A former chimpanzee tracker is walking across Scotland and, in the tradition of bards, telling stories as he goes.
East Lothian’s Daniel Allison, 30, is following the Southern Upland Way, camping wild, and telling children and adults traditional Scottish stories at several stops along the 212-mile route.
He told The Southern: “I’m doing this to educate children and adults about Scotland’s wonderful folklore and astonishing natural heritage, and hopefully, through sharing these stories and stories of my own adventures, I will encourage people to get out and explore themselves.”
The professional storyteller grew up in Dunbar and lived in what was once naturalist and author John Muir’s great-aunt’s house. Indeed, Muir’s output is the basis of a workshop Daniel offers children, when they go into a woodland or wild area and carry out nature-based tasks, and Daniel tells them Muir’s stories.
Daniel studied English and creative writing in Brighton and has travelled widely. He was a chimpanzee tracker in Uganda, where he also taught English.
He has taught English to Tibetan refugees in India and travelled in the Amazon jungle, and was latterly a massage therapist.
He explained: “I became a story teller because I’m a writer and I’ve always had a deep love of myth and folklore.
“I discovered there was an oral storytelling society in Scotland and that you could make a working living telling stories, and I thought that’s the job for me, I had to do it.
“I managed to wangle a couple of gigs and four years later it’s my full-time job.”
He offers workshops for children, teenagers, adults, and children with additional needs, and accompanies tales with didgeridoo, Native American flute, drums, rattles, shakers, Jew’s harp and Tibetan singing bowls.
Of his latest venture, he said: “Inspiration came from the tradition of wandering storytellers such as the Scottish ‘seanacaidh’ and Viking ‘skald’. They would criss-cross the land, gathering inspiration in the hills and forests then spend a few days in a rural community telling stories before moving on.
“As a lifelong writer and lover of stories and a keen explorer of wild places, I saw in the tradition of the wandering bard a chance to bring his two passions together as well as to introduce audiences to a little-known, but very important figure in Scotland’s folk history. “
He has walked 200 miles in the Himalayas, but, he said: “This is going to be a really different challenge because I have to be at certain places at certain times and be in a vaguely presentable state.”
Daniel will be sharing stories “that may well have been told by seanacaidh in the distant past – comical tales, hero quests and monster stories; stories of animals and fairies, wizards and shape-shifters; all part of Scotland’s astonishingly rich canon of folklore, ” he says.
He will tell tales to Borders schoolchildren at St Ronan’s primary in Innerleithen on Monday, Melrose primary on Tuesday and at Lauder primary on Wednesday, September 18.
He expects to reach Cockburnspath on Friday, September 20, and will hold a free hour-and-a-half event in the village hall at 7.30pm.
The tour is supported by Creative Scotland, with funding from the National Lottery.