Shelagh McDonald

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Shelagh McDonald
Edinburgh, Scotland
GenresFolk, British folk rock
Occupation(s)Musician, singer-songwriter
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals, piano
Years active1968-1971, 2012-present
LabelsB&C Records, Sanctuary Records Group
Associated actsRichard Thompson, Danny Thompson, Fotheringay
WebsiteOfficial website

Shelagh McDonald (born 1948, Edinburgh, Scotland)[1] is a Scottish folk singer, songwriter and guitarist who released two albums before her abrupt and mysterious disappearance in 1971.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

McDonald was born in 1948 in Edinburgh and moved to Glasgow, at the age of 12, with her parents, She was privately educated before moving on to the Glasgow School of Art.[1]


On her first two albums, McDonald was backed up by many notables within the English folk-rock scene, including Richard Thompson, Dave Mattacks, Danny Thompson, Keith Tippett, Keith Christmas, the Fotheringay rhythm section, as well as Ian Whiteman, Roger Powell and Michael Evans, then members of Mighty Baby. During the recording sessions for her third album in 1971, she mysteriously disappeared[4] following a bad LSD trip.[5]

On 23 June 2005, by which time McDonald's albums had been reissued on CD, an article by Charles Donovan appeared in The Independent,[6] the first high-profile piece about McDonald's disappearance. This prompted copycat features in local papers, the Glasgow Herald and the Scottish Daily Mail.[7] It was the latter of these that caught the eye of McDonald herself. In November 2005, McDonald turned up in the offices of the Scottish Daily Mail and told them her story. She retreated from public life after a bad LSD trip left her paranoid and hallucinating, with a ruined voice. Living with her parents and working privately in Edinburgh, she met and married bookseller Gordon Farquhar; together, they lived a nomadic lifestyle in Scotland, living on welfare benefits and moving from house to house, and later tent to tent.[2]

In the 2005 interview McDonald said that her voice had improved and she was again interested in music, and the renewed interest in her work by the public surprised and gratified her.[2] After that nothing more was heard of her until 2012, when she spoke to fRoots magazine. In the new interview she reveals that, since her partner's death earlier in the year, she has resumed contact with other folk musicians and is cautiously planning low-key live appearances and hoping to record new material.[8] In an October 2013 interview with The Guardian, she revealed that she had, in fact, recorded a new album, though she provided no further details about it.[9] The new album, called Parnassus Revisited, with several new songs, was made available at gigs but has not been widely distributed. A collaboration with Galloway indie folk band The Razorbills, "Fame Fatale", was broadcast on Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone in 2014: Shelagh also performed with this band on a number of occasions, and with Nigel H. Seymour.

On 16 January 2013, McDonald had made her first official public appearance, after more than 40 years away, as a guest of The False Beards at the Green Note, Camden, London. Among her half hour set of previously unrecorded material, she also played her version of the traditional song "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" from her first album. A series of low-key appearances took place in 2014, mainly at Scottish venues, and a similar but longer tour in 2017, in collaboration with Nigel H. Seymour followed, which took in some appearances in England. It was also announced that a recording called Timescapes was forthcoming.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b "FATEA - News". Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Grace Macaskill, "Back From the Wilderness", Scottish Daily Mail, 19 November 2005. "Reproduced online". Archived from the original on 10 December 2005. Retrieved 2 September 2005.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link). Retrieved 25 October 2006.
  3. ^ "Disappearing folk singer Shelagh McDonald in comeback bid after living rough for decades". Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  4. ^ "Shelagh McDonald". Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  5. ^ "Shelagh McDonald: Extended Interview". BBC Radio Scotland. 2 November 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  6. ^ Donovan, Charles (23 June 2005). "Mystery Woman". The Independent. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  7. ^ "Singer back, 40 years after vanishing act". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  8. ^ Ian Anderson, "Return journey," fRoots 353/354, November/December 2012, pp33-7
  9. ^ Shelagh McDonald, "Experience: I disappeared for 30 years," The Guardian, 11 October 2013, Retrieved 13 October 2013

External links[edit]