Transcript of Manuscripts Curator Sally Harrower's filmed talk about the 7:84 Scotland Theatre Company archive at the National Library of Scotland.
Hello, I'm Sally Harrower, one of the curators of manuscripts here in the National Library of Scotland and my particular responsibilities are modern Scottish literary collections and theatre archives.
The National Library of Scotland has been collecting theatre archives since the 1950s and two of the most significant archives that we have are those of the Traverse Theatre and 7:84 Scotland.
I'm going to rummage through this bulging file from the 7:84 Scotland archive. This relates to their first and hugely successful play, 'The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black Black Oil'. Written by John McGrath who'd had a Highland play in mind for some time, drew on recent research into Highland history and Gaelic song and the ceilidh tradition and then the Scots love of variety and popular entertainment to create something quite new.
John McGrath called it 'a ceilidh play' and it tells the story of the exploitation of the Highlands from 1746 to the 1973 present.
The post-rebellion suppression of the clans, the Clearances, the shooting estates and the oil boom are all dramatised through a mix of quotations from original documents, reportage, Gaelic language and song, music and broad comedy. The play also tells the less well-known stories of local resistance and it's that fight which it hands on to its Highland audience.
It built a really loyal audience and that's kind of borne out by letters that are in this archive as well.
It's a company that attracts a lot of research interest, often from abroad, so it's always a pleasure to go digging in them because it's become such a personal interest and it's such an immediate contact with the people that did this.
The sort of, even the dog-eardness of the archive I like. The sort of batterdness of the photographs. Just the fact that these have been really sort of working documents. That itinerary that's obviously travelled all around the Highlands with Liz McClennan and recipes noted in the back of it and things. It's just a very direct human link with this sort of huge creative event.
If you have an interest in theatre, then there's a lot here that you'll find of use.
Diversion, that's the trouble with the archive. You tend to get side-tracked, but that's not a trouble so much as a pleasure if you've got the time to follow these sidetracks.
It's just a privilege to have this job, really.