The Campbells of Greepe
The Campbells of Greepe


There is something special about Scottish singing.

A few weeks back I was in Crumlin Road Jail for a concert – no, it was nothing like Folsom Prison Blues  as it featured Kathleeen MacInnes and Manran.

At one point Kathleen was joined by Sineag MacIntyre and I was totally transported to na hEileannan Siar where I have spent many’s a happy hour over the past couple of years. The ability of the song and the singing and the language to create an almost out-of-body experience was incredible. Beam me up, Scotties.

The Campbells of Greepe/Caimbeulaich a’ Ghnìoba did something similar today. Lullabies, waulking songs, puirt a beul and the wonderful Seinneam Cliù nam Fear Ur with Maggie Macdonald excelling, spoke not just of place but also of family and how families, subconsciously, become custodians of a culture.

The Campbells are an exceptional extended family with cousins Kenna and Seumas Campbell and their children/nieces Maggie Macdonald, Mary Ann Kennedy and Wilma Kennedy. Listening to them, you would wish you had been brought up in a family where singing was such an integral part of life. Singing doesn’t make life’s problems go away but they help us along the way, accompanying us as children, as workers, as lovers (usually jilted) through to old age.

There is genuine love amongst the Campbells for the songs they sing and that comes through in their performances and that came through in the performance at the Guildhall in Derry today as part of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2013. Ethearal beauty and stomping work songs and a haunting finale of Down to the River translated into Scots Gaelic

I was at a singing workshop Maggie and Mary Ann gave in St George’s market and it too was fantastic. Watch out for a book, Fonn: The Campbells of Greepe, published by Acair Books.

Also on the bill at the Guildhall were Rona Wilkie and Marit Falt, a pairing totally new to me but who play musics from their native Scotland and Norway/Sweden – with the help of a string quartet!

I must say I was enthralled by the darkness and light (and humour) in their performance – they’re an act I’ll keep a close eye on.


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