The Bard’s Legacy on BBC ALBA

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A SMALL notice sent into a Hebridean newspaper by an American family trying to trace their Scottish roots is not unusual.

However, one such, placed early last year in the Stornoway Gazette, has led to the renewal of long lost ties between the descendants of a legendary Lewis bard and his UK family on the eve of his folk musician great-grandson’s UK debut tour.

BBC ALBA’s Trusadh documentary ‘Dileab a Bhaird / The Bard’s Legacy, traces America musician Cahalen Morrison’s voyage of discovery to the home of his ancestor, Gaelic poet Murdo Morrison.

It tells the story of a songwriting talent that has spanned generations from Murdo’s songs of love, emigration and memories of his island home, to Cahalen’s lyrics of everyday living and the dusty land of his childhood in New Mexico.

Murdo Morrison, born in a traditional blackhouse in Upper Shader in Lewis in 1884, emigrated to Niagara Falls in 1911. However, his close ties to Lewis were always evident in his poetry, much of which focused on nature and his spiritual links to his homeland; and a collection of his work was published in 1923 in a book titled ‘Fear Siubhal nan Gleann (The Traveller of the Glens).

During his trip to Lewis in November 2011, Cahalen meets Murdo’s grand nephew John Angus MacKay, who is keen to re-establish his American family ties, lost after Murdo’s death in 1965.

The documentary also features Cahalen performing at Stornoway arts centre, An Lanntair, as well as renditions of Murdo Morrison’s songs by Gaelic singers such as Kathleen MacDonald, of the MacDonald Sisters, who was one of the singers instrumental in taking Murdo’s work to an international audience.

Produced by MacTV for BBC ALBA, Trusadh ‘Dileab a Bhaird / The Bard’s Legacy’ will be broadcast tomorrow, Monday, February 20th at 9pm.