Orain Dhena a Borgh digital Album (digital album)

Dena Graham belongs to the village of Borve in the island of Lewis. The selection of songs you will hear on this CD will not only entertain you, but they will show the high degree to which traditional Gaelic singing has developed.

Dena sings her songs with such ease and confidence that this difficult art sounds much easier than it is. Dena's fine singing voice and deft skill have long been recognised at folk festivals throughout Scotland and she has delighted audiences at many ceilidhs and also on the radio.


Gaelic song
Scottish Gaelic
Dena Graham
ca. 45 mins, 0 secs

Table of contents

  • 1. Mo Shoraidh Leis Na Fuar Bheannan
  • An emotive song about the clearances, this song was written in Lewis by Kenny Smith of Lochs in the last century. Although the tune is lively, the song itself is sadder in nature, with clear sighted vision of the depopulation of the highlands which was to come and render our area into the ‘wilderness’ so beloved now of the conservationist.
  • 2. O cothogas dhiom an fhodacd
  • There are two well known songs to this tune and sometimes they have become a little mixed up. The version sung here by Dena is a sea song, a poem written by the woman for her sailor lad at sea. In it she expresses her fears that he might be drowned, or some other misfortune befall him, so the refrain, ‘o co thogas dhiom an fhadachd’, who will relieve me of my longing, is especially effective.
  • 3. Mo nighean donn's toigh leam thu
  • One of only two songs from outwith Lewis on this CD, ‘mo nighean donn’s toigh leam thu’s was composed by Norman MacLeod of Scalpay. In it, he promises his fiancé the earth, while at the same time he tells her how unworthy he is of such a fine lass. Did the poem succeed and did the couple marry? I’m afraid that’s one thing I don’t know.
  • 4. Deireadh forladh 1940
  • One of the finest songs of the last war, this was composed by a MacLean of Ness while at home on leave in 1940. Many Gaelic war compositions are patriotic in sentiment, but here we discover the real fears of many of the soldiers. Dena sings the original ‘beo slan le mo t-habost a chaoidh’, a farewell in which hope is expressed that the bard will return and all will be well. Nowadays singers tend to change the ‘beo’ to ‘soraidh’ which in Gaelic really means ‘farewell forever’.
  • 5. Ho ri ho ro mo nighneag
  • Ho ri hu ro mo nighneag is a rather daft little love song which, everyone knows, isn’t difficult to learn and makes super listening either in the pub, or at an informal ceilidh when the non-Gaelic speaker can see the Gael sway from side to side in time to the rhythm, as if he were out on a stormy sea.
  • 6. Mheall thu mheall thu mheall thu mi
  • This is yet another love song written in the year 1808 by a MacLeod of Bru, a village on the west side of Lewis. It shows clearly how Gae
  • lic song can be sensual without being crude, and mercifully, the Victorian censors didn’t get their hands on all our more realistic love songs. It shows too, that the Gael is a man of romance, perhaps, but not one of ‘romanticism’.
  • 7. Mo chaileag mhingheal mhealshuileach
  • The other song not from Lewis, this one is a delightful composition from Glendaruel in South Argyll. But wait for it. As often happens with such songs which become popular in areas far from home, verses are included to localise it and make the scenario familiar, so that’s why reference to Glendaruel and Stornoway almost in the one breath, don’t sound in the slightest incongruous to the Gaelic audience, and are accepted without question.
  • 8. Cul do chinn
  • This is a beautiful and erotic song, the eroticism being drawn from the description of the back of the man’s head and how the hair lies attractively and sensually on the head, drawing the woman’s eye to an appreciation of the full shape of her lover. This symbol is common in both Gaelic and Irish, and I suspect it is the reason the Glaswegians today are the most hair conscious people in the country, much to the delight of the hairdressers in that city.
  • 9. Cadal cha dean mi
  • A song by a woman for her loved one, who was drowned at sea off Stoer point. She tells of her finances finer points and bewails the fact that she will never see him again.
  • 10. Oran Ghabhsuinn
  • A man’s love song. Again the bard promises the young lady everything by the way of happiness and possessions if she will come to live with him in Galson. It’s a public poem, and Gaelic song was often used as a method ensuring that the other young blades would stay away. Despite building a house in Galson, however, the young lady didn’t take a blind bit of notice of our bard, and he himself never went to live in his Galson house following the disappointment.
  • 11. Loch an Achadh
  • Loch an Achadh is a song of the homeland, the young bride pining for her native Bernera and bemoaning her new home in Achmore, the only Lewis village which is not beside the sea. This is a gentle song which tells of poet’s distress and as many of the traditional highland marriages were arranged in the first instance, perhaps there was no intense love for her husband to distract her desire to be back home with her own people.
  • 12. Tom an t-searraich
  • Tom an t-earraich is another song of the homeland. Although popular, these songs tend to be a wee bit romantic, they are usually written by people away from home who’ve ‘done well’, and I cannot say that their wish to be buried in the native heath entirely enhances the truthfulness of the sentiment.


“Her grace notes, essential in Gaelic song, are clear, commanding and definite. The selection of songs too, is both subtle and clever and should appeal to the wider Scots audience who have heard Dena, either on radio, or at the many folk festivals where she has entertained.”

Crisdean Dillon, The Press and Journal