Now, he had Scottish ancestry as you can tell from his surname, although he was from the north east of England. He was a scholar of Medieval English really. He was a Medieval dialectologist but he worked in Bletchley on code breaking during the war, for part of the war, and he’d seen there how magnetic tape, for example, was used and he thought that really this should be harnessed for dialectology, and if for dialectology then why not for folklore studies too? And he’d also learned another lesson at Bletchley Park and he spoke to me about this, he was one of my PhD supervisors, and we did talk about these things. Something he’d seen at Bletchley Park was people from lots of different backgrounds but with a common purpose working together as a team, each of them working with a very particular focus on a small area, perhaps working in a very deep way, but cumulatively bringing together a major project. And it’s probably fair to say that in many disciplines anyway, maybe not all of them, but in many disciplines, until that time scholarship had been mainly thought of as an individual thing. You beavered away on your own particular topic and teamwork of that kind wasn’t perhaps particularly encouraged.

  • Margaret Mackay
Thursday 17th June 2010