Wilson’s Tales

The Wilson’s Tales Project has been created by a group of volunteers based in Berwick upon Tweed, to stimulate a revival of interest in the Tales.  Constantly republished throughout the English-speaking world in the 19th century, when the 1934 centenary edition was reprinted in 1947 , the Tales as a published body of work were slipping into obscurity.

The Wilson’s Tales Project aims to raise awareness of the original Tales and provide a platform for contemporary artists of all types to respond to and re-tell them in modern ways to modern audiences.
This has included live performances by story tellers, musicians singing the original ballads on which many were based, and stage and radio play adaptations of the Tales in historic venues.
In addition, we have published our own ‘Revival Editions’ of Tales, each one retold in modern language and with an accompanying item setting out the historical accuracy, or otherwise, of the original.

Can I get involved?
Of course you can.  We are in need of writers, editors,  bloggers, volunteers of all kinds.  You can Sign up for the Newsletter here,
or make a donation here.

Why should his work still be of interest?
The main reasons for re-examining the body of Tales are twofold:-
their historical and cultural significance, and
they’re (mostly) ripping good yarns!
At the time of publication, their weekly appearance was the equivalent of today’s soap operas.  Their print runs expanded and expanded as people ‘tuned in’ to the latest goings on in the Borders, and Scotland.  Although they were presented in a  dramatic way to suit expectations of the readers, most were founded on actual events and stories.  We commission companion pieces to each of our Revival reprints to investigate just how factual the particular Tale is/was.

Who was Wilson?
At the time of the first ‘Tales of the Borders’  John Mackay Wilson (JMW) was Editor of the Berwick Advertiser.  A new work (October 2018) detailing his life and activity has been published under the auspices of The Project, and is available in ebook or print format in the project shop here, or on line at various ebook retailers.
A brief summary is also at this page.   

Where can I read some Tales?
The first place would be from our shop, where we now have the first 8 Revival Edition reprints, where Tales are retold, and companion pieces explain their historical accuracy (or not).

The Berwick Advertiser has been reprinting serialisations of tales, which is an elegant closure of a full circle, from the original Tale in the paper of November 8th 1834.
After that, you can download original Tales from places like Project Gutenberg or other sites, listed on our page here

4 thoughts on “Wilson’s Tales”

  1. Hi, I have a set of volumes 1 to 6 of Wilson’s Tales of the Borders in fairly good condition. The covers are dark blue. I can’t see a date anywhere. They are published in London by William Mackenzie.
    If they are of interest to you I am happy to donate the volumes to your project.

    1. Hello Mary,
      Thanks for getting in touch. There were many editions published, many subtly different, according to the publisher’s view on which Tales were ‘better’ and would sell well. or merely which would best fit the number of pages they intended to use.

      We would indeed be very grateful for thi set, for although volumes are often turning up, frequently they are singles, and all of the earlier editions were in sets, of 3, of 6, even of 20. We have a note for Mackenzie beginning in the 1870’s, but we are attempting to compile a definitive list, with some guidance to dating.

      Whereabouts are you, and how do you suggest we arrange collection?

  2. Hi I have 11 volumes out of a 12 volumes set of Wilson Tales of the boarders. They are published in Edinburgh by William P Nimmo and revised by Alexander Leighton.
    Are they worth keeping? The covers are Burgundy Black and gold.

    1. Hello Margaret,
      Thanks for visiting.

      Well, I’d say they are worth keeping, if only for the ripping good yarns in them. Though I freely admit that some of the yarns are definitely not ripping good ones.
      That said, it seems to be the case that Tales of the Borders were published in such quantities that it was said that every household in the Borders had a set, and they can usually be found in any second hand book shop. Our list of known editions on the site here shows Nimmo published in 1857, so they are pretty old and if in good condition, you may find a bookshop would be interested.
      Incidentally, we don’t have a picture of that edition – if you can be bothered, we’d be grateful for a couple of photos of the covers, spine, and title page.
      Sorry not to be more helpful.

      Wilson’s Tales

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