Ishbel MacAskill

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Isabella Margaret MacAskill (née MacIver, 14 March 1941 – 31 March 2011) was a heritage activist and traditional Scottish Gaelic singer and teacher, often referred to as the "Gaelic diva".[1][2][3]

Early life[edit]

She was born in Loanhead, near Edinburgh on 14 March 1941, and adopted by the weaver and Royal Naval Reserve seaman Allan MacIver and his wife Christina MacIver; both were natives of Broker, Isle of Lewis. When she was 12, she moved with her family to Stornoway, the Island's capital, where she attended the Nicolson Institute.[4]

She moved to Glasgow for secretarial studies at Stow College and worked for British Rail before marrying Bill MacAskill, a native of Lochinver, Sutherland, in 1964. For the following 15 years she concentrated on raising their four children.[1][2]


It was not until the age of 38 that MacAskill first sang in public, at a fringe event at the 1979 National Mod. Musician and producer Noel Eadie heard her perform, which led to the first of her several albums. With the encouragement of her husband, before long she was appearing in concerts and festivals worldwide, and became a regular at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow and the Celtic Colours Festival in Cape Breton Island.[1][5]

In 1999 she featured as a guest artist on Transatlantic Sessions 2. In 2003 she represented Scotland at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. and appeared at the World Festival of Island Cultures in South Korea.[2] In May and June 2006, she toured Australia leading workshops and concerts in Gaelic song in part as the guest of the Australian Gaelic Singers leading a Gaelic Song Masterclass and two concerts in Sydney.[6][7]


She appeared on the Transatlantic Sessions television series, and also played the part of the shop assistant Nora in the popular 1990s Gaelic language soap opera Machair on Scottish Television.[2]


She died in 2011, aged 70, after a fall in the kitchen of her home in Inverness.[3] A memorial concert was held in Inverness on 16 June 2011.[8] Her husband Bill MacAskill died aged 81, 7 months to the day after Ishbel.

Solo discography[edit]

Track Listing:

  1. "An Teid thu Leam a Mhairi (Will you go with me Mary?)"
  2. "An Innis Aigh (The Happy Isle)"
  3. "Waulking Set"
  4. "Canan nan Gaidheal (The Language of the Gael)"
  5. "Piobaireachd Dhomhnuill Dhuibh (Pibroch of Black Donald)"
  6. "Soraidh Leis an Ait (Farewell to the place where I was raised)"
  7. "An Ataireachd Ard. (The Eternal Surge of the Sea)"
  8. "Mor a'Cheannaich"
  9. "Bidh Clann Ulaidh air do Bhanais (The Clan of Ulster will be at your Wedding)"
  10. "Fair and Tender Ladies"
  11. "Griogal Cridhe(darling Gregor)"
  12. "Puirt a Beul (Mouth Music)"
  13. "Nighean nan Geug (Rarest of Maidens)"


  1. ^ a b c Hannan, Martin (5 April 2011). "Obituary: Ishbel MacAskill, Gaelic singer and heritage campaigner". The Scotsman. Archived from the original on 2 February 2013. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d Schofield, Derek (14 April 2011). "Ishbel MacAskill obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  3. ^ a b Fairhurst, Mel (2 April 2011). "Gaelic Diva Ishbel dies after accident in Highland home". The Press and Journal.
  4. ^ MacDonald, Iona (January 2015). "MacAskill, Isabella Margaret (1941–2011)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/103645. Retrieved 8 November 2017. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ "Celtic Connections 2008: Events Diary". Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  6. ^ "Ishbel MacAskill Gaelic Singer: In Australia for workshops and concerts". Australian Broadcasting Commission. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  7. ^ The Australian Gaelic Singers present Gaeldom's first lady of soul...Ishbel MacAskill in a traditional Gaelic Song Masterclass. Gordon Public Library, Gordon, NSW, Australia. 2006. pp. 1–40.
  8. ^ "Memorial concert for Gaelic singer Ishbel MacAskill". BBC News. 19 May 2011.
  9. ^ Essentially Ishbel CD Cover Notes