Alan Scott (1930–1995) was born in Caboolture, Queensland, the son of a railway worker. The family moved to Brisbane in 1935. He attended the Industrial High School in Brisbane and was later apprenticed as an electrical plater. He became interested in Scottish and American folk songs as a schoolboy and after joining the Eureka Youth League he began collecting and singing radical and union songs. His interest in Australian folk songs began through his friendship with Ron Edwards and John Manifold and developed after he saw a performance of the play Reedy River. He moved to Sydney in 1954 and for many years worked at the Redfern Mail Exchange. Scott was an accomplished musician, playing the concertina, tin whistle, recorder and mouth organ and was a fine singer. He joined the Bushwhackers Band soon after his arrival in Sydney and was a foundation member of the Sydney Bush Music Club. He published and later edited its journal Singabout (1956–67). He was recognised as one of Australia’s leading folklorists and represented New South Wales on the Australian Folk Trust in 1987–91. In his retirement he and his wife Gay Scott lived near Picton, New South Wales.
Scott was the co-editor, with John Meredith, of Authentic Australian Bush Ballads (1960). He assisted Meredith with some of his early field recordings and in 1955 he acquired a tape recorder and began recording bush songs and bush dance music. Most of his early recordings were made in Wollongong, Wagga Wagga, Cobar, Singleton, Sydney, Bundaberg and Brisbane. In 1985–90 he made regular field trips to country areas of New South Wales, including Glen Innes, Emmaville, Goulburn, Tumut, Bowral, Bathurst, Lithgow, Wauchope and Murwillumbah.
In 1983 Scott donated to the Library seven reels of folk music that he had been recording since 1955. From 1985 to 1990 the Library provided him with financial assistance and received regular instalments of tapes. In 1996 the Library purchased from Gay Scott 20 reels of field recordings made by her husband in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Alan Scott Collection comprises 105 tapes of folk music, dance music, folklore and oral history recorded in New South Wales and Queensland between 1955 and 1990. With some of the recordings, Scott was assisted by Gay Scott and Kevin Baker. Most of the tapes contain music, with a variety of instruments being played including the button accordion, accordion, tin whistle, mouth organ, fiddle and piano. There are also several recordings dealing with children’s songs and rhymes, including skipping rhymes. A few tapes contain reminiscences of work as a shearer or bullock driver, Depression experiences, and local and family history.
One recording (TRC 2277/5) contains a performance by the Bushwhackers at the wedding reception of Alan and Gay Scott in 1956.
The Alan Scott Collection is held in the Oral History Collection at several locations: TRC 2004, TRC 2004A, TRC 2277, TRC 2580, TRC 2581, TRC 2647 and TRC 2783. The recordings have been catalogued individually. A volume containing reports by Scott of his field trips in 1985–90 and transcripts of songs and verse is held in the Oral History Branch.
Cranfield, Mark, Oral history interview with Alan and Gay Scott, 1984, ORAL TRC 1838.
McKenry, Keith, Obituary of Alan Scott, Australian Folklore, no. 11, July 1996, pp. 1–3.
Thompson, John, In His People’s Song: A Tribute to Alan Scott, National Library of Australia News, vol. 6 (8), May 1996, pp. 3–6.
Willis, Rob, Oral history interview with Alan Scott, 1994, ORAL TRC 3080.