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Túirne Mháire

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Túirne Mháire….There was a song about the spinning-wheel itself…. Now there’s a rumour and a myth that the fairies used to come back to the houses, the ‘good people,’ and spin on that wheel until the cock crew in the morning. That’s why the spinning wheel was always left in working order, with some wool near it, in every house, when they went to bed.
And ‘Túirne Mháire’ – they reckoned that the spinning wheel was the most— the gentlest thing in the world, that that wheel turned any time you put your hand on it. And the old women used to have a song something like this:

‘Sé túirne Mháire an túirne sásta, do shiúil sé páirt mhaith d’Éirinn
Níl gleann beag ann dá ndeachaidh sé ann nár fhág sé [cuid dá thréithe]1
Chaith sé ráithe in Iúr Cinn Trá ar lúb sa ngleanntáin sléibhte
‘S na síógaí mná a bhí ar thaobh Chnoic Meadha shníomhaidís lawn is [cambric] air.

Ní hí mo bhean-sa bean an túirne ach Eibhlín mhúinte bhéasach
A cos dá stiúradh ar mhaide túrna ‘s a lámh a’ déanamh réiteacht’
Ba thuath an stúmpa, slinneán stromptha, coigeal cam, gan [faoidhim] leis
Leagadar fúm an gliogaire túirne gan fuaim, gan tiúin, gan gléas leis.

Translation

Mary’s spinning-wheel is the satisfactory spinning-wheel, it’s travelled all over Ireland; there isn’t a valley, however small, that it hasn’t left it’s mark on. It spent a season in Newry, in a crook of a mountain glen; and the fairy-women on the slope of Cnoc Meadha used to spin lawn and [cambric] with it.
It’s not my wife who’s the spinning woman, but polite and mannerly Eileen; her foot directing it with the foot-board, while her hand maintains the arrangement; the post was out-of-true, an upright was stiff, a distaff crooked and useless(?); they threw down before me the rickety wheel without sound or tune or working order to it.

Notes

Mrs. Costelloe includes the following note in connection with this song: ‘The heroine of the song is Máire Jordan, an old lady, feeble and half blind, upon whom some practical joker plays a trick, by putting her wheel out of order. She, unaware of this, attributes its defection to the malice of the fairy host, and she is here supposed to be travelling from place to place seeking a cure for it.’ She also remarks that the song ‘has evidently become much corrupted, and it is difficult to make much sense of it now.’ See Eibhlin Bean Mhic Choisdealbha, Amhráin Mhuighe Seóla: Traditional Folksongs from Galway and Mayo (Dublin, 1923), 83.

1 Words in square brackets have been taken from the text in Mrs Costelloe’s collection, as Joe’s words are hard to make out.

This song was recorded while Joe was Artist in Residence at University of Washington.

 

 

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