera and flip out screen showing man being interviewedThe first phase of the project has entailed purchasing good quality oral research equipment, which has included a video camera, an audio recorder and a 2TB laptop. Ross had already looked into the cost of good quality, professional equipment and after discussions with several media and research professionals we decided to purchase a Zoom Handy Recorder, a Sony Ultra HD Handycam and a Lenovo IdeaPad laptop, plus all the necessary accessories.

After some practice runs with the equipment, we were ready to go into the next phase of the project, which was to advertise both for volunteer interviewers to join our project team and for local people who would be willing to meet with us and talk about their lives growing up in and around Callander.

Dr Holloway and her team started training and interviewing before being interrupted by lockdown, and continue to interview remotely where possible. We’ll be gathering together some of the fascinating stories already uncovered and posting them here at a later date, along with further progress reports.

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 1-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: