'Is eagal leam am bàs' – The Maclean-Clephane sisters and the harp [James Ruff]
The music manuscripts of the Maclean-Clephane sisters, on the Isle of Mull, are a significant early 19th-century source of indigenous harp music and song from the Gaelic tradition, and are a largely neglected resource that deserve to be more well known. The three sisters were harpists themselves, collecting local harp music, Gaelic song, and traditional Highland lore – in fact, Sir Walter Scott, executor to their father’s will and close family friend, received the Gaelic traditional lore for his novels from them! Most interestingly for us, these manuscripts include repertoire transcribed from Irish clarsair Echlin Ó Catháin, as well as ten anonymous puirt. We will look at one of the recognizable puirt, a setting of 'Is eagal leam am bàs' – a melancholy consideration of death – which we will learn together, discussing and trying different possibilities for harp bass as we go.