A blog about one of my all time most favourite songs which so beautifully expresses my thoughts on friendship. Hence, why I have combined with the Waterboys music, a selection of my photos from special places in Scotland which I greatly enjoy, places of happy memories for me, family and friends. Places in the future that'll know many happy times to come.
My video - my way of saying a thank you to all my friends.
In 1989, I got to know the music of the Waterboys through their album Fisherman's Blues. From a fishing family it was my mum who first told me "you have to hear this group and their song." She'd heard them on the radio "a band from Scotland and Ireland playing their own amazing combination of rock and traditional music" - her description reflected them well. A band whose music I loved the first time I heard them play and, over the years, their music and that of Sharon Shannon's has become somewhat of a musical soundtrack to my life. In 2010, twenty one years on from Fisherman's Blues, my year started with "Saints and Angels" - a most magical song played by them and Sharon Shannon. That song, so often in my mind since. Now in 2011, I have worked to produce a video which reflects for me the words of their song in a combination of special photos.
Growing up in Edinburgh, on its border with East Lothian, visiting family there and similarly in Sutherland - I really identify these 3 areas as my 'home' in Scotland. And special memories of a place are formed over time through the special people who we benefit from having in our lives - people who are always in our hearts so that, when we are apart from them, that bond of love still continues and never dies. This song expresses for me that bond, a sentiment we may not always even express out loud, the feelings we know for those we care for, that they be safe and well until we meet again: "May the Saints and Angels watch over you." There are songs which seem able to make the world a better place. Here, the music and the way it is played is beautiful but oh, what truly magical, powerful lyrics.
My story behind Saints and Angels begins on 31st December 2009. At home in Scotland, I was telephoned by a DJ from Liveireland Radio and told that my People and Songs of the Sea project CD had won 2010 Compendium Album of the Year. Featured in Liveireland's radio programme, broadcast from Chicago and Dublin, I listened over the internet to the album's recording (the track of 100 fisher folk recorded in the Auld Kirk in Cockenzie and Port Seton with local people from Newhaven, East Lothian and Eyemouth).
Having been prompted to “celebrate the fishing community” by my mum in 2006, three years on, it was very emotional to hear that the album had won this award and to hear her name "Jean Thorburn" as they talked about the project’s music and 2009 exhibitions being visited by 12,000 people. In producing this album, a compilation of Celtic artists, local fisher folk and two songs from myself - my goal (with Greentrax Recordings) was to produce an archive collection of music reflecting the story of Scotland’s fishing. An industry which in the past, was also contributed to by Irish workers, both at sea and on the land. Irish fishermen sailed after the Herring (the silver darlings) and along the coast, teams of hardy fisher girls followed to gut the fish (a woman able to gut up to 1,000 fish in a day). Coming from Ireland, joining the Scots Herring girls here, these women worked from Scotland down to England as the huge catches of fish were landed. A multi-cultural workforce, Scots and Irish earning their living together, sharing culture, music and song.
Descended from a Scottish fishing family (which I think Irish fisher women married in to), I was motivated throughout the years of my project to see my work produce a legacy for the fishing community and industry, now so sadly in decline and surely undergoing the greatest period of change in its history. In addition as a singer and musician, who has learnt to play through musical sessions with many others, having enjoyed so much happiness through my music there's a desire in me to similarly 'give something back' through music. And on my personal musical journey, although many musicians have inspired, influenced and encouraged me - surely none more so than the music of the Waterboys and Sharon Shannon (who in 1989, all played together). Through the Waterboys I travelled to Ireland and through Sharon, a short visit to Galway became extended with me finally living there for many months. Such strong musical influences and memories of happy times weave a rich tapestry which intertwines with time so that finally, all these experiences become your life - a personal musical soundtrack to revisit and relive memories of many, many great and special times.
In January 2010, at the end of the Liveireland radio programme, still listening to the broadcast from America - as one programme went on in to the next, a wonderful song came on. I could not believe how beautifully the words and music reflected the emotions and sentiments that I so often feel for my many friends who are scattered around the world. In addition, 'may the Saints and Angels watch over you' - how well these words reflect the unspoken emotion I so often feel when I watch a boat put out to sea. And in stormy weather, that intense relief that fisher folk experience when they stand and watch a boat come safely back in to port...
I had never knowingly heard this song before, such well chosen lyrics and music. It wasn't the best connection to America and I strained to hear who the artist was - "the Waterboys and Sharon Shannon" And I smiled at the musical combination of talented friends playing a song I consider to be one of absolute 'perfection'.
Saints and Angels was written by Mike Scott and Steve Wickham and on this track they are joined again by Sharon Shannon. Such wonderful music it has greatly inspired and moved me with its sentiment. So, one year on, I have looked through the photos I have taken since 2006 and chosen from these the images those which best reflect what I see in my mind when I listen to this song. Photos from the Firth of Forth coast, from East Lothian, from Edinburgh to Eyemouth. And from my very special 'home' up north in Sutherland - photos from the North West Highland villages that I have frequented all my life with my family and my closest friends. Finally, I wish to say to all my friends, (past, present and future), the lyrics of this song say it all: "May the Saints and Angels watch over you."
For more great music from the Waterboys and Sharon Shannon, please visit their respective websites:
To learn more about my People and Songs of the Sea project visit: http://www.shonamcmillan.co.uk/ other postings in this blog, also http://www.facebook.com/shonamcmillan.celticreflections and visit my Youtube Channel http://www.youtube.com/user/ShonaMcMillan
SAINTS AND ANGELS (Scott/Wickham)
It is a wide world we travel
and our paths rarely cross
and we do a whole lot of living in between
So come we'll share more than time
We'll put our cares far behind
while we sail the ship that never goes to sea (friendship)
It could be months, and it could be years
until we find one another once more standing here
until then my beautiful friend I have a wish for you
Many hearts to keep you warm
Many guides to speed you through the storm
and may the saints and angels watch over you