'Paisley’s Enchanted Threads': An oral history of the legacy of the Renfrewshire Witch Hunt, 1697.
'Paisley's Enchanted Threads' is a Heritage Lottery funded oral history research project. For the past year we have been focusing on the oral heritage of Paisley, in particular the story of an event that took place three hundred years ago in our community. The members of our Society are especially interested in how the oral tradition has influenced the cultural heritage of the local area. One of the most fascinating and important stories in our community is the Renfrewshire Witch Hunt of 1697. The stories of the witch hunt, the trial, and the executions that took place in Paisley and wider Renfrewshire in 1697, have been passed down through the generations. They have become a part of local folklore. Up to now, these community stories were rarely recorded, but this has changed.
Volunteers were trained by professionals from the Scottish Oral History Centre, University of Strathclyde, before going out to digitally record stories related to the witch hunt. We have been particularly keen to learn where and when folk learned about the witch trials, what they thought of the characters and the events, and their views on how the story should be preserved as part of Renfrewshire's proud cultural heritage. We have been amazed by the responses!
A large part of this project involved our professional oral history and project management consultant, Dr Sue Morrison, working with secondary schools and local youth groups. Passing on practical skills and knowledge is an important part of the 'Enchanted Threads' project. Understanding how to conduct an interview not only adds to a child's level of knowledge, but also enhances their inter-personal skills and self-confidence. Sue, who is an expert oral historian, delivered training to around 80 students, and they could not have wished for a better mentor before they took the story into the community. Sue has been very important to our project, and the students learned a great deal from her throughout their interviewing experiences.
Many of the interviews conducted by the young trainees were filmed by Tim Mitchell, of Rubikon Pictures. Tim has edited the footage to create a wonderful oral history film, which is now available for viewing on the project website.
By speaking to people of all ages in our community, we have explored the oral tradition of telling tales about witches, and how these stories have changed over the years. We are reaching the end of our project, and feel that we have achieved something special. Please visit the project website to learn more about the story, to watch the school film, to hear sound clips from the interviews, and to see the beautiful photographs and original artwork commissioned for the project.
Many thanks to all our volunteers, respondents, artists and commissioned professionals!
Oral History Research & Training Consultancy
Oral history heritage professionals serving Scotland and the UK
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