Margaret Fay Shaw died on Canna in 2004 at the age of 101. She was one of the most notable collectors of authentic Scottish Gaelic song and traditions in the 20th century. Shaw was also an outstanding photographer, and both her still pictures and cinematography contributed to an invaluable archive of island life in the 1930s. She met the folklorist John Lorne Campbell on South Uist in 1934; they married a year later and together helped to rescue vast quantities of oral tradition from oblivion. Her autobiography has been almost continuously in print since its first publication in 1994.
From the Alleghenies to the Hebrides: An Autobiographyby Margaret Fay Shaw
Margaret Fay Shaw's life spans a century of change. Leaving home and school in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia aged 16, she crossed to Scotland to spend a year at school near Glasgow. It was there that her love for Scotland was born. After studying music in New York and Paris, she returned to live for six years with two sisters in South Uist. Life on the island had changed little from previous centuries, and material comforts were few. But the island was rich in music and tradition, and Margaret Fay Shaw's collection of Gaelic lore and song are amongst the most important made this century, whilst her photography evocatively captures the aura of a vanished world. Her autobiography is the remarkable testament of a remarkable woman as well as a powerful plea in defense of a Gaelic culture and world under threat. It is written with a sharpness of observation, directness of humor and zest for life which make it a marvelous record of the twentieth century.
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