Song legacy, alterity and mediatization from Scotland’s Hebrides: from Mingulay to Michelle

Kathryn Burnett*, Ray Burnett

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePresentationpeer-review


This paper draws on research exploring the role and function of song in relation to individual and communal well-being in small Gaelic-speaking island communities; and the re-presentation of this legacy of song in recent times. Despite traumatic social dislocation and major cultural marginalization, a vast repertoire survived into the modern era as an integral, cherished element in the primarily oral culture of the island communities. An outline of 20th century collection and recording of music and song on two small islands, the now deserted Mingulay (c.150 max. pop.) and Eriskay (c.350 max. pop.), in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides is offered. Brief critical assessment of the appropriation and re-presentation of this collection as the Songs of the Hebrides, an early 20th century collection of ‘art songs’ that went on to have a lasting and enduring impact within Scotland and beyond (Kennedy-Fraser, 1909-1922), follows. The prevailing popular expression of island song from within a spatially transformed ‘island community’ in a mediatized world is considered. Cultural digitization projects and initiatives have ensured that the rich music and song heritage, from every era and genre, is now a global resource. It can be drawn upon to facilitate not just the evocation and alterity of a collective island distinctiveness from within, but also the individual articulation of an adopted postmodern socio-cultural identity from without. New ‘islands’ of reconstituted ‘musically-imagined communities’ as per Born & Hesmondhalgh (2000) are considered. The paper concludes with the suggestion that the function of island song is irrevocably transformed but the assessment of its increasingly ambivalent role in terms of individual and community wellbeing within the islands today remains to be determined. • Key words: song, oral culture, cultural marginalization, alterity, mediatization
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2012
Event8th International Small Island Cultures Conference
: Travelling in Time: Islands of the Past, Islands of the Future
- Cape Breton University, Sydney, Canada
Duration: 6 Jun 20129 Jun 2012
Conference number: ISIC8


Conference8th International Small Island Cultures Conference
Internet address


  • media representation
  • Scotland
  • Hebrides
  • islands
  • television
  • song
  • alterity
  • remote
  • Gaelic
  • media
  • community
  • oral history
  • intangible heritage
  • museums
  • archives
  • community assets


Dive into the research topics of 'Song legacy, alterity and mediatization from Scotland’s Hebrides: from Mingulay to Michelle'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this