Saturday dawned, and a research question was bothering me …

Old music card catalogue at Mitchell Library, Glasgow

So I decided to spend the afternoon at the Mitchell Library. Glasgow is so fortunate to have this wonderful collection!

I saw the two publications I had in mind. I took notes. I even had time to look at the card catalogue. (Catalogues are great research tools, even though I am personally sick of actually cataloguing.)

And then I went home. It was only when I went over my notes that I realised I had missed at least one item in the bibliography of one book, which I thought I had been looking out for. I spent the next 24 hours kicking myself, determined to go back to find that elusive reference if it killed me.

And then my librarian self remembered the advice I often give students. If you have copied out a useful snippet, put it into Google Books, in speech marks. Like this:-

“Reader, I married him”

(Try for yourself – it’s a quote from Charlotte Bronte.)

Often enough, Google Books will retrieve 2-3 lines including the words you copied, telling you the book where it found the text – and the page number.

I searched on the book abbreviation for the missing reference, and found I’d missed three! However, I have now traced them, and all is well. All for research into a publisher who only caught my interest two weeks ago.

Retrospective 2022

I still don’t know if this kind of post is helpful.  To anyone who hasn’t many/any visible outputs, reading someone else’s list of what they achieved is probably the very last thing they need to brighten their day – and I apologise.  You’ve probably achieved other, equally or even more important things, which didn’t take the form of words on a page!

From my vantage point, as a researcher who sentenced herself to a career in librarianship, not necessarily as a first choice but what seemed at the time to be a reasonable one, I look at other academics’ lists of achievements and struggle not to compare myself – although realistically I cannot achieve as much research in 1.5 designated days a week as the average full-time academic. My research line-manager is more than content, so maybe I should remind myself of that more often.

So, what have I achieved?

As a librarian, I have spoken at two conferences, a panel discussion and as staff training for another library, about EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) in our own library.  I have a paper being published in an academic journal next year, on the topic of women composers in libraries; but my proudest achievement was actually in sharing a song by a Victorian woman teacher in the junior department of the Athenaeum, that I had discovered in a research capacity, and which a singing student eagerly learned and presented as one of their competition entries in a recent singing competition at RCS.  Discovering something, having someone else declare it lovely, and hearing them perform it beautifully, is a very special privilege.

Still hatching

As a researcher, I have another paper forthcoming in an essay collection, though I can hardly list details here before it has even gone through the editorial process.  And another magazine article which has been accepted for 2024.  Can’t include that either.  Nor can I yet include the monograph I’m halfway through writing.  I’ve done a ton of work in that respect, but it doesn’t count in a retrospective list of successes!

I’ve also applied for a grant which I didn’t get, and a fellowship for which the deadline is just today, so no news on that front for a little while.

That leaves this little list, the last item of which appeared through my letterbox at the turn of last year, so I’ve cheekily included it here again.


  • ‘Representation of Women Composers in the Whittaker Library’, Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice. Arises from a paper given at the International Women’s Day Conference hosted by the University of the Highlands and Islands, 2022.  Peer-reviewed and pending publication.


  • ‘Alexander Campbell’s Song Collecting Tour: ‘The Classic Ground of our Celtic Homer’, in Thirsty Work and Other Heritages of Folk Song (Ballad Partners, 2022), 180-192
  • ‘An Extensive Musical Library’: Mrs Clarinda Webster, LRAM, Brio vol.59 no.1, 29-42
  • ‘Burns and Song: Four New Publications’, Eighteenth Century Scotland, no. 36 (June 2022),12-15.
  • ‘Strathspeys, Reels and Instrumental Airs: a National Product’, in Music by Subscription: Composers and their Networks in the British Music Publishing Trade, 1676–1820, ed. Simon D. I Fleming & Martin Perkins. (Routledge, 2022), 177-197

Meanwhile, as an organist, I’ve completed my first year in Neilston Parish Church, which has been a very healing experience.  I love it there!  This Christmas has seen three of my own unpublished carols being performed, one in Neilston and two in Barrhead; and earlier in the autumn I contributed a local-history kind of article to the Glasgow Diapason, the newsletter published by the Glasgow Society of Organists.  Another publication! Might as well add it to the list:-

  • ‘Trains, Trossachs, Choirs and the Council: Neilston Parish Church’s First Organist’, in The Glasgow Diapason Newsletter

Confession time. Sewing is my relaxation of choice, often influenced by something I’m researching. This year’s project, a Festival of Britain canvas-printed linen piece, relates to the aforementioned chapter that I’ve contributed to someone’s book.

I know I would get more research writing done if I didn’t sew in my leisure time, but I need that for my mental health. Swings and roundabouts…

Am Writing: New Book Contract

Yes, folks, there really is going to be another book. Following on from my first one, date-wise, but with more social history, more about publishers, and more about amateur music making between 1880-1950.

Exciting? You bet!

Provisional Title

A Social History of Amateur Music-Making and Scottish National Identity: Scotland’s Printed Music, 1880-1950

Unnaturally Quiet Round Here?

I’ve been busy! The first draft of Chapter 2 is now done, and that meant I had to move on to my next task – to write a book proposal. My first book was an enlarged version of my PhD thesis, so – although I put quite a bit more work into it to turn it into a book, it wasn’t a book ‘from scratch’.

This time has been completely different. A new topic, and a book proposal which began on a blank page, by comparison with the last one. And a literature review which developed a life of its own!

I was quite surprised to find that I was nervous about hitting ‘send’. You feel quite exposed, sending your ‘baby’ out into the world on its own. I hope it fares well.

Anyway, whilst I’m waiting to hear how it gets on, I suppose I’d better think about Chapter 3. Here goes ….

When Less is More (Blog to Book)

Returning visitors to these pages may find the content thinner than it used to be. Now that I’m working on my next book, I want my best content to be honed to perfection and triple-checked before I commit it to print. Rather than leave extended writings – which I posted as ‘work in progress’ – sitting on the internet, I’ve pruned what is here. In general, I continue to research the topics I posted here (Scottish music publishers James Kerr, Mozart Allan and many others, and interrogations of cultural issues), and any new details or dates which I didn’t know at the time of blogging, could potentially change what I originally wrote. And also, of course, I want readers of the book to be surprised and delighted by new insights that no-one knew before!

I shall continue to blog, of course. How could I not? I have so many ideas buzzing round my head that it’s hard keeping them all to myself!