Scottish Centre for Island Studies

Scottish Island Studies@ University of the West of Scotland

Songs of the Hebrides Research at UWS

SCIS Songs of the Hebrides Research and Resource Guide

This page relates to the SCIS research on island songs in the Hebrides and their cultural transmission and mediatization. A book chapter entitled ‘Scotland’s Songs of the Hebrides’ by Ray Burnett and Kathryn A. Burnett is included in the essay collection Island Songs and Singers: A Global Repertoire of Roots and Routes edited by Godfrey Baldacchino, Rowan and Littlefield/Scarecrow Press. (2011).  A research resource link has also been developed here to be accessed either on its own, or in association with the book chapter. The resource page can be accessed  as a PDF file  by clicking here: Songs of the Hebrides SCIS UWS Resource Guide  as part of the University of the West of Scotland’s committment to knowledge exchange the resource guide detailed here in PDF form is provided as an aid to readers of the above chapter and others interested in the topic of the song tradition of the Hebrides, its role in island society, its transmission and its transformation. In particular it is designed to act as a guide to online sources where the songs, their transmission and their transformation can actually be heard or seen through archival audio tapes, archival film and video clips and contemporary performances. Some links to text material, i.e. lyrics and their translations, the transcript recollections of collectors and detailed scholarly editions of specific sings are also included.

For convenience the sources are arranged under five headings: The Songs and the Tradition; The Collectors; The ‘Songs of the Hebrides’ and their Transformation; The Gaelic Revival and the Contemporary Scene; Selected Song and Culture Projects.  Needless to say there is significant overlap between each heading but it is hoped that once the reader is familiar with the sources they will be able to pursue their own specific lines of research enquiry across these headings which are primarily used as a matter of convenience.  The authors are aware that many other links and resources could be detailed in respect of this rich field and would hope to further develop both the current guide  and  further possible research links and collaboration.

Introduction to  Burnett & Burnett (2011) Chapter:

This chapter deals with the role and function of song in relation to individual and communal well-being in small Gaelic-speaking island communities; and the re-presentation of this legacy of song that has come down to recent times. By way of grounding, it introduces the island song legacy and outlines the role of culture and song and the cultural transmission process within Gaelic clanship in the islands, with a particular focus on two small islands, the now deserted Mingulay (c.150 max. pop.) and Eriskay (c.350 max. pop.), at the southern end of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, the most westerly and outlying of its islands. An outline of their 20th century collection and recording and a brief critical assessment follow to provide the backdrop to an account of their appropriation and re-presentation as the Songs of the Hebrides, an early 20th century collection of ‘art songs’ that went on to have a lasting and enduring impact within Scotland and beyond (Kennedy-Fraser, 1909-1922), becoming the prevailing popular expression of island song from within a spatially transformed ‘island community’ in a mediatized world. (Extract from :  ‘Scotland’s Hebrides; Song and Culture, Transmission and Transformation; by Ray Burnett and Kathryn A. Burnett in Godfrey Baldacchino (ed.), Island Songs, A Global Repertoire, The Scarecrow Press, London, 2011, pp. 81 – 101.

A paper will be presented at the 8th International Small Islands Conference, 6-9 June 2012, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada.    The joint paper by Kathryn A Burnett and Ray Burnett is entitledSong Legacy, Alterity and Mediatization from Scotland’s Hebrides.’

For  a global exploration of island songs and heritage see the  work by Professor Godfrey Baldacchino and colleagues on  Islands, Songs, Singers and Singing  at

Related publications on island ethnomusicology include:

On a Rock in the Middle of the Ocean Songs and Singers in Tory Island, Ireland  Series: Europea:  Ethnomusicologies and Modernities By Lillis Ó Laoire with the collaboration of  Éamonn Mac Ruairí, Belle Mhic Ruairí, Teresa McClafferty, Séamas Ó Dúgáin,  Gráinne Uí Dhúgáin, and John
Ó Duibheannaugh
  (2005) ( Scarecrow Press)

Transported by Song Corsican Voices from Oral Tradition to World Stage Series: Europea:  Ethnomusicologies and Modernities  By Caroline Bithell (2007) (Scarecrow Press)

Some suggested links on Hebridean Island Song include:

Maggie Macinnes  (2003) Gaelic Songs from Moscow to Mingulay

Anne Lorne Gillies  (2005) Songs of Gaelic Scotland,  Edinburgh: Birlinn

Peter Urpeth  (n.d.) ORAIN FLORAIDH – The Songs of Flora MacNeil

Margaret Bennett – See especially academic and other publications

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