Sheila Stewart’s …and time goes on…

cover, and time goes onNaomi de Bruyn wrote this review.

According to the cover notes, the Stewarts of Blair — Sheila, with her mother Belle, father Alec, and sister Cathie — were discovered in 1954. Sheila, whose family were Scottish Travellers, was exposed to songs and stories all of her life, and when her mother passed away in 1997, Sheila felt a responsibility to ensure that these tales and songs were passed down in their oral tradition, and also recorded so as to never be lost.

This CD contains a wide variety of tales and songs, from the dark and frightening to the magical and happily-ever-after. This CD will make you laugh, gasp, bite your lip in anticipation, and then sigh in relief. I really liked this delightful CD, and will listen to it many times in the coming years. Much to my surprise, my whole family actually sat and gave it a listen and enjoyed it — even the teenager who listens only to ‘metal.’ I have recommended it quite highly to all of my friends, and would have to do the same to all of you. Please, give it a listen, and enjoy the magic.

1. The Parrot: A kindly and well meaning king imprisons his daughter within her rooms in order to protect her; even the outdoors is strictly forbidden. About to undertake a journey to Africa, the king gives his daughter a beautiful African parrot to keep her company in his absence. Before the king leaves, however, the parrot beseeches the Captain of the Guard to speak with his relatives and find out how he could possibly escape. Upon the king’s return, nobody is more expectant than the parrot.

2. Rosie (song): A lyrical version of the familiar tale of Sleeping Beauty.

3. The Wooden Ball: A carpenter desires to meet the king before he dies, and crafts a spectacular ball of jewels. He is allowed the honor of giving the king the ball; the king thanks him quite perfunctorily. The ball is inscribed, “Pass it on to the one you love best.” The ball is now rolling, passing from relationship to relationship, and the ending is rather unexpected.

4. The Three Wishes: When three young men go drinking, you never know what will happen. And in this case this proves ever so true. When one of the men stops to relieve himself in back of the dustbins behind the bar, he finds a lamp. Inside the lamp is an apprentice genie … the punch-line will leave you chuckling for days. And as always, be careful what you wish for, you may get it!

5. Betsy Bell (song): A song from the First World War that Sheila’s mother learned.

6. Cod Liver Oil (song): A wonderful curative, Doctor John’s Cod Liver Oil makes all ills well. Unfortunately, it does result in vast amounts being consumed. A very popular stage song supposedly stemming from a well-advertised elixir in the 1880s.

7. The Trampman: A wandering trampman proves far too cunning and intelligent for the local minister. Using a silver tongue and a touch of feigned ingenuousness, the trampman has the minister’s aid before the poor man knows what has hit him, just by quoting the Lord’s Prayer. Each time the Lord’s Prayer is begun, a knowing smile arises on the listener’s face, until the good minister himself uses the ploy.

8. Jock Stewart (song): According to the cover notes, this song was found by the Stewarts in their mailbox. An anonymous writer stated it was written for Sheila’s father Alec — “A fine piper and storyteller.”

9. Native American — origin story: A vainglorious animal legend from America. You are left to guess what animal Sheila is speaking of, and also, how she herself managed to become a “blood-sister of the Comanche tribe.”

10. Never Wed an Auld Man (song): A very ribald tale of why a woman should not marry an old man. It will leave you laughing at the rather blunt and sassy lyrics.

11. Appley and Orangey: This is a tale that could very well have your children behaving phenomenally well. This is the “classic ‘cante fable’ — timeless and chilling.” After the horror of what befalls young Appley, there is cannibalism, reincarnation, and finally vengeance. A tale that will have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.

(Offspring Records, 2000)

[Update: The CD is still available from MusicScotland. You can read a storyteller’s remembrance and The Guardian’s obituary for Sheila, who died in 2014. The remembrance page also has two versions of Sheila’s “Appley and Orangey” for your listening edification.]

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Diverse Voices is our catch-all for writers and other staffers who did but a few reviews or other writings for us. They are credited at the beginning of the actual writing if we know who they are which we don't always. It also includes material by writers that first appeared in the Sleeping Hedgehog, our in-house newsletter for staff and readers here. Some material is drawn from Folk Tales, Mostly Folk and Roots & Branches, three other publications we've done.

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