St Andrews School of History

Laidlaw Interns: Meg Hyland and Marnie Adamson

Meg Hyland

My name is Meg Hyland, and I have just finished my third year as a Single Honours Mediaeval History student. I am fortunate enough to have become an intern in the Laidlaw Undergraduate Internship in Research and Leadership. My project is entitled ‘Memories of Scottish Fishing Music’, and I will be working closely with the Scottish Fisheries Museum to research what sorts of songs people sang while they did fishing work. My supervisor is Stephanie Bunn in Social Anthropology.

When my family moved from the USA to Scotland in 2013, I spent a year volunteering at the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther. The museum is an excellent institution and I would recommend it to anybody, but I noticed that there was very little about music in fishing communities on display. I did come across passing references to how the herring girls – the women who followed the fishing boats to gut and pack the herring – would always sing while they worked, and the fishermen would sing while hauling the nets. However, I realized it would take further digging to find out what exactly they were singing.

Once at St Andrews, I took advantage of the liberal allowance for exploring other subjects awarded to second year Mediaeval History students and took a module in Scottish Music. I became very interested in the work of William Lamb, who has studied the rhythms in Gaelic work songs. My work in the Scottish Music module and the Fisheries Museum stayed in the back of my mind until one day last summer, the idea to combine these interests hit me on a sunny morning at my desk in a German seminary.

My research will involve sifting through archives of the Fisheries and other museums in order to find transcripts or recordings of Scottish fishing worksong. I will also be interviewing people in the local area and Stornoway, to find out what they can remember of the songs people sang while chasing after the silver darlings.

Marnie Adamson

I am Marnie Adamson, a third-year Modern History and English student, and over this summer, I will be working with Professor Karin Fierke on my project, entitled  “‘Could I do that?’: The Ideological Shifts That Occur in the Minds of Conflict Personnel Which Allow Them to Commit Atrocities in War’. My Laidlaw internship will focus on the situational factors and the cultural conditioning through which men and woman come to be able to commit and excuse violence that in ordinary circumstances they would dismiss as inhumane. It is by no means my intention to pass any judgement on military personnel and the actions they take. I merely hope to examine what turns humans into killers, however temporarily, and to answer the question of whether I, in the right social and cultural conditions, would also be capable of such actions.

In examining this phenomenon, I will look at how war is ‘marketed to societies through the media. The United States and the War on Terror will act as a study, so looking at representations of this conflict in popular culture and the news will form part of my research and analysis. In addition, I will also examine military blogs and training manuals, as well as academic theory, to examine the extent to which new military troops, through a process of humiliation and degradation, are remade to fit the values and ideologies of the military institution. Analysis of mass-killings and conflict-related violence recognise dehumanisation of the enemy, moral justification, anonymity and deindividuation as a key factors in enabling servicemen and women to shoot to kill.

I am really looking forward to beginning my research in the summer. This kind of self-motivated, self-directed rigorous research really appeals to my skills and to my interests. Having just completed my first leadership weekend, I can say that the leadership training is certainly interesting and caused me to reflect on my typical role both in a group and as a leader in a way I would not have done so. It was also a great way to meet some of the other Laidlaw Interns and to learn about their varied and fascinating projects.