Emily Lyle (b. 1932) was born in Glasgow and grew up in Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire, Scotland. She is a graduate of St Andrews University, Glasgow University and the Institute of Folk Life Studies at Leeds University. She taught in secondary schools in Britain and New Zealand, before becoming a lecturer in English at Ripon College of Education in 1961. She was Senior Lecturer in English at Neville’s Cross College, Durham, in 1965-68. From 1970 to 1995 she was a research fellow and from 1995 to 1998 a lecturer at the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She has maintained her connection with Edinburgh University in her retirement and since 2001 has been an honorary fellow in the Department of Celtic and Scottish Studies.

Lyle is the author or editor of:

Fairies and folk: approaches to the Scottish ballad tradition (2007)

Andrew Crawfurd’s collection of ballads and songs (2 vols,1975, 1996)

The Greig-Duncan folk song collection (8 vols, 1981-2002).

Since 1994 she has been the editor of Cosmos, the journal of the Traditional Cosmology Society.

In October 1976 Emily Lyle came to Canberra as a Visiting Fellow at the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University. Her research topic was Scottish oral literature in Australia. In her six months in Australia, she travelled extensively in her search for Scottish immigrants and their families, not only to large cities but to such places as Camperdown, Warrnambool and Port Campbell in Victoria, Lithgow, Mudgee, Armidale, Glen Innes and Maclean in New South Wales, and Port Campbell in Tasmania.


Dr Lyle donated copies of her tape recordings to the National Library in 1977.


The Emily Lyle Collection comprises 50 tape recordings containing reminiscences, stories and music relating to Scottish oral traditions in Australia. The 149 interviewees lived in Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory and were either immigrants from Scotland or descendants of Scottish immigrants.

The recordings contain reminiscences of life in Scotland, including the Orkney and Shetland Islands, family histories, and accounts of the experiences of Scottish immigrants in eastern Australia. In particular, they refer to their work as seamen, fishermen, miners, shearers, farmers and soldiers and the establishment and growth of Scottish communities in Australia. In addition, they deal with the preservation of Scottish customs and traditions in Australia, including the Scottish Gaelic language, the teaching of Gaelic, Presbyterian beliefs and practices, weddings and funerals, food and drink, Gaelic societies, céilidhs, games, bagpipe music, pipe bands, Scottish country dancing, Highland games and social customs.

The recordings also contain various kinds of music, including Gaelic songs, New Year songs, courtship songs, fishing songs, pipe music, marches and airs on the accordion or mouth organ, jigs, ballads, Hogmany rhymes, children’s verse, tall tales and anecdotes.

Among the interviewees are the poet Les Murray, the journalist J.D. Pringle, the scientist Sir Rutherford Robertson, the writer Mary Turner Shaw, and the singer and writer Glen Tomasetti.


The Emily Lyle Collection is held in the Oral History Collection at TRC 494. There are transcripts of some of the recordings. They have been catalogued at the collection level and the 50 recordings have also been catalogued individually. A detailed index of the collection, compiled by the School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University, is available in the Oral History Branch.


Fischer, Frances J. and Rieuwerts, Sigrid, eds., Emily Lyle: the persistent scholar, Trier, Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2007