Coming Home

A haunting melody, which was sung by both my parents. It has Northern Irish as well as Scottish connections. I was very honoured to be invited to sing this song for the Irish President Mary Macaleese at a graduation ceremony at The University of Aberdeen where she was awarded an Honorary degree. She told me that ‘She Moved Thro’ The Fair’ was a special song for her, as her Grandmother used to sing it to her.

Although I live very happily on the east coast of Scotland, I have always felt that visiting the Isle of Skye is like coming home. My mother’s family all hail from the north end of the island near Staffin. My Aunt Chris still has the croft at Digg and my Uncle Alasdair Gillies (who also won the Mod Gold Medal) has very strong ties with the island. There is something quite magical to me about island life and the skyline is amazing even through the occasional mist!

This is a fun arrangement of some Mouth Music i.e. music that was originally sung unaccompanied. The song is about a mischievous old man who, if his bad behaviour continues, is in danger of being thrown in the river!

Call me whatever you like, but I believe in angels and especially the Highland variety! I simply wanted to write a song which kept coming to me... so I’m only doing what I’m being told to do! I sang the song down the phone to Manus Lunny of ‘Caparcaillie’, who then made this lovely arrangement.

This was composed by Duncan Johnston a composer and collector of songs, born in Islay in 1881.This song to his wife, Sìne Bh`an (Fair Jean) expresses his concerns about the First World War and how it will lead to his inevitable participation, parting and separation from his beloved. It is a song of love for Sìne Bh`an hoping that all will be well and he will return to her and their home village of Baile Mhonaidh in Islay. A gorgeous song which Dad sang so beautifully and I hope I have done justice to. Richard Cherns’ sensitive arrangement completely taps into the essence of this love song.

I interviewed John Martyn when I was presenting ‘Live at the Lemon Tree’ for BBC Radio Scotland and was slightly apprehensive as he is a giant of a performer and has such a commanding physical presence. But he also has such a tender voice, particularly in his own rendition of ‘May You Never’ that I wanted to record it and only hope that he approves!

In a strange way the first time I went to Africa I felt like I was coming home, which is why I’ve included this song on the album. It’s very different from anything I’ve ever written and also quite different from anything else on the album, but I felt completely inspired by the landscape, the people, the rhythms, the wildlife and that magical sky. Ali Napier and I sat outside with Francis and friends in the African bush one evening and the song evolved.

This rhythmical piece of Gaelic Mouth Music is all about dancing at Morag’s wedding and I dedicate it to my sister Morag and her husband Stevie in Singapore who we miss a lot. My family all love the feel of this song and regularly blast it out in the car while I’m driving!

Solus M’aigh (Light of Hope) is a song of exile, hope and faith dedicated to Father Colin McInnes. I first heard this song, sung hauntingly by Arthur Cormack and was drawn to its pure sentiments.

This song hails from the East Neuk of Fife and I love its simplicity. Mostly played up-tempo by Scottish country dance bands, Richard Cherns arrangement slows the whole thing down which makes the words more meaningful for me.

Like many songs from the 1800s it lives on and on and touches the soul. Beautiful words with a tune to match and Ali Napier’s arrangement marries the old with the new.

Henry Whyte, born in 1852, was a prolific Gaelic writer in the Victorian era. His compositions achieved widespread popularity and many, like this heart-aching love song, anticipated the audience's need for a romanticism with which they could identify. The bard draws on the beauties of nature to extol the exquisite qualities of his loved one, but to no avail; she leaves him for another.

I have recorded this song specially for my sister Deirdre, who is the best whistler from the back of a hall that I know! Dad and Uncle Alasdair both sing it and we all have very fond memories of the late, great actor, Roddy MacMillan of Para Handy fame.