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Gaelic in modern Scotland
Gaelic in modern Scotland

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6.4.3 Songs and tales

Among the great treasures of Gaelic literature are the songs which have come down in the oral tradition, some of them very old. A popular example is ‘Griogal Cridhe’, a song of great sensitivity and beauty, which can be dated as it refers to an historical event, the persecution of the Clan Macgregor in the late 16th century. It features on the BBC’s Bliadhna nan Òran website [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] : though the text is in Gaelic, various versions of the song can be enjoyed by clicking on the icons on the right of the page.

Recently, individuals and groups such as Runrig have composed Gaelic songs with a more modern flavour. Many of Runrig’s songs have been covered by other singers or groups. ‘Cearcall a’ Chuain’, for example, was recorded by a Gaelic choir and can be heard on the BBC website.

Gaelic also has a rich heritage of traditional Gaelic folk tales, of which John F Campbell’s 19th century Popular Tales of the West Highlands is a well known collection. Attempts have been made in recent years to revive the storytelling tradition: although this has not been uniformly successful, the tales themselves survive alongside the songs as a treasure trove of Gaelic lore, complementing the growing corpus of contemporary poetry and fiction in the language.