Indeed, this year has been a landmark one for the EFDSS in the field of folk song research, with the successful completion of the Take Six project. This has seen the collections of Janet Blunt, George Butterworth, Francis Collinson, George Gardiner, Anne Gilchrist, and Henry and Robert Hammond archived to professional standards and mounted online in a fully searchable database which provides access to the digitized documents <http://library.efdss.org/archives/>. The six collections amount to more than five thousand songs, tunes, dances, and other folk art-related ephemera, comprising over twenty-two thousand images. Such items represent the historical raw materials of our research field. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the project marks a further important step in the recognition of the EFDSS and the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library as the leading centre for folk song and related research in the UK.
This issue of the journal contains three substantial articles. Rosemary Coupe's study offers not only a detailed history of the development of the 'Eightsome Reel', from the nineteenth century through to its place in films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, but also a valuable case study in the invention of traditions. She demonstrates that this iconic Scottish dance has fulfilled the needs of several different communities in its lifetime, showing not just how it has come to serve the ends of cultural nationalism, but how it has been both a lived tradition and an invented tradition at the same time.
Paul Cowdell tackles the unsavoury subject of cannibalism at sea. Beginning with the entry into circulation among sailors of the literary parody 'Little Boy Billee', written by the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, the article relates songs about 'survival cannibalism' to the established 'custom of the sea', and also its eventual reduction with technical improvements in navigation and shipbuilding. The movement of such a song into oral tradition, the article argues, reveals a good deal about the developing nature of traditions. Folk song traditions do not die out, they change.
Andrew King's investigations into the Ella Leather manuscripts in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library have unearthed much information about a song collector who has previously seemed a rather enigmatic figure. Leather was in fact a significant collector in her own right and an important collaborator with Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams. The article sheds new light on relationships among the early collectors, restores to Ella Leather the credit for collecting a significant corpus of songs, including some remarkable Herefordshire carols, and recognizes her pioneering work with the phonograph. It is a worthy addition to the journal's occasional series describing resources in the VWML.
This year the obituaries section is regrettably larger than one would have wished. Arranging obituaries is the least enjoyable part of editing the journal and I am, as ever, extremely grateful to the writers who undertake this sad, but worthwhile, task. Besides those honoured here, the death of the American folklorist Sandy Ives came too late in the year to be properly acknowledged in this issue and a full obituary will be published next time. Nearer to home, the untimely death of Malcolm Douglas deserves recognition. Malcolm did sterling work revising and updating the book of Classic English Folk Songs, published by EFDSS in 2003, and initiating the revised editions of Frank Purslow's selections from the Hammond and Gardiner collections, commencing with Marrow Bones, published in 2007. The intention is that the series will continue, and it will be a fitting tribute to Malcolm's enthusiasm and dedication.
On the subject of publications, it seems appropriate to note the republication in print of Bertrand Bronson's Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads, long beyond the reach of most pockets but now reissued by Loomis House Press/CAMSCO Music. It would, of course, be impertinent to have Bronson reviewed in the journal at this date, but we might hope that its welcome republication, besides being an immense convenience for researchers and performers alike, will stimulate anew research into the whole business of ballad melodies and Bronson's conception of tune families. Underlying research into traditional items of all kinds seems to be an implicit question: 'How similar do things have to be to be the same?'