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Letle Telt

Lyrics & stories


The aim behind Letle Telt was to produce a collection of songs and stories that are not widely known. Half have been composed and the other half have been dug out of antique songbooks. Hopefully there will be at least one or two old songs that the listener has never heard (and might even enjoy singing) or one or two old stories that are thought worth sharing.


Though not exclusively, the focus of Letle Telt is on female voices and characters. There is some truth in the trope that historical songs reflect the reality of life for women at the time of writing but even considering the duress under which women often existed, there was still a huge diversity of female personalities and experiences that seem under reported.

One reason for this could be, that due to the nature of how the majority of traditional songs were preserved, there was the lack of a female lens on most of the texts handed down through history (with a few notable exceptions). When traditional ballads, songs and stories started being written down for posterity, it was in an era when generally only men had access to education. Men were writing, editing and publishing the books. It doesn’t seem too far fetched to presume that whatever the women were singing about (and you can bet they were singing and making up songs) many song collectors would not think a woman’s work was worthy of preserving in print. The result of this is a lot of conjecture from the male perspective about what women are thinking and feeling. Desperate lovelorn pretty-fair-maids seem hugely over represented. Although there are many ballads about such maids that I love listening to, as well as singing, a bit more balance in storytelling options feels worth striving for.


A husband’s story might be that when he was away at sea, his wife sat and cried till he got back and could barely stir her porridge due to the angst of it all. Would the wife’s story match that? Or would her story be that she spent much of her time cackling with the other wives and enjoying a wee nip o’ whisky once the kids were in bed? It’s all about that lens.

There have been and are countless great collectors, singers and writers that have focussed on bringing songs and stories about women to the forefront. Songs that challenge the narrative that historically women spent most of their time fainting and crying and had little impact on politics, society or culture. Letle Telt hopefully has something to offer towards that shift in perspective.


With that all said, it feels important to mention that to my mind, even though the majority of the songs here happen to be about or written by women, they are not women’s songs any more than a ballad about Bonnie Prince Charlie is a man’s song. They are just songs.


Much of Letle Telt was recorded in a glen in the Highlands of Scotland. Almost all the incidental sounds were recorded around our campsite and then meddled with. For those songs recorded in the studio we rarely went for a second take and focussed less on perfection and more on trying to translate the experience of sharing songs in the moment. Words vary, notes vary. There’s dunts, stomps and chuckles. I don’t think such a thing can ever fully translate on a planned recording but we gave it a punt and hope we captured something that at least nods towards that feeling.

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On March 27th 2020 a pal from Dublin told me that there were a bunch of singers local to him that would be going online that night and every Friday for the predicted three weeks(!) of the Covid19 lockdown.

As I’d just cancelled all plans external to my Glasgow flat, I settled down to listen to people singing from couches and kitchens mainly throughout Ireland but also across Europe and beyond. I was completely transfixed.

It was the medicine I didn’t know I needed and of course three weeks turned in to months and then well over a year. ‘An Goilin’ singers would end up accompanying me through the entire pandemic.

If I had never logged on to those singing sessions, it is undoubtedly true to say that this album would not exist. It was the first step toward a community of singers who could not have been more welcoming and generous with their encouragement and support. I will always be grateful, particularly to the Goilin committee who have shown more faith in me than would seem sensible. I’d name them all but I’d hate to leave anyone out. They know who they are!

Above all, thanks to my family and friends who put time, love, funds and their boundless skills in to ensuring Letle Telt made it to the finish-line. Mum, Barny, Shelby, Mark, Joanne, Gail, Brycey, Ele, Jordan, Jer, Brian and last but not least Stevie who steered me through the whole process with much patience, generosity and talent.

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