Hailing from the Point area of the Island of Lewis Ishbel MacAskill was brought up with the rich heritage of centuries old Gaelic music and song which still survives in Point and indeed all over the island of Lewis. Her music and culture were immensely important in her life and for several years she was very much involved in teaching traditional Gaelic singing to children at the numerous Feisean (festivals of music and song) throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

There are some voices so sublime they transcend all differences of language, culture, class or creed, and Ishbel MacAskill has one of them. I have watched this remarkable lady not only entrance a Catalan audience but also have them singing the true version of The Eriskay Love Lilt in Gaelic, with passable Lewis accents, too! That devastating combination of bubbly sense of fun, warm, low, golden pure tones and supreme interpretive skill could melt a heart of solid marble. When Ishbel sings, it is the song that matters, and all the tragedy, the hope, the endurance, the love and the courage of the Gaels shines through. Whether you have Gaelic or not, Ishbel’s singing will speak to you and you will understand…” (Sheena Wellington)

Ishbel sadly passed away today, aged 70 years.

Here she sings An Ataireachd Ard, an emigrant’s lament for their beloved island home of Lewis.

An ataireachd bhuan
Cluinn fuaim na h-ataireachd ard
Cha torann a’ chuain
Mar chualas leam-s’ ‘nam phaisd
Gun mhuthadh, gun truas
A’ sluaisreadh gainneimh na tragh’d
An ataireachd bhuan
Cluinn fuaim na h-ataireachd ard 

Sna coilltean a siar
Chan iarrain fuireach gu brath
Bha m’ intinn ‘s mo mhiann
A riamh air lagan a’ bhaigh
Ach iadsan bha fial
An gniomh, an caidreamh ‘s an agh
Air sgapadh gun dion
Mar thriallas ealtainn roimh namh…

The everlasting surge of the sea
Hear the roar of the mighty surge
The thundering of the ocean’s
As I heard in my childhood
Without change, without pity
Sweeping up the sands on the shore
The everlasting surge of the sea
Hear the roar of the mighty surge 

In the woods of the west
I would not want to wait for ever
My mind and wish
We recover in the little hollow by the cove
But those who were gracious
In act, in friendship and in birth
Are scattered without protection
Like a flock of birds before an enemy