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Robert Burns Lives!
Thomas F. McNally, Dean of Libraries, University of South Carolina on the Jean Redpath music collection.

Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Greater Atlanta, GA, USA

University of South Carolina’s Dean of Libraries, Thomas McNally, has become a favorite speaker at the Burns Club of Atlanta. He electrified the crowd attending this week’s monthly meeting with his remarks and led a discussion that lasted nearly 45 minutes. Most interestingly, he did not let a cold or virus keep him puny during the speech or the group discussion.

We will concern ourselves with the part of his speech that touched on the late Jean Redpath, the very talented singer of Scottish songs and particularly songs by Robert Burns. Susan and I met Jean through Professor Ross Roy, a mutual friend and a giant among friends of Burns. Before their deaths, Ross and Jean had been friends for many years, and I imagine he had a lot to do with the donation of her music library to the University of South Carolina. We were delighted to attend Jean’s concert at the university and enjoyed an evening of songs and chat and found the crowd leaving with smiles on their faces as thoughts of her songs and stories lingered in their minds.

Tom McNally is a talented speaker and one of his admirers said the good Dean of Libraries “knew how to make those attending a speech of his feel included which every speaker of Burns cannot do”. Tom will be invited back to the Burns Club of Atlanta because as another in attendance said, “He knows how to deliver”!
(FRS: 2.10.17)

Biography of Thomas F. McNally
Dean of Libraries, University of South Carolina

Thomas F. McNally

Tom McNally has served as Dean of Libraries at the University of South Carolina since 2009. A former classroom teacher turned librarian, Dean McNally began his library career as a reference librarian at Ohio State University in 1978. He went on to hold positions at the University of Michigan and Loyola University of Chicago before coming to USC in 1991.

Dean McNally currently oversees an annual budget of nearly $15 million and a library endowment in excess of $10 million, and has administrative responsibility for public services, processing services, special collections, and library advancement. USC Libraries employ 52 professionals and 92 additional staff.

Dean McNally earned his B.S. in Education from Kent State University and an M.L.S. from the University of Washington.

Jean Redpath:
A Brief Look at a Very Important Robert Burns Singer

So what about Jean Redpath? When Jean passed away we learned that she had left the rights to many of her recordings to our library. I had met Jean when she was in Columbia, but had only spoken briefly with her. I never imagined she would make a bequest to the library. My first thought was that maybe there was some money in this for the library. I always think that way.

I really had no way of gaging how much interest there was in Jean Redpath. What should I do with the rights to music? Should I put out the Jean Redpath greatest hits volume 1?

One of the first things I did was to call my old friends Frank and Susan Shaw. I wanted to know how they felt about Jean. Did they have the recordings they wanted, would they want more, was there a demand for Jean’s music? They made it clear to me that any recordings they wanted, they had acquired long ago.

Then, quite by chance, I looked at YouTube to see if there were any of Jean’s recordings that might have been pirated or intentionally put online.

Without anyone going for your smartphone, how many Jean Redpath recordings would you guess are on YouTube? The answer is over 12,000. But here is the interesting thing, that day I called Frank and Susan, the number that were on YouTube was 5,000. That was two years ago.

When I first saw all of these videos, I thought that I would have the USC Legal Office contact YouTube and have the videos that used our recordings taken down. YouTube is quite responsive to these requests and we monitor it for other collections like the Movie Tone News.

But then I asked myself what would Jean have wanted? Jean never wanted to be rich or famous, she just wanted to sing. I realized that YouTube and its 12,000 videos was the legacy that would have thrilled Jean.

Actually, I think Jean was very wise to give us the rights. She knew we would make her music part of our Scottish literature collection and that we would protect her recordings forever.

So I say let Jean sing, let Google and the robots rule the world. And let me live long enough to see robot referees.

Thank you for allowing me to visit with you once again.

See also Chapter 206 Jean Redpath, A Memory By Kirsteen McCue

Return to Robert Burns Lives! Index Page


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