Fear a’ Bhàta (The Boatman)

I don’t quite understand how I went the past two years without posting this wonderful, pining song which finds itself in both the Scottish and Irish traditions, with plenty of English language versions as well. It was one of the first songs in Gaeilge/Gàidhlig that I ever heard, and I’ve loved it since.  The video features Karen Matheson with Capercaille.

Sìne NicFhionnlaigh from Tong wrote the song in the late 19th century during her courtship with a young fisherman from Uig, Dòmhnall MacRath. The happy news, according to various sources, is that the two were married not long after she wrote the song

Fear a’ Bhàta

Fhir a’ bhàta, na hóro eile
Fhir a’ bhàta, na hóro eile
Fhir a’ bhàta, na hóro eile
Mo shoraidh slàn leat ‘s gach àit’ an téid thu

‘S tric mi sealltainn on chnoc as àirde
Dh’fheuch am faic mi fear a’ bhàta
An tig thu ‘n-diugh na ‘n tig thu màireach
‘S mar tig thu idir gur truagh a ta mi

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Amárach Lá ‘le Pádraic

On March 18th, 1835, a James Murphy was hanged for murder in Rosbercon, Co. Wexford (not too far from Clonmel). Whether this is the James Murphy who narrates this song, I am unsure, but it seems to fit the bill. Here’s a sean-nós song about this sad man’s last day on earth, sung by Eilís Ní Chonghaile.

Amárach Lá ‘le Pádraic

Amárach Lá ‘le Pádraic, an chéad lá den tseisiún
Is crua fuar an lá é – ní cruaichte é ná an chinniúint.
Tá na mionnaí ag tíocht anuas orm ‘s tá go leor leor dá gcruthú
Séard dúirt ceannfort na ndaoine uaisle gurb é an róipín mo chruthú.

‘S a dhriotháirín dhílis tabhair abhaile mo hata,
Mo stocaí ‘s mo bhróga ‘s mo chóitín donn daite.
Aithris do mo mháithrín atá le ráithe ar a leaba
Gurb é an róipín caol cnáibe atá in áit mo charabhata.

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The Bonnie House of Airlie

Airlie Castle

According Kenneth Goldstein:

This [Child] ballad describes the burning and sacking in 1640 of the castle of the Earl of Airlie, a supporter of Charles Edward, by the Duke of Argyll. Airlie, aware that he would be forced to renounce the King, left Scotland, leaving his house in the keeping of his oldest son, Lord Ogilvie. Argyll, ordered to proceed against the castle, raised several thousand men for the purpose. When Ogilvie heard of his coming with such a huge force, the castle was abandoned. Lady Ogilvie’s defiance is an invention of the ballad muse, for it has been fairly well established that none of the family was there at the time the castle was sacked.

Here’s a version by a young band making a tremendous mark in the world of traditional music, Full Set, with singer Teresa Horgan.

The Bonnie House of Airlie

It fell on a day, on a bonny summer’s day
When the sun shone bright and clearly,
That there fell oot a great dispute
Between Argyll and Airlie.

Argyll he has mustered a thousand o’ his men,
And he’s marched them in right early;
He’s marched them up by the back o’ Dunkeld,
Tae plunder the bonnie hoose of Airlie.

Lady Ogilvie she looked frae her window sae high,
And oh but she grat sairly,
To see Argyll and a’ his men
Come plunder the bonny hoose of Airlie.

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