An OUTLANDER-related adventure (Part 4)

This is Part 4 of my account of my recent Road Scholar trip to Montreat, North Carolina. You can see Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

Part 4: Thursday and Friday, June 2-3

Thursday morning's lectures were devoted to Appalachian music. I was fascinated by the concept of "shape-note" singing, a technique that allows people who don't read music to follow along and sing in tune, by using a special notation where each note on the scale is represented by a unique shape.

Here's an article about shape-note singing, and a short video of shape-note singers in East Tennessee.

My first reaction was that it doesn't sound quite like any music I've ever heard before. <g> But the singers are enthusiastic and "making a joyful noise", as the saying goes, and that's what counts. I wonder if Diana Gabaldon has heard about this? It would be fun to see Roger trying it out with his congregation on Fraser's Ridge in Book 10. Presumably very few of them would have been able to read music.

We spent some time in the class talking about the tradition of ballad-singing, which goes all the way back to the Scottish and Irish bards.

Roger, of course, has a keen interest in old Scottish ballads. You may recall that he stumbled across the infamous newspaper clipping about the fire while browsing through a book called SONGS AND BALLADS OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY, published in 1906. <g> And in THE FIERY CROSS, we see him making an effort to learn old songs and ballads whenever he gets the chance.

He repeated the words in his mind as he wiped the half-dried ink from his quill, hearing the words in Kimmie Clellan’s cracked old voice. It was a song called “Jamie Telfer of the Fair Dodhead”--one of the ancient reiving ballads that went on for dozens of verses, and had dozens of regional variations, all involving the attempts of Telfer, a Borderer, to revenge an attack upon his home by calling upon the help of friends and kin. Roger knew three of the variations, but Clellan had had another--with a completely new subplot involving Telfer’s cousin Willie.

“Or by the faith of my body, quo’ Willie Scott. I’se ware my dame’s calfskin on thee!”

Kimmie sang to pass the time of an evening by himself, he had told Roger, or to entertain the hosts whose fire he shared. He remembered all the songs of his Scottish youth, and was pleased to sing them as many times as anyone cared to listen, so long as his throat was kept wet enough to float a tune.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 98, "Clever Lad". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

One of the ballads we listened to in the class was "Tom Dooley", a song that the Kingston Trio made famous in the 1950s. Here's the Doc Watson version with the original lyrics.

You may recall Jem mentioning this song in ABOSAA.

“Has Daddy been singing?” [Bree] asked, trying to sound casual. He had to have been. And, just as obviously, had to have been trying Claire’s advice, to shift the register of his voice so as to loosen his frozen vocal cords.

“Uh-huh. Daddy sings a lot. He teached me the song about Sunday morning, and the one about Tom Dooley, and ... and lots,” he ended, rather at a loss.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 99, "Old Master". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I really enjoyed all of the music we listened to over the course of the week, including a number of songs I'd never heard before. Here's one of those songs, called "Black Jack Davy". This version is by the Carter Family.

In the afternoon on Thursday, we had a pair of "field trips", excursions to two different off-site locations, the Mountain Gateway Museum in Old Fort, NC, and the Vance Birthplace. Unfortunately, neither of these trips worked out very well for me.

At the Mountain Gateway Museum, we didn't even have a chance to look around before the guide sat us down and launched into a lengthy lecture about the Scots-Irish, their history and how they came to North Carolina. Apparently she was unaware that we had just covered the exact same material, in much more detail, earlier in the week. By the time she finally finished her presentation, we barely had ten minutes to look around the museum. It's a shame, because this is exactly the sort of place that I love to explore, and I didn't even have time to read the information accompanying the exhibits. By the time I got upstairs, it was nearly time to leave. So I don't have any interesting photos or trivia to share from the museum.

The Vance birthplace, likewise, was disappointing. The main house, like many historic houses, was not wheelchair accessible. I had expected that, but I had hoped at least to be able to peek inside the 19th-century cabins on the property, and it turned out that the terrain was too wet and uneven for me to get anywhere near the cabins with my scooter. Oh, well. I did get this photo, which reminds me a bit of what Bree and Roger's cabin on the Ridge might have looked like.

The final morning of the program was devoted to an overview of various aspects of Scots-Irish and Highland culture. I don't have many notes on this part, because I already was familiar with most of the information about the Scottish Highlanders: what they wore, what they ate, the fact that the wearing of tartan was banned after Culloden, and Queen Victoria's role in encouraging Scottish tourism in the mid-19th century, just to name a few examples.

The instructor spent a fair amount of time talking about the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, which take place every July about 60 miles away from where we were staying. I have wonderful memories of my first time at Grandfather Mountain, in 2010, and I definitely encourage you all to go if you get the chance. It's quite an experience!


The most memorable part of the morning's program was that I got a chance to hold a claymore, the long two-handed Scottish broadsword. It's really heavy!

After I checked out of the hotel, I decided to visit Lake Tomahawk, a county park that's not far away, with a flat, paved path around the lake and beautiful views of the Seven Sisters mountains. I was really glad I went! It was lovely and peaceful at the lake, with geese, and the mountains are beautiful.

Seven Sisters mountains
Geese 1
Geese 2

My last selfie of the week, just before I headed home. Can you tell how happy I was?

I just couldn't be more pleased, or relieved, at how well everything worked out! The whole week was just fabulous, and I'm so glad I decided to do this!


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading about your trip and how you tied it into Outlander AND history. Looks like a beautiful part of the country!

Unknown said...

I haven't taken any Road Scholar trips since COVID arrived, but visited North Carolina for "A Fraser's Ridge Homecoming" in 2019. It was held in Ferguson, NC, very near where the fictional Fraser's Ridge would have been, based on Diana's description of the area. I was unaware that Road Scholar had a trip like this, & will definitely look for it in the future.

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