Maggie MacInnes

Maggie MacInnes is one of Scotland's foremost
Gaelic singers and clarsach players. She comes
from a long line of singers from the island
of Barra in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

"...This brings to her performance an uncontrived naturalness and at times a raw heartfeltness that is nothing short of captivating.

The trio of Maggie singing and playing clarsach, Brian MacAlpine on keyboards and accordion and Anna Massie on guitar (with or without the wandering capo) generate a subtle yet emphatic pallet of accompaniment, at times sparse, at others gently swinging with lilting syncopations, and then with rapid-fire reeling..." Peter Urpeth, Highland & Island Arts 2009

"...her singing was such that no translations were necessary…"

"…her voice was haunting and angelic; and her chilling unaccompanied vocal on a Scottish lament earned the show's longest ovation from the
sell-out crowd…"
Boston Globe, USA

"…one of the brightest singers of traditional Gaelic music in Scotland." A.F.I.M. (Association of Independent Music ) June 1999

"…a display of singing confidence, background authority and unshowy musicality that bodes well indeed."
Rob Adams, Glasgow Herald, 25 Jan 2000

"….The finest live performer in Gaelic music today"
Folk Roots Magazine, July, 2001

"…it also takes a performer of unusual talent to unlock the soul and
to place there in this music and these poems and Maggie MacInnes
is certainly one such performer."

The Living Tradition Magazine, Summer 2001



The Seedboat
Colum Sands and Maggie MacInnes
By David Kidman (Freelance Journalist)

Soft-spoken gentle-man Colum’s one of the most captivating and genuine talents on the folk scene, and his latest inspirational and ambitious project is a lovely collaboration with acclaimed singer and clarsach player Maggie (daughter of legendary Barra singer Flora MacNeill). It ostensibly takes its cue from the story of a voyage two centuries ago on the little vessel named The Seedboat, from the Hebridean island of Barra to Newry in Co. Down, by Donald, a young man intending to buy some whiskey for his forthcoming wedding; this (ill-fated) story is recounted in a bittersweet lament composed by his left-behind bride Catriona, which here is heartrendingly sung by Maggie (with help, and some English lyrics, from Colum). The power of this song, rooted in the heritage of both Scotland and Ireland, also symbolises the continuing richness of the musical dialogue between the two nations, unashamedly rejoicing in the wealth of “shape-shifting” language they share. This piece is the catalyst for an intelligently-crafted sequence of songs and tunes that’s loosely linked by the sea and drawn both from the wellspring of tradition and Colum’s original compositions. It’s both highly imaginative and delightfully stimulating in a wonderfully homespun way, and the two performers dovetail together immaculately, working hand-in-hand like the best-fitting of gloves. Their voices and sensibilities are as naturally and well-matched as the sounding-together of English and Gaelic. The catchy lilt of Calum’s Boat gives way to one of Colum’s characteristic slices of homespun philosophy The Wave Upon The Shore (which resonates onward to and from the second, The Window Half Open, towards the end of the CD), while some typically puckish light relief is provided by Colum’s irresistible, if slightly tongue-testing I’m A Terrible Man and the vibrant little morris-tune that Colum uses as the basis for Dance Like Billy-o. The emotional temperature is high when Maggie blesses us with her peerless renditions of some wonderful old songs: the unutterably sad Dh’fhlabh Mo Nighean Chruinn Donn (My Lovely Brown-Haired Girl Has Gone) is done to a delicately spare guitar backing, while her magisterially expressive account of the emigration song The Quiet Land Of Erin comes with sympathetic clarsach decorations and the lyrical duet of The High Walls Of Derry is given an appealing lilt by Colum’s deft guitar work. One finely managed (though maybe less characteristic or expected) contribution finds Colum and Maggie sweetly duetting on Burns’ It Was A’ For Our Rightfu’ King, while Hebridean mouth-music makes its mark on the project with a sturdy waulking song in praise of Alasdair, Son Of Gallant Coll, and the disc ends in more tranquil mode with the yearning spell of The Castle Of Wild Waves. Like the whole disc, this reading is characterised not only by the performers’ soothing, intimate vocals and careful, bright-eyed musicianship, but most important, also by its sense of life and vitality and an incurable optimism of the human spirit. This entirely charming release, though impeccably presented in the most attractive of digipacks and sporting a beautiful booklet that contains full texts and translations, may well be in danger of slipping through the nets of coverage, as the promoters and radio stations always seem to have bigger fish to catch – but you mustn’t let it, for it’s a true pearl, and thus eminently treasurable. David Kidman

The Seedboat
Colum Sands and Maggie MacInnes
Irish Music magazine, January, 2011

It really does my heart good to see the growing trad music ties between Gaelic Scotland and Ireland, and this new CD, The Seedboat (Báta an tSíl) from Colum Sands and Maggie MacInnes, is just one of an increasing number of shared albums between Scottish and Irish performers. Another recent example is Conamara sean nós singer Mairéad Ní Fhlatharta’s CD, Ó chaon taobh (from both sides), where she sings a song in Gàidhlig she got from the well-known Isle of Lewis singer, Christine Primrose.

Colum and Maggie themselves sum up what their CD is all about, describing it as, “A blend of songs old and new celebrating the musical bridges between Ireland and Scotland.” Both are from musical families: she’s from a long line of Gaelic singers from the small Hebredian island of Barra and learned most of her songs from her mother the highly acclaimed traditional singer, Flora MacNeil M.B.E. And Colum? “We grew up on a small farm in the townland of Ryan, near the village of Mayobridge, a few miles from the town of Newry. Our parents, Mick and Bridie, both came from families of singers, musicians and storytellers and encouraged a love of Irish culture and tradition in their seven children.” And that serves as a neat lead-in to a delightful note on Maggie’s web site that draws the two singers’ native places together, and that serves to explain the CD’s title: “The Seedboat sails from Barra shore, young Donald’s gone to Newry. And though he swears a swift return, till then she’ll miss him dearly…”

The note continues: “These lines are from a beautiful bitter-sweet love song that has inspired two musicians from either end of The Seedboat’s voyage to embark on an exciting new journey of music and song.” The song is track 3 on the album and it inspired Colum to write the song that precedes it, The Wave upon the Shore. Of The Seedboat (Báta an tSíl) and how this song in Gàidhlig inspired his song in English, he says, “The metaphor was irresistible and that little boat was very much behind the floating of this song, and indeed the inspiration of this album.”

Maggie MacInnes sings and plays the clársach. Colum sings and plays the guitar and several other instruments. The songs are in Gaelic and English and cover a wide range of themes and moods, including Colum’s hilarious I’m a Terrible Man, a song in broad Ulster Scots with lines like, Her father he let out a gulder, You talk about getting a gunk, But I duked in around by the jaw box And I dunted him one into the bunk. The recording is great fun and is a seamless weave of shared song traditions. Aidan O’Hara

The Seedboat
Colum Sands and Maggie MacInnes
The Living Tradition, January, 2011

Colum and Maggie’s new album takes as its inspiration the story of an ill-fated trip by a young Barra man, Donald who sailed from the Hebridean Island to County Down’s Newry to buy some whiskey for his forthcoming wedding to Catriona. Whilst there he meets and falls in love with a Newry girl - never to return to Barra. The song is Catriona’s lament to her lost love.

The album takes as its heart, therefore, the rich musical dialogue between Scotland and Ireland as personified by Colum’s County Down and Maggie’s Hebridean roots. It’s an ambitious piece of work; songs are rooted in the past of both locations and Gaelic lyrics sit happily alongside English translations.

The title-track is a bittersweet little song which is followed by the roguish I’m A Terrible Man (I bhi Àta) - perhaps hinting at the failings in Donald’s character from The Seedboat - which melds words and phrases from English, Gaelic, as well as Ireland and Scotland. The sea itself is a linking motif, and boats and distance feature heavily throughout. Highlights include Colum’s self-penned The Wave Upon the Shore (which depicts the sea as a force to unite rather than be feared), the fine waulking song Alasdair Mhic Cholla Ghasda (Alasdair, Son of Gallant Coll) as well as the tranquil love song The Castle Of Wild Waves (Caisteal na Stuadhan) and the warm instrumental of Rory Dall’s Port.

Dark themes are dealt with gentle hands, such as the loss felt in the title-track and the delicately fragile Dh’fhalbh Mo Nighean Chruinn Donn (My lovely brown haired girl has gone) as well as a bright interpretation of Robert Burns’ It Was A’ For Our Rightfu’ King. Occasionally, I would have preferred a little more salty gristle added to the pot, but that’s not Colum or Maggie’s style. The Seedboat (Bàta an t-Sìl) is a quiet, sweet little album charmingly played and sung with some fine musicianship from Maggie on clàrsach and Colum on guitar, double bass, concertina and mandolin. Maggie’s soft vocals and Colum’s soothing, intimate voice are matched perfectly and the album’s potential for further collaboration is something both interesting and worth anticipating. Billy Rough

The Seedboat
Colum Sands and Maggie MacInnes
Folkworld, November, 2010

The Seedboat sails from Barra shore, young Donald’s gone to Newry, and though he swears a swift return, til then she’ll miss him dearly ... The macaronic - i.e. bi-lingual English and Gaelic - "Bata n t-Sil" (The Seedboat) is an adaption of the traditional Scots Gaelic song "Gur e mo ghille dubh dhonn". Two hundred years ago, Donald went on a shopping trip from the Hebrides to the Northern Irish coast to buy whisky for his wedding, but (un)fortunatly fell in love with a Newry girl never to return to his native shores. This was the birth of a musical meeting between Gaelic singer and harpist Maggie MacInnes from Barra in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland (her mother is the legendary singer Flora MacNeil) and singer-songwriter Colum Sands of the musical family from Co. Down in Northern Ireland.

Colum and Maggie connect - hands across the ocean - both their homeplaces with music and song. It is a nice selection of songs. There's traditional Gaelic songs (Colum put English lyrics to some). In the story of "Dh'fhalbh mo nighean chruinn donn" it is a girl travelling to Newry to wed another. In Robert Burns' "It Was A' for Our Rightfu' King" the man leaves to fight in a foreign war. "Ard ti Cuan" (The Quiet Land of Eirean) is a well-known Gaelic ballad, sung on the Irish side of the ocean as well as on the Scottish. Here it is sung in an English version, the chorus only being in Gaelic. It's a song being in the Sands fanily repertoire for quite some time. Colum's original song "The Wave Upon the Shore" takes up the metaphor of the seedboat and travelling across the sea: the sea was the road and the boat was the way. There's also instrumental music, such as the 17th century harp piece "Rory Dall's Port".

The Seedboat
Colum Sands and Maggie MacInnes
Scots Magazine, December, 2010

The Seedboat stars Irishman Colum Sands and Barra singer Maggie MacInnes, and is called after the boat that sailed from Barra to Newry in Northern Ireland with seed potatoes. On one trip it took a swain from Barra there to buy necessaries for his wedding; he met a Newry girl and married her instead, and that’s the sad tale of the title track. Not that this is all yearning and sorrow; far from it, with a waulking song and puirt-a-beul among the tracks. Not only does the CD offer many emotions, but also four languages: English, Gaelic, Irish, and a sort of Stanley Unwin-esque mixture of English and nonsense. A.MacLean


Maggie MacInnes Trio
Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh
Published Date: 15 April 2010

The Maggie MacInnes Trio opened the concert, with the Gaelic singer and harpist accompanied by Brian McAlpine on keyboards and accordion, and Anna Massie on guitar, alternating lively waulking songs with some poised and delicately accompanied material from Barra and Mingulay. Chan e Caoidh Mhic Shirid, a sister's lament for her drowned brother, was particularly poignant. Jim Gilchrist 2010

Maggie MacInnes Trio
Live at the Star
OBAN TIMES March, 2010

It may not be a venue frequently visited by enthusiasts of west coast music, but the weekly meetings of the Star Club, held in St. Andrew's in the Square, sometimes showcase Gaelic artistes.

Last week's concert was one of those when Maggie MacInnes and her band, Brian McAlpine on keyboard/accordion and Anna Massie on guitar, provided quality entertainment which deserved a far greater attendence.

Over the years I have featured Maggie MacInnes concerts in this column and, as in the past, she showed why she is one of Gaeldom's best performers.

From the outset, even when setting up, the trio struck up a rapport of fun with the audience and this was maintained throughout. Explanations of the songs were provided but not to the extent that they took longer than the actual singing which can sometimes be a characteristic nowadays.

And there was great variety included in the programme. Rabbie Burns, a particular favourite of Maggie's, featured and there was a sample from her CD with Colum Sands to be released soon.

It was a concert with many highlights but perhaps in time tradition the "best was kept for last" when the singing and sensitive accompaniment to Blair Douglas's Solus m' Aigh, written for Father Colin MacInnes, was simply superb.

Maggie MacInnes and the James Graham Trio
Celtic Connections Festival • 21st Jan, 2010.
St Andrews In The Square, Glasgow

Bluesbunny Music Reviews
Independent music reviews from Glasgatraz

Though the venue was just shy of the heart of Glasgow's city centre, you'd barely have known just where you were. An evening of fine celtic music saw the James Graham Trio and Maggie MacInnes entertain those amassed in St Andrews In The Square. Weren't you half expecting a hymn sheet upon entrance! Ba mhaith liom cupan caife!

The James Graham Trio are composed of two suitably dexterous musicians in James Ross (piano) and Neil Johnstone (cello), who created the perfect the symphonic backdrop for James Graham to sing over. Graham's chanting was entirely in Gaelic and I'm sure many in the audience were more than aware. Those less fluent in Gaelic were given perfect reason to learn. Owing almost as much to classical awareness as to celtic sounds, The James Graham Trio are an excellent example of how modern music in the Gaelic tongue can have widespread appeal.

Coming from a family deep-soaked in musical brilliance, you'd expect at least a minim of musical understanding in Maggie MacInnes. This was, of course, to be the case. Resplendent in a shining black dress, Ms MacInnes - flanked by the wonderful Anna Massie (guitar) and Brian McAlpine (keyboard/accordion) - flew through a set of wonderful music, all positively Scottish in nature, and their origins well explained beforehand. The clarsach is her instrument of choice, and Ms MacInnes drew a healthy, emotive sound from it. Drawing mostly from songs regarding the long-uninhabited island of Mingulay, Ms MacInnes sang with a gentle sincerity that needed no understanding of the Gaelic language to properly convey its beauty. Of course, it'd have helped.

If ever there was to be a time to forge an understanding of the Gaelic tongue, it is now. Music such as this can be appreciated without understanding of the words, but in understanding them, another realm of beauty expands to the listener.
Peter McGee, 2010


Maggie MacInnes Trio
An Lanntair, Stornoway on 21st May, 2009, for Hi-Arts.
Review reproduced with kind permission of Highland & Islands Arts.

PETER URPETH feels the crucial influence of home and
family in the artistry of Gaelic singer Maggie MacInnes

Performances by Maggie MacInnes have for this writer always had something of a qualitative difference from those of other singers performing songs from the Scottish Gaelic tradition. The difference stems entirely from Maggie's direct family relationship to a tradition of song which evolved in the Islands of Barra, Vatersay, Mingulay, Eriskay and South Uist and which stretches back for more than three centuries.

Maggie's repertoire comes largely from the songs she learned from her mother, the great Gaelic singer from the Isle of Barra, Flora MacNeil, who, of course, in turn had heard and learned the songs from her own mother, her extended family and from the island community in which she grew up.

Although largely drawn from the song traditions of that small archipelago at the southern tip of the Outer Hebrides, Maggie constantly turns-up surprises in her performances in the form of unfamiliar if not totally unique songs; unfamiliar variations of now familiar songs in the contemporary Gaelic repertoire; and familiar songs that only became familiar to us as a consequence of her mother's resilient preservation of them.

But the uniqueness of the repertoire, although of great interest for those who love this tradition of song, is not the only element of the Gaelic tradition that Maggie has acquired, and in which she herself is now firmly placed.

Maggie performs these great and rare songs with an emotion and an intimacy that surely can only come from her in-the-blood proximity to these songs in their original domestic rather than concert hall setting. Many of the songs she sings, just like her mother before her, have been a part of her real lived life for as long as she has had a life. The songs, of course, continue to evolve and live in their contemporary setting, but the idea of what a performance is, is surely different between those who have the songs as a part of their lives and then sing them on stage and those who learn them as one might learn lieder, however much the singer might love the learned material.

This brings to her performance an uncontrived naturalness and at times a raw heartfeltness that is nothing short of captivating.

The trio of Maggie singing and playing clarsach, Brian MacAlpine on keyboards and accordion and Anna Massie on guitar (with or without the wandering capo) generate a subtle yet emphatic pallet of accompaniment, at times sparse, at others gently swinging with lilting syncopations, and then with rapid-fire reeling.

Maggie at times utilises the clarsach in this mix for cross-rhythmic phrases and punctuations that add a different colour dimension to the arrangements, so much so that this trio perform with impact of at least a quintet. But then, in Brian and Anna, Maggie has chosen wisely from amongst the crop of the very finest musicians in contemporary Scottish music.

The set, which apart from its foundations in the environs of Barra, testified to the extent to which this is a diverse tradition of songs largely by and about the experiences of women, focused on Maggie's recent project exploring and recording the songs of Mingulay, which is now available as a new CD – A Fagail Mhiughalaigh (Leaving Mingulay).

Two songs in particular from this sequence (which also have Vatersay connections), the fishing song Leis an Lurgainn and Oran Na Raiders Bhatersaigh (Song of the Vatersay Raiders), testify to the sheer struggle for existence that the community endured before the final clearance of the island in 1912, and both also document the fact that Mingulay had its own local versions and variations of many songs.

Another song with Mingulay connections, the Luadh Cha Teid Mise, was given a particularly forceful and spirited performance.

The set also included Sraid Na h-Eala, A Fhleasgaich Oig is Ceanalta, Thig an Smeorach as t-Earrach (which Maggie's mother learned from the singing of the great Lewis Gaelic singer, Joan MacKenzie), Dh'eirich mi gu moch Diluain, and Gradh Geal Mo Chridh (aka The Eriskay Love Lilt, here sung in a traditional form), along with two Burn's songs (in English) that included an arresting version of My Heart Is In The Highlands, and closed with a contemporary Gaelic song of great beauty, Blair Douglas's Solus M'aigh.

The theatre space at Stornoway's An Lanntair arts centre is particularly well suited to this scale and type of performance, ideal for what was a real celebration of traditional and contemporary Gaelic culture in its heartland. © Peter Urpeth, 2009


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Marram Music is Maggie's own record
company. For more information visit:


August 2014
Lorient Interceltic Festival
2nd - 6th August, 2014
Maggie MacInnes & Anna Massie

July 2014
Hebridean Celtic Festival
An Lanntair, Stornoway, Lewis, 19th July,
2014 • Maggie MacInnes Trio

January 2013
Celtic Connections Festival
Mitchell Theatre, Glasgow, 26th January,
2013, Maggie MacInnes presents the life
and songs of Flora MacNeil with special
guests including The Boys of the Lough,
Anne Lorne Gillies, Arthur Cormack,
Peadar O' Riada, the Cùilaoidh Choir
and others...

March 2013
St Patrick's Weekend Cultural Concert
Monday 18 • Colum Sands and Maggie MacInnes
with Willie Drennan, Jarleth Henderson
and many more! Starting 3pm
Ann Street, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone

February 2012
Maggie MacInnes Trio
Celtic Connections Festival
Wednesday 01

Maggie will be taking part in various events
at this traditional music school
from Wednesday 15 - Sunday 19
Sciol Cheoil an Earraigh
Dingle Peninsula
Co.Kerry, Ireland

March 2012

Maggie MacInnes
with Anna Massie
Cinema Teatro Nuovo
VARESE, Near Milan, Italy
Friday 9th, 21h
Contact: Geomusic
+39 035 732005

Maggie MacInnes
with Anna Massie
Turin Folk Club
Turin, Italy
Saturday 10th

Maggie MacInnes
Wednesday 21
Edinburgh Folk Club
The Pleasance Cabaret Bar

The Seedboat with Colum Sands
Thursday 29 • 8pm
Ballymena Arts Festival,
The Briad Arts Centre,
Ballymena, N. Ireland

The Seedboat with Colum Sands
Friday 30 • 8.30pm
Cushendall Sailing and Boating Club
Coast Road, Cushendall.
Tickets 028 21771331

The Seedboat with Colum Sands
Saturday 31
CCA, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow

August 2012

Maggie MacInnes
accompanied by Brian McAlpine
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Friday, 17th August • 6.45pm start
Barra and Beyond: Songs from the Western Isles
AMC @ St. Brides, Edinburgh
Book tickets here

The Seedboat with Colum Sands
Monday 20th August • 3pm
Farnham Arms Hotel  
The All Ireland Fleadh
Co Cavan
Please note this is an afternoon concert starting at 3pm website

October 2012

Maggie will be performing at the
Scoil Seamus Ennis Festival
called The Return to Fingal
in Ballyboughal, near Dublin.
27th & 28th October, 2012

December 2012
Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame
Dinner Dance, Alexandra Hotel, Fort William
7th December • 7.30pm.
Maggie will be performing along with her
mother, Flora MacNeil, who was inducted
into the Hall of Fame in 2005.


November 2011
The Carrying Stream Festival, Edinburgh
Thursday 10, 8pm

September 2011
The Seedboat with Colum Sands
Wednesday 7
Irvine Folk Club

The Seedboat with Colum Sands
Friday 9
Girvan Folk Club

The Seedboat with Colum Sands
Saturday 10

June 2011
Maggie is the special guest singer
at the Ayrshire Gaelic Forum Ceilidh
Tuesday 14, Burns Conference Centre
Kay Park, Kilmarnock • 7.30pm
Tel: 01294 5545565


January 2010
Thursday 21 • Celtic Connections Festival
St Andrews in the Square, Glasgow
Tel: 0141 353 8000

March 2010
Thursday 18 • Live at the Star
St Andrews in the Square, Glasgow
Tel: 0141 563 045
Maggie will be appearing with her Trio.

Friday 19 • Universal Hall, Findhorn
Tel: 01309 691170
Maggie will be appearing with her Trio.

April 2010
Tuesday 13 • Edinburgh International
Harp Festival. Tel: 0131 652 0585
Maggie will be appearing with her Trio.

Friday 30, 7.30pm • Fiddlers' Fling
Craigie Village Hall, Craigie,
Nr. Kilmarnock, Ayrshire
Tickets at the door or phone 01655 889511
Maggie will be appearing as a guest of the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra

May 2010
Saturday 8, 7.30pm • Burgh Hall, Dunoon
Tickets £12 Adults, concessions £10, Schoolchildren FREE
Contact 01301 703504 or email:
For more info:
An evening of Gaelic and Scots Song with Emily Smith

June 2010
The Seedboat with Colum Sands
I will be performing The Seedboat -
a show with Irish singer/songwriter,
Colum Sands.

Sunday 13 • 9pm start
Rouskey Community Centre
Rouskey, County Tyrone
Tickets: 07847 459428

The Seedboat with Colum Sands
Saturday 19 • The Ceilidh Place
Ullapool. Tel: 01854 612103

July 2010
Maggie MacInnes Trio
Friday 9 • Stonehaven Folk Festival

Maggie MacInnes — solo
Sunday 11 • Stonehaven Folk Festival

August 2010
The Seedboat with Colum Sands
16, 17 & 18 • 8pm start
The Acoustic Music Centre,
Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The Seedboat with Colum Sands
Thursday 19
Recital Rooms, City Halls, Glasgow

September 2010
The Seedboat with Colum Sands
Thursday 2 • 8pm start
Bagenal’s Castle, Newry & Mourne
Museum, Newry

The Seedboat with Colum Sands
Friday 3rd • 8pm start
Farmleigh House Long Mile Road,
Dublin 12

The Seedboat with Colum Sands
Sunday 5 • 8pm start
The Folk Gallery Newcastle, Co.Down

Solution Graphics

Maggie's CDs can be bought on
Recordings page via PayPal

Click here to be taken to
the Recordings page


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Edinburgh, EH6 5DT
Email Contact
m: +44(0)7968-131737 (jb: 24hr ansa)


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