The concept of the album is a telling of the story of an Irish immigrant, the trials and hardships suffered by MacGill and many others at the start of the 20th century. The music will mainly focus on the story of his book 'Children of the Dead End', exploring the themes of immigration and the often enduring poverty associated with same.
I read ‘Children of the Dead End’ as a kid, and the story has always remained dear to me. Whilst re-reading it several months ago, I wrote down some musical ideas inspired by the tale.
Written as fiction, the book is a snapshot of MacGill's life; starting with an account of his childhood in Donegal, before moving to Scotland where he begins to discover his talents as a writer.
The story is full of extraordinary characters, some of whom, MacGill has written about in other novels such as ‘Moleskin Joe’, which followed a character he met on his travels, and ‘The Rat Pit’, based on the life of his childhood sweetheart Norah Ryan.
His books perfectly depict the hardships endured by both the Irish and Scottish lower class, and the music will delve into this world, whilst highlighting the enduring hope that drove such determination to succeed despite the odds.
Exploring the literature of MacGill through music will be an interesting and inspiring project for me - not only does it follow the journey of an Irish immigrant, but will also be a reflection of my own musical journey over the last few years.
The demo below will be the second track of the album, where the story takes us first around Ulster and then on to Scotland. The first tune is named after the hiring fair at Strabane, where MacGill first goes to seek his fortune, and the second is for his trip across the Irish Sea. This set has an apprehensive feel, with some excitement for what's to come. The track title, 'The Road Across the Hills' is taken from a line of MacGill's 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?"