The Road Across the Hills

by Gráinne Brady

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karlnyhus Bit surprised at the extent of the spoken track but I like the narrator's voice, and the words work nicely with the melodies. And the music and the playing is lovely.
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The music for this album acts as a soundtrack to Patrick MacGill’s novel 'Children of the Dead End '. Written as fiction, it is in fact the authors unofficial autobiography, starting with an account of his childhood in Donegal, Ireland. The story then moves to Scotland where Dermod Flynn, as MacGill calls himself, begins to discover his talents as a writer.
The story speaks for the outcasts in society, the labourers, navvies and waifs. It speaks for the Irish immigrant. It depicts the hardships endured by both the Irish and Scottish lower class. The music delves into this world, whilst highlighting the enduring hope that drove such determination to succeed despite the odds.

I moved to Glasgow in a much more enlightened time and am privileged to be able to make a living doing what I love to do – writing and playing music. The compositions are not only inspired by this tale but are also a reflection of my own musical journey over the last few years.

Each track tells a part of Dermod’s story, from his childhood in rural Donegal, to gruelling labour in Scotland, as a potato picker, or 'tattie howker', and a navvy. The tale features some of the colourful characters he met on his journey, as well as a bittersweet story of love and loss. Entwining the musical tale are words from the man himself, which works as an extra layer to the soundtrack, reflecting upon the tale.

The album title is taken from MacGill's well known poem, 'Going Home ':

I'm going back to Glenties when the harvest fields are brown,
And the Autumn sunset lingers on my little Irish town,
When the gossamer is shining where the moorland blossoms blow
I'll take the road across the hills I tramped so long ago –
'T is far I am beyond the seas, but yearning voices call,
“Will you not come back to Glenties, and your wave-washed Donegal?”


released February 22, 2019

All tunes written by Gráinne Brady (PRS/MCPS)

With 'A Navvy’s Philosophy' and 'The Woe of It' by Patrick MacGill

Produced by Gráinne Brady and Mike Vass

Recorded and mixed by Mike Vass at Gloworm Recording and Rusty Squash Horn Studios

Mastered by Iain Hutchison at Gloworm Recording

Artwork by Somhairle MacDonald

Gráinne Brady – fiddle
Andrew Waite – piano accordion
Innes White – guitar, mandolin, tenor guitar
Steve Forman – percussion

Megan Henderson – violin
Feargus Hetherington – viola
Su-a Lee – cello

Jack Houston – spoken word

Gráinne plays a Jim McKillop fiddle

Released under Cailín Records

First and foremost, I would like to thank my parents Hilda and Gerry for their unwavering support through the years with my musical endeavours. I couldn’t have done this without them!

Massive thanks to Mike, Andrew, Innes and Steve for their creativity.

A million thanks also to all my family and friends for their support, and everyone that contributed towards this campaign on Indiegogo.


all rights reserved



Gráinne Brady Glasgow, UK

Gráinne Brady is a Glasgow based fiddle player and composer, originally from Co. Cavan, Ireland.

‘...a composer of enormous talents. ... Her composition approaches take many directions, all of which show unique connections to the chosen stories behind each piece, from magical rhythms to roaring high tempo melodies, all of which connect to you as a listener. ’
Pádraig Rynne, NOTIFY
... more

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Track Name: The Glen
Across life's varied ways we drift
Unto the tomb that lies in wait,
One ruling o'er the mighty state,
One sweating on the double shift.

I’ve whirled adown the sinful slope
That leads to chasms of despair,
And dwelt in haunts of hunger where
The spectre sorrow jeers at hope.

My ways are cast with many men
Who fight with destiny and fail,
The down and outers of the jail,
The tavern and the gambling den –

The men who bet and drink and curse,
Who tread the labyrinthine maze
Of sin, who move on rugged ways,
Who might be better – ay, and worse!

My dead-end comrades true as steel,
The men who bravely bear the goad,
The wild uncultured of the road –
Like them I speak just as I feel.
Track Name: The Road Across the Hills
‘Neath silver skies with silence shod,
Engirdled by the Milky Way,
And set with stars of brightest ray,
As fits the far-off paths of God,

I’ve slept with them; in lonely lands,
Ere came the city vomit thence
To take the house and claim the fence
Built with the toil of calloused,

I’ve wrought with them; where gin shops smell,
And stagnant models smut the town,
I’ve shared their plaints when out and down –
My brothers, don’t I know them well!

I’ve begged with them from door to door,
And thought unutterable things
Of lands where courtiers and where kings
Still grind the faces of the poor.
Track Name: Fields of Renfrewshire
The cold grub eaten in the dawn,
The wet shag smouldering as you smoke,
For ever being down and broke,
You learn to like it – later on.

You learn to like it – for you must,
Though hardly worth the pains you take,
Or yet the sacrifice you make –
The barter for the vital crust.

Of things abstruse I cannot sing
In fitting strains, so let me say,
From hand to mouth, from day to day
Is not the right and proper thing.
Track Name: Norah Ryan
But let me sing in gayer strain,
The glory of the wilder life,
Apart a little from the strife,
The feline fury and the pain.

Despite the hate insensate which
The fates have borne to crush me low,
I love to watch the puppet show
And count myself exceeding rich.

You say I own no lordly halls,
No parks extending far and wide,
No cornice, column, cusp of pride,
No paintings hanging from my walls.

No hall of pride with fresco decked –?
My mountain pillars rear on high,
My floor the earth, my roof the sky,
And God Himself the Architect.

No paintings from a master’s hand –?
My canvas spreads from flower to star
Barbaric, grand, anear, afar,
From sea to sea, from land to land.

No deep cathedral music swells
For me, you say, I own it true,
For under Heaven’s gentian blue,
What strains of sweetness fill the dells!

The rustle of the wind-swept trees,
The robin’s song at early morn,
The larks above the crimson corn,
What music in the world like these!

All, all are mine. The simple flower,
The ocean in its madding wrath,
The drunken wind that beats my path,
The arched skies that shine or lower.
Track Name: Moleskin Joe
I’ve sailed on ships with sails of fire,
By amber ports, through carmine seas,
And opal-tinted argosies,
To dreamt-of islands of desire.
Track Name: The Navvy of Kinlochleven
For me the music of the streams,
The tints of gold on heath and furze,
Where wind-blown gorse clumps shake their spurs,
For me the wonder-world of dreams.

While you are selling at the mart,
Or buying souls to glut your greed,
(To fatten on your brother’s need,)
In lonely ways I dwell apart:

Or when the jewelled carcanet
Of Heaven decks the decks the darkling sky,
Beside the cabin fire I lie
And smoke my soothing cigarette,
Track Name: Winter
And dip in some enchanted page,
Or linger o’er a story told
By some grey chronicler of old,
The dreamer of a long-past age.
Track Name: The Search
And as the smoke wreaths rise, meseems
I live in Ind or Babylon,
And share the hopes of poets gone,
The dreamers of aesthetic dreams.

Or sing of Rome, or bleed for Troy,
Or dwell in Tyre or Nineveh –
But ah! ‘tis fancy’s boundless play,
The wayward dreamings of a boy.

‘Tis sweet to write it down in verse,
Or think of it, but all the same,
If e’er you try you’ll find the game
Is hardly worth a tinker’s curse.

The open road is passing grand
When skimming on a motor car,
But dossing ‘neath the pallid star
Is something you don’t understand.

In fact you’ll hardly realise
While lounging in your drawing room,
How drear December’s dirge of doom
Across the snow-clad level flies.

Or how the frosty crowbar sears
The hand that lifts it from the drift –
You learn it on the ten-hour shift
Where I was learning all these years.

You’ll likewise learn the useful rule,
The motto of the navvy man,
To do as little as you can
And keep your pipe and stomach full.

The song I sing is very rude,
In sin mayhap my life I live,
But ye are wise and will forgive
As none of us are very good.

We sin – we’ll sorrow later on!
We laugh – some day we’re sure to weep!
We live – by night we’ll fall asleep,
And none may waken us at dawn!

And we are brothers one and all,
Some day we’ll know through Heaven’s grace,
And then the drudge will find a place
Beside the master of the hall.
Track Name: The Woe of It
Sweet was the mavis’ song of eld,
And how the woodlands thrilled with it!
Sweeter the song of the girl I held
Close to the heard that filled with it

Methinks the rose leant from the wall
To kiss the lily brow of hers;
And through the years I can recall
The softly whispered vow of hers.

We saw the evening fade afar,
And parting, never met again;
And ere we meet, how many a star
Shall rise again and set again.

The mavis’ song but brings regret,
The fading rose must know of it:
For she is gone – I can’t forget,
And – ah! The bitter woe of it!

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