Seinn Spioradail is an exploration of the incredible wealth of sights, sounds and memories of spiritual singing and song writing in everyday life in Highland and Island communities, something which has been part of Highland culture for millenia.

Six years of research

The Seinn Spioradail, digital archive, soundmap and accompanying exhibition have emerged as a result of six years’ research into sacred song traditions conducted by Dr Frances Wilkins of The Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen. Fieldwork for the project was made possible through a Research Incentive Grant from the Carnegie Trust (2019-22) and a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship (2022-23).  The aim of the project has been to explore the incredible wealth of sacred and spiritual singing and songwriting in the North-West Highlands and Outer Hebrides, and to bring the songs and history of the tradition to a wider audience. 


These resources would not have been possible without the help of many people. Special thanks to all the contributors in the Outer Hebrides, Skye, Lochalsh and further afield who took part in interviews and field recordings as part of the Seinn Spioradail project between 2018 and 2023, and to the Open Virtual Worlds team at the University of St Andrews for their work in developing the digital archive and website.  

In particular I would like to thank:

Alan Miller, Alasdair Martin, Andrada Maris, Alison Sharman, Chris Nightingale, Christine Martin, David Fayle, Effie McQuien, Fr Michael MacDonald, Gillebrìde MacMillan, Iain Oliver, John Philips, Kamila Oles, Magaidh Smith, Mairead MacIver, Mairi M Martin, Margaret MacInnes, Mary Sikorski, Mary Stratman, Matthew Machin-Autenrieth, Museum & Tasglann nan Eilean, Nicolas Le Bigre, Ronan Martin, Rory MacLeod, Thomas McKean, and Thomas Ramsay for their assistance and support with the project.

For Financial Support:

Frances Wilkins

Frances Wilkins is Senior Lecturer in Ethnomusicology at the Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen. She lives on the Isle of Skye and is also a professional musician, performing Scottish traditional music on English concertina. As a field researcher, Frances specialises in Scottish and Northern Canadian singing and instrumental traditions and has worked on research projects in Scotland, Canada and Germany.


She teaches on the Elphinstone Institute’s MLitt in Ethnology and Folklore and supervises PhD students in Ethnomusicology and Folklore. She has presented papers at numerous academic conferences and has written articles for journals including Musiké, MUSICultures, Folk Music Journal, and Northern Scotland. Her first monograph, Singing the Gospel along Scotland’s North-East Coast, 1859-2009 was published by Routledge as part of the SOAS musicology series. Since 2018, Frances has been researching the sacred song traditiions of the West Highlands and Outer Hebrides with a particular focus on singing in the Gaelic language.