Tobar an Dualchais - Kist O Riches

The voices of the past ... brought to life through the latest technology - The speik o a bygane age ... gien new virr wi fantoosh technology
This website contains over 36,000 oral recordings made in Scotland and further afield, from the 1930s onwards.
The items you can listen to include stories, songs, music, poetry and factual information.


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The impact of World War I greatly influenced Murdo Macfarlane and his poetry. Image ©allouphoto- fotolia

Murdo MacFarlane was a poet, songwriter and campaigner for Gaelic. He was born and raised in Melbost on the Isle of Lewis in 1901 and attended the local school where he was taught English, French and Latin but didn’t get the opportunity to be tutored in his own native language, Gaelic. As a teenager during World War I he witnessed the impact of the loss of young men's lives on Hebridean communities and this very much influenced his writing.

When the industrialist Lord Leverhulme bought the Isle of Lewis in 1918 and set up various development schemes in order to exploit the fishing industry, Murdo was one of many employed by him. When these schemes collapsed Murdo decided to emigrate to Canada and left on the SS Marloch in 1924. He settled in Manitoba but found conditions there hard and his surroundings very different to his homeland. It was while in Manitoba that he composed 'Is Fhada Leam an Oidhche Gheamhraidh' (Faili Faili Faili Hò Rò) in which his homesickness is very evident.

He returned to Lewis in 1932 and spent the rest of his life working as a crofter, apart from his time in National Service from 1942-45.

The subjects of his songs are varied and were strongly influenced by his own life experiences and beliefs. Themes include: war; love; Gaelic language and culture; social and political issues; traditional work and traditions; local events; and homesickness.

His songs became popular in the 1960s when he started to compose songs for Gaelic folk groups Na h-Òganaich and Na Siaraich to sing at Mod competitions. Na h-Òganaich went on to achieve commercial success with several of his compositions in the 1970s and he won a prize for his song 'Mi le M' Uilinn' at the Pan-Celtic Festival in Killarney, Ireland in 1972. His poetry inspired bands such as Capercaillie and Runrig and his songs have been performed by a number of artists including Karen Matheson, Dougie MacLean and Ishbel MacAskill.

His collection of songs 'An Toinneamh Dìomhair' was published by the Stornoway Gazette in 1973 and 'Dàin Mhurchaidh' was published in 1986 by An Comunn Gàidhealach, four years after his death.

In this recording, Murdo sings his own composition, 'Is Fhada Leam an Oidhche Gheamhraidh', which was recorded in 1957.

Listen to 'These Winter Nights Are Long For Me'

Browse all recordings of Murdo MacFarlane

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About the Website

Julie Fowlis and Chris Wright were Tobar an Dualchais' Artists in Residence in 2012


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