Achievements and exploits of trailblazing Scottish women honoured in song in new album
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The lives and legacies of Skye warrior queen Sgàthach, Arctic explorer Isobel Wyllie Hutchison, ground-breaking astronomer and scientist Mary Somerville, nature writer Nan Shepherd and folk song collector Margaret Fay Shaw have all inspired tracks.
The project highlights individual, or groups, of women who are said to have succeeded and flourished "in spite of the patriarchy, sexism, misogyny and a system rigged against them”.
The new album also honours Eilidh MacDougall, the first dedicated police commissioner for women at the Met, the Great Gormula of Moy, a powerful Highland "witch” said to have resolved clan disputes, medical pioneer Elsie Inglis, Glaswegian-Ghanaian artist Maud Sulter, and campaigners for women’s suffrage and the abolition against slavery.
Leading folk singers and musicians Rachel Walker and Aaron Jones decided to collaborate on the project, Despite the Wind and Rain, after realising there were a lack of songs celebrating notable Scottish women.
The pair drew on the extensive archives of the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh during the lengthy research process before deciding on who should inspire each track on the album, which is due for release on 25 November.
Other key collaborators on the project, which has been supported by national arts agency Creative Scotland, include Lochaber-based artist Ali Berardelli, who produced a different image for each track on the album, and Gaelic poet and singer-songwriter Marcas Mac an Tuairneir, who worked on some of the songs.
Walker said: “We’ve both worked in the traditional music scene for many years, and in that time we’ve become aware of the lack of songs that celebrate Scottish women for their success or achievements.
"There are plenty of tracks out there which will detail a woman’s beauty, or her broken heart, but few which acknowledge her intelligence, sense of adventure or courage. We sought to rectify that with this album.
“We spent many hours in the National Library in Edinburgh researching a long list of women until we narrowed it down to just ten songs.
"It was a collaborative process. We sent ideas back and forth, deciding what we wanted the tone of each track to be, and firming up lyrics and melodies. We feel incredibly proud of the end result.”
Jones added: “We both feel strongly that women’s stories should be told by both men and women.
"The women we have written about are truly inspirational and should be celebrated by everyone. We really hope everyone who listens to the album is inspired, and takes something away from each track.”
Siobhan Anderson, music officer at Creative Scotland, which provided nearly £20,000 in funding for the album, said: “Inspirational stories of women throughout history and the incredible work they have carried out and advancements they have achieved in various fields is important subject matter which will be well portrayed in the songs on this album.
"By writing original material across Gaelic, Scots and English after a great deal of research, Rachel Walker and Aaron Jones will be able to share these stories with audiences and ensure that the legacy of these women is visible.”