Monday, April 29, 2019

"the Scotch-Irish, Ulster Scotch, or Presbyterian Irish" - John C. Campbell's 'The Southern Highlander and His Homeland' (1921)

Image result for "john charles campbell" "wisconsin"Image result for "olive dame campbell"

"the Scotch-Irish, Ulster Scotch, or Presbyterian Irish" – All three terms were used together in one sentence by John Charles Campbell (1867-1919, Wikipedia entry here) in his seminal The Southern Highlander and His Homeland (1921).

He was born in LaPorte, Indiana. His mother was German and his father was of Scottish descent. He was a graduate of Andover Theological Seminary in Newton, Massachusetts, and applied to become a Presbyterian minister. Instead he became a teacher – first in Alabama, then Tennessee, and then Georgia. Later he was Secretary of the Southern Highland Division of the Russell Sage Foundation of New York City.

John's first wife died and it was on a trip to Glasgow that he met his second, who was also from Massachusetts, Olive Dame (Wikipedia entry here). They married in 1908 and in October of that year they began to live among and study the mountain people. It was Olive who found a particularly unusual version of the ballad Barbara Allen, which she sent to noted English folklore collector Cecil Sharp (Wikipedia entry here). Sharp then came to America to spend time in the mountains with the Campbells, specifically in what Sharp called 'Presbyterian Missionary Settlements... charged with Calvinism... the majority we met were Baptists, but we met Methodists also and a few Presbyterians', from which Sharp and Olive co-authored the famous 1917 collection of English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (online here).

There have been discussions on the book title's presumption that the songs they collected were all 'English' - Sharp was from England and perhaps commercial considerations had a bearing. But it is curious that he did not acknowledge an Ulster origin. This example shows our own Sam Henry locating the song 'The Rambling Sailor' back to Ulster. The Campbells certainly understood the complexity of Appalachia, and Scotch-Irish settlement in the region, to an extent that Sharp appears to not have.

• A 'Folk School' in Campbell's honour was established at Brasstown in the far west of North Carolina (Wikipedia entry here).

• A recent publication by the University Press of Kentucky, entitled The Life and Work of John C Campbell is online here.

• The Southern Highlander and His Homeland is an excellent book and is online at HathiTrust here. The statistical analysis tables in it are fascinating, including the one below which shows the proportion of African Americans who were living in the region in 1910 - solid evidence for the cross-cultural musical interactions which took place and continue to.