About the Dreg Song Project

In the nineteenth century, Scotsmen fished for oysters in the Firth of Forth by dragging dredges over the oyster 'scalps'. To maintain a steady speed they sang as they rowed. Overfishing brought the industry to a close near the turn of the twentieth century and with it, the use of the dreg songs. In the 1930s James Madison Carpenter gathered some of these songs on wax cylinders and typewritten pages. For years the songs were hidden away - lost. Now, with the work of the James Madison Carpenter Project these songs have come back to life first at Mystic Seaport Museum and, this summer, in their home waters of the Firth! Three Scottish Coast Rowing Clubs: RowportyNewhaven Coastal Rowing and Boatie Blest  brought the songs home to the Firth at 7:30 pm on 20 June, 2012 near the Dalriada Bar. It was a memorable and historic evening!

The Game Plan

How will the dreg songs return to the Firth? In April I’ll do a video conference with the three rowing clubs and interested musicians and share with them the results of my research to date. They’ll have a chance to hear the original recordings and see the notations and texts gathered by James Madison Carpenter. After the video conference they will receive copies of these materials to study at their leisure.

Over the following couple of months each club will have time to work out their interpretation of the tradition using the materials provided plus their own boats and experience.

In June, we’ll all gather first in Edinburgh at the beach near the Dalriada Bar where each group can demonstrate their interpretation of the tradition – and have the opportunity to compare and contrast them all. At the weekend following we’ll all head up to the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival in Portsoy to row, sing and celebrate!