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Anne Lorne Gillies

A fluent Gaelic-speaker, brought up in Argyll, Anne won the Mòd Gold Medal for Gaelic singing when she was only 17, and went on to become a household name during the 1970s and early 80s. Her own-show series of music programmes (featuring Gaelic, Scots, Irish, Spanish and French songs, and international guests from the worlds of jazz, folk, classical ballet etc) were broadcast by the BBC throughout Scotland and the UK.

In 1983, however, she put her career “on the back burner” in order to concentrate her attention on the urgent struggle to reverse the decline of Gaelic language and culture. She became a crucial member of the activist group who established Gaelic-medium pre-school playgroups (she was Patron of Comhairle nan Sgoiltean Àraich from its inception in 1982) and then Gaelic-medium primary and secondary education.

She has played many seminal roles in this movement: publicity, fund-raising, resource development, community liaison, play-leader, project manager, writer, song-writer, playwright, school-teacher, music tutor, etc etc. She went back to University at her own expense, to convert and update her teaching qualification; taught in the first city primary school to offer Gaelic-medium education; became National Education Officer of Comann na Gàidhlig (the national, Government-funded language devlopment agency); completed a PhD in Gaelic-medium education at the University of Glasgow; taught Gaelic song at the University of Stirling’s summer schools; became a TV writer / producer with Scottish Television (programmes including the hugely successful multi-media language learning series “Speaking our Language”, based around 72 half-hour television programmes); and was Gaelic lecturer at the University of Strathclyde. The University of Edinburgh awarded her an honorary doctorate in 1993, in recognition of her work for Scottish and Gaelic culture. In 2001 she was awarded Rotary International’s prestigious Paul Harris Fellowship, in recognition of her voluntary work.

She is much sought-after as a speaker, especially at Burns Suppers, having graduated from the Reply to the Lassies to the Immortal Memory! She is an Honorary Fellow of the venerable Irvine Burns Club – the only woman to have been so honoured apart from Margaret Thatcher! In 2005 she was invited by the Association of Speakers’ Clubs of Great Britain to become their Speaker of the Year: an honour held in the past by luminaries such as Peter Ustinov and Tony Benn.

Last year’s Burns Suppers included Alloway, Dumfries and Cairo, and she also delivered her one-woman costumed Scots-language musical play about the celebrated Scots songwriter Carolina (Lady) Nairne in the main Debating Chamber of the Scottish Parliament, to round off the first-ever Edinburgh Festival of Politics.

She has made 9 albums to date, in Gaelic, Scots and English, and been featured on many more. She has headlined at one-off concerts in Canada, the USA, Europe and major venues throughout the UK. She has written many books – autobiography, Gaelic children’s novels, and, most recently Songs of Gaelic Scotland, an important collection which has been well-reviewed and sold out almost immediately. A second edition is in the making.

Some reviews of Songs of Gaelic Scotland:-

- Dr Anne Lorne Gillies’ new book, Songs of Gaelic Scotland, published by Birlinn for £30, is impossible for anyone with an interest in the language to put down. The volume contains texts, tunes, and histories behind each and every one of its 151 Gaelic songs. It is packed with classics, which are hard to get a hold of in print, and defies the cliché that Gaels sing nothing other than desperately sad love songs. (Murdo MacLeod, Scotland on Sunday)

- All the old feelings of enthusiasm and admiration came flooding back to me in full measure as I opened this substantial new publication by one of Scotland’s most renowned figures in the world of music and Gaelic literature. But this great treasure-house of song does not only belong to Gaeldom, nor only to Scotland. It belongs to the world, as one of the great anthologies of music gathered from every corner of the Gaelic-speaking community. This book is unique in that it crosses the boundaries between music and literature. Nothing quite like it has ever been done for Gaelic. It is a truly wonderful achievement. (Scots Magazine)

- From Mull of Kintyre to Sutherland, from Perthshire to St Kilda, this remarkable book provides a detailed analysis of Gaelic song in all its wonderful variety. Musical notation (often with alternative melodies), literary criticism, historical research, cross cultural comparisons and linguistics are combined to produce a work that is both scholarly and entertaining. Musicians will find Gillies’ notations and commentaries an indispensable aid, and the comprehensive appendix of CDs should prove useful for all music lovers. She walks a fine tightrope between encouraging innovation and respecting tradition, never once falling off. Poets – and lovers of that art – will find verse of the highest quality ranging from bawdy to devout, from anguished to joyous, from formal Bardic metres to vernacular verses. All this is placed within historical and cultural contexts, often demonstrating the roots and development of songs. (Am Bratach)

- Anne Lorne Gillies’ Songs of Gaelic Scotland is a substantial book. There are 151 songs in it. Each song comprises music, Gaelic words, English translation, and some pages of history, opinion and advice to the singers. There was a real need for the likes, and this book will be with us as a vital reference book as long as “the water runs and the wind blows”. I think Birlinn were very wise to have asked Gillies to assemble this crock of gold. She is an expert in the length and breadth of Gaelic song. She learned her songs from master singers over 50 years. She is hungry to share her expertise. She certainly had heart and energy and confidence and zeal to have completed this work without too much delay. (Ronald Black, Scotsman)

- Anne has done many invaluable things to promote the culture of the Gaels, but I believe that this book will be like a beacon that will last forever and be of untold value to generations still to come. I had good reason for buying two copies of this book: the children in this house have almost worn out one copy already, singing the songs, playing the music of the piano, the fiddle and the clarsach. The book is also beautifully designed, and its hard cover gives extra status and recognition to the songs. It reminds me of Margaret Fay Shaw’s Folksongs and Folklore of South Uist, and that is the highest praise I can offer. (Angus Peter Campbell, West Highland Free Press)


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