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Gavin Greig (1856-1914) - Folklorist

He was born on 10th February 1856 at Parkhill in the parish of Newmachar, Aberdeenshire. On his mother's side of the family he was distantly related to the poet Robert Burns, and his father claimed kinship with the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg (1843-1907). He. was educated at the village school in Dyce and at Aberdeen Grammar
School, and between 1872 and 1876 he was a student at the University of Aberdeen. On graduation, he became a teacher at the village school at Whitehill and he held the post until his death on 31 August 1914. Greig's first poems were published in the whistle-binkie anthologies. He was a clever imitator of north-east folk-song, writing a'ballad comer' each week for the Buchan Observer. It was that attraction to folk-song that spurred his interest in ballad collecting and inspired him to begin the work on which his fame ultimately rests. In 1904 the New Spalding Club asked him to begin work on a ballad collection with the Revd J. B. Duncan of Lynturk (1848-1917); Greig was to have responsibility for the music and his colleague for the words. By the time of Greig's death the distinction between their respective tasks had become blurred and they had recorded 3050 texts and 3100 different tunes, most of the work having been done by Greig, who had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the lore and traditions of the north-east. Although Greig was unable to add conclusions and notes to all the texts, his collection of ballads remains the most comprehensive and the most illuminating of all the major Scottish collections. Greig's work was edited in 1925 by Alexander Keith and was published in its entirety in two volumes in 1981 and 1982.

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