This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
the Highlands, and especially the there. Her husband Tim works having friends around when I One thing we hadn’t touched on,
Islands, since my own youth, and in the oil business, and his work have time to relax. Tim works but that I was very interested to
a thesis could be written on the took the family to Venezuela for abroad and Eilidh is away during learn about, were Margaret’s links
subject, if it hasn’t already been. I six years. Margaret enjoyed term time, so it’s great to share with England. Her husband Tim
know through observing younger learning Spanish in Venezuela this lovely old house with friends
is English, born in Chislehurst
members of my own family, that and loved the people and way and family. My home used to be a
in Kent. Margaret spent a lot of
the introduction of television into of life, although it was at times rather exclusive old hotel, which
time in Devon over the years,
our homes has had a huge effect a dangerous and unpredictable was renovated about six years
and took part in Sidmouth Folk
on many aspects of our lives, but place to live. ‘Nairn is a much ago to make three homes, but
Festival and her daughter Eilidh
there are other factors too, far too safer place altogether and with a great deal of the character
was born in Norfolk. ‘I used to
complicated a subject to go into although no longer a Gaelic remaining, so it’s easy to have
live in Winterton-on-Sea near
right now.’ speaking area, at one time there people to stay. I enjoy living in
Great Yarmouth. I remember that
was a great deal of Gaelic spoken Nairn, right on the edge of the
there were some fine old singers
Margaret’s mother was a big in the area here; most of the Highlands, only ten minutes away
down there at one time, and lots
influence on her, and so was surrounding place names are from Inverness airport. It’s a
of sea shanties and Winterton is
Scottish Gaelic song lecturer in Gaelic, unlike my own home lovely little Victorian seaside town
the village where the great Sam
Morag MacLeod. ‘My mother was, island where the place names are that has its own micro-climate, a
Larner lived. It was a lovely, old-
and still is, a hugely influential chiefly Norse. Living in Nairn or gorgeous sandy beach and further
fashioned, unspoiled place. No
figure in my life – life without her even Venezuela or deepest Africa inland we have the Highlands of
motorways you see, takes ages to
cannot be imagined although we doesn’t affect my native language, Nairnshire and the spectacular
get there! Places like that retain
must all face that time. She keeps I am immersed in Gaelic all day Dava Moor, which I love.’
us all together, as the matriarch and every day, either through my
their accents and culture more so
of ‘da family’. All the relatives work and chatting to people on We spoke about Margaret’s
than less remote areas. They’re
from around the globe have the telephone or even on ‘Skype’, recently-released and much-
not so accessible!’ Margaret
her as the first point of contact. and when I meet the likes of anticipated CD ‘Togaidh Mi Mo
recalled how she had been asked
She’s a great genealogist, as Lachie MacAulay - now there’s a Sheolta’ which Margaret refers
to sing at Burns suppers when
was my grandfather before her, character - and other Gaels on the to as ‘possibly my swansong’
she lived in the area. She enjoyed
and is often consulted by locals streets of Nairn.’ - perhaps explaining the swan
the fact that there were so many
interested in these matters. She depicted on the album cover? ‘No,
little folk clubs and dances in that
still manages to amaze me with Margaret was engaged earlier the swan depicts much more than
part of England. ‘I also enjoyed
Gaelic phrases and sayings this year to work on the Tobar An that – the loch in Upper Coll - Loch
Sidmouth. I loved that it had
that I have never heard before.’ Dualchais (Kist O’Riches) project. Chol Uaraich - was the habitat of
festivals within the festival, a folky,
Margaret met Morag MacLeod The material she works on comes dozens of mute swans and has
traditional enclave, a commercial/
in adulthood when she started from the sound archives of the always been a very strong image
contemporary arena and big tent,
to research the Gaelic songs of School of Scottish Studies in of home for me, the swan is also
and of course the Morris dancing.
other areas outside Lewis. Morag Edinburgh and are digitized there. a motif which appears in many
Once I found my niche I really
was lecturer in Gaelic Song at Margaret works alongside Ishbel Gaelic songs and is mentioned in enjoyed working and performing
the School of Scottish Studies, T MacDonald on the cataloguing at least two of the songs on the there, but would have preferred
Edinburgh University, and she of Gaelic songs and Scots songs CD. I didn’t think I would ever not to have been on my own.
has encouraged Margaret greatly cataloguers include Steve Byrne, finish it! It took a few years and One year I took part around the
over a period of some fifteen years Sheena Wellington and Chris a lot of work. Life, generally, as time that my friends from Blazin’
and has supported her interest in Wright. It’s work that Margaret well as other commitments, kept Fiddles and the Battlefield Band
exploring the Gaelic song of areas evidently enjoys: ‘It takes me getting in the way.’ were there and then I didn’t feel
outside her own Lewis homeland. back to my childhood and to a
lonely at all, had quite a bash
different era and reminds me of It is an exquisite listen; beautiful
actually. I did some workshops
Despite her love of home, my grandfather. The fieldworkers songs, beautifully and honestly
one year and I was pleasantly
Margaret, like many of her are often in peoples’ homes and presented, and with some of
surprised at the amount of people
contemporaries, had to leave you can hear the fire crackling, Scotland’s finest instrumentalists
who attended, and I enjoyed the
the island in search of work the clock ticking and sometimes on hand. Had it all been worth
balance of Irish, Scottish and
and further education, and has chiming the hour, the dog barking it, I wondered? Was the album
English content.’
travelled the world since doing so. outside and sometimes the wind getting a fair listen amongst
“Some do return, but the majority howling. Others work on folklore, the crop of Scottish releases
Margaret has never been afraid to
find work on the mainland and tales and anecdotes, pipe music generally? ‘I don’t know really. I
stand up for her passionately-held
indeed all over the world. I always and canntaireachd. There’s about don’t think there are even many
beliefs on the treatment of Gaelic
wanted to travel the world, my eighty thousand hours’ worth of programmes on the BBC radio
song, and I have always found her
father having been in the merchant material – stories, Scots song, stations which would play this kind
honesty on this matter refreshing.
navy and growing up surrounded Gaelic song. It’s wonderful and of material. The market is flooded
She has in fact almost single-
by tales of far-off lands; so I rewarding work, and I enjoy the with CDs these days, so it’s a very
handedly ‘de-fogged’ much of the
initially headed for Canada like flexibility of working at home, competitive environment. I hope
mystique and misunderstanding
many islanders before me. I went though it was initially hard to get that the album will stand the test of
as far as British Columbia where people to accept that I was really time but, of course only ‘time’ will
surrounding Gaelic song by being
many of my parent’s relatives working and that I was not to tell - a cruel thing, time! Ian Green
so candid. Thanking her for this,
settled back in the early 1900s. I be disturbed!’ Margaret enjoys has gambled on me and not for
and for her generosity with her
had lots of interesting experiences the linguistic aspect of the job of the first time, and I always worry
time, she responded quick as a
and adventures there and course, and loves encountering that his investment in me won’t get
flash and with humour: ‘I don’t
thoroughly enjoyed it, but I knew the different language nuances the warranted return. However,
see the point of pussy-footing
I didn’t want to live there forever. from other areas which she hears the musicians on the album will be
around at my age. There’s not
I’ve travelled a lot but I still find in the recordings: ‘There are so working with me on a more regular
enough time left! I spent half
Scotland to be one of the most many differences, generally, in the basis, which I’m thrilled about;
my life tip-toeing around people,
beautiful and interesting countries way Gaelic is spoken, even today. Ingrid and Allan Henderson, Iain
being careful not to offend, or not
on earth – around every corner is For instance in Scarp, off Harris, MacFarlane, Iain MacDonald and
standing up for a strongly held
yet another surprise. Some of the they often used a thin ‘l’ in places the addition of Ross Martin. We
belief in case I was going to have
roads on the west coast could be where we use the thick ‘l’. hope to tour the Highlands with the
to stand alone, but no more! I
better, mind you!’ album in the near future but I’m not
hope I don’t come across as
Margaret is reputed to be a very sure about taking it further afield
being negative, I fear I may do but
She now lives in Nairn in northeast sociable person: ‘Och, I enjoy yet. Do you think Englandshire
this is one subject that I’m very
Scotland and seems settled it very much. I like cooking and would have us?’ passionate about!’ q
The Living Tradition - Page 22
Issue80.indd 22 14/7/08 14:48:59
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