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the life & songs of flora mcNeil, mitchell library, Glasgow

There's a lovely tale about an early Flora MacNeil fan calling her in the Castlebay telephone exchange and since she wasn't likely to be too busy, requesting his favourite song – again.

Within a few years, having moved to the Edinburgh switchboard, Flora was bewitching admirers including Charles Laughton, Alan Lomax and David Attenborough, and in time she took the songs she grew up inhaling like Barra air around the world.

Her daughter Maggie MacInnes has inherited this great store of songs, many of which have passed into the Gaelic repertoire, and although she has not inherited her mother's authority and sure melodic gifts, she was bolstered by a cast including singers Anne Lorne Gillies, Arthur Cormack, Boys of the Lough's Cathal McConnell and Brendan Begley, Irish pianist-composer Peadar O Riada and Flora's grandsons Calum and Donald Joseph in matching music with what is, even allowing for a rather stilted presentation, an amazing life story.

The great Flora herself, now in her 85th year, arrived onstage to cap an entertaining evening by leading the Eriskay Love Lilt, a little less certain than of old but still a commanding presence.


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