Mother’s Blood, Sister Songs

In our documentary series for RTÉ Lyric fm – Mother’s Blood, Sister Songs, Irish composer Linda Buckley explores how the genetics of Iceland reveals its Irish motherhood.

It’s a story of Vikings and slavery, of women silenced in history and how science is giving truth to their lives, and their legacy.

‘Mother’s Blood, Sister Songs’ won prestigious GOLD at New York Festival Radio Awards

Linda Buckley, who grew up on an isolated dairy farm on the Old Head of Kinsale, has long been fascinated by Iceland and Icelandic music, particularly Björk and Sigur Rós.Long before going there, she began writing music influenced by both Iceland and its language. “When I went to Iceland in 2014,” she says,

“I really felt that many aspects of the landscape there connected to here as well. I remember walking down the street and seeking people who looked quite like me, and thinking what is this about? And being quite puzzled by it. And then seeing a lot of girls with long red curly hair and freckles and thinking these look more Irish than the Irish themselves, and what’s happening there?”

So when producer Helen Shaw contacted her about working together on a project to explore what connects Ireland and Iceland, Linda was interested.
‘In a way, I felt like it was this imagined world within me, where those places were very linked, and now it’s so amazing to discover there is an actual reality to this, and I wanted to learn more about that’.That journey, to unravel a thousand-year-old link between Ireland and Iceland, digs deep into 9th Century Gaelic Ireland, during the age of the Norse settlement. By the end of the 9th Century, Norsemen head north to an uninhabited land they call Iceland and take with them Gaelic slaves.

In Reykjavik Linda meets scientist Dr. Kári Stefánsson, of DeCODE Genetics, the force behind the groundbreaking genetic research which shows how the majority of the women in the settlement of Iceland were Gaelic. While Iceland had traditionally seen itself as Norwegian and Viking in its origins, the DNA studies have prompted a shift in thinking.

“There are very significant events that indicate we were different from the Norwegians,” he says –

” I think we have looked at ourselves as a nation of writers, people of literature, and I think we have always felt that came with a Celtic mix, so it came from our mothers, not our fathers!”

Watch: Dr. Kári Stefánsson on Iceland’s Irish roots

Watch: Arnhildur Valgarðsdóttir ‘Adda’ – Organist, Pianist & Choir Director
Find out more about the Mother’s Blood, Sister Songs project here. 

Podcasts available on all major platforms – Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts