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CELTIC CONNECTIONS – MUSIC OF NORTH UIST

A special night of music and song from North Uist – Celebrating the island’s rich musical talent and heritage, leading musicians (including Julie Fowlis and Ellen MacDonald), The Band From Rockall and the Taigh Chearsabhagh House Band featuring Padruig Morrison, Anna Black and Seonaidh MacIntyre, up-and-coming talents (Eilidh Lamb, Robert John MacInnes, Doireann Marks and Fionnlagh Mac a’ Phiocair) and the legendary Duncan MacKinnon present a programme entirely in Gaelic which brings to evocative life the language and culture which steeps the Outer Hebrides. Presented by Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre in partnership with the Centre for Island Creativity.

Celtic ConnectionsCeòl Uibhist a Tuath Programme Notes

Còmhlan Thaigh Chearsabhagh (House Band)

Pàdruig Morrison, Fionnlagh Mac a’ Phiocair, Anna Black and Seonaidh MacIntyre

Accordionist of both traditional and classical music, composer, and pianist, Pàdruig Morrison comes from Grimsay in Uist. His music is steeped in the Gaelic oral tradition, but continually strives beyond the norms of traditional music. He was a 2020 BBC Radio Scotland Young Musician of the Year finalist, and also received a Celtic Connections New Voices commission that year. He performs regularly with Uist band Beinn Lee, as well as with Causeway Trio and as a soloist, and is currently also studying a PhD in composition.

Seonaidh is a musician from Loch Carnan in South Uist, an area known to be steeped in traditional music and song, particularly piping. He studied for a HNC in traditional music in Benbecula College before going on to study the BA in Applied Music at Strathclyde University. His music has strong Hebridean roots and draws upon his upbringing in a Gaelic speaking community. From an early age, he received tuition from Dòmhnall Bàn MacDonald, and has been mentored by Iain and Allan MacDonald of Glenuig through his university courses.

Anna Black is from Tigharry in North Uist and went to Sgoil Chiùil na Gàidhealtach, The National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music in Plockton, and afterwards to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. She plays piano with the Uist band Beinn Lee, but also works as a fiddle teacher in the Uist schools.

Fionnlagh Mac a’ Phiocair is young musician from the Isle of Grimsay. He started playing Highland Pipes at the age of 11 and has recently turned his attention to the bellows blown Smallpipes. Fionnlagh received tuition from Esther MacDonald, Norman MacLean and Iain MacDonald. Fionnlagh attended The National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music, before Studying Highland Bagpipes at The National Piping Centre. Currently Fionnlagh is in his first year at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Fionnlagh takes inspiration from many differing areas of piping. In 2020 he travelled to Sicily to represent Scotland at the Zampogne Pace Nel Mondo, an international bagpiping festival which sees performers travel across the region of Sicily over a 10 day span.

1.ÒRAN FIR HEISGEIR, THE BRAES OF MELLINISH & SKYLARK’S ASCENSION – House Band

Òran Fir Heisgeir is an old song, also known under its first line ‘Gura mis’ tha fo mhìghean’ which was learnt from the recordings of Rev. William Matheson, scholar and singer from North Uist. This is followed by two popular jigs, the second of which was written by the South Uist piper Archibald Lindsay.

2. RATHAD ÙR LOCH PORTAIN – Ellen MacDonald

Growing up in Inverness, singing was a regular part of Ellen’s life in and out of school. As well as singing with Dàimh, Ellen performs with trad-electro outfit Niteworks, appearing on the lead single of their newest album alongside Ceitlin L R Smith and Eilidh Cormack with whom she completes a new and exciting fixture on the Gaelic music scene known as SIAN who released their first album a year ago.

Rathad Ùr Loch Portain was composed by Ellen’s grandmother, Eileag MacLennan, around 1964 when they were building the main road which connects Lochportan to the rest of North Uist, a time when there were lots of road-workers in the area.

 

The new Lochportan road, hasn’t it cost us;
A woman dare not go out in wellies,
Only nylons and shoes, lace above the knee
And a dusting of powder about her nose.
The girls of the area, they will be mortified,
If they have to go out with a coat on;
Men from South and North Uist are working in the quarry
Along with Donald Rory since the day before yesterday.
On Friday they were off to the shop,
I don’t know who was the smartest among them;
“At quarter to two you’ll be in this corner,
I’ll not move anyway without you.”
When Katie Mary arrived I was truly dazzled
And I wished to be young again;
She wasn’t wearing the red coat she usually wore
But her church coat which she got from Òrr.
Rachel is so silly since she put on an inch,
She won’t eat as she should until it goes;
She is going on a diet like Moria did,
“Macvita will do fine in the morning.”
Mairead Dhòmhnaill Ruairidh, how I feel for her,
The day she went up on her own,
One or two of the Mactavish lorries came along
And before she could climb up on it, she was breathless.
The skirts you get just now, in fashion everywhere,
They are no use for climbing on board a lorry;
In order to hide your knees, you have to pull them down,
Knee-length trousers would be much better.
I’ll stop my nonsense and I’ll take Catriona with me
And dear Mary Anne, who are so silly;
When they go to Lochportan, they won’t take a sack with them
In case Lachlann doesn’t take a fancy to them.
Little Anna and Rachel, I’d better not leave them out,
Or I won’t be safe in this place;
Before the year is out, we’ll all be travelling it
And indeed, O my darling … we won’t walk it.
The new Lochportan road, hasn’t it cost us;
A woman dare not go out in wellies,
Only nylons and shoes, lace above the knee
And a dusting of powder about her nose.

 

3. LAMENT FOR THE IOLAIRE, BRÀIGH LOCH IALL & ÒRAN MÒR MHICLEÒID – Fionnlagh MacVicar

The first tune in this set is the ground of a piobaireachd written by Pipe Major Donald MacLeod. The Iolaire was a ship carrying islanders who had fought in the First World War home to Stornoway. In a devastating turn of events, the ship hit The Beasts of Holm, an infamous gathering of rocks and began to sink. Only 82 survived out of the 283 on board. This tragic event added to the severe impact the casualties of the First World War had on the small island communities it affected.  The second tune is a song called Braighe Loch Iall, a song in which a man describes his longing to be back amongst the nature of his homeland, and with his love.  The third tune also started life out as a song. It’s name is Oran Mòr Mhich Leoid, and it was written for the Clan MacLeod. It describes the ebb and flow of life, specifically how the Castle of MacLeod, which used to be full of life and joy have now grown cold and dark.

 

4. AN EÀLA BHÀN – Robert John MacInnes

Gaelic music has always been a large part of Robert John MacInnes’ family and upbringing.  It was inevitable that he would pick up music one day. 

From the age of seven, he received lessons through Fèis Rois with Eilidh Mackenzie and then with Maggie MacDonald. In 2010, aged ten, he was accepted into the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music at his local High School in Plockton to study primarily in Gaelic Song, with tuition from Wilma Kennedy and Rachel Walker. Robert is the only person (so far) to complete the full six years of High School education at the Centre.

Robert is the presenter of Friday Night Trad on Radio Skye, volunteering at the station since he was 17 years old. The show has grown significantly since the first broadcast in 2016, now reaching listeners all over the world. 

Robert’s father comes from Lochmaddy in North Uist (and his Nana and Papa coming from Hogha Gearraidh and Grimsay respectively). He is proud of his strong connections to North Uist, and singing the songs of his family and the island.

An Eala Bhan | The White Swan composed by Dòmhnall Ruadh Chorùna (9 July 1887 – 13 August 1967) Scottish Gaelic Bard, North Uist stonemason, and veteran of the First World War was also one of Scotland’s greatest war poets. Literary historian Ronald Black has called Dòmhnall Ruadh ‘The Voice of the Trenches’.

His best known song An Eala Bhàn (The White Swan) was composed after he was wounded in action on a mission in no man’s land during the Battle of the Somme. An Eala Bhàn is a love song addressed to Magaidh NicLeòid of Lochmaddy, the woman whom the Bard hoped to marry. In recent years, it has been recorded by artists as diverse as Calum Kennedy, Donnie Munro, Capercaillie, and Julie Fowlis

After the war, Dòmhnall Ruadh returned home to Corùna, but although he was thankful to be alive, he was, like most other returning soldiers, disillusioned. The land which they had been promised was as securely held by the landlords as it had ever been, and so were the hunting and fishing rights.  According to Bill Lawson, in some parts of North Uist, land raids took place, as veterans of the Great War attempted to violently seize better crofts from men who had stayed at home. In response, the Campbell-Orde family chose to press full criminal charges against the raiders. According to Fred Macaulay, “despite the love That they (Dòmhnall and Magaidh NicLeòid) had for each other, they never married. He himself never mentioned what came between them, but there is a tradition that Maggie’s father disapproved and actually forbade the marriage.”

 

Sad I consider my condition
With my heart engaged with sorrow
From the very time that I left
The high bens of the mist
The little glens of dallaince
Of the lochans, the bays and the forelands
And the white swan dwelling there
Whom I daily pursue.
Maggie, don’t be sad
Love, if I should die –
Who among men
Endures eternally?
We are all only on a journey
Like flowers in the deserted cattle fold
That the year’s wind and rain will bring down
And that the sun cannot raise.
All the ground around me
Is like hail in the heavens;
With the shells exploding –
I am blinded by smoke:
My ears are deafened
By the roar of the cannon;
But despite the savagery of the moment
My thoughts are on the girl called Macleod.
Crouched in the trenches
My mind is fixed on you, love;
In sleep I dream of you
I am not fated to survive;
My spirit is filled
With a surfeit of longing
And my hair once so auburn
Is now almost white.
Goodnight to you, love
In your warm, sweet-smelling bed;
May you have peaceful sleep and afterwards
May you waken healthy and in good spirits
I am here in the cold trench
With the clamour of death in my ears
With no hope of returning victorious-
The ocean is too wide to swim.

 

5. THE COCKEREL IN THE CREEL, ÒRAN NAM FIACLAN & THOIR A NALL AILEAN THUGAM – Finlay MacVicar & Pàdruig Morrison

A set of three reels, starting with a compositions by the renowned Lewis composer and pipe major Donald MacLeod. The other two tunes are also Puirt a Beul.

 

6. TÌR AN ÀIGH, TÌR MO GHRÀIDH – Duncan MacKinnon

Duncan MacKinnon from Berneray sings a Gaelic song composed by his father Hector MacKinnon, a bard of the island, who composed the song starting at the north of the island naming and praising and describing the Isle of Berneray

The song was filmed by Canadian artist/filmmaker Joshua Bonnetta while making the film Caolas na Hearadh which was exhibited at Taigh Chearsabhagh in 2019. The other shots are from that film also.

 

7. GHRUAGACH DHONN A’ BHROILLICH BHÀIN – Eilidh Lamb

Eilidh Lamb was born in North Uist,  where her MacDonald family has lived for centuries. Her first language is Gaelic. She is currently in 6th year at the Centre of Excellence For Traditional Music in Plockton High School, studying Clàrsach and Gaelic song

Eilidh sings a love song telling of how beautiful the songwriter thought his girl and true love was.

 

Ghruagach dhonn a’ bhroillich bhàin,
Chùm a’ chòmhdhail rium Dimàirt,
Ghruagach dhonn a’ bhroillich bhàin,
Gu ma slàn a chì mi thu.
Ghruagach dhonn gun ghò, gun fhoill,
Chùm a’ choinneamh rium a-raoir,
Bha mi còmhradh riut sa choill’,
Sinn ann an caoimhneas dìomhaireach.
Rinn mi coinneamh riut glè òg,
Ann an coille dhlùth nan cnò,
‘S binne leam do ghuth na ceòl,
‘S tha do phòg mar fhìgis leam.
Cha b’ ann le èiginn no cùis chruaidh,
A fhuair mise a’ phòg ud bhuat,
Ach le caidreamh sèimh gun ghruaim,
Gu soitheamh, suairce, sìobhalta.
Mhaighdeann, na biodh ortsa gruaim,
Ged a shèideas a’ ghaoth tuath,
Tha cuid bhòrd ro-làidir, cruaidh,
‘S a ghruagach, na biodh mì-ghean ort.
Guma fallain ‘s guma slàn,
Don tè rinn còmhdhail rium Dimàirt,
Iargain m’ aigne ‘s m’ airsneul phràmh,
‘S mo chion-gràidh da-rìribh thu.
Brown haired maiden with the fair breast
 Who met with me on Tuesday
 Brown haired maiden with the fair breast 
You are perfect in my eyes
Brown haired maiden without guile or deceit
Who met with me last night I spoke to you in the forest
Us both in a secret passion 
 I met you very young In the thick forest of nuts
 Your voice is more beautiful than music 
Your kisses are like figs
 It wasn’t with pain or difficulty That you kissed me
 But with a gentle easy union 
Gentle, pleasant, noble Maiden don’t be upset 
Though the north wind blows 
Those who have promised you elsewhere
 are too strong and hard
 And dearest, don’t be upset
 Health and wellness be with 
 The one who met with me on Tuesday 
 Sorrow of my mind and grief in my slumber You have my love forever

 

8. AN CÒTA RUADH, MUNLOCHY BRIDGE & THE PLOUGH ON THE CROSS BEAM – House Band

The strathspey is a very popular type of tune in Uist, particularly for dancing the Highland Schottische. An Còta Ruadh and Munlochy Bridge are two such tunes to be often played for the dance, and they are followed by a contemporary tune by Lewis piper James Duncan MacKenzie, who lived in North Uist while studying at the Benbecula Music College.

 

9. FÀGAIL BHEARNARAIGH Leaving Berneray (John MacLeod ) – Doireann Marks

Doireann Marks 14yrs old and has been living in Berneray for four and a half years originally from Louth, Ireland. 

Doireann is learning (Scots) Gaelic, her father and grandparents have Irish Gaelic. She is also learning to play the accordion with Billy MacPhee as her tutor. 

Lyrics:

On chuir mi mo chàl ri stàcan eilean as bàidhch’
Gu bheil mi gun sunnd fo thàrs’ ‘s mo chridhe fo lean
Nuair thig na mo chuimhn’ na glinn san robh mi o m’ aig
Far an iarrainn bhi tamh gach là cho fad ‘s bhithinn beà
Bheir sàil air mun cuairt ‘s a bhruaichean uile ‘s iad làn
Seamarag is neàinean, sàbhrag bhuidhe ann a fàs
Smeàrach nan geug air sgàith a’caithream gu h-àrd
Ca chunnaic e riamh nach iarradh ann a bhi tàmh
Bha’m pailteas ann riamh den bhiadh ‘s cha bhitheadh oirrn ais
Bha iasg ann is feail ‘s gach seàrs’ air an cuireadh tà feum
Tha lus ann a fàs bheir slàint’ a dh’iomadach cràuchd
Ann an eilean beag Bheàntraigh ‘s àille leam tha fon ghràin

 

10. LUAIDH – The Band from Rockall

The Band From Rockall project is the solo project of  Runrig’s Calum and Rory Macdonald, brothers from Lochmaddy North Uist. Rockall is apt as a piece of symbolism for the project – a place of transient identity – lying half way between the Hebrides and America – half way between rock ’n’ roll and the ceilidh house.

Lyrics

 

Luaidh, luaidh
Luaidh, O luaidh
‘Nuair a chunnaic mi thu
‘Nuair a dhùisg mi bho’m bhruadar
‘S a’ mhadainn ùr ‘s a’ dearrs’ a’ ghrian
O cha robh mi fada smuaintinn
Gum b’e seo gaol mo mhiann
‘Nuair a dh’ aithnich mi do chliù
‘Nuair a chunnaic mi do shùilean
‘Nuair a dh’ fhairich mi do bhlàths
Cha robh ni air talamh a dh’ iarrainn
An toil agam uil’ air bàrr
Bhon t-earrach gu teas an t-samhraidh
Gu’n reothadh aig deireadh bliadhn’
Daonnan bidh do cridhe a’ bualadh
Gaol mo mhiann
‘Nuair a dhùisg mi bho’m bhruadar
‘S a’ mhadainn ùr ‘s a’ dearrs’ a’ ghrain
O cha robh mi fada smuaintinn
Gu b’e seo gaol mo mhiann
Gaol mo mhiann
Love, love
Love, O love
When I saw you
When I awoke from my dreaming
In the new morning and the rays of the sun
I did not take long in thinking
That this was my desire
 When I realised your being
When I saw your eyes
When I felt your warmth
There was nothing on earth I needed more
My joy on the crest
 From spring to the heat of summer
To the frosts at the year’s end
Your heart will always keep beating
My desire

11. MOLADH CREAG HÀSTAINN, DONELLA BEATON & THE MEALL – Finlay MacVicar + Pàdruig Morrison

Moladh Creag Hàstainn (In Praise of Craig Hastain) has an incredibly evocative tune, learnt from the singing of Janice Simpson from North Uist. The song was written by Seonaidh Ruairidh MacIlleathain and speaks of the homesickness experienced by many an islander. Creag Hàstainn is an hill near to Paible in the west of North Uist, and has a long history in folklore (connected to fairies) and more recently would be used for outdoor communion services. The first Jig was written by George Johnstone for Donella Beaton from Lochboisdale in South Uist, who was married to the excellent piper Adam Scott. The second jig was written by Fionnlagh and named after a place on Grimsay not far from his home.

 

12. DANCE OF THE STORM PETRELS – Eilidh Lamb. Clàrsach tune composed by Ingrid Henderson

13. EILEAN UIBHIST MO RÙIN – Julie Fowlis

Julie Fowlis is a multi-award winning Gaelic singer and instrumentalist from North Uist. With a career spanning five studio albums and numerous high profile collaborations, her ‘crystalline’ and ‘intoxicating’ vocals have enchanted audiences around the world.

Eilean Uibhist Mo Rùin was written by Aonghas Lachlainn (Angus MacLellan ) with the tune written by Aonghas a’ Phost Oifis (Angus MacDonald), both from North Uist.

Lyrics: 

Eilean Uibhist mo rùin
Eilean chùbhraidh nam beann  
Eilean Uibhist mo mo rùin  
B’e mo dhurachd bhith ann
An Eilean Uibhist mo mo rùin
   
B’e mo shòlas bhith air m’eòlas
San eilean bhòidheach ud thall
Far am faic mi mo chàirdean
‘S gheibhinn fàilte nach gann
An Eilean Uibhist mo mo rùin
Far am faic mi fir òga                
Ghearradh mòine nan deann    
‘S a ghearradh snasail an t-eòrna
‘S a chuireadh dòrlach sa bhann
An Eilean Uibhist mo rùin 
   
Far am faic mi fir liatha
Glic-bhriathrach nan cainnt
Mean-bheachdach sean-eolach    
A’ toirt sealadh don chloinn
An Eilean Uibhist mo rùin 
   
Far am faic mi mnathan uasal
Aoigheil, uallachal, trang          
Tha ro-ainmeil nan stòltachd
‘S an gniomh dòigheil nan làimh  
An Eilean Uibhist mo rùin        
 
Tha coibhneas is bàigh
‘Gabhail àit’ ann an com
Gach neach a chaidh rach
Fo sgàile nam beann
An Eilean Uibhist mo rùin
   
Bi aoigheachd is fàilte
Gu bràth feadh nan gleann
Fad ‘s a bhuaileas air tràigh
Boinne sàile nan tonn
An Eilean Uibhist mo rùin
 
‘S e slàn le na dh’fhg mi
Bheir mo dhàn-sa gu ceann
‘S le m’ phiuthar, ‘s le m’ bhràithrean
‘S le m’ phràntan thall
An Eilean Uibhist mo rùin
   
Eilean cbhraidh nam beann
Eilean Uibhist mo rùn
B’e mo dhrachd bhith ann
In my beloved island of Uist
My beloved island of Uist
Scented island of the mountains
My beloved island of Uist
My desire is to be there
In my beloved island of Uist
I would be overjoyed to be on familiar ground
In the beautiful island yonder
Where I would see my relations
And receive a tremendous welcome
In my beloved island of Uist
Where I would see young men
Skillfully cutting peats
Neatly cutting the barley
And tying the sheaf
In my beloved island of Uist
Where I would see gray-haired men
Wise and eloquent in their talk
Precise in their opinions, worldly wise with age
Giving advice to the children
In my beloved island of Uist
Where I would see noble women
Kindly, proud and hard-working
Renowned for their steadiness
And their excellent handiwork
In my beloved island of Uist
There is kindness and affection
That comes from within
Each person reared
In the shade of the mountains
In my beloved island of Uist
here will always be a joyous welcome
Throughout the glens
As long as each salty droplet of the waves
Hits the shore
In my beloved island of Uist
Bidding farewell to those I left
I will bring my poem to a close
To my sister, to my brothers
And my parents yonder
n my beloved island of Uist
Scented island of the mountains
My beloved island of Uist
My desire is to be there
An Eilean Uibhist mo rùin

14. ALICK C MACGREGOR, JOHN MORRISON OF ASSYNT HOUSE, THE LOWERING OF THE CREEL – House Band

The influence of pipe tunes is very strong in the music of Uist, and this final set begins with two good pipe reels. The final tune is a recent composition of Pàdruig’s as a tribute to the strong lobster fishing tradition still active today out to the west of North Uist.