Lauchie MacLellan (1910-1991), carpenter, farmer, and woodsman, was one of this century's outstanding Scottish Gaelic singer-storytellers. MacLellan, part of a Scottish family with an extensive Gaelic oral tradition who emigrated to Canada early in the nineteenth century from Morar in the Western Highlands, helped keep this tradition alive. In his native parish of Broad Cove, Cape Breton Island, such centuries-old songs and stories, supplemented by more recent compositions, have been the primary form of self-expression and entertainment. This is the first major study of its kind to be undertaken for a Scottish Gaelic singer. The forty-eight songs and nine folktales in the collection are transcribed from field recordings and presented as the singer performed them, with an English translation provided. All the songs are accompanied by musical transcriptions. The book also includes a brief autobiography in Lauchie MacLellan's entertaining narrative style. John Shaw has added extensive notes and references, as well as photos and maps.
In an era of growing appreciation of Celtic cultures, Brigh an Orain - A Story in Every Song makes an important Gaelic tradition available to the general reader. The materials also serve as a unique, adaptable resource for those with more specialized research or teaching interests in ethnology/folklore, Canadian studies, Gaelic language, ethnomusicology, Celtic studies, anthropology, and social history.
John Shaw is senior lecturer in Scottish ethnology at the School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh.