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Hugh Miller (1802-1856):  Collector of Scottish folklore

Hugh Miller rose from humble origins as a stone-mason to become a leading journalist, a popular writer on the science of geology, a social commentator and campaigner, and a leader in church affairs. He was also one of Scotland's early folklorists and his collection is an important source for the study of Scottish tradition.

Miller recorded almost 350 legends, stories and customs, mostly from his native town of Cromarty and the surrounding area, and was the first person to make a systematic collection of folklore in the north of Scotland.

Most of Miller's collection of folklore can be found in Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland (1835, expanded edition 1850), in his autobiographical My Schools and Schoolmasters (1854) and in Tales and Sketches (1863), published after his death.

In re-telling traditional stories, Miller used his own intensely visual imagination and a polished literary style to create vivid and striking tales, still accessible to modern readers. Revived interest in Miller has led to the reprinting of his two principal works: Scenes and Legends and My Schools and Schoolmasters. Cromarty Courthouse Museum has researched Miller's folklore, commissioned modern illustrations of some of the stories and contributed to academic studies. The Courthouse can supply copies of these books (9.99 + 1.51postage and packing).

The Courthouse Museum has also compiled a database of legends, tales, local history and customs collected by Miller.

Hugh Miller's birthplace, in Cromarty, is in the care of the National Trust for Scotland and contains displays on all aspects of Miller's life and work. Miller's autobiographical My Schools and Schoolmasters is not simply about his schooldays but is an account of his life in Cromarty until he left at the age of 37. It provides valuable information about the background to his folklore.

See next page for illustrations of Miller's tales by Christopher Fry.

  • The Green Lady
  • The Mermaid
  • The Legend of Morial's Den
  • The Flight of the Herring

 

Works in print

My Schools and Schoolmasters, B&W Publishing, Edinburgh (1993).

Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland, B&W Publishing, Edinburgh (1994)

Hugh Miller's Memoir ed. Michael Shortland, with a substantial introduction by Shortland and Harry Hanman, Edinburgh University Press (1995).

A Noble Smuggler ed. MartinGostwick, Inverness Courier (1997). A selection of Miller's early journalism, based on research by David Alston, curator, Cromarty Courthouse Museum.

Hugh Miller and the Controversies of Victorian Science ed. Michael Shortland, Oxford University Press (1996).A collection of essays including The fallen meteor: Hugh Miller and local tradition, a study of Miller's folklore by David Alston, and a full bibliography of Miller's works.

Continued on next page . . .

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