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Gille Liath (Lancashire)

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David Copperfield (Penguin Popular Classics)
David Copperfield (Penguin Popular Classics)
by Charles Dickens
Edition: Paperback

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ever so ambling, 22 Sept. 2006
`David Copperfield' does not, of course, need recommendation from me or anyone else. Re-reading this huge, rambling, digressive novel though, it strikes me how much it is marred by Dickens' repressed attitude to sexuality - he is the very embodiment of stereotypically Victorian attitudes. One result of this is the ludicrously overdrawn subplot involving little Em'ly. No doubt the consequences of a pre-marital affair could be serious then for a working class girl, but when Dickens says early on that she would better have died in childhood you can only react with incredulity. Later, as George Orwell observed, Uriah Heep is vituperated mainly because he has the audacity to want to marry `above himself'. Conversely no woman of marriageable age is allowed a spark of independence or what was then called `boldness'. The three principal women in David's life are all, to quote Blackadder, wetter than a haddock's bathing costume.

If you've never read this book then you should certainly read it - Micawber is worth the price of admission by himself - but you need lots of time, and lots of patience. If you've read it before you may find yourself, like me, skipping through large chunks.


Pour Down Like Silver
Pour Down Like Silver
Offered by jim-exselecky
Price: £5.51

8 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars bore down like silver, 20 Sept. 2006
This review is from: Pour Down Like Silver (Audio CD)
I'm obviously in a minority here, but I don't think this is a patch on `Bright Lights'. It's not that the songs are bad individually, but unlike the earlier album there's no cathartic energy to relieve the introspection, and it's slow going. If this is fundamentally an album about mysticism, it's too oblique, too impersonal; there's certainly nothing to compare with George Harrison's `Long, Long, Long', for example.

Apart from the cover photographs I don't detect any significant Eastern influence - although the shakuhachi on `Beat the Retreat' is presumably supposed to sound a bit like an Arab ney - and the instrumental `Dargai' owes more to pibroch than anything else (it bears a marked resemblance to `MacCrimmon's Lament'). Musically, the main departure from the previous formula is actually a slight C&W flavour. John Kirkpatrick's wandering box-playing blends more uneasily than usual with the songs...with one thing and another, it isn't one of their better efforts.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 19, 2015 3:09 PM GMT


The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (Signature Series)
The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (Signature Series)
by Jerome K. Jerome
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.99

10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars one man in a sulk, 15 Sept. 2006
'Three Men in a Boat' is probably the funniest narrative in English, but if you are looking for more of the same this might come as a let-down. The reflective, melancholy strain present (but easily overlooked) in the more famous book is given pride of place here, and laughs are thin on the ground. Partly this is no doubt because the stories in the 'Three Men' books, slight and unimportant though they are, give Jerome something to hang his comic vignettes and asides on. Here, with no story at all, he can only give rein to his views on Life in General which are clearly far from rosy. His trademark jaunty style battles unsuccessfully to disguise a tendency to moroseness. These are truly the thoughts of someone with nothing to take his mind off his troubles, sitting up alone late at night and `thinking what a hollow world this is'.

As other reviewers have noted, this edition is clearly intended for the gift market - complete with pompous and utterly superfluous new `Afterword' - and if you picked it up knowing nothing about the author you could mistake it for one of those `Little Books of Wisdom' you see for sale around Christmas. It's not a classic, but I'm glad it's back in print. Incidentally, it's not really about idleness.


Highlanders: A History of the Gaels
Highlanders: A History of the Gaels
by John Macleod
Edition: Paperback

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars gaels on top, 8 Sept. 2006
This is essentially the work of a journalist, not a historian. It is no use expecting objectivity or rigorous scholarship; John MacLeod indulges in a few implausible speculations and repeats some widespread but quite erroneous ideas. On the other hand, his is not the urban propagandist's version of Highland history, replete with perfidious Englishmen and burning thatch. You are conscious on every page that the text was written by one born and still living in the Gaidhealtachd, who shares their concerns as one of their own.

An unfortunate consequence of this is the tendency to identify the Gaelic cause with that of Highland presbyterianism, a phenomenon which is after all less than 200 years old. No doubt it is still an important element of life in the Gaelic strongholds of Harris and Lewis; yet for most of their history the Highlands were Catholic (or, as MacLeod prefers to put it, `popish by profession and pagan for real') and some Gaelic-speaking areas are still mainly Catholic or Episcopalian today. Not only are MacLeod's detailed discussions of evangelical sects and splinter groups likely to tax the patience of the average reader, but he allows his religious beliefs to colour the whole narrative. His account of the early Celtic Church, especially, is rankly false. A man who is capable of using a phrase like `a Roman Catholic of the worst kind' and of writing that `mass hysteria often seems to accompany the symptoms of genuine Revival' - both without apparent irony - does not possess the degree of detachment expected of even a popular historian. For me, this is a serious flaw; but to be fair MacLeod acknowledges his own prejudices at the outset. If the reader accepts them in good part, they mar but don't spoil the book.

Mr MacLeod throughout follows the convention of `Gael' as meaning strictly `Gaelic-speaker', and therefore the book's purview shrinks as it goes on - from the concerns of a large and powerful region in the early chapters to those of a few thousand islanders by the end. That, in a nutshell, is the story of Gaeldom. To the outsider, the closing chapters may seem somewhat anti-climactic, with their minutiae of ferry timetables and church politics, but these are the issues which matter to islanders. If he was to update the volume, he might add to those the present preoccupations with windfarms, estate buyouts and Gaelic-medium education.

Apart from that, nothing much has changed in the ten years since this was written. For the reader interested in the region as it is now, as well as in history, this makes a very readable survey. Despite the naivety and preconceptions MacLeod has a sure grasp of historical process, and there are some penetrating insights.


Summer Dawn (Og-mhadainn Shamraidh)
Summer Dawn (Og-mhadainn Shamraidh)
Price: £12.13

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fairy woman??, 25 Aug. 2006
A lot of female Gaelic singers try to be all warbly and ethereal, but Kathleen MacInnes has a relaxed delivery and a sexy catch in her voice which wouldn't be amiss for pop, or even blues. A native of South Uist, she knows what she's about and there's a refreshing lack of ostentation on this album - it's neither inappropriately contemporary nor self-consciously archaic. It just is what it is. The music, with usual suspects like John McCusker, Iain MacDonald and Michael McGoldrick, is to match. The result never achieves the piercing beauty that Christine Primrose, for example, sometimes does, but it's the best thing in this line I've heard for years. This surely can't be Ms MacInnes' first album? If so, let's hope we don't have to wait too long for the second.

I don't know who produced the title 'Lullaby of the Fairy Woman', or where from. The Gaelic title actually means 'Summer Dawn'.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 20, 2012 11:47 PM BST


Polly: The True Story Behind Whisky Galore
Polly: The True Story Behind Whisky Galore
by Roger Hutchinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

10 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars padding galore, 24 Aug. 2006
The trouble with `the real story of Whisky Galore' is that it's not a very interesting story. A cargo of whisky is wrecked in the Western Isles; some of it is salvaged by locals; Customs & Excise come looking. The End, more or less. It took a novelist's predilection for quaint characters (if your taste runs to that sort of thing) to flesh it out, and the real life version, though so short, feels stretched. This is an insubstantial work in every sense.


Ceilidh House
Ceilidh House

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars blazing boxes, 22 Aug. 2006
This review is from: Ceilidh House (Audio CD)
You know what you're getting with Fergie Macdonald - ceilidh music with a strong west-coast flavour - and I don't think he ever does it less than well. This album makes me laugh though, because of all the supporting instruments - pipes, flute etc. - the only one you can really hear is the banjo. And who's playing the banjo? None other than sound engineer Addie Harper. Hmmm.

Actually, despite Fergie's own encomium the production here isn't brilliant - a bit lightweight. But of course his own irresistible rhythm fights its way through. Fergie Macdonald will take some stopping.


Para Handy
Para Handy
by Neil Munro
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Handy man, 22 Aug. 2006
This review is from: Para Handy (Paperback)
You can understand why some people would be sensitive about Para Handy as an ambassador for the Highlands. He's a bit work-shy, veers between being boastful and obsequious, and he don't speak English too good. For all that, I think there is even now a more authentic flavour of Highland life (or Island life, at least) in these century-old stories than in the romanticised depictions you get today. I didn't see the TV series so I can't say how faithful that was, but if you know Alexander Mackendrick's fantastic film `The Maggie' you'll have some idea what this is all about.

Though none of the stories have more than 3 or 4 pages - I don't know how they were worked up into hour-long episodes - Para, Dougie and the rest gradually emerge from them as fully fleshed-out characters. They're like the rest of us: they bicker, they do stupid things, they're not above bending the rules, but they mean well. The flittings, courtings and even spy-scares in which they become embroiled, though seen through the comic lens, often have a ring of truth. But like Laurel and Hardy they have a touch of `fool's luck', and are indestructible; you know things will turn out alright, somehow, in the end.

It's not great literature, but it's great fun.


The Best of Irish Piping
The Best of Irish Piping
Price: £25.06

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars twenty-one years learning, 22 Aug. 2006
`When I hear Seamus', writes Liam O'Flynn in his introduction, `I know I am listening to the old pipers, as distinct from a rendering on a woodwind instrument'. There is certainly a world of difference between the full, grainy sound here and the glib effect produced by the typical modern piper. Ennis' playing had a studied, slightly pedantic quality; he had all the technique but apparently saw no need to be flashy, and the proportion of reels is much lower than you would expect today. Ennis seems to have been most taken not with the barnstorming tunes but the ones with plenty of interesting twists, and these are present in abundance. Topping the lot is an epic ten-minute version of `The Fox Chase' - brilliant, though I think I detect an edit just before the final section.

There are a couple of peculiarities. The title is certainly misleading, implying as it does a compilation; in fact this is a re-release of two complete albums recorded in the 1970s. The air of pedantry extends to Ennis' sleevenotes, which include a number of fanciful interpretations of the tunes. Personally (`Fox Chase' notwithstanding) I incline to Ciaran Carson's theory that most titles are purely adventitious; a tune called `The Rainy Day' is probably not a musical attempt to actually describe a rainy day. Ennis translates the titles of his song airs - `Ned of the Hill' instead of `Eamon a'Chnoic'- which would not be usual now. The notes are also riddled with printing errors, including the ludicrous `macaronie' for `macaronic' and `changer' for `chanter'; this makes the package seem a little slapdash. But if you enjoy Irish piping in its authentic and unaccompanied form, this is fantastic value for money.


The Sligo Champion
The Sligo Champion

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars too much of a good thing, 31 July 2006
This review is from: The Sligo Champion (Audio CD)
Though fantastic value for money, this 'musical biography' of the great Michael Gorman really has one disc too many. There's only so long you can listen to one person playing fiddle and another plunking away on banjo, which is the case on most tracks. Without wishing to be unkind, Margaret Barry's three-chord banjo vamping is rather a hindrance than a help, making the album as a whole a little monotonous. It only really bursts into life on the unaccompanied duets with Gorman's nephew Martin on flute, or Willie Clancy on pipes.

Whilst undeniably a draught from the authentic stream of the tradition, this would have benefited from much more ruthless editing.


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