A special musical tribute as the grave of the Scottish primadonna set to be restored

The haunting strains of Mo Dhachaidh (My Home) echo round Cathcart Cemetery in Glasgow’s southside, punctuated by the cry of seagulls and the barks of curious dogs.

Musician and presenter Mary Ann Kennedy and guitarist Finlay Wells are performing the song made famous by Victorian opera singer and global superstar Jessie MacLachlan on the base of her tombstone.

Known as the Scottish primadonna, Oban-born MacLachlan appeared across the New World trailing adoring crowds in her wake. Her renditions of Mo Dhachaidh and Horo Mo Nighean Donn Bhòidheach (Ho-ro My Nut-brown Maiden) were preserved for posterity when she made the first commercial gramophone recording of any Gaelic songs in 1899.

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Five years after MacLachan died in 1916, aged 49, her husband Robert Buchanan erected an impressive stone cross on her grave, but it has tumbled off its dais. Kennedy and others crowdfunded £8,000 to lift it back into place.

Singer Mary Ann Kennedy and guitarist Finlay Wells perform at the grave of Victorian Gaelic opera singer, Jessie McLachlan.

The work has been delayed by Covid. But today - on the centenary of the monument’s unveiling - she and Wells are releasing their own recordings of the songs on YouTube alongside the original; two beautiful Gaelic voices reaching out across the generations.

Though MacLachlan received expensive gifts from Queen Victoria and the tsar and tsarina of Russia, her fame has dimmed.

“As a Gael who was born and brought up on the southside, and as a woman singer, I was horrified I had never been aware of this woman who was laid to rest less than 10 minutes from where I grew up,” Kennedy said.

She felt it was important to mark the centenary of the unveiling. “I can’t help thinking this was a huge love match,” she said.“They were husband and wife, pianist and singer.

The singer's memorial stone has toppled leading to a successful Crowdfunder appeal to restore

"He was chaperone to her travelling the world at a time when women would have found it difficult to establish a professional career.”

It is hoped the restoration work will be carried out by the end of the year. Then, the stone will be rededicated amidst a flurry of MacLachlan-related events. Learning materials and karaoke-style musical arrangements of her most popular songs will be made available to teachers to raise her profile amongst young people.

Musician and presenter Mary Ann Kennedy and guitarist Finlay Wells perform the song made famous by Victorian opera singer and global superstar Jessie MacLachlan on the base of her tombstone.
Jessie McLachlan was a huge star in her day
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