Fields of Renfrewshire

from The Road Across the Hills by Gráinne Brady

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The Toil/Gourock Ellen

Life for the tattie howkers was miserable. The labour itself involved the men digging up potatoes with the women following behind, crawling on their knees dragging two baskets apiece into which the potatoes were lifted. After a hard day of work, they could only retreat into miserable accommodation – usually a hastily converted cattle byre.
In amongst the Irish labourers were two Scottish women, one of whom was Gourock Ellen, “the woman who was not ashamed”. She was loose lipped and done what she pleased, though was evidently a kind person. In typical catholic fashion, Dermod hated her, without even knowing why.


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.


from The Road Across the Hills, released February 22, 2019
Music composed by Gráinne Brady with 'A Navvy's Philosophy' by Patrick MacGill

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

Jack Houston – spoken word


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Gráinne Brady Glasgow, UK

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

"Irish/Scottish and contemporary influences infuse Brady’s vibrant rhythms and rich lyrical patterns, illuminating peaks and troughs of the emigrant experience and the extremities of poverty. Arrangements evoke both adversity and lively inner strength." Bryony Hegarty, RnR Magazine 5*****
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