Leather, Ella Mary

Leather, Ella Mary
   Born in Herefordshire as Ella Mary Smith, Mrs Leather was a prime example of what have been termed the 'County Collectors', who were active in late Victorian and Edwardian times conducting fieldwork in their native area which they knew well, and whose collections have added greatly to our store of folklore knowledge, but who did not otherwise play a large part in the greater world of folklore studies. Mrs Leather's first foray in folklore was a chapter published in Memorials of Old Herefordshire (1904), which stimulated her to more collecting work resulting in one of our best books based on personal fieldwork, The Folk-Lore of Herefordshire (1912). Leather was an indefatigable worker and her informants included local Gypsies, hop-pickers, and workhouse residents. She became particularly well-known for the carols she discovered, a number of which were published in their raw state in Folk-Lore of Herefordshire and the JFSS, and tidied up and arranged in Twelve Traditional Carols from Herefordshire, while 'Vaughan Williams used several in his compositions and carol books. Leather continued to contribute notes to Folk-Lore on a wide variety of items collected in Herefordshire and neighbouring counties. After the First World War, in which she lost her eldest son, her folklore output almost ceased, although she remained active in her local community in various spheres.
   ■ Mrs F. H. Leather, 'Folk-Lore of the Shire', in Compton Reade (ed.), Memorials of Old Herefordshire (1904), 148-66; Ella M. Leather, The Folk-Lore of Herefordshire (1912); Ella M. Leather, 'Carols from Herefordshire', JFSS 4:14 (1910), 3-51; Twelve Traditional Carols from Herefordshire, collected and arranged by E. M. Leather and R. Vaughan Williams (1920); Notes in Folk-Lore 23 (1912) to 27 (1916) inclusive, and 37 (1926).
   Lavender Jones, A Nest of Singing Birds: The Life and Work of Ella Mary Leather (1976); Lavender M. Jones, ED&S 27:1 (Dec. 1964), 4-6; 27:2 (Feb. 1965), 38-40; Dorson, 1968: 317-27.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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