Nan MacKinnon (Nan Eachainn Fhionnlaigh)

1902- 1982

Traditional singer and Storyteller

Nan MacKinnon (Nan Eachainn Fhionnlaigh) was born on 12 December 1902 on Barra. The daughter of fisherman, Hector MacKinnon and his wife Mary MacPhee. At the age of four she moved with her family to the island of Vatersay.

Nan spent the 1930s and 1940s bringing up the children of her late sister.

 Nan MacKinnon was known for her apparently inexhaustible memory for the traditional folklore and songs of Vatersay. She was also the last surviving link with the songs and folklore of the nearby island of Mingulay, whose population had fallen from 135 in 1901 to northing at all in 1912.

Nan MacKinnon was first "discovered" by Donald MacPherson of Barra.

The University of Edinburgh's School of Scottish Studies recorded her singing 600 songs, and relating over 1000 stories, anecdotes and proverbs she knew by heart. Her singing voice was very unusual, and debate continues to this day as to whether she simply had a unique personal style, or represented the last survivor of a now lost traditional style.