- 03 Mar 21
The acclaimed Scottish folk singer has delivered a gorgeous rendition of a song written to commemorate the Irish women shipped to Australia in the famine years, following what has been called Black '47.
Scottish folk singer Karen Matheson has enjoyed a stellar career as the voice behind Celtic music act Capercaillie - a band which sold more than a million albums and performed in over 30 countries.
Matheson's incredible vocal talent is on full display on Still Time, Karen’s fifth solo album which features a cover of Brendan Graham's track 'Orphan Girl'.
The song was written by Graham for the Annual Great Famine Commemoration ceremony held in 2012 at Sydney's Hyde Park.
For the 11-song album, the singer collaborated with Glasgow musician James Grant on four compositions as well as her husband Donald. Along with two Robert Burns interpretation, Graham's 'Orphan Girl' and renditions of Runrig's MacDonald brothers tracks and US activist Si Kahn; Still Time is an eclectic collection of songs.
Brendan Graham’s 'Orphan Girl' is a wistful, thought-provoking song concerning a subject of the Orphan and Pauper Scheme that was operated in Ireland in the 1840s. The lyrics give food for thought, as the orphan girl ponders her chances of passing an ‘inspection’ that will determine whether she is fit to travel to Australia and, hopefully, then realise her dreams of a new life as a “good wife to a good man."
"I had no idea that she had recorded it!" Brendan Graham said of the cover. "I am pleased that it continues to widen the story of those brave and frightened young women who were shipped from our shores in a time of terrible tragedy and then, who gave so much to Australia."
They say Australia is fine / They say Australia is fair / Australia is on my mind / And the fields of praties (potatoes) there.
Upwards of two million Australians are descended from those 4,112 "Orphan Girls" of 1848-1850.
"That day, in 2012 when the song was premiered at Hyde Park Barracks where the first of the girls arrived on the Earl Grey, a number of those two million descendants turned up for the occasion proudly bearing sepia-tinted, photographs of ‘their’ Orphan Girl ancestors," Graham continued.
"It was one of the most moving experiences of my song-life. It ranks with standing alongside Annie Moore’s previously unmarked pauper’s grave in Queens, Calvary Cemetery as Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears was sung to mark the erection of a memorial tombstone by her descendants."
In 2015, Matheson released Urram (Respect) – a collection of timeless Gaelic songs that evoke the character of her Hebridean roots, through walking songs, love songs, lullabies, mouth music and evocative poems to the surroundings. Still Time looks set to be an even more moving gathering of tracks to enjoy.
Listen to Karen Matheson's cover of 'Orphan Girl' below: