Camille Dressler

Location: Uists and Benbecula
gaelic culture

Margaret Fay Shaw in South Uist

Although she spend most of her time on the isle of Canna after her marriage to John Lorne Campbell in 1934, Margaret Fay Shaw never wavered in her love for South Uist, the island where she first explored the Gaelic culture of the Hebrides that become her life-long interest.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1903, educated in Scotland, she intended to pursue a career as concert pianist. But ill health and an opportunity to stay in South Uist in 1929, led her to share for six years the lives of sisters Mairi and Peigi MacRae, two great traditional singers who became her close friends. Recording stories and songs, including waulking songs, documenting traditional Hebridean life, especially women’s lives through photographs and film, she made a name for herself as a folklore collector and photographer with her ground-breaking work published in 1955 Folksongs and Folklore of South Uist.

Moving to Canna in 1938, together with her husband, she turned Canna House into one of the most important archives of Gaelic culture and language in the world. Before her death at the age of 101 in 2004, she published her autobiography From the Alleghanies to the Hebrides and was awarded honorary degrees by universities in Scotland, Ireland and Nova Scotia for her outstanding contributions to Gaelic music and culture. She is buried at the Hallan cemetary in South Uist, the island where she spent some of the best times of her life.

More information on visiting the area can be found here.