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The Voyage of the Hector

The Voyage of the Hector

The Voyage of the HectorIn 2014, Fèis Rois commissioned John Somerville to write a new piece of music inspired by the voyage of The Hector, a ship that left Ross-Shire and sailed to Canada in 1773.

You can Listen to an interview with John Somerville on Lochbroom FM

You can buy a copy of The Voyage of The Hector CD.

The story of The Hector is one of human endeavour and hardship upon the seas.

In early July 1773, 207 passengers, mainly from Lochbroom in Wester Ross, boarded the ship in the small Scottish village of Ullapool. The ship, in the end carrying only 189 passengers, finally came to port in the town of Pictou, Nova Scotia in mid-September. The landing was several weeks later than planned. The journey between the two ports was one of great drama, hardship and suffering, but the passengers had remarkable strength of spirit and optimism for their future.

John has composed 40-minutes of music which tells the story of this remarkable voyage. The 8 movements are as follows:

  1. The Gathering: On a sleepy Ullapool morning, with the sun rising over Loch Broom, the passengers of the boat gather on the village pier.
  2. The First Wave: With the sun shining high in the sky, the boat hits the first big wave of the Atlantic.
  3. Uallach na Mara (The Burden of The Sea) : A waulking song with the passengers singing in unison.
  4. Unity and A Distant Line: As the last piece of Scotland disappears over the horizon the mood is reflective and sombre.
  5. Blanket of Waves: Having left Ullapool with far from adequate food and provisions, the ship’s passengers begin to suffer from terrible hunger and starvation. Disease breaks out on the boat and eighteen children lose their battle for life. As the boat sails further into the heart of the Atlantic, the passengers are forced to cast the bodies of the young over the side of the boat.
  6. The Storm: Not far from reaching coastal waters and within sight of land, the vessel hits a brutal storm and the journey is set back by two weeks.
  7. Seinn a’ Phiob (Play the Pipes) : We know that there was a piper on board the pipes and this reflective song refers to this.
  8. Jig of Hope: The Hector finally comes into port at Pictou and, despite the hardship they have endured, it is with hope that they take their first steps towards a new life.

John Somerville hails from Abriachan on the north shore of Loch Ness. He strated learning the accordion at the age of ten and attended the first of many Fèis Rois courses in Ullapool when he was eleven years old. Having come up through Fèis Rois as a learner, supervisor and tutor, John has gone on to become one of the top accordion players in Scotland. He is known for his versatile and innovative style whilst staying true to his Highland roots. As a composer, he has written for the many bands, groups and acts he has worked with, including Treacherous Orchestra, Halcyon, Croft Number Five, Rule of Three, Box Club and The Arches Theatre Company.

Throughout 2014 and into 2015, John worked with Fèis Rois Chief Executive, Fiona Dalgetty, and many musicians from Fèis Rois to perform The Voyage of The Hector suite in Scotland, Canada and Australia. The music has been played at the following festivals:

You can watch a short film clip from the National Celtic Festival in Australia.

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