Droighneán Donn, An (1)

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  • Teideal (Title): Droighneán Donn, An (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840113.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 34586.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish and English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 22/11/1983.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): evening class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Background: An Droighneán Donn in context

It’s about a man who went to the fair one day, and he met this dark-haired girl at the fair. And one of them fell for the other, or whatever you call it, and they went off together and they spent all day under a brownthorn bush. And when the evening came, they were in love, as the saying goes, and he gave her a ring as a token of their friendship. And he said, “I’ll be seeing you as soon as I go home and make arrangements to bring you to my father’s house, and we’ll get more acquainted, and I’d like to marry you”. Famous last words. Anyway, when he came home, he more or less forgot about [her]. And there was a year gone; and she heard the local gossip talking about this certain man getting married to a certain woman the week after next. And this is the man that gave her the ring. So she set out, and she dressed herself as a woman of the roads. And she came to the house where the pre-wedding — as I told you before, they used to have a pre-wedding before the real wedding. And the custom was, and still is, if a woman comes to the door — a travelling woman, which she was disguised as — the intended bridegroom gives her a glass of wine. And if a man comes to the door, the intended bride gives him a glass of whiskey or maybe stronger if she has it — poitín. So she came in, and he came up to her and offered her a glass — this is what they call hospitality, you know — he gave her a glass of wine and he started talking to her. And when she had finished the wine, she put the ring he had given her into the glass, and she handed the glass back to him. And she said, ‘Fuair mé féirín lá aonaigh ó bhuachaill deas‘… But she finally convinced him that she was the woman; when he saw the ring, he knew then. And what he did, he broke up with the woman he was supposed to marry, and he married the woman that he spent the day under the browthorn bush with. Now did he do right or did he do wrong?

Fuair mé féirín ó lá aonaigh ó bhuachaill deas
Fuair me céad póg ina dhiaidh sin ó phlúr na bhfear
Lá an Léan ar an té a déarfadh nach thú mo ghean
‘S an lá ina dhiaidh sin nach deas a d’éalóinn faoi na coillte leat.

I got a keepsake on a fair-day from a handsome young man
And a hundred sweet kisses from my own darling John
Consume them, confuse them who says you’re not true
And through lonesome glens and valleys I’ll wander with you.

Is síleann céad bean gur leo féin mé nuair a ólaim leann
Téann dhá dtrian síos díom nuair a smaoiním ar a gcomhrá liom
[Sneachta séite a bheith dhá shíor-chur ar Shliabh Uí Fhloinn]1
‘S go bhfuil mo ghrá-sa mar bhláth na n-áirní ‘gabháil an droighneán donn.

I wish I had a small boat on the ocean I’d roam
I would follow my darling where e’er he would go
I would sooner have my true love to sit, sport and play2
Than all the gold and silver by land or by sea.

Now, there’s a verse there that’s very important: Is fear gan chéill a théanns i dréim leis an gclaí a bheadh ard. She’s more or less saying, ‘It’s a terrible fool who tries to get acquainted with people higher above than theirselves’. Is an claí beag íseal lena thaobh a leagfadh sé a lámh. ‘And the little wall beside him’ or his own equal, is just beside him, that he could lay a hand on if he wanted to. Lá léan ar an té a déarfadh nach tú mo ghean. ‘Well my curse on these who says you cannot be mine.’ Trí ghleanntáin cheo agus [unintelligible] a leanfainn leat féin (?). ‘And through lonesome glens and valleys I would follow you through.’ Now, the last verse is this:

Come all —

What she’s trying to say is, don’t miss a chance. When you get the chance, do it. And don’t be sorry either. But even the flowers fall off the trees.

Come all you pretty fair maids, get married in time
To some handsome young man that will keep up your pride
Beware of winter’s evenings, when cold breezes come on
That will shake the blossoms early on the droighneán donn.


Verses 1 and 3:

I got a fairing on a fair-day from a nice young man,
and a hundred kisses the next day from the flower of men.
May disaster strike the one who says you are not my beloved
and the day after than wouldn’t I happily escape with you under the greenwood.

A hundred women think I’m theirs when I’m drinking ale.
But two-thirds of it goes from me when I think about their conversation with me.
[Blowing snow, constantly falling on Sliabh Uí Fhloinn;]
and my love is like the blossom of sloes on the blackthorn bush.


1. The line given here is what Joe would normally have sung. The segment on the recording is unintelligible. It is possible that he had a momentary memory-lapse and supplied nonsense syllables to fill the gap. His American audience would have been none the wiser.

2. This doesn’t make much sense. A version collected in Kinvara in 1938 gives this line as ‘I would rather have my darling to love, sport and play’; cf. Ó Muirithe, An tAmhrán Macarónach (Dublin, 1980), 62. Joe may have been trying to avoid using the word ‘love’ twice in one line.

This recording is primarily valuable in giving the widely-accepted background, or údar, of the song which, as the late Tom Munnelly has pointed out, is a version of the Hind Horn legend (see also A-T 400, motif H94.). As regards the song itself, however, Joe tries to compensate for his listeners’ unfamiliarity by interpolating explanations which both create the impression that the English verses are a direct translation of the Irish lines — something that is far from being the case — and disrupt his own recall of the song’s text. As an illustration, the stanza that Joe recites and translates between the third and fourth stanzas above should normally go as follows:

Is fear gan céill a théanns i dréim leis an gclaí a bheadh ard
Is an claí beag íseal lena thaobh a leagfadh sé a lámh
Cé gur ard é an crann caorthainn beidh sé searbh as a bharr
Is fásfaidh sméara is bláth subh craobh ar an gcrann is ísle bláth.

It’s a foolish man who tries to climb a high wall
When there’s a low wall next to him that he could lay his hand upon;
Although the rowan tree is high, it’s bitter at the top
And berries and sweet blossoms grow on the tree with the lowest-growing flowers.

In reciting the stanza, however, Joe omits the last two lines as he would normally have sung them, substituting for line 3 a line that he has already used as the third line in stanza 1; and for line 4 a line that seemingly attempts a translation from the English of the fourth line in stanza 2. Such changes and transpositions are not uncommon in the tradition; even (as here) from one performance to the next by the same traditional singer. In this case, however, the phenomenon may have been compounded by the need for explanations which Joe clearly felt were warrented in this setting.

A more spontaneous peformance of An Droighneán Donn before, an audience of Irish-speakers, is included in these archives. Performances are also to be found on Come All You Gallant Irishmen, a studio recording that he made while living in the United States, and on the posthumously-issued double album, The Road from Conamara. Of the performance on that recording, Tom Munnelly observes, “I know of no other macaronic version of An Draighneán Donn [sic]. The song… has long had a parallel English-language version which is sung to its own (related but distinct) tune. Here Heaney re-unites the texts in alternating verses. His choice of tune is the one usually associated with the English-language text rather than the tune found more frequently in Conamara. I would be very curious to know if Joe continued to sing An Draighneán Donn in this manner?” The answer — as this performance illustrates — is that he certainly did. In addition, he often claimed that it would have been sung by two singers — ideally, a man and a woman — singing alternate stanzas as a dialogue.

For additional verses and some discussion, see Ríonach uí Ógáin (ed.), Faoi Rothaí na Gréine: Amhráin as Conamara a Bhailigh Máirtín Ó Cadhain (Dublin, 1999), 70-74 and 209-11; also Micheál agus Tomás Ó Máille, Amhráin Chlainne Gael, ed. William Mahon (Indreabhán 1991), 118-122.