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Jeannie Robertson

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Jeannie Robertson (1908 - 13 March 1975) was a Scottish folk singer.

It is not known where Jeannie Robertson was born but she did live at 90, Hilton Street in Aberdeen, where a plaque now commemorates her. Like many of the Scottish Travellers from Aberdeen, Glasgow and Ayrshire, she went to Blairgowrie to pick raspberries once a year. Hamish Henderson was born in Blairgowrie and tried to track down the best singers there. In 1953 he followed her reputation to her doorstep in Aberdeen. According to legend Jeannie was reluctant to let him in. She challenged him to tell her the opening line of Child ballad no 163, The Battle of Harlaw and he complied. In November of the same year she was staying in the London apartment of Alan Lomax. In preparation for a TV appearance, Jean Ritchie, Margaret Barry and Isla Cameron were also there. They swapped songs with each other, while the tape rolled. Jeannie made the earliest known recording of “The Battle of Harlaw”. Another of the songs she sang was Andrew Lammie (Mill o’ Tifty’s Annie) lasting over 13 minutes. At the end she told Alan Lomax about the parts of the story that she hadn’t sang. Many of the 1953 recordings were issued as “The Queen Among the Heather” in 1975. They later reappeared along with other songs on a CD of the same name.

The television program was The Ballad Hunters, directed by David Attenborough, who later became director of BBC2 television. In 1958 Hamish Henderson recorded her in Edinburgh.

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