Author Archives: cladhaid

Babes in the Wood (Magpie Lane)


Play recording: Babes in the Wood (Magpie Lane)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Babes in the Wood (Magpie Lane).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 288.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): Q34.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): none.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Magpie Lane (1993–1998 line-up: Ian Giles, Andy Turner, Tom Bower, Mathew Green, Joanne Acty, Peter Acty ⁊ Di Whitehead).
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): none.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 1995.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Woodworm Studios, Oxfordshire, England.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): studio album recording.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Mark Tucker (recording engineer).
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): © Beautiful Jo Records. All rights reserved.
  • Stádas chóipcheart ábhair bhreise (Additional material copyright status): Album artwork and band photograph © Beautiful Jo Records. All rights reserved.

Notes

By Míċeál Ó Loċlainn

Compare and contrast


The album cover artwork for the Wassail! album. Painting of people, in historical dress, feasting and making merry.
The Wassail! album cover.

An example of the native English folk singing tradition, this extract from Babes in the Wood, track 14 on Magpie Lane’s third album, the sublime Wassail! A Country Christmas, was added to the Cartlanna to complement the version sung by Joe Heaney.

This song also gives us an example of how songs (just like stories, themes and motifs) cross-seed and propagate across native traditions, both nationally and internationally. Clearly, it echos elements of the famous German fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel. But as noted in the entry for Joe’s version, it actually originates in English folklore, deriving from a story of the same name and reportedly based on events that took place in Wayland Wood, Norfolk, in the East Anglia region of England.

Like so many traditional songs, Babes in the Wood has travelled widely. It’s part of the generational repertoire of the Copper family of Rottingdean, Sussex, some 170 miles from Wayland Wood, on England’s south coast. It’s part of Magpie Lane’s, who are based in Oxford, a hundred miles north-west of Rottingdean. And of course, it was part of Joe’s — bringing it four hundred years, four hundred and fifty miles, three countries and a stretch of sea away from where it started; although unfortunately, we don’t know where on his extensive travels Joe picked it up, or from whom.

Ny Kirree fo Niaghtey


Band-members, smiling, with their musical instruments.
The Magpie Lane line-up in 1994.

Readers who enjoy the singing traditions of the other Celtic countries may be interested in track 3 of Wassail!The Sheep are neath the Snow. This is a English language version of the Manx song Ny Kirree fo Niaghtey. (The English title is essentially a direct translation of the Manx original. For reference, the Irish equivalent would be Na Caoirigh faoi Sheachta.)

There are a number of versions in Manx Gaelic available on YouTube. This one, by Barrule Trio, might be a good — and quite pertinent — place to start.

Thanks and credits

We’re grateful to Magpie Lane, especially Andy Turner, and to Tim Healey at Beautiful Jo Records, for allowing us to use this recording in the Cartlanna and to reproduce the album cover and band photo.

Tradition Club Session: 18th July 1973

Play recording: Tradition Club Session: 18th July 1973

Níor foilsíodh an taifeadadh áirid seo go poiblí roimhe seo. Éacht atá ann do na Cartlanna dá réir sin, is muid an-bhródúil as. Ba thráthúil muid a bheith in ann é a fhoilsiú anseo Dé Céadaoin 18 Mí Iúil 2018 — cothrom an lae, ceathracha is a cúig bliain ó rinneadh é; agus gar go leor go cothrom na huaire. Ach an chomhtharlúint ba mhó b’fhéidir: nach Céadaoin a bhí ann ar an 18 Mí Iúil 1973 freisin?

An seisiún ar fad atá sa taifeadadh seo; timpeall uair ⁊ ceathrú. Tosaíonn amhráin Joe ag: 00:14:11 (One Morning in June), 00:17:45 (An Buinneán Buí), 00:22:22 (Johnny is the Fairest Man), 00:53:22 (Seven Drunken Nights), 00:58:33 (The Seven Irishmen), 01:04:25 (Casadh an tSúgáin), 01:08:28 (Boys From Home) agus 01:12:01 (Cúnnla).

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Tradition Club Session: 18th July 1973.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Karl Partridge, County Down, Northern Ireland.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish and English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song, music.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney, Peter Browne, Kevin Conneff, John Kelly, Joe Ryan, Seán Cannon.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Karl Partridge, Frank Jeale.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 18/07/1973.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Tradition Club, Slattery’s, Capel Street, Dublin 1, Ireland. [Eircode: D01 YN83]
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): traditional music session.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Athchóiriú digiteach (Digital restoration): Míċeál Ó Loċlainn.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): © Karl Partridge. All rights reserved.
  • Stádas chóipcheart ábhair bhreise (Additional material copyright status): Datasheet © Karl Partridge. All rights reserved.

Original metadata recorded by Karl Partridge

Original datasheet


Metadata sheet for the Tradition Club, Slattery’s, Capel Street, Dublin 1, on 18th July 1973.
Karl’s handwritten metadata record.

General technical metadata

Transcribed from Karl’s datasheet.

  • Tape type: BASF C90 cassette tape
  • Length: C90
  • Condition: good
  • Tape no: F20
  • Source: Recorded live by Karl Partridge (N Ireland)
  • Date: 18 July 1973
  • Location: Tradition Club Slattery[’]s of Capel Street, Dublin
  • End side A: 45:27
  • End of recording [End side B]: 31:38

Tracks: tunes and songs

Again, transcribed from the original datasheet. But note that in this transcription, start times are given for both the original tape recording and the digitised version available in the player.

Track Start [tape] [Start player] Artist County / Town Instrument Tune or song type Title
Track Start [tape] [Start player] Artist County / Town Instrument Tune or song type Title
Side A
1 00:00 [00:00:00] Peter Browne / Kevin Conneff Dublin / Dublin Tin Whistle / Bodhrán Kevin Conneff [sic] Reels Green Groves of Éireann / Clogher Reel
2 01:54 [00:01:51] Peter Browne / Kevin Conneff Dublin / Dublin Tin Whistle / Bodhrán Jig The Pipe on the Hob
3 03:32 [00:03:30] Peter Browne Dublin Uilleann Pipes Jig Gillian[’]s Apples
4 05:44 [00:05:40] Peter Browne Dublin Uilleann Pipes Reels The Old Bush / Hardy’s Reel or Ravelled Hank Yarn
5 08:30 [00:08:22] Peter Browne Dublin Uilleann Pipes Jig Old Hag [Y]ou [H]ave [K]illed [M]e
6 10:36 [00:10:28] Peter Browne Dublin Uilleann Pipes Reel Pinch of Snuff
7 13:12 [00:12:51] Peter Browne Dublin Uilleann Pipes Slip Jig The Dusty Miller
8 19:30 [00:14:11] Seosamh Ó Héanaí [sic] Carna, Gaillimh & SAM Vocals Song (macaronic) One Morning in June
9 18:08 [00:17:45] Seosamh Ó Héanaí [sic] Carna, Galway Vocals Song (Irish) An Buinneán Buí
10 22:44 [00:22:22] Seosamh Ó Héanaí [sic] Carna, Galway Vocals Song (English) Johnny is the Fairest Man
11 27:10 [00:26:50] John Kelly [/] Joe Ryan Clare & Dublin [/] Clare Fiddles Reels Sligo Maid
12 29:29 [00:28:54] John Kelly [/] Joe Ryan Clare & Dublin [/] Clare Fiddles Hornpipe Cronin’s Hornpipe
13 31:45 [00:31:02] John Kelly [/] Joe Ryan Clare & Dublin [/] Clare Fiddles Hornpipe Ace & Deuce of Piping
14 32:35 [00:32:00] John Kelly [/] Joe Ryan Clare & Dublin [/] Clare Fiddles Jig Geese in the Bog
15 33:51 [00:33:08] Seán Cannon (Dubliners) Galway / UK Vocals Song (English) Ned of the Hill (Éamon an [C]hnoic)
16 36:41 [00:36:01] Seán Cannon (Dubliners) Galway / UK Vocals Song (English) South Wind
17 39:47 [00:39:06] Seán Cannon (Dubliners) Galway / UK Vocals Song (English) Waterford Boys
18 42:20 [00:41:38] Peter Browne / Kevin Conneff Dublin / Dublin Uilleann Pipes / Bodhrán Reel Drowsy Maggie
19 43:34 [00:42:55] Peter Browne / Kevin Conneff Dublin / Dublin Tin Whistle / Bodhrán Reel Miss Crawford[’]s Reel
Side B
1 00:00 [00:44:44] Peter Browne Dublin Uilleann Pipes Jig The Gold Ring
2 03:36 [00:48:19] Peter Browne Dublin Uilleann Pipes Reels First House in Connacht / Copperplate
3 05:58 [00:50:40] Peter Browne Dublin Uilleann Pipes Reel Jenny’s Welcome to Charlie
4 08:39 [00:53:22] Seosamh Ó Héanaí [sic] Carna, Galway Vocals Song (English) Seven Drunken Nights
5 13:50 [00:58:33] Seosamh Ó Héanaí [sic] Carna, Galway Vocals Song (English) The Seven Irishmen
6 19:44 [01:04:25] Seosamh Ó Héanaí [sic] Carna, Galway Vocals Song (Irish) Casadh an tSúgáin
7 23:45 [01:08:28] Seosamh Ó Héanaí [sic] Carna, Galway Vocals Song (English) Boys, From Home [sic]
8 27:22 [01:12:01] Seosamh Ó Héanaí [sic] Carna, Galway Vocals Song (macaronic) Cúnnla [sic]
9 30:51 [01:15:45] Ceoltóirí éagsúla [no data recorded] General session Reel Boy in the Gap

Notes

By Míċeál Ó Loċlainn

Background

As indicated in the recording details, this material was kindly made available to Cartlanna Sheosaimh Uí Éanaí by Doctor Karl Partridge of County Down. Karl told us:

I used to be a regular attendee at those Tradition Club sessions while I was at Trinity [College Dublin] and I made a lot of recordings, some of which have been submitted to the ITMA†. I remember recording Seán Ó Conaire‡ on one occasion… this was the only one of Joe.

Karl also mentioned the indirect role played by Doctor Frank Jeal — the man with the green accordion — in the creation of this and other recordings made at The Tradition Club:

It was my former lecturer in Trinity (Dr Frank Jeal) that got me interested in traditional music and I used to go to Slattery’s with him while at college. Sadly he died last year [2017]… his obituary was published in the Irish Times.

†At time of writing, it would appear that it’s not possible to link directly to a listing of these items on the ITMA’s main website. However, a search for “Karl Partridge Collection” (including the double-inverted commas) at itmacatalogues.ie seems to do the trick.

‡This is the Seán Ó Conaire who was nicknamed ‘007’. The Irish surname ‘Ó Conaire’ is frequently anglicised as ‘Conroy’, certainly in Joe Heaney’s native district, but often enough it’s also rendered ‘Connery’. For readers interested in sean-nós singing elsewhere in Ireland, a song about three brothers of that name, Na Conneries features prominently in the tradition of Na Déise (County Waterford). An excellent native rendition by Nioclás Tóibín, taken from the album Amhráin Aneas, can be found on YouTube.

Compare and contrast: other recordings of Joe’s songs

Most of the songs sung by Joe at this Tradition Club session were part of his main repertoire and at least one recording of each is already present elswhere in the Cartlanna. However, it’s worth noting that this one pre-dates most of the other recordings we have here by at least five years — with the notable exception of one which it post-dates by well over a quarter of a century! This is important, as it showcases a singing voice that’s five to ten years younger than the one that predominates in these archives.

Perhaps more importantly though, this recording is one of the few we have in the Cartlanna of a performance given by Joe in Ireland. Not to find fault with the others of course — far from it — but most of them were given abroad, in teaching environments, to students who weren’t Irish and who had no native understandings of the material or the cultural continua from which it emerged. Like many a good performer — and teacher — Joe would, to some degree or other, have pitched his presentation according to the audience in front of him. At the Tradition Club, he would have been conscious of the fact that there were culturally-aware, critically-attentive listeners in the audience, and singers and musicians of comparable stature beside him ‘on stage’. The imperative wasn’t to explain and interperate the material but to perform it to the expected standard, which in his case was very high indeed. He’s not quite on home turf in this recording, being in Dublin rather than Iorras Aithneach. He’s not even in the Gaeltacht. So he’s not among his immediate cultural, musical and linguistic peers. But he’s near enough — and he wasn’t going to let himself or his tradition down.

For these reasons, this Tradition Club recording is a unique and especially significant addition to the Cartlanna. The following may be of help to readers wishing to explore similarities and differences for themselves.

One Morning in June
Cynthia Thiessen recorded a performance of this song by Joe during a day class at University of Washington, United States of America, on 6th March 1978.
An Buinneán Buí
There are no less than three other recordings in the Cartlanna of Joe singing this song.
The first of these, in Irish, was recorded by Joan Rabinowitz in Seattle, Washington, United States of America, for a radio programme which is believed to have been broadcast on 10th October 1984; some five months after Joe’s death.
The second, in English, was also recorded by Rabinowitz on 10th June the previous year, at the Seabold Community Center, Bainbridge Island, Washington, United States of America.
And the third, again in English, was recorded by Jill Linzee at University of Washington, United States of America, at some point between 1982 and 1984.
Also, see further discussion, below.
Johnny is the Fairest Man
Sonia Tamar Seeman recorded Joe singing this at some point during 1983. This is significant in that Joe died on May Day 1984, meaning that the recording was made toward the end of his life.
On this evening at the Tradition Club, Joe introduced the song as The Verdant Braes of Skreen. As Karl Partridge points out, [it] was collected by Cecil Sharp in the 1800s and goes by various names. As is to be expected with a song of this antiquity, considerable lyrical variety has also evolved: see discussion at Mudcat and Mainly Norfolk.
Seven Drunken Nights
Joe sang this at a workshop in University of Washington on 1st March 1978. It was collected by Esther Warkov.
The Cartlanna also include a recording of Joe singing Peigín is Peadar, which has textual similarities to Seven Drunken Nights.
The Seven Irishmen
Séamas Ennis recorded Joe singing this in 1942.
So as to Joe’s claim at The Tradition Club that he’d never sung it before, it may be that in the thirty-one year interim he really hadn’t and that he’d genuinely forgotten that there was a time when he had. (After all, how many wide-repertoire singers in 2018 are likely to still remember exactly what songs they did and didn’t sing in 1987?) Or it might an example of stagecraft; of his occasional tendency to ‘embellish’ the truth if he thinks it’ll add to the audience’s enjoyment.
Casadh an tSúgáin
Discussed and sung for an unknown collector in November 1983.
Sung at a concert and recorded by Gerald Shannon. Location and date unknown.
Boys From Home
Joe sang this for Lucy Simpson, and discussed its place in the repertoire of Carna, his native area, in June 1980.
Cúnnla
(Also spelt Connla, Cónnla, ⁊ɼl…)
This version was recorded at the Sydney Opera House by Warren Fahy in 1981.
And this one, part of the Máire Mhic Fhinn Collection, was recorded by Liam Clancy. Recording location and date unknown.

One Morning in June, Casadh an tSúgáin, Cúnnla and Peigín is Peadar can be found on the album Traditional Irish Songs in Gaelic and English (Topic Records Ltd., 1963; 12T91). The album is available in iTunes.

An Buinneán Buí

For readers not familiar with the song, the buinneán buí (also bonnán buí) is a species of bird. However, there’s scope for confusion as to what that species actually is. The name ‘yellow bittern’ derives from the translation into English of buinneán buí. It was used by Joe himself when he was speaking English and continues to have currency in general usage within Ireland. However, the correct formal English name for this bird is ‘Bittern’ or (in the recently revised world list of bird names) ‘Eurasian Bittern’. Since there are Joe Heaney and sean-nós fans elsewhere in the world, it may do no harm to give a brief clarification.

Gordon d’Arcy’s book, Ireland’s Lost Birds (Four Courts Press, 2000), tells us that the buinneán buí was once common in Ireland — certainly during the time of Cathal Buí Mac Ghiolla Ghunna, the author of the poem which lends the song its lyrics — but had almost entirely disappeared from there by the start of the twentieth century. (D’Arcy also points out that the bird is very susceptible to cold winters and actually references the poem in this regard.)

The confusion arises from sources that state that the ‘yellow bittern’ is only found in the far-east. Fortunately, ornithology is one of Karl Partridge’s professional specialities, so we asked him to explain the apparent contradiction:

The Bittern or Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris is a member of the Heron, Stork and Ibis group of birds (Order: Ciconiiformes). These are large or medium sized wading birds with long legs, neck and bill. The Bittern breeds only in extensive Phragmites reedbeds. It is buff-brown — or ginger-brown from a distance — which is probably why in Irish it was called the ‘Yellow Bittern’… (The Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis is, in fact, a different species found in Asia and the Indian sub-continent.)

David Cabot (1999). Ireland, a Natural History. New Naturalist Series. HarperCollins. States that …the great fen reed beds in the Central Plain and elsewhere in Ireland once echoed the booming bittern, extinct as a breeding species since the 1840s. Drainage and shooting were the main reasons for its extinction. Today it occurs only as a scarce vagrant, mostly in winter months, but there is hope that with the current expansion of the British population it will someday recolonise Ireland.

The bittern is included in a List of Irish Names of Birds prepared by Seán Mac Giollarnáth, M.R.I.A included in Kennedy, P.G., Ruttledge R.F. and Scroope C.F. 1954. The Birds of Ireland. Oliver and Boyd.

The entry reads: Bittern, Common: Bunnán buidhe, bunnán léana. [These spellings pre-date the standardisation of the late 1940s].

Digital restoration

The recording, as presented here in the Cartlanna, has undergone a moderate digital restoration in which each track was separated-out and cleaned-up individually; just enough to improve listenability but without removing the ‘recorded live’ atmosphere and feel.

  • Analogue tape hiss was attenuated.
  • The volume was raised.
  • Minor adjustments were made to the base and treble.
  • Sections of ambient sound between the actual songs and tunes were removed.
  • As were some of the more obtrusive clicks and rumbles of the kind that are usually found in these sorts of recordings.
    • (The removal of these sections is the reason Karl’s original time codes don’t apply to the digitised version.)
  • A gap in one of the stereo channels on Side B of the tape was filled.

To preserve authenticity, sundry shushes have been left exactly where they were!

The Tradition Club

Interested readers can find further information on The Tradition Club on the Web. The Tradition Club of Dublin website and Facebook page, and this article at An Góilín may be good starting points.

Meanwhile in 1973

Other events on, near or around the Irish traditional music scene:

  • Willie Clancy died on 24th January.
  • Dónal Joseph O’Sullivan died on 15th April.
  • The Dubliners released Plain and Simple. (Side 2, track 4: Skibbereen.)
  • Horslips released The Táin.
  • Planxty released Planxty.
  • Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann took place in Listowel.
  • The Sydney Opera House was opened. (Joe performed there three years later)
  • Thin Lizzy got to number one with Whiskey in the Jar.
  • And Little Jimmy Ozmond followed them with Long Haired Lover from Liverpool

Elsewhere:

  • Éamon de Valera left the office of President of Ireland.
  • Erskine Childers was elected to succeed him.
  • Liam Cosgrave became Taoiseach.
  • 27,000 Irish households had a colour TV.
  • Cork brought home Sam.
  • Limerick brought home Liam.
    • Which, by another 45 year co-incidence, they didn’t do again until 2018!
  • Ireland joined the Common Market.
  • And so did the United Kingdom

Seachrán Chearbhaill (Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh)

Play recording: Seachrán Chearbhaill (Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Seachrán Chearbhaill (Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): other people: song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Seán Ó Guairim.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 2002.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Maínis, Carna, Contae na Gaillimhe, Éire.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Information on this recording to follow.

Sagart agus na Véarsaí, An (Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh)

Play recording: Sagart agus na Véarsaí, An (Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Sagart agus na Véarsaí, An (Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): other people: story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Seán Ó Guairim.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 2002.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Maínis, Carna, Contae na Gaillimhe, Éire.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Information on this recording to follow.

Neainsín Bhán (Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh)

Play recording: Neainsín Bhán (Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Neainsín Bhán (Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): other people: song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Seán Ó Guairim.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 2002.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Maínis, Carna, Contae na Gaillimhe, Éire.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

A Neainsín bhán, cé ‘s ansa leat — fear eile ná mé féin?
‘S a Neainsín a dtug mé fancy dhuit i dtosach ar mhná an tsaoil
Mar shíl mé go mba bhreátha thú ná bean ar bith sa saol
Ach smid chainte ná raibh i gceann an té nach molfadh leatsa mé.

‘S ar theacht na Nollag nach dona í m’obair ag síor-chur ins an gcré
Mar bheadh seabhcán ar bharr sceiche nó barr glas na sú craobh
Ó mo mhallacht go deo anois a thabhairfainnse d’aon fhear beo sa saol
A thógfadh orm bheith ag cogarnach le stóirín geal mo chléibh.

‘S dá mbeadh heels agus tops faoi mo bhróga a’m agus cóir a bheith ar na boinn
Ó rachainn chuile Dhomhnach san áit a mbíonn a’ spraoi
Mar ní thógfadh an t-aos óg orm gach cor dá gcuirfinn díom
‘S dá mbeadh mo stór ar cheann an stóil níorbh fhada liom an oíche.

‘Gus a téagairín ní féidir dhuit gan duine eicínt a fháil
A nífidh do chuid éadaigh nó a fhuinfidh do chuid aráin
Ach a phéarla atá breá gléigeal de chích, de chois ‘s de láimh
‘S é mo léan gan mé faoi shléibhte leat ‘s cead éad ag feara Fáil.

Translation

Fair Nancy, who would you prefer — another man or myself?
Nancy, I fancy you above all other women in the world.
I thought you were the handsomest of any woman on earth
And let no one speak who wouldn’t recommend me to you.

Coming up to Christmas I’m working hard, planting in the ground
Like a hawk on the top of a bush, or the green top of the raspberry.
My curse be on any living man who would blame me
For whispering with the bright treasure of my heart!

If my shoes had heels and tops and if the soles were in good shape
I would go out every Sunday to the place where there was fun to be had
For the young people wouldn’t hold it against me if I danced a few steps
And if my darling were at the end of the bench the night wouldn’t seem long.

My dearest, you can’t go without somebody
Who will do your washing and knead your bread
But my pearl, brightest and fairest of breast, of foot, of hand
I’m sorry I’m not off in the hills with you and let the men of Ireland be envious!

Bríd Thomáis Mhurchú (Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh)

Play recording: Bríd Thomáis Mhurchú (Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Bríd Thomáis Mhurchú (Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): other people: song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Seán Ó Guairim.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 2002.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Maínis, Carna, Contae na Gaillimhe, Éire.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

‘S a Bhrídeach na gcarad, tuig feasta nach súgradh é
Ó thug mo chroí gean duit, ar mhalrait ná diúltaigh mé
Má shíl tú mé a mhealladh le bladar deas ciúin do bhéil
‘S gur thug mise gean duit seachas a bhfacas de mhná óga an tsaoil…

Translation

My dear little Bridget, please understand that I’m not fooling:
since my heart bestowed love on you, please don’t change your mind and refuse me.
You thought you’d seduce me with the sweet soft nothings of your mouth,
so that I fell in love with you above any other young woman I’d ever seen…

Notes

In recent years this song has become a favourite throughout Conamara, and predictably turns up at the annual Oireachtas competition when singers are asked for an amhrán sciopaí (‘a fast song’).

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), 75–77; also an tAth. Tomás Ó Ceallaigh, Ceol na n-Oileán (Dublin, 1931), 38–9 and notes.

Sagairtín, An (Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh)

Play recording: Sagairtín, An (Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Sagairtín, An (Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): other people: song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Seosamh Ó Clochartaigh.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Seán Ó Guairim.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 2002.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Maínis, Carna, Contae na Gaillimhe, Éire.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Tá an oíche dorcha is tá sí fuar
Is tá sí ag goilliúint ar mo chroí go crua
Ní thiocfad abhaile, ‘s ní dhéanfaidh mé cuairt
Nó go bhfeice mé mo stóirín atá ina luí cois cuain.
Is deas an sagairtín é stór mo chroí
Tá an pobal beannaithe a ngabhann sé thríd
Tá séala ó Mhuire air is branda ó Chríost
Is tá sé ag tarraingt ar na coláistí.

Muise éist, a Bhideoigín, is ná goil deoir
Ní dhuit a rugadh mé ná d’aon bhean beo
Baistfidh mé do leanbh le cúnamh Dé
Dá mbeadh breith ar m’aiféala a’m ba leat mé féin.

Tá fear agus fiche acu in aon gheaing amháin
Is é an fear is deise mo mhíle grá
Tá cúilín catach air is baibín bán
Is é an rós sa ngairdín é dá mb’fhéidir é a fháil.

Is fuair mé leagan thar bharr an chlaí
Mura bhfuil dochar ann nár théighe sé i m’aghaidh
Níor lúb mé an t-aiteann ‘s níor leag mé an féar
Ach ‘na dhiaidh sin cuireadh mé ó bhéal go béal.

Is chuaigh mé aréir go dtí an doras úd thall
Lig mé fead ar mo mhíle gra
Is éard ‘dúirt a maimín nach raibh sí ann
Ach go raibh sí i dtaisce i gcónra chláir.

Muise éist, a Bhideoigín, is ná goil deoir.
Ní dhuit a rugadh mé ná d’aon bhean beo.
Baistfidh mé do leanbh le cúnamh De
Dá mbeadh breith ar m’aiféala a’m ba leat mé féin.

Translation

The night is dark, it is wet and cold, and it grieves my heart dreadfully;
I won’t come home, or pay any visits, until I’ve seen my love who lies at the harbour’s edge
My love is a kind little priest, and the people among whom he moves are blessed; he bears the stole of Mary and the mark of Christ, and he is attending the college.

Listen, little Bridget, and don’t weep; I wasn’t born for you, or for any woman.
With God’s help, I’ll baptise your baby; and if I could undo the past, I would be yours
There are twenty-one men in a single group; the fairest of them is my love. The back of his head is curly, and a fair forelock; he is a rose in the garden — if only I could get him.

I was knocked down over the top of the fence;
if there’s no harm in it, let it not be held against me;
I didn’t trample the bracken nor flatten the grass
But still and all I’m food for gossips.

I went last night to that door yonder;
I whistled for my thousands loves.
But her mother told me that she wasn’t there,
that she was sealed up in her coffin.

Listen, little Bridget, and don’t weep;
I wasn’t born for you, or for any woman.
With God’s help, I’ll baptise your baby;
and if I could undo the past, I would be yours.

Notes

Because of its subject-matter — a priest and a young woman in love with each other, and the young woman pregnant — this song has in the past been the focus of some taboos. As Liam Mac Con Iomaire reports, ‘bhí scáth roimh An Sagairtín agus cheap daoine go raibh sí mí-ádhúil é a chasadh, go háirithe san oíche. Choisc an Máistir ar na gasúir é a rá i Scoil Ros a’ Mhíl nuair a bhí mé féin ag dul ar scoil ansin…’ (‘There was a shadow over An Sagairtín and people thought it was unlucky to sing it, particularly at night. The schoolmaster at the school in Ros a’ Mhíl that I attended forbade the children to sing it…‘). See Liam Mac Con Iomaire, ‘Deora Aille’, in Foinn agus Fonnadóirí, Léachtaí Cholm Cille XXIX (1999), 16.

These Archives include a recording of An Sagairtín sung by Bríd Ní Mhaoilchiaráin, a grand-niece of Joe Heaney’s, who lives in the parish of Carna. Bríd won Corn Uí Riada, the highest award given for traditional singing in Irish, at the Oireachtas in 2002 and again in 2015. She can also be seen singing a couple of stanzas on You Tube, in a recording made by TG4, the Irish-language television broadcaster.

A commercial recording by Joe of this song, Sraith 2: Ó mo dhúchas (Gael Linn LP CÉF 051 / CEFCD 191-2), 1976, is available; reissued 2007.

Nósanna Nollag (Michael Tom Mhacaigh Mac an Iomaire)

Play recording: Nósanna Nollag (Michael Tom Mhacaigh Mac an Iomaire)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Nósanna Nollag (Michael Tom Mhacaigh Mac an Iomaire).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): unavailable.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): other people: lore.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Michael Tom Mhacaigh Mac an Iomaire.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): unavailable.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): unavailable.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Information on this recording to follow.

Culaith Gaisce (Beairtle Ó Conghaile)

Play recording: Culaith Gaisce (Beairtle Ó Conghaile)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Culaith Gaisce (Beairtle Ó Conghaile).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): The Raidió Teilifís Éireann Archive.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): other people: story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Beairtle Ó Conghaile.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Ian Lee.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Carna, Contae na Gaillimhe, Éire.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): unavailable.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

The culaith gaisce (‘battledress’) is stylistic technique in traditional Irish-language storytelling. An example is presented in this audio clip.

Further information on this recording to follow.

Amhrán Mháire Ní Chlochartaigh (Beairtle Ó Conghaile)

Play recording: Amhrán Mháire Ní Chlochartaigh (Beairtle Ó Conghaile)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Amhrán Mháire Ní Chlochartaigh (Beairtle Ó Conghaile).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): unavailable.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): other people: song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Beairtle Ó Conghaile.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): unavailable.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): unavailable.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Information on this recording to follow.

Amhrán Bréagach, An t- (Beairtle Ó Conghaile)

Play recording: Amhrán Bréagach, An t- (Beairtle Ó Conghaile)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Amhrán Bréagach, An t- (Beairtle Ó Conghaile).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): The Raidió Teilifís Éireann Archive.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): other people: song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Beairtle Ó Conghaile.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Ian Lee.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Carna, Contae na Gaillimhe, Éire.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): unavailable.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Information on this recording to follow.

Sagairtín, An (Bríd Ní Mhaoilchiaráin)

Play recording: Sagairtín, An (Bríd Ní Mhaoilchiaráin)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Sagairtín, An (Bríd Ní Mhaoilchiaráin).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): none.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): other people: song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Bríd Ní Mhaoilchiaráin.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Mícheál Ó Lochlainn.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 10/03/2012.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Trá Mhaigh Rois, Carna, Contae na Gaillimhe, Éire.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): Celtic Studies field course.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): none.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh.

Carna native and Corn Uí Riada winner Bríd Ní Mhaoilchiaráin is very much a part of the ongoing cultural tradition which gave us Joe Heaney. Her mother, Béib, was the daughter of Joe’s brother, making Bríd Joe Heaney’s grand-neice.

in this video, Bríd gives a beautiful rendition of the song, An Sagairtín. The recording was made on Trá Mhaigh Rois, the beach which is adjacent to Maigh Ros graveyard, where Joe is buried.

This was an impromptu recording. The sound quality is variable.

Cnuasach Joe Éinniú (Mícheál Ó Cuaig)

Play recording: Cnuasach Joe Éinniú (Mícheál Ó Cuaig)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Cnuasach Joe Éinniú (Mícheál Ó Cuaig).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): none.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): other people: interview.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Mícheál Ó Cuaig.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Mícheál Ó Lochlainn.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 10/03/2012.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Trá Mhaigh Rois, Carna, Contae na Gaillimhe, Éire.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): none.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh.

 

Interview in Irish; English transcription available on this page. This was an impromptu recording; the sound quality is variable.

Transcriptions prepared by Bríd Ní Ghríofa, Muigh-Inis.

Cartlann Joe Éinniú, an bealach a dtáinig sé go Carna, tá sé an‑spéisiúil ar bhealach is dócha. Lá breá samhraidh a bhí ann agus tháinig an fear seo aníos ón mbóthar agam. Fámaire; fear a bhí ag rothaíocht thart, agus, bríste gearr air agus T‑léine… Ar aon nós, bhí sé théis teacht as an gCeathrú Rua agus an fáth a dtáinig sé agamsa ná, tráthúil go leor, chas sé le mo dheartháir Seosamh, chas sé leis déarfainn i dTigh Khitt i nDoire an Fhéich, tráthúil go leor agus is dócha go raibh sé ag caint leis faoi Seattle agus go mba as Seattle é fhéin agus is dócha gur labhair mo dheartháir faoi Joe agus mar sin agus go ndúirt sé go raibh a leithéid go rud ann agus an féile agus gur mise a bhí ag plé leis agus is dócha gur thug sé treoir dhó, déarfainn gur mar sin a tharla sé.  

Ach tháinig mo dhuine chomh fada liom ar aon nós, agus bhí muid ag caint, agus ag caint faoi Seattle agus ag caint faoi Joe. Ní raibh aon aithne mhór aige fhéin ar Joe chomh fada agus is cuimhin liom anois ach bhí a fhios aige go raibh sé i Seattle, go raibh a leithéid go dhuine ann agus is dócha go mb’fhéidir go mbíodh sé ag coirmeacha ceoil agus mar sin. Ach ar aon nós an chéad rud eile a dúirt sé liom, go raibh a fhios aige go raibh cartlann mhór de ábhar Joe san ollscoil; Ollscoil Washington ansin i Seattle. Nuair a chuala mise é sin, gheit mo chroí dháiríre, mar, cheap mé gur iontach an rud é seo. Agus mar a déarfá bhí go leor de ábhar Joe ar taifeadadh, ceirníní agus mar sin ach go raibh an t-ábhar seo ann. Dúirt mé liom féin an lá sin nuair a d’imigh mo dhuine agus, aisteach go leor, ní bhfuair mé uimhir nó ainm mo dhuine nó tada nuair a d’imigh sé, bhí sé imithe gan aon cheist a chur air.  

Ach chuaigh mé i dteagmháil leis an ollscoil agus tá a fhios agam gur Laurel Sercombe an t‑ainm a bhí ar an mbean a bhí os cionn na roinne sin agus bhí duine eile os a cionn sin aríst, déanaim dearmad ar an ainm ach ainm Seapánach a bhí ar an duine a bhí os cionn na hollscoil ar fad sílim. Ach ar aon nós rinne mé teagmháil leo agus san am sin ní raibh na e‑mails nó tada den rud sin ann, litreacha, scríofa le peann a bhí muid ag cur ag a chéile, bhuel, a bhí mise ag cur anonn ar aon nós; an biro a bhí ag obair agamsa i gcónaí. Ach ar aon nós bhí muid i dteagmháil lena chéile roinnt mhaith agus thóg sé tamall orm b’fhéidir é a chur ina luí oraibh, an dtuigeann tú, go raibh suim dháiríre agam sa rud. Is dócha go mbeadh imní oraibh go mb’fhéidir go mbeifeá á úsáid le haghaidh brabach a dhéanamh duit féin nó tada mar sin, ach nuair a bhí a fhios acu faoin bhFéile ansin agus mar sin, bhí siad sásta agus an-fhonn orthu cóip a thabhairt agus dúirt siad go dtógfadh sé tamall orthu. Bhí orthu fhéin, déarfainn, maoiniú a fháil le haghaidh é sin a dhéanamh. Ní déarfainn go raibh; ní raibh aon saibhreas mór sa roinn sin, Roinn an Cheoil Dhúchais, Ethnomusicology Department, ní dhéarfainn go raibh aon mhaoin mhór acu.  

Ach ar aon nós le scéal fada a dhéanamh gearr rinne siad na cóipeanna. Fuair mé tacaíocht… ó Údarás na Gaeltachta le haghaidh an costas a chlúdú. Is cuimhin liom lá a raibh mé ag múineadh, bhí mé ag múineadh i scoil i gCill Chiaráin ag an am agus an lá seo tháinig an bhean taobh amuigh, ceann de na couriers agus seod iad isteach iad leis na boscaí móra seo… níl a fhios agam, ceathar nó cúig de bhoscaí móra mílteacha, lán go clab le caisíní. Bhí sé cosúil le meall óir domsa dháiríre an bhfuil fhios agat? B’fhada liom go ngabhfainn abhaile go ngabhfainn ag éisteacht leo ach bhí sé chomh spéisiúil, chuirfeá do lámh isteach agus thógfá amach caisín amháin agus chuirfeá air é agus bheifeá ag éisteacht leis an bhfuil a fhios agat, agus b’fhéidir go mba éard a bhí ann Joe ag tabhairt rang do dhuine amháin b’fhéidir, one‑to‑one mar a déarfá. Ach bhí sé an‑spéisiúil a bheith ag éisteacht leis an bealach a raibh sé á dhéanamh agus bheadh sé ag caint go nádúrtha leis an duine. Bhfuel ansin, scaití, b’fhéidir gur ceolchoirm a bheadh ann…

Ach ar aon nós bhí siad agam is dócha ar feadh dhá bhliain sílim, b’fhéidir, sa teach, agus bhí imní orm sa deireadh… go ngabhfadh siad i ndonacht… An bhfuil fhios agat, nuair a choinneos tú caisíní mar sin, níl sé go maith iad a choinneáil ró‑fhada is dócha in áit amháin, chaithfeadh teocht áirid agus mar sin a bheith agat. Bhí mé ag cuimhniú i gcónaí go gcaithfeadh siad a dhul in áit eicínt, go mbeadh siad ag an bpobal ach ag an am, ní raibh aon ionad againn ag an am. Chuaigh mé ag caint leis an ollscoil, le Peadar Mac an Iomaire ag an am, agus thug muid cóip, thóg siadsan iad agus rinne siad cóip dhóibh. Bhí an chóip sin le fáil agus tá i gcónaí in Áras Mháirtín Uí Chadhain; sin é an chéad áit a raibh sé. Ag an am bhí teagmháil mhór déanta againn le hAlbain, le lucht na Gàidhlige. Bhí muid gaibhte anonn ar chúpla cuairt agus bhí aithne agam ar Roibéard Ó Maolalaigh, bhí sé ina cheann ar Roinn na Gaeilge thall ansin in Ollscoil Dhún Éideann agus bhí mé ag insint dó faoi agus dúirt sé gur bhreá leis cóip dhó, an bhfuil a fhios agat. Rinne muid cóip dó agus thug muid cóip dó sin agus chuaigh muid anonn leis.

Ach ansin tháinig an tÁras idir an dá linn agus bronnadh cóip ar an Áras agus tá sé san Áras ó shin agus, bail ó Dhia orthu… chuir siad sin caoi agus cóir orthu. Cuireadh córas nua digiteach isteach agus chuir siad slacht orthu agus tá siad ag obair fós air mar is eol dom, agus tá siad ag cuir leis agus ag cuir slacht i gcónaí air. Sin é go beacht… mar a déarfá stair an chartlainn; mar a tháinig sé.

Translation

It is very interesting, in many ways, the way in which the Joe Heaney Archive came to Carna. It was a fine summer’s day, and this man came up from the road to me. He was a tourist cycling around the area, wearing shorts and a T‑shirt… Anyways, he was after coming from An Cheathrú Rua. The reason he came to me was because he met my brother, Seosamh, in Tigh Khitt in Doire an Fhéich. They started talking about Seattle, because the man was from Seattle, and my brother started talking about Joe and he probably told him that there was such a thing as Féile Joe Éinniú and that I was involved with it, and so he probably gave him directions to me, I’d say that was how it happened.

The man made his way to me anyways, and we were talking about Seattle and about Joe. As far as I can remember he didn’t know Joe very well, but he knew of him. He knew that he was in Seattle and he probably used to attend concerts and so on. Anyway, the next thing he told me was that he knew that there was a large archive of Joe’s material in the University of Washington there in Seattle. When I heard this, my heard skipped a beat really, because, I thought this was brilliant. A lot of Joe’s material was already recorded on tapes, but there was this material now. And funnily enough, I didn’t get the man’s number or name, he was gone before I got the chance to ask.

I contacted the university and I know that Laurel Sercombe was the name of the woman who was head of the Department of Ethnomusicology and that there was someone above her again, I forget their name but it was a Japanese name, and I think that person might have been the President of the university. But I contacted them anyways, and at that time there was no such thing as e‑mails or anything like that; it was all hand-written letters; I had the biro working all the time. But anyway we were in contact with each other regularly. It took me quite a while to convince them that I had a genuine interest in the matter. I suppose they were wary that someone could use the material to make a profit for themselves, but when they learned about the existence of the Féile, they were happy and more than willing to give us a copy of Joe’s material but they said it would take some time. They probably had to secure some funding to make a copy and send it to us. I wouldn’t say that they had a lot of funding; the Ethnomusicology Department.

To make a long story short, they made the copies and they sent them over to us. I secured funding from Údarás na Gaeltachta to cover the cost of this. I remember one day when I was teaching, I was teaching in a school in Cill Chiaráin at the time, the couriers landed outside and in they came with these huge boxes, I don’t know if there was four or five of these enormous boxes, full to the brim with tapes. It was like gold to me, I couldn’t wait to go home and to listen to the tapes. It was so interesting. You’d put your hand in and you’d take out a tape and you’d play it and it could have been Joe giving a lesson to one person, a one‑on‑one for example. It was fascinating listening to the way he did it, he’d speak to the person in a relaxed, natural manner. Other times it could have been a concert on the tapes.

Anyways, I had the tapes in my house for about two years, and in the end I was worried that they might deteriorate. When you keep tapes like that, it’s not advisable to keep them in one place for too long. You need to keep them at a certain temperature and things like that. It was always in the back of my mind that these tapes would have to go somewhere, that the public should have access to this material, but at the time there was nowhere that they could be kept. I spoke to the university, to Peadar Mac an Iomaire at the time, and we gave them a copy. That copy was and still is available in Áras Mháirtín Uí Chadhain. That was the first place it went. At the time, we were in contact with Gàidhlig‑speaking communities in Scotland. We’d been to Scotland a few times and I knew Roibéard Ó Maolalaigh; he was the head of the Gàidhlig department in the University of Edinburgh. I told him about the material and he said he’d love a copy of it so we made a copy and brought it over to him.

In the meán time, the Áras was established and a copy of the material was presented to the Áras and it’s there since and, God bless them, they collated it. A new digital system was set up and they sorted out the material and they are still working on it. As far as I know, they are continuously adding to it and updating it. That’s the history of the Joe Heaney Archives; how it came to be.

Notes

A copy of the Joe Heaney Collection has been kept in Áras Shorcha Ní Ghuairim, on behalf of the people of Carna, for several years. Much of the material in these online Archives was extracted from this copy.

It was Mícheál Ó Cuaig, organiser of Féile Chomórtha Joe Éinniú for many years, who contacted the Department of Ethnomusicology in the University of Washington and persuaded them to present this copy to Joe’s own community.

In this interview, Mícheál tells us how he learned of the Collection’s existence and how he arranged for a copy to be brought home.

Amhráin Bhéarla i gCeantar Charna (Mícheál Ó Cuaig)

Play recording: Amhráin Bhéarla i gCeantar Charna (Mícheál Ó Cuaig)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Amhráin Bhéarla i gCeantar Charna (Mícheál Ó Cuaig).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): none.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): other people: interview.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Mícheál Ó Cuaig.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Mícheál Ó Lochlainn.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 10/11/2012.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Áras Shorcha Ní Ghuairim, Roisín na Mainiach, Contae na Gaillimhe, Éire.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): none.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh.

In this recording, Mícheál discusses the way in which English-language songs came into the repertoire of singers in the Carna area — during a period when many or most of them had little or no English.

Interview in Irish; English transcription available on this page. This was an impromptu recording; the sound quality is variable.

Transcriptions prepared by Bríd Ní Ghríofa, Muigh-Inis.

Ar ndóigh bhí réimse mór millteach amhrán ag Joe mar atá a fhios ag chuile dhuine. Bhí réimse an-leathan, repertoire an-leathan amhrán aige agus, is dócha, bhí sé ag cur leis i gcónaí. Bhíodh an taisteal ann. Chaith sé blianta in Albain agus i Sasana mar atá a fhios ag chuile dhuine agus ansin Meiriceá. Bhí sé ag cur leis i gcónaí, go háirithe na hamhráin Bhéarla is dócha, ach bhí go leor de na hamhráin aige sular fhág sé agus fiú amháin amhráin Bhéarla, bhí go leor acu sin aige freisin. Déarfadh sé fhéin go bhfuair sé go leor acu óna athair ach tá sé fíor go raibh na hamhráin Béarla acu sa gceantar seo agus bhí sé sin spéisiúil: cén chaoi ar tháinig na hamhráin Béarla isteach ann? Is dócha go mbíodh go leor anonn agus anall, daoine ag taisteal ó áit go háit ag an am, go dtagadh daoine isteach a thugadh amhrán. Ach bhí mé ag éisteacht le fear, fear a labhair mé ar ball air: Joe Pheadair Uí Laoi. D’airigh mé sean-taifeadadh dhó ar Raidió na Gaeltachta le gairid ag caint ar Joe, bhí sé ag cur síos ar na hábhair céanna, ar na hAirdeanna agus ar na hamhráin agus mar sin, agus bhí sé ag caint ar na hamhráin Bhéarla agus bhí sé ag rá, rud a chur sé fhéin an-suim ann ariamh, an bealach a raibh amhráin Bhéarla acu, ag an sean-dream, iad in ann iad a chasadh go breá do dhream nach raibh mórán Béarla acu a deir siad, nach raibh in ann é a labhairt ar chor ar bith, agus cheap sé gur rud an-suntasach a bhí ansin agus ar ndóigh ba ea. Ach tá a fhios agam féin go raibh cuid de na hamhráin a chasadh Joe, leithéidí The Banks of Sweet Dundee agus There Was a Lady in Her Father’s Garden… bhíodar sin ag muintir Mhic Dhonnacha i bhFínis. Bhí sé an-spéisiúil ann féin, go mbeadh amhráin Bhéarla acu, ach ar ndóigh, mar a deir tú, bhí amhráin Ghaeilge acu. Bhí siad an-fairsing.

Translation

Of course, Joe had a huge breadth of songs as everyone knows. He had a wide breadth, a wide repertoire of songs and, I suppose, he was always adding to it. He travelled a lot. He spent time in Scotland and in England as everyone knows and then America. He was always adding to his repertoire, particularly the English songs, but he had a lot of songs before he ever left home. He used to say that he got the English songs from his father but it’s true that they used to sing English songs in this area, and that was interesting: how did the songs come into the area? There were probably a lot of people coming in and out of the area, travelling from place to place, and these people probably brought English songs into the area. But I was listening to a man, who I mentioned earlier: Joe Pheadair Uí Laoi. I heard an old recording of him on Raidió na Gaeltachta recently, and he was talking about Joe, and discussing the same things; the Airdeanna [the Aird Thiar and Aird Thoir districts of Iorras Aithneach] and the songs and so on, and he was talking about the English songs and he was saying, something he always found very interesting, how they had English songs in their repertoires, the old generation, and how they were well able to sing the songs, for people who couldn’t speak the language at all. He thought this was remarkable and of course, it was. I know that some of the songs Joe used to sing; the likes of The Banks of Sweet Dundee and The Lady in Her Father’s Garden… the Mac Donnacha family in Fínis had them. That’s very interesting in itself, the way they had the English songs but of course, as you say they, did have the Irish songs. There was an abundance of them.

Úna Bhán

Play recording: Úna Bhán

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Úna Bhán.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 850403; 853910.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): CC 018.004.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish and English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore; song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Séamas Ennis.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 1942.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Carna, County Galway, Ireland.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Úna Bhán was called Úna McDermott, her name was, and she lived on an island in Lough Measc on the west coast of Mayo. Now she was in love with man called Thomas Costelloe — ‘Strong Thomas’ they called him, because he was very strong. And she fell in love with him at the fair in Ballinrobe — which is in Mayo, too — one day. They were wrestling. There was a big wrestler from England came to challenge all comers to wrestle. And nobody would fight him only ‘Strong Thomas’, they called him — he was only eighteen at the time.

And the way they used to wrestle that time: they made a circle — about eight feet wide on the ground, and the two men stood inside it, and they tied them round with belts. And then they asked them to start fighting, or wrestling. So they tied the Englishman to Thomas, and then they told them to start wrestling, and the Englishman didn’t move. And the referee told them again, and the Englishman didn’t move, and they went and took off the belts, and the Englishman fell down dead. His back was broken on the first pull from Thomas. Úna was there with her father, she fell for him. She went home —

LS: Is this all in the song?

JH: No, this is the story leading up to the song.

LS: Oh. Is this true?

JH: This is true. This is absolutely true.

LS: When did [inaudible]?

JH: Eighteenth century. The latter part of the eighteenth century.

They went home — the father and Úna. Her mother was dead. And Úna went on her bed, and fell sick. The doctor was called. Her father was a well-to-do man, and the doctor told the father he didn’t know what was wrong with her. There was nothing wrong with her, he said, as far as medical science could cure. He said there was something else wrong with her. She was pining away.

And finally, the woman who was looking after her told her father that she was pining for Thomas Costelloe. And the father hated him, you see, because he was poor. So finally, to satisfy the daughter, he sent for him. And the minute he came, that very same day, she got out of bed, and started living a normal life, eating normally. And he stayed for a week, and she was as good as ever. And then the father told him he’d have to go. “She’s well now, you go your way and stay away — don’t come back any more.— And he said — and Úna was listening — “If I go away”, he said, “if I leave this house, if I cross that river — the Danóg River”, he said, “if I cross that, I’m not turning back. But if you call me before I cross it, I’ll turn — I’ll come back”.

So he stayed for three hours, they say, he stayed on the bank of the river — he wouldn’t cross it. And no word came from the house. And he crossed the river, eventually; and the minute he crossed the river, the woman who was looking after Úna came down, calling him back. “Come back!” she said. “Úna wants you and her father wants you.” He said, “I won’t break my word. I won’t come back”.

So he went home, broken-hearted. And she died three weeks afterwards. And she was buried on an island in Lough Measc. And every night he swam the lake, the water, to sing on her grave, lament on her grave. And the third night [inaudible] she got up and gave him a slap on the cheek, and said, “When you could have saved me, you didn’t. Now go home, and live your miserable life to yourself”. So he went home, and six months after, he was dead, too; and he was buried beside her on Lough Measc.

LS: So what does the song say?

JH: The song — the praise he had, you know. And if she heeded him, instead of heeding her father, you know — if she ran away with him when he asked her, instead of trying to satisfy her father and at the same time ruining his and her own life, you know. She was oppressed [?] these things. He compared her to the rose in the garden, you know, and he compared her to a little flower trying to get out of the weeds and… live a life of his own. And he said, “It’s an awful way you’re lying there, Úna. You’re lying there”, he said, “amidst thousands of corpses. But if I knew that would happen to you, I would have turned back. I wouldn’t have — I’d have broken my word and come back to you”.

A Úna Bháin, is gránna an luí sin ort
I do leaba chaol chláir i measc na dtáinte corp
Féach, a mhná, cé b’fhearr ná an t-ochón sin
Aon ghlaoch amháin ‘gabháil Áth na Donóige.

A Úna Bháin, ba rós i ngairdín thú
Ba choinnleoir óir ‘gabháil romhan sa mbóthar thú
Ba cheiliúr is ba cheolmhar ag gabháil an bhealaigh seo thú
Mo léan dóite níor pósadh le do ghrá geal thú.

Dá mbeadh píopa fada cailce a’m is tobac a bheith ann
Tharraingeoinn amach é is chaithfinn de mo sháith
‘Maith a d’inseoinn-se dhaoibhse cé gcónaíonn Úna Bhán
I gCill Bhríde i gcrích Mha Chill, mo chreach is mo chrá.

Tá an sneachta seo ar an lár, tá sé dearg le fuil
Ach samhail mo ghrá ní fhaca mé in áit ar bith
Féachaidh-se a mhná, cé b’fhearr ná an t-ochón sin
Aon ghlaoch amháin ‘ghabháil Áth na Donóige.

What he said there, “Wouldn’t it be better, now, to give me one call crossing the Danóg River, than to be crying forever [and for] somebody to die because of it?”. Now, that’s the old way1.

Translation

Fair Úna, that’s an awful place you’re lying,
in your narrow wooden bed among a multitude of corpses.
Look, you women, wouldn’t one shout [to me] crossing the Danóg ford
be better than all that lamentation?

Fair Úna, you were a rose in the garden;
you were a golden candlestick going before me in the road;
you were a celebration — you were song and music going along the way;
my fierce sorrow that you were not married to your true love.

If I had a long clay pipe and tobacco in it,
I would pull it out and smoke my fill;
it’s well I would tell you where fair Úna lives
In Kilbride on the border of Machill, my destruction and desolation.

The snow is on the ground, it is red with blood
But the likes of my love I see nowhere.
Look, you women, wouldn’t one shout [to me] crossing the Danóg ford
be better than all that lamentation?

Notes

1. By ‘the old way’, Joe means the way they sang the song at home. He also occasionally sang what he called ‘the popular version’, by which he meant the version printed in songbooks and taught in schools. There were several songs of which he had two versions — Róisín Dubh, Casadh an tSúgáin, An Sail Óg Rua and Bean Dubh an Ghleanna come to mind — and he was interested in this variability, sometimes asking audiences to let him know which version they preferred.

Úna Bhán appears on four of Joe’s commercially-available recordings, and particularly useful sleeve-notes are provided with the re-issued double CD of his Gael-Linn recordings, Seosamh Ó hÉanaí: Ó mo dhúchas / From my tradition (CEFCD 191). Séamas Ennis transcribed Úna Bhán from Joe’s singing for the Irish Folklore Commission in 1942, at which time Joe told him that he had learned it from Seán Choilm Mac Donnchadha, whose house stood next door to the Heaneys’ in Áird Thoir; see CBÉ manuscript 1280: 327-8. In his comprehensive review of the double CD The Road from Conamara, the late Tom Munnelly observes that “because of the sweep of its air, [Úna Bhán] is a difficult song to sing and has suffered greatly from singers who have abandoned the delicate text in order to impress listeners with operatic performance”. Joe is at his best here and brings out every nuance of the lament with a sensitivity and artistry seldom heard.

For additional verses and discussion, see an tAth. Tomás Ó Ceallaigh, Ceol na n-Oileán (Dublin, 1931), 15-16 and notes; also a book-length study by M. F. Ó Conchúir, Úna Bhán (Indreabhán, 1994).

Taibhse, the Púca and Other Spirits, The (2)

Taibhse, the Púca and Other Spirits, The (2)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Taibhse, the Púca and Other Spirits, The (2).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840422.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Joan Rabinowitz.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): probably 19/10/1984.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): KRAB Radio.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Joe describes how threats of the púca were potent enough to ensure that children were in the house on time and didn’t go out late at night.

Notwithstanding many accounts to be found in Irish fiction, the cry of the bean sí can only be heard by one person at a time. Only certain families have connection to a bean sí, and you have to be a member of the family in order to hear the cry.

Similarly, there is only one leprachaun in Ireland, and he gets two years younger every year. That’s why he has a pot of gold, because he has no competition making shoes. Joe tells of a man whose family owned a pair of boots made by a leprachaun, which can be used only by a son of the family; they can be used for only one hour a year, on Hallowe’n, and allow the wearer to teleport himself from place to place, by wishing.

Notes

Elements of fairy lore appear in a number of other items in Joe’s repertoire.

Taibhse, the Púca and Other Spirits, The (1)

Taibhse, the Púca and Other Spirits, The (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Taibhse, the Púca and Other Spirits, The (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840121.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 31/01/1984.
  • 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.

Joe describes the taibhse as a faceless person with two balls of fire coming out of his mouth, and two balls of fire coming out of his ears. The only way he can be killed is with a black-handled knife1, which cannot be withdrawn once you’ve stabbed him, or you’ll never be able to kill him again.

The púca is a ‘quare fellow’ who is out to destroy anything you do. He wants to attack your cattle or ruin your crops. He can take any form — a chair, even a cup of tea. To combat his efforts, people put cinders from the fire into the crops at certain times of year — at the end of June and at Hallowe’en — to protect them from the púca.

Also at Hallowe’en, children take a cabbage or a turnip from a neighbour’s field — not from their own — and throw them against the doors of their neighbours to remind them that the púca is about and they should take measures against him. The púca is also associated with the Death Coach, another hazard likely to manifest itself on Hallowe’en.

Notes

1. For a story and song featuring the use of a black-handled knife, see Children Stolen by Fairies and Tháinig Bean Cois Leasa.

2. To this day, the midsummer festival of Saint John’s Eve, on the 23rd of June, is an occasion for bonfires in many parts of Ireland — not least in the west. The original editor of these archives recalled visiting a lady in Conamara on that date in 1977 or ’78. She had a small fire lit in front of her house and was walking in a circle round the fire with her rosary beads in her hand, saying some prayers. Subsequently, she took some of the embers of the fire back into the house, where she used them to kindle the fire. She also rubbed soot from the fire above the doorway to the scioból (shed; in this case a cowshed) as protection for her cows.

Elements of fairy lore appear in a number of other items in Joe’s repertoire.

Storytelling Technique (2)

Play recording: Storytelling Technique (2)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Storytelling Technique (2).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 850114.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): storytelling style.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): James Cowdery.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): between 1979 and 1981.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Joe discusses various aspects of storytelling technique; the nature of various audiences (comparing and contrasting Irish and American ones).

The embellishment applied to the story (cultachaí gaisce, or ‘battle dress’ in English; an essential part of traditional Irish language storytelling).

Joe then tells, in Irish and in English, the beginning of the story King of Ireland’s Son and the Raven. Finally, some remarks about storytelling style: the storyteller should not dramatise or indulge in moving his hands around, but should just tell it.

Joe says that you can always tell when somebody has got a story out of a book, because it’s always the same from one telling to another. He believes that variability is key to telling a good story, just as it is in singing a song. It should never be the same from one telling to another.

Storytelling Technique (1)

Play recording: Storytelling Technique (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Storytelling Technique (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 841402.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): storytelling style.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Joan Rabinowitz.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 07/04/1982.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): radio programme (KRAB).
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Fredric Lieberman.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Joe discusses various aspects of storytelling technique; also what does and does not constitute worthy material to put in a story.

Joe’s mother’s uncle, Big Pat Mulkerrin, Pat Mór Mhichil Shéamais, was a very highly-regarded storyteller who died very young. The stories he had, nobody else had.

The right way to tell a story is to tell it; not to act it out, not to change your voice and dramatize it. From this, Joe leads into an abbreviated telling of the beginning of The King of Ireland’s Son and the Raven.

Stories About Cú Chulainn

Play recording: Stories About Cú Chulainn

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Stories About Cú Chulainn.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840113; 840120.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story.
  • 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: The Ulster Cycle

Joe told a number of stories from the Ulster Cycle, a group of stories recorded in Old Irish in manuscripts dating from the twelfth century A.D., and which are believed to reflect customs and beliefs from around the third century B.C. Most of these stories involve Cú Chulainn, the legendary hero and principal warrior serving Conchubhair, chieftain of what Joe calls the ‘Red Branch knights’, whose seat was at Emain Macha, near Armagh. His territory included the Cooley peninsula in County Louth, which was home to the Ulstermen’s prize bull, the Donn Cuailnge.

The Naming of Cú Chulainn

At the age of eleven or twelve, Cú Chulainn — whose name at that point is Sétanta — goes with his uncle, Fergus Mac Róich and the Red Branch Knights to visit Culann, armourer to the Red Branch. When the knights have arrived and are gathered around the table, Culann asks if anyone else is coming, and Fergus says not; he forgets that Sétanta has stopped on their way to play a game of hurling, and has promised to come along after them.

Culann’s guard-dog — a fearsome hound as big as a horse, high as a wall, whose baying shakes half of Ireland — is loosed into the grounds. The gathered men hear the hound baying, and rush out expecting to see Sétanta lying dead. But the boy has instead killed the hound by ramming his hurling ball down the creature’s throat.

Culann is devastated by the loss of his hound, but Sétanta promises to take its place and ensure the safety of Culann’s property. It’s for this reason that Sétanta is given the name ‘Cú Chulainn’ — the Hound of Culann.

Queen Maedhbh and the Bulls

Maedhbh, Queen of Connacht, has an argument with her husband about which of them is the wealthier. On every point they appear to be equals in riches, until her husband boasts that he has a magnificent bull that has no equal among Maedhbh’s herds. Maedhbh enquires of some advisers, who tell her that her husband is quite right about this. At the same time, they tell her about a brown bull, at Cuailnge in Ulster, that is every bit as good as the bull owned by her husband.

Maedhbh sends men to Ulster to see if Cuailnge1 will part with the bull or, failing that, if he will lend it to her for a few weeks in hopes that it will sire an equally good bull among her cows. After entertaining Maedhbh’s men lavishly, Cuailnge agrees to lend the bull to Maedhbh. But later that night, Cuailne overhears Maedhbh’s men, well lubricated with drink, boasting that if Cuailnge had not been willing to lend the bull, they would have taken it away by force. Hearing this, Cuailnge rescinds his offer, and the terms of the coming battle are set.

Queen Maedhbh declares war on the men of Ulster — a war that rages for seven years and kills thousands. Finally the battle comes down to a contest between the bulls themselves and lasts for nine months. When the brown bull emerges victorious, he is so fed up that he kills himself.

Cú Chulainn and Ferdia

Ferdia is Queen Maedhbh’s ace-in-the-hole, a young man who had received training from the same masters that had trained Cú Chulainn himself. The two are like brothers; and even though they are on opposing sides, they take the care to dress each other’s wounds in the evening, after fighting each other during the day. But in the end, after a terrific combat, Cú Chulainn kills Ferdia.

Cú Chulainn Kills His Own Son2

Cú Chulainn marries a woman from Scotland and they have a son. But when Cú Chulainn wants to leave Scotland and return to Ireland, his wife is very angry. She raises their son to hate his father, and when he is old enough she sends him to Ireland to kill Cú Chulainn. When he arrives in Ireland, he picks a fight with Cú Chulainn, who only becomes aware that the boy is his son when, as the son lies dying from his wounds, he shows his father a ring that his mother has given him, that was given to her by Cú Chulainn when they got married.

Notes

1. Cuailnge [In English, Cooley] is the name of a peninsula in County Louth, where the brown bull is said to have lived. Joe, or the tradition from which he learned the story, confuses the place-name for that of the owner of the bull.

2. Unfortunately a tape must have run out as Joe got to this part of the story, so that we do not hear how Cú Chulainn came to be married. It is unsurprising that in this, as in other parts of the story, details of the story passed down through oral tradition differ significantly from those preserved in the earliest manuscript sources. What is remarkable, however, is that so many of the details have remained the same, despite the passage of years.

Seven Irishmen, The (Background)

Play recording: Seven Irishmen, The (Background)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Seven Irishmen, The (Background).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 850402.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 3094.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Jill Linzee.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): between 1982 and 1984.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): unavailable.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Now, these seven fellows were on a boat, immigrants, and they had nobody to meet them. I often think about the people coming to this country with nobody to meet them. How did they manage at all? Nobody wanted them at the time – that was the time when the notice was up, ‘No Irish Need Apply’ – any other nationality but Irish. How did they manage? I mean, people coming off an aeroplane now, somebody to meet them and a job – they’re doing great! They think they’re doing great!

What [about] the people [who have] nobody? But this Yankee was down on the quay, and he offered them a job in a brickyard. And the seven went with him. And he said, ‘First of all,’ he said, ‘we’ll have a drink.’ He took them into an alehouse, and he asked them- When he thought they were drunk, he asked ‘Sign this form.’ And they did.

They thought they was still getting the job, they didn’t read it. ‘Now,’ he said, ‘you’re in the army.’ And that’s when the fight started.

Notes

In this recording, Joe tells Jill Linzee about the background to the song The Seven Irishmen.

Seven Irishmen, The

Play recording: Seven Irishmen, The

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Seven Irishmen, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): CC 018.020.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Séamas Ennis.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 14th December 1942.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Carna, County Galway, Ireland.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Now you that loves the shamrock green, attend both young and old.
I feel it is my duty those lines for to unfold
Concerning seven emigrants who lately sailed away
To seek a better livelihood all in Americay.

On the fourteenth day of April our noble ship did sail
With fifty-five young Irish men, true sons of Gráinne Mhaol1
They landed safely in New York on the nineteenth day of May
To seek their friends and relatives all in Americay.

Some of them had their friends to meet as soon as they did land
With flowing bumpers drank a health to poor old Paddy’s Land
Those who had no friends to meet, their hearts were stout and bold
And by the cursed Yankees they would not be controlled.

Seven of those young Irish men were walking down George’s Street
When a Yankee officer [gentleman] they happened for to meet
He promised them employment in a brickyard near the town
There they were conducted; their names were taken down.

He brought them to an alehouse, and he called for drink go leor
I’m sure such entertainment they never had before
When he thought he had them drunk, those words to them did say,
‘You are ‘listed now as soldiers to defend Americay!’

They looked at one another; those words they then did say
‘It’s not to ‘list that we did come into Americay!
[But] To labour for our livelihood as we often did before
And we lately emigrated from the lovely shamrock shore.’

Twelve Yankees dressed as soldiers came in without delay
They said, ‘My lads, you must prepare with us to come away!
This is one of our officers – you cannot [now] refuse
So you need not strive nor yet resist – you can no longer wait.’

The Irish blood began to rise. One of those heroes said,
‘We have one only life to lose, therefore we’re not afraid!
Although we are from Ireland, this day we’ll let you see
We’ll die like sons of Gráinne Mhaol, and keep our liberty!’

The Irish boys got to their feet; it made the Yankees frown
As fast as they could strike a blow, they knocked the soldiers down
With bloody heads and broken bones they left them in crimson gore
And proved themselves Saint Patrick’s Day throughout Columba’s2 shore.

You’d swear it was a slaughterhouse in where those Yankees lay
The officer with all his men on carts were dragged away
With bloody heads and broken bones; they’ll mind it evermore
With a drop of sweet shillelagh they brought [that came] from Erin’s shore.

[A gentleman from Ohio had seen what they did do
He said, ‘I will protect you from this crimson[?] Yankee crew
I’ll bring you to Ohio where I have authority
And you shall be in my service while you are in this country’.]

Notes

1. Gráinne Mhaol (sometimes spelled ‘Granuaile’ in English) is Gráinne Ní Mháille, ‘the Pirate Queen’ and an historical figure of legendary importance, who harassed the English authorities at the time of Queen Elizabeth I. By referring to the seven young immigrants as true sons of Gráinne Mhaol, the song suggests that they are every bit as brave — and rebellious — as this legendary figure.

2. Presumably ‘Columbia’.

The Seven Irishmen was among a number of items collected from Joe by Séamas Ennis when he was collecting material for the Irish Folklore Commission. Joe told Ennis that he had learned it from his father (CBÉ 1280:586-88).

Listen to Joe’s discussion of the background to this song.

In the early 1980s, Jill Linzee made another recording of Joe singing this song. In that recording, he also explains the story behind it (See Seven Irishmen, The (Background)). Words given here in square brackets reflect what Joe sang on that occasion. The final stanza, which Joe sang for Jill, was also included in Séamas Ennis’s transcription of Joe’s 1942 performance.

Róisín Dubh (2)

Róisín Dubh (2)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Róisín Dubh (2).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): CC 018.005.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Séamas Ennis.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 1942.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Carna, County Galway, Ireland.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

A Róisín, ná bíodh brón ort ná cás anois
Tá do phárdún ón bPápa — ón Róimh uile
Tá na bráithre thar sáile le cabhrú linn
Ní cheilfear fíon Spáinneach ar mo Róisín Dubh.

Tá grá a’m i mo lár dhuit le bliain anois
Grá láidir, grá cásmhar, grá ciapaithe
Grá a d’fhag mé gan áras, gan lúth gan léim gan brí ná rith
Go brách brách beidh gean a’m ar mo Róisín Dubh.

Beidh an Éirne ina tonnta tréana, beidh an spéir ina fuil
Beidh na bráithre bána thar sáile le cabhrú linn
Beidh gach gleann sliabh ar fud Éireann is a móinte ar crith
Lá éigin sula n-éagfaidh mo Róisín Dubh.

Translation

Róisín, don’t be sorrowful or worried;
Your pardon is coming from the Pope and from all of Rome,
The Brothers from overseas to help us.
The Spanish wine won’t be hidden from my Róisín Dubh.

I’ve been deep in love you for the past year now,
Strong, pitiable, tormenting love,
Love that has left me homeless, without speed or leaping or energy or running.
For ever and ever I shall be in love with my Róisín Dubh.

Lough Erne will be stormy, the sky will be blood-red;
The White Brothers will come overseas to help us;
In every valley and hillside in Ireland the bogs will be trembling.
Someday before my Róisín Dubh dies.

Notes

As Joe points out on a number of occasions, Róisín Dubh is a metaphor for Ireland. The song is one of a number of metaphorical compositions in which Ireland was given the name of a woman — not only for aesthetic reasons, but more practically to get round the prohibition on songs about Ireland which the English rulers assumed — no doubt correctly — would encourage nationalist aspirations among the Irish.

Although sometimes attributed to the nineteenth-century Galway poet Antaine Ó Raifteirí, the song probably dates from a good deal earlier; and while it has been translated, by both James Clarence Mangan and Pádraig Pearse, the song is normally sung in Irish.

Joe pointed out to Jim Cowdery and others that there were two airs to this song. This version, which Joe thought to be of Munster origin, provided the basis for Seán Ó Riada’s score to the 1959 film Mise Éire. Originally published in the Reverend Pádraig Breathnach’s 1923 collection, Ceol Ár Sínsear, it became familiar to generations of children who encountered that volume at school. It has been recorded commercially by Donegal singer Paddy Tunney and a host of more recent performers. It was also sung by Joe Heaney on a number of occasions while he was in the United States, as it would likely have been familiar to at least some members of the audience.

Before he began singing, Joe was in the habit of reciting the first stanza of Mangan’s translation to the audience, as a way of putting them into the right frame of mind:

O my Dark Rosaleen,
Do not sigh, do not weep!
The priests are on the ocean green,
They march along the deep.
There ‘s wine from the royal Pope,
Upon the ocean green;
And Spanish ale shall give you hope,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
Shall glad your heart, shall give you hope,
Shall give you health, and help, and hope,
My Dark Rosaleen!

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), 67–69.

Róisín Dubh (1)

Róisín Dubh (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Róisín Dubh (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 854011.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Gerald Shannon.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): unavailable.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): concert.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable .
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Is fada an réim a lig mé léi ó inné go inniu
A’ siúl sléibhte ‘mo chadhain aonraic — ní raibh aon neach liom
Loch Éirne, chaith mé de léim í, cé go m’ard a bhí a sruth
Ó, tá m’anam gléigeal ligthe de léig a’m le mo Róisín Dubh.

Ó, a Róisín, ná bíodh brón ort ná cás anois
Tá do phárdún ón bPápa — ón Róimh uile
Tá na bráithre thar sáile le cabhrú linn
Ó, ná spáráil fíon Spáinneach ar mo Róisín Dubh.

Dhá mbeadh seisreach agam is deas a threabhfainn in aghaidh an chnoic
Dhéanfainn seanmóir ar an altóir mar a hordaíodh dhom
Thabharfainn póg nó dhó don chailín a lig a hóige liom
Ó, dhéanfainn cleas deas ar chúl an easa le mo Róisín Dubh.

Beidh an Éirne ina tonnta tréana, beidh an spéir ina fuil
Beidh na bráithre bána thar sáile le cabhrú linn
Beidh gach gleann sliabh ar fud Éireann is a móinte ar crith
Lá éigin sula n-éagfaidh mo Róisín Dubh.

Translation

It’s a long course I’ve followed with her from yesterday until today,
Walking the mountains all alone, with no one for company.
I leapt Lough Erne in a single bound, although it was running high;
My pure soul has fallen into neglect on account of my Dark Little Rose.

Róisín, don’t be sorrowful or worried;
Your pardon is coming from the Pope and from all of Rome,
The Brothers from overseas to help us.
Oh! don’t stint Spanish wine for my Róisín Dubh.

If I had a team [of horses] I would neatly plow the hillside;
I would make a sermon on the altar as I was ordered;
I would give a kiss or two to the girl who gave me her youth;
I’d play a nice trick behind the waterfall with my Róisín Dubh.

Lough Erne will be stormy, the sky will be blood-red;
The White Brothers will come overseas to help us;
In every valley and hillside in Ireland the bogs will be trembling
Someday before my Róisín Dubh dies.

Notes

As Joe points out on a number of occasions, Róisín Dubh is a metaphor for Ireland. The song is one of a number of metaphorical compositions in which Ireland was given the name of a woman — not only for aesthetic reasons, but more practically to get round the prohibition on songs about Ireland which the English rulers assumed — no doubt correctly — would encourage nationalist aspirations among the Irish.

Although sometimes attributed to the nineteenth-century Galway poet Antaine Ó Raifteirí, the song probably dates from a good deal earlier; and while it has been translated, by both James Clarence Mangan and Pádraig Pearse, the song is normally sung in Irish.

Joe pointed out to Jim Cowdery and others that there were two airs to this song. This version is commonly heard in Conamara — the song appears on commercially-available recordings by Dara Bán Mac Donnchadha and Sorcha Ní Ghuairim, as well as on three of Joe’s. Séamas Ennis transcribed this version from Joe for the Irish Folklore Commission in 1942, and indicated that Joe had learned it from Dara Bán’s father, Sean Choilm Mac Donnchadha, who lived next door to the Heaneys’ house in Áird Thoir; see CBÉ manuscript 1280: 329–30, and CC 018.005.

Before he began singing, Joe was in the habit of reciting the first stanza of Mangan’s translation to the audience, as a way of putting them into the right frame of mind:

O my Dark Rosaleen,
Do not sigh, do not weep!
The priests are on the ocean green,
They march along the deep.
There ‘s wine from the royal Pope,
Upon the ocean green;
And Spanish ale shall give you hope,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
Shall glad your heart, shall give you hope,
Shall give you health, and help, and hope,
My Dark Rosaleen!

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), 67–69.

Peigín agus Peadar

Play recording: Peigín agus Peadar

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Peigín agus Peadar.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 841416.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): Joan Rabinowitz and Steve Coleman.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 08/06/1983.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): day class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

In the long ago, when people were fortunate enough to get a job — now, I’m talking about the time… houses were very few and far between, and there was no roads. And this man had just been married a week, when he stepped out of the house he had — one room, the bedroom, the kitchen everything was in the one room. Peigín was the name of the wife, and his own name was Peadar, and he said to Peigín, “I don’t see any prospects around here, so I’ll put my bag on my back and go looking for work”. So he kissed Peigín goodbye, and off he goes.

Well, the rule was, if you hired to work for somebody, you’d have to waste [Joe probably meant to say ‘wait’] seven years. If you left half an hour before the seven years was up, you got no wages. That was the law. So after travelling three or four days, he hired with a certain farmer to do the job, and he was doing it so good that after seven years, the farmer said to him, “Well, now”, he said. “How would you like to spend another seven years with me? We like you!” To make a long story short, he stayed twenty-one years. And then he thought it was time to go home and see how the wife was getting on.

Well, the night before he left, the man of the house and his wife put their two heads together, and they asked him, “Would you rather if we gave you your wages for twenty-one years in money, than take three good, solid advices?” And, being a wise man, he said he’d take the advices. And the first advice they gave him — now, this… story was told in Irish, I’m translating it for you. Más cam díreach an ród, sé an bealach mór an aicearra1. Whether the road you know is long, crooked, or whatever, it’s better than the road you don’t know. In other words, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know. The second advice: “Ná codail oíche amháin i dteach a bhfuil seanfhear pósta ag bean óg rua.” Never sleep one night in a house where an old man is married to a young, red-headed woman And the third advice was: “Ná déan tada san oíche a mbeidh aiféal ort faoi ar maidin.” Never do anything at night you’ll be sorry for in the morning. And it’s not what some people may be thinking about now! It’s not that at all.

Well, the woman of the house cooked two cakes for him. She said, “One cake you take home to your wife, the other cake you may eat on the road”. Next day he set off; and he met a man who was travelling the same way as he was. And the man told him, “Now, if you come with me, I know a shortcut, it will cut miles off your way home”. And he thought of the first advice, and he said, “I don’t think I’ll bother; I think I’ll go the road I know”. So he did; and next morning he heard the man who took the shortcut was waylaid by two robbers and killed that night.

The second day he was travelling, and getting awful tired by this time, and he knocked on a certain cottage. And the door was opened by the most gorgeous redhead you ever saw in your life — about seventeen, or something like that. And she welcomed him. “Come in! You look tired. I’ll get you something to eat. Go down and talk to my husband down at the fire until I’m ready.” And he looked down. And he never saw anybody so weak or so old-looking as the man at the fire. He had a cane under his chin… for keeping up his chin, otherwise he’d fall into the fire — he was that old! And he started thinking about the second advice. And when she gave him something to eat, she said “Do you want to stay around for the night? We’ll give you a place to stay”. “No”, he said. “I have to go home, the wife is waiting.” And he had no intentions of leaving that house that night. So he went outside, and lay down in an old shed outside. And at midnight, he saw a young man coming to the door. He went inside. And… about half an hour after he saw the young redhead and the young fellow coming out with the old man, stone — stiff — dead between them. And they started burying him just within earshot of where he was. And he crawled out and he took out his pen-knife, and he cut a piece out of the man’s jacket, which later proved his conviction for killing the old man.

But anyway, the third — the fourth day… he was on the road, he said he’d never stop until he reached home. Now, at this point I may add before he left, his wife was expecting a baby — but he knew nothing about it. And he went in, and when — it was broad daylight, very early in the morning — and he saw his wife in bed with this bearded fellow. And he put up his hand where he used to keep the old hatchet, and about half a ton of rust fell off it, nobody had used it since he left. And he was going to take the head off one of them, or two of them — I don’t know which — but then he thought of the third advice: “Ná déan — don’t do anything at night you’ll be sorry for in the morning.” And he put down the hatchet, and he said to Peigín, “A Pheigín na gcarad, is a Pheigín mo chroí, cé hé an fear fada sínte leat síos?” Peg dearest, Peg of my heart, who is that long bearded man down beside you? And she said, “A Pheadair na gcarad is a Pheadair mo chroí, sin é do leanbh nach bhfaca tú ariamh”. Oh Peter my dearest, O Peter my [heart], that’s your baby you never saw! And he said, “Shiúil mé thoir agus shiúil mé thiar” — I travelled east, I travelled west — “ach féasóg ar leanbh ní fha[ca mé ariamh]” — but I never saw whiskers on a baby boy!

Now, I’ll… do them three, and then I’ll tell you the other three verses, what happened. In Irish these are, and that’s the way I’m going to sing them. This is what he said when he put down the hatchet:

Is a Pheigín na gcarad is a Pheigín mo chroí
Cé hé an fear fada sínte leat síos?
Ó-bhá, hó-bhá, hó-bhá-ín, hó-bhá
Hó-bhá-ín, hó-bhá, a stóirín mo chroí.

‘S a Pheadair na gcarad ‘s a Pheadair mo chroí
Sin é do leanbh nach bhfaca tú ariamh!
Ó-bhá, hó-bhá, hó-bhá-ín, hó-bhá
Hó-bhá-ín, hó-bhá, a stóirín mo chroí.

Shiúil mé thoir agus shiúil mé thiar
Ach féasóg ar leanbh ní fhaca mé ariamh.
Ó-bhá, hó-bhá, hó-bhá-ín, hó-bhá
Hó-bhá-ín, hó-bhá, a stóirín mo chroí.

Now, after saying all that, she finally convinced him that was the fellow himself. And he asked her to get him something to eat, and she said “A Pheadair na gcarad, a Pheadair mo chroí, níl ins an teach aon ghreim mine buí”. Oh Peter my dearest, o Peter of my heart, we don’t have one iota of meal in the house. And then he said, “A Pheigín na gcarad, a Pheigín mo chroí, in íochtar mo mhála tá cáca mine buí”. O Peggy my dearest, there’s a cake in the bottom of my bag. She started cutting the cake, and out of the cake came his wages in golden sovereigns for twenty-one years. That’s how this goes2:

‘S a Pheadair na gcarad ‘s a Pheadair mo chroí
Tá an cáca seo a’d lán de ghineachaí buí
Ó-bhá, hó-bhá, hó-bhá-ín, hó-bhá
Hó-bhá-ín, hó-bhá, a stóirín mo chroí.

‘S a Pheigín ‘s a mhaicín, suífidh muid síos
Ní fhágfad an baile chúns mhairfeas mé aríst!
Ó-bhá, hó-bhá, hó-bhá-ín, hó-bhá
Hó-bhá-ín, hó-bhá, a stóirín mo chroí.

That is often sung as a lullaby, and it didn’t start out like that, but — a lullaby to somebody very old!

Notes

1. This is a proverb, roughly equivalent to the English, ‘The longest way round is the shortest way home’. The literal translation is, ‘Whether the road be crooked or straight, the main road is the shortcut’.

2. Perhaps for the sake of economy, Joe does not sing the three verses that he has just summarized for the audience, although he would normally have included them. They go as follows:

Is a Pheigín na gcarad is a Pheigín mo chroí
Éirigh i do sheasamh a’s réitigh greim bidh.
Ó-bhá, hó-bhá, hó-bhá-ín, hó-bhá
Hó-bhá-ín, hó-bhá, a stóirín mo chroí.

‘S a Pheadair na gcarad ‘s a Pheadair mo chroí
Níl in san teach seo aon ghreim mine buí
Ó-bhá, hó-bhá, hó-bhá-ín,
Hó-bhá-ín, hó-bhá, a stóirín mo chroí.

‘S a Pheigín na gcarad is a Pheigín mo chroí
In íochtar mo mhála tá cáca mine buí.
Ó-bhá, hó-bhá, hó-bhá-ín,
Hó-bhá-ín, hó-bhá, a stóirín mo chroí.

The song element of this performance, Peigín agus Peadar, is clearly related to the narrative ballad Seven Drunken Nights (Roud 114; Child 274), in which the husband comes home drunk one night to find a stranger in his wife’s bed, only to be informed that the strange man is ‘a baby boy my mother sent to me’ — whereupon the husband remarks that he’s travelled far and wide, but never before has he seen whiskers on a baby.

Seven Drunken Nights has been widely collected in English throughout Ireland; Séamas Ennis collected it from several people in the Carna district when he was working for the Irish Folklore Commission in the 1940s. The story element, scéal na dtrí chomhairle (‘the three good advices’; AT 910B) is also widely-known. The linking of these two elements into an organic chantefable appears, however, to be uniquely Irish, and demonstrates the continuing vitality of the Irish imagination.

In addition to Joe’s recordings, performances have been recorded from other Conamara singers, including Beairtle Beag Ó Conghaile and Joe’s second cousin, Colm Ó Caodháin.

This recording was made by Joan Rabinowitz for KRAB Radio, Seattle, Washington.

Part of a Caoineadh in the Conamara Tradition

Play recording: Part of a Caoineadh in the Conamara Tradition

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Part of a Caoineadh in the Conamara Tradition.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): The Máire Nic Fhinn Collection.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Liam Clancy.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): unavailable.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): unavailable.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Ó, nach mór mo thrua a’m dhuit, a stóirín
Ó, ‘s ochón-ó, nach mé atá brónach anocht.
Is ochón mo stóirín, nach tú a bhí go deas liom féin
Is ochón mo mhúirnín, cén fáth gur imigh tú uaim?
Agus ochón, agus ochón, agus ochón, is ochón
Agus ochón, is ochón, nach trua nach bhfuil tú liom.
Ach is ochón, muise, ochón, a stóirín, cén fáth ar imigh tú uaim?
A stóirín, tar chugam, cén fáth ar imigh tú uaim?

‘That’s part of it, Liam…’

Translation

Oh, isn’t my sorrow great for you, my darling
And alas, I am so lonely tonight.
And alas, my treasure, weren’t you nice to me?
And alas, my dearest, why did you leave me?
And alas…
And alas… isn’t it a pity that you are not with me.
And alas, indeed, alas, my treasure, why did you leave me?
My treasure, come to me; why did you leave me?

Notes

This remarkable recording is one of only a very few recorded examples of caointeoireacht (keening of the dead).

While the formal, public ritual of keening has been frequently described — the keening over the corpse during the three days of the wake and at the burial by the dead person’s female relations and/or by a woman hired for the purpose — it is thought there was also a more private practice among the bereaved family, for whom such keening would have served the dual purpose of bringing the dead person to mind and of expressing the continuing sorrow of the bereaved. It seems that this is the sort of caointeoireacht that we are in the presence of here.

It’s clear that there is no established text for such lamentation but that the singer simply improvises as feeling dictates. The air, like the words, relies on repetition of a couple of basic motifs and, as Joe’s comment at the end suggests, can be extended for as long as necessary. Joe’s performance also gives us a clue to the probable character of a number of airs recorded in P. W. Joyce, Old Irish Folk Music and Songs (1909) for which unfortunately no words have been recorded; see Nos. 162 (p. 82), 259 (p. 124), 483 (p. 267), and 655 (p. 330).

For a thorough discussion of the practice of caointeoireacht and the probable structure of the formal caoineadh, see Breandán Ó Madagáin (ed.),Gnéithe den Chaointeoireacht (Dublin, 1978), and the same author’s Caointe agus Seancheolta Eile / Keening and Other Old Irish Musics (Indreabhán, 2005), 11-18 and 81-88.

Other recorded examples of the sort of caointeoireacht that Joe is practicing here would include Keen for a Dead Child (Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music: Ireland, Rounder CD 1742) sung by Cití Ní Ghallchóir from Gaoth Dobhair, Contae Donegal in 1951; and two examples from the Aran Islands (Songs of Aran, Smithsonian Folkways CD) recorded in 1957, both entitled Caoineadh na Marbh (literally, ‘the keening of the dead’). Both of the latter are sung by very old women, one of whom preferred to remain anonymous — a fact that reflects the reluctance of people to record something so intensely personal and private.

We are grateful to the late Liam Clancy for his permission to use this recording.

O’Brien From Tipperary (1)

Play recording: O’Brien From Tipperary (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): O’Brien From Tipperary (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 855405.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 3105.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Robin Hiteshew.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 12/11/1981.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Philadelphia, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): oíche cois tine.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

…who came over to Philadelphia from Ireland, and he joined the North against South. Now some people forget that George Washington said, when he was crossing the Delaware, ‘One third of my army is Irish, and I wish the other two-thirds would believe it’. And… This is a song called O’Brien from Tipperary, and another song [that] will prove to you what real love can do. Anyway, this is the song:

O’Brien from Tipperary is the subject of my tale
Before the Civil War began to America he came
He was of good character, his spirits were light and free
And by a draft he joined the North against the enemy.

‘Twas on a Sunday morning the major he did swear,
‘You did insult a soldier all on the barrack square’
‘You may thank your daughter,’ said O’Brien, ‘or else I’d have your life!’
The major then a sword he drew, and thought to end his life.

O’Brien received a pistol with an eye both sharp and keen
Like a gallant soldier he quickly took his aim
In order to defend his life, he fired the fatal ball
He lodged it in the major’s breast, which made the tyrant fall.

As soon as the report was made, the guards all hemmed around
He was taken prisoner, in irons firmly bound
Court-martial on O’Brien was held immediately
He was sentenced to be shot, far from his friends and own country.

When O’Brien received his sentence, no fear of death did show
Into his execution he manfully did go
By a holy priest from Clonmel town he was prepared to die
For in hopes to get a pardon from the Lord who rules on high.

The coffin was got ready, he was ordered to kneel down
The sergeant with a handkerchief his eyes he firmly bound
The soldiers on the other hand all guns they did prepare
And many a soldier for O’Brien shed a silent tear.

They were ordered to fix bayonets, all ready for to fire
Before one trigger could be drawn the major’s daughter did appear
In a voice as loud as thunder, ‘Come set that prisoner free
For I have a letter of reprieve, he’s granted unto me.’

She quickly seized O’Brien and she took him by the hand
‘Rise up my bold Tipperary boy, you’re now at my command
It’s true I am in love with you, though you took my father’s life
He had vengeance sworn against you; I’d never be your wife.’

So now to conclude and finish and see what love can do
She is married to O’Brien, she is both loyal and true;
She saved him from the fatal ball, her one and only joy!
And now she’s in New York City with her bold Tipperary boy.

Notes

This is one of the songs Joe recorded for Ewan Mac Coll and Peggy Seeger in 1963, and which was eventually released on the CD The Road from Conamara in 2000. On that occasion, Joe told Mac Coll, ‘My father often said to me it’s the best song he ever sang’. It is also one in which he himself took an interest from a young age. He tells Lucy Simpson that he sang it, along with The Rocks of Bawn, at a neighbour’s wedding when he was only twelve (UW 853919); and he also sang it for Séamas Ennis when the latter was conducting field-work in Carna in 1942 (CBÉ 1280, pp 589–90).

In a conversation with Ken Goldstein, Joe speculates that there may be an additional verse or two at the beginning of this song that his father didn’t have (UW 903901). Confirming Joe’s observation, Tom Munnelly has pointed out that Joe’s version of this song leaves out a crucial verse that explains why the Major took against O’Brien:

In the Philadelphia regiment I mean to let you know
O’Brien many a battle fought against the southern foe
The Major’s daughter fell in love with him, as you may plainly see
And her father then he did resolve to prove his destiny.

In addition to The Road from Conamara, O’Brien from Tipperary also appears on two other commercial recordings; see under further study.

Neainsín Bhán

Play recording: Neainsín Bhán

Níl an taifead seo ar fáil faoi láthair.

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Neainsín Bhán.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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.
  • 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): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): unavailable.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): unavailable.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

A Neainsín bhán, cé ‘s ansa leat — fear eile ná mé féin?
‘S a Neainsín a dtug mé fancy dhuit i dtosach ar mhná an tsaoil
Mar shíl mé go mba bhreátha thú ná bean ar bith sa saol
Ach smid chainte ná raibh i gceann an té nach molfadh leatsa mé.

‘S ar theacht na Nollag nach dona í m’obair ag síor-chur ins an gcré
Mar bheadh seabhcán ar bharr sceiche nó barr glas na sú craobh
Ó mo mhallacht go deo anois a thabhairfainnse d’aon fhear beo sa saol
A thógfadh orm bheith ag cogarnach le stóirín geal mo chléibh.

‘S dá mbeadh heels agus tops faoi mo bhróga a’m agus cóir a bheith ar na boinn
Ó rachainn chuile Dhomhnach san áit a mbíonn a’ spraoi
Mar ní thógfadh an t-aos óg orm gach cor dá gcuirfinn díom
‘S dá mbeadh mo stór ar cheann an stóil níorbh fhada liom an oíche.

‘Gus a téagairín ní féidir dhuit gan duine eicínt a fháil
A nífidh do chuid éadaigh nó a fhuinfidh do chuid aráin
Ach a phéarla atá breá gléigeal de chích, de chois ‘s de láimh
‘S é mo léan gan mé faoi shléibhte leat ‘s cead éad ag feara Fáil.

Translation

Fair Nancy, who would you prefer — another man or myself?
Nancy, I fancy you above all other women in the world.
I thought you were the handsomest of any woman on earth
And let no one speak who wouldn’t recommend me to you.

Coming up to Christmas I’m working hard, planting in the ground
Like a hawk on the top of a bush, or the green top of the raspberry.
My eternal curse I’d put now on any living man
Who would blame me for whispering with the bright treasure of my heart!

If my shoes had heels and tops and if the soles were in good shape
I would go out every Sunday to the place where there was fun to be had
For the young people wouldn’t hold it against me if I danced a few steps
And if my darling were at the end of the bench the night wouldn’t seem long.

My dearest, you can’t go without somebody
Who will do your washing and knead your bread
But my pearl, brightest and fairest of breast, of foot, of hand
I’m sorry I’m not off in the hills with you and let the men of Ireland be envious!

Notes

This song has been taken from a commercial recording by Seosamh Ó hÉanaí (Gael Linn LP CÉF 028 / CEFCD 191-2), 1971; reissued 2007.

Lore About Changelings

Play recording: Lore About Changelings

Níl an taifead seo ar fáil faoi láthair.

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Lore About Changelings.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853906.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Lucy Simpson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 16/10/1979.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

A married woman was washing clothes by the lake when she saw a huge frog sitting next to her. She spoke to the frog, saying “I hope you never lose that belly1, until I [unintelligible] in front of you”. The frog vanished.

Five nights later, early in the morning, a man on horseback came to the woman’s house, and asked the man to let his wife come with him to be present at his own wife’s childbirth, saying that he’d have her at home before morning. After some hesitation, the husband agreed, and the woman set off with the stranger.

Eventually they reached a place called Aill na Guil, an enormous rock that was creepy to the extent that when someone passed it, the hair would stand up on your head and you would be rooted to the spot for about ten minutes. The rock was full of the quare fellows — fairies. The rock opened up and the two people walked into a room where the woman in labour lay. The instant the woman in labour saw the mortal woman, she gave birth to her child, which was immediately taken up by the other women around her and thrust into the fire. At the same moment, another woman appeared with a young child in her arms — the child of a mortal person whom they had stolen, and whom they intended to raise up as their own.

The man on horseback had warned the woman that the fairies would offer he food, but that she must refuse the first offer, or she would never be able to escape from the fairy rath. But she did accept the second offer of food. Before she left for home, the woman who had given birth called he over and gave her a bag which she told her contained gold, as well as a cloak which she told her to wear going home. As she turned to accompany the man on horseback, she saw him dip his fingers into a small trough, and rub some liquid over his eye before he left the rath. She did the same.

On the way home, the man asked her if she had received any gifts from the woman who had given birth. When she told him about the cloak, he told her to drape it round a nearby tree — whereupon the tree split into four pieces. Similarly, he warned her not to keep the gold, but to sell it when she got home to people she didn’t like. This she did; and shortly afterwards the houses of all those people went up in flames.

Some time after this adventure, the woman was at a fair, and was surprised to see some of the people she recognized from inside the fairy rath. Spotting the man who had taken her there, she went up to him and greeted him. He asked how she had spotted him, and she confessed to having seen him wipe his eye with the liquid from the small trough, and that she had done the same. He then blinded her in the affected eye so that she’d never be able to see him or the other fairies again.

She went home and lived happily with her husband, despite being blinded in one eye.

Notes

1. This mysterious remark is clarified in a version of this story which was recorded in Irish from Maidhcil Veail Mheaite Ó Coirbín (1892–1967), of Dú-Dhithir, and printed in Hartmann, Hans, Tomás de Bhaldraithe and Ruairí Ó hUiginn (eds.), Airneán: Ein Sammlung von Texten aus Carna, Co. na Gaillimhe, Max Niemeyer Verlag Tübingen (1996), vol 1, lines 2265–85. In this version, it’s a man who encounters the frog, who is pregnant. He says to the frog, “A muise, nar bheire tú an bolg sin go mbeidh mise in do láthair” [May you not give birth until I am in your presence]. Ensuing events make it clear that it was his saying this that caused the fairy woman to have trouble giving birth, and except for the intervention of the woman herself, the fairies would have killed him. As it was, the gift they gave him as he left — the cloak which could have set his house on fire — was their way of indicating their displeasure at his interfering remark.

A number of Joe’s songs and stories relate to the belief in people being stolen by fairies.

D. L. Ashliman assigns this tale to type AT 476* in the Aarne-Thompson index; see A Guide to Folktales in the English Language, Greenwood Press (New York, 1987), p. 100.

Lady in her Father’s Garden, The (2)

Play recording: Lady in her Father’s Garden, The (2)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Lady in her Father’s Garden, The (2).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 863809.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Almeida Riddle, Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Fredric Lieberman.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 05/08/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): New York, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): workshop.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Lisa Null, Daithí Sproule, Peter Bellamy.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

There was a lady in her father’s garden
A gentleman he was passing by
He stood awhile and he gazed upon her
He said, ‘Fair maid, would you fancy I?’

[‘I am no lady but a country girl
A country girl of a low degree
So, kind sir, you must find another
For I’m not fit your wife to be.’]

‘It’s seven years since I’ve had a true love
Seven years more since I did him see
And seven more I will wait upon him
If he’s alive he’ll come back to me.’

‘It’s seven years since you had a true love
Seven more since you did him see
And seven more you’ll wait upon him
Perhaps this young man you may never see.’

‘If he is married I wish him happiness
If he is dead I wish him rest

But if he’s alive I’ll wait upon him
For he’s the young man that I love best.’

When he saw his love was single
When he saw his love was true
He took out a gold ring they had between them
And when she saw it, it’s down she fell.

He took her up into his arms
He gave her kisses most loyal and true,
Saying, ‘I’m your young man and single sailor
Who’s come afar, love, to wed with you.’

‘If you’re my young man and single sailor
Your face and features look strange to me.’
‘Oh seven years make great alterations
The raging sea, love, between you and me.’

Now this couple are happily married
They have ships on the ocean blue
Her true love Willie never faltered
To please his darling, he loved so true.

Notes

The stanza in square brackets was not included in this performance, but did appear on other occasions (such as UW84-1.23) when Joe sang this song.

Lady in her Father’s Garden, The (1)

Play recording: Lady in her Father’s Garden, The (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Lady in her Father’s Garden, The (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781510.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 264.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): N42.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Cynthia Thiessen.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 28/02/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): seminar.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Mike Seeger, Fredric Lieberman.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

There was a lady in her father’s garden
When a gentleman he was passing by
He stood awhile and he gazed upon her
He said, ‘Fair maid, would you fancy I?’

[‘I am no lady but a country girl
A country girl of a low degree
So, kind sir, you must find another
For I’m not fit your wife to be.’]

‘It’s seven years since I’ve had a true love
Seven years more since I did him see
And seven more I will wait upon him
If he’s alive he’ll come back to me.’

‘It’s seven years since you had a true love
Seven more since you did him see
And seven more you’ll wait upon him
Perhaps this young man you may never see.’

‘If he is married I wish him happiness
If he is dead I wish him rest

But if he’s alive I’ll wait upon him
For he’s the young man that I love best.’

When he saw his love was single
When he saw his love was true
He took out a gold ring they had between them
And when she saw it, it’s down she fell.

He took her up into his arms
He gave her kisses most loyal and true,
Saying, ‘I’m your young man and single sailor
Who’s come afar, love, to wed with you.’

‘If you’re my young man and single sailor
Your face and features look strange to me.’
‘Oh seven years make great alterations
The raging sea, love, between you and me.’

Now this couple are happily married
They have ships on the ocean blue
Her true love Willie never faltered
To please his darling, he loved so true.

Notes

This recording was made during a joint seminar with Mike Seeger, and it’s Seeger’s voice that we hear first. The stanza in square brackets was not included in this performance, but did appear in a subsequent rendition (UW84-1.23), which Joe introduced as follows:

There’s a lot of songs about ‘broken tokens’. Long ago, when the rich girls used to fall in love with the poor fellows… the powers-that-be — which usually belonged to the girl — would make sure the fellow was sent away, whether he came back or not (hopefully he didn’t, according to her parents). And they sometimes had a ring, or something, between them, that when he came back, that the girl would recognize who it was. For sometimes the years take a toll on some people… There’s a lot of these ‘broken-token’ songs, but the daddy of them all is supposed to be The Lady in her Father’s Garden. Now, he pretended he didn’t know her, but she definitely didn’t know him. Because maybe the so-and-so was disguised or something…

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

Kinds of Spirits in the Irish Tradition

Play recording: Kinds of Spirits in the Irish Tradition

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Kinds of Spirits in the Irish Tradition.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781516.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 07/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): lecture/demonstration.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

A student asks Joe how many different kinds of spirits there are in Irish tradition. Joe explains that there are both good and bad fairies. The púca, somebody with only one eye and one ear. The fairies hate the púca. Then there’s the evil spirit, which comes in the form of the devil, with the cloven hoof. Then there’s the taidhbhse1: someone who dies and comes back from the dead. The síóg2 can be either male or female and is related to the bean sí3. The bean sí was the woman who cried over all the people who died that belonged to her when she was on Earth, whenever that may be.

Joe then changes the subject somewhat, going on to describe how when somebody died, a keening4 woman would come to the wake and cry over that particular person, maybe not someone of their own, but they were crying over their own as well as the one who had just died. When the corpse was taken to the graveyard the keening women would go to the graveyard and keen over their own graves as well. At one time, the corpse would lie in the house for three days and nights, and no one would do any manual work at that time. Nowadays, the corpse is taken to the church on the second night, and money changes hands (is given to the priest), and keening doesn’t happen any longer.

Notes

1. Directly translates as ‘ghost’.

2. Directly translates as ‘fairy’.

3. ‘Woman of the fairy folk’ / ‘fairy woman’. Anglicised as ‘banshee’.

4. From the Irish caoineadh.

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

Joe Heaney: Early Life (2)

Play recording: Joe Heaney: Early Life (2)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Joe Heaney: Early Life (2).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 850406.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): Joe’s background.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Jill Linzee.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): between 1982 and 1984.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): inverview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

In this long segment (nearly forty minutes), Joe shares details of his early memories, the mischief he got up to as a boy, economic conditions during his childhood and the ways in which his parents tried to make ends meet. He talks about going to National (primary) School and subsequently to ‘college’ — by which he means secondary school — in Dublin, and his early departure from there. His departure for ‘England’ — in fact, he went to Scotland where he had relations — and return at the outbreak of World War 2. The work he did in Ireland before returning to ‘England’ (again, Scotland) when peace returned. Topics and anecdotes include:

  • The time Joe stole the schoolmaster’s bicycle.
  • The time he ‘buried’ his sister1.
  • How his uncle coached Joe to win a foot-race by cheating.
  • How his uncle used to stage donkey-races between Joe and his sister.
  • What Joe remembers about the day he was born; early childhood.
  • Joe’s father away working a lot; importance of his grandmother’s pension money.
  • Doing jobs for neighbours; close-knit community looking out for one another.
  • Thatching.
  • Stories and singing in tigh Éinniú; mother’s family known for storytelling, including her uncle Pat Mór Mhichíl Shéamais (Big Pat Mulkerrin), who died young; Joe’s grandmother used to run a síbín (a retail outlet for poitín) in the house, and ‘that was a draw,’ but she stopped that when her daughter Bairbre married Pádraig Éinniú and brought him into the house.
  • First day Joe went to school.
  • Games played at home.
  • Joe’s schoolteacher, Mister Connolly and his wife; taught through medium of English; Joe’s favourite subjects English grammar and arithmetic; corporal punishment; children brought sod of turf every day to contribute to school heating; some children went miching (playing truant); girls and boys in school together; industrial schools ‘where the bad boys go’.
  • What people would do after leaving school.
  • Importance of remittances from abroad to people living at home.
  • Necessity of being well-connected in order to get work locally; institution of dole in the 1930s.
  • Size of Joe’s family.
  • How people supported themselves at home; fishing — but prices were low; Joe’s father in Scotland for months at a time, came home for good when Joe was about 12, died young; mother had hands full carding wool and knitting, or working for local grocer to pack dried carraigín for sale in return for credit at the shop.
  • Before- and after school jobs; lobster pots; going with the donkey for turf; ‘molding’ potatoes.
  • Attendance at mass and confession.
  • College’ in Dublin; ‘I dropped out, let’s put it that way’.
  • Went to ‘England’ until war broke out, worked in construction.
  • Scallop-fishing at home during the war2.
  • Cutting turf on the Bog of Allen to keep the trains running.

Notes

1. One of the stories Joe relates here, about the time he ‘buried’ his sister Kitty, became family folklore. Joe’s niece Máire Uí Mhaoilchiaráin described the occasion to Joe’s biographer, Liam Mac Con Iomaire (p. 63):

Bhí ar a mháthair dul ar shiochraid lá, agus choinnigh sí Seosamh sa mbaile ón scoil le aire a thabhairt don bheirt ab óige, Cite agus Síle. Nuair a bhí an mháthair imithe bhí Cite ag fiafraí: ‘Céard é sochraid?’ Ní hé amháin gur mhínigh Seosamh di é, ach thaispeáin sé dí é! Ní dhearna sé ach láí a fháil agus poll a thochailt taobh amuigh den teach agus Cite a chur ina seasamh thíos sa bpoll. Nuair a tháinig an mháthair abhaile ní raibh aníos as an bpoll ach cloigeann Chite!

[His mother had to go to a funeral one day, and she kept Joe home from school to look after the youngest two, Kitty and Sheila. When the mother was gone, Kitty was asking, ‘What’s a funeral?’ Not only did Joe explain it to her, he showed her! He got a spade and dug a hole outside the house, and got Kitty to stand in the hole; and when the mother came home the only thing visible outside the hole was Kitty’s head!]

2. A description, in Irish, of scallop-dredging methods and the associated dangers can be found in Hartmann, Hans, Tomás de Bhaldraithe and Ruairí Ó hUiginn (eds.), Airneán: Ein Sammlung von Texten aus Carna, Co. na Gaillimhe, Max Niemeyer Verlag Tübingen (1996), vol 1, lines 7888-7954.

Joe Heaney: Early Life (1)

Play recording: Joe Heaney: Early Life (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Joe Heaney: Early Life (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 841403.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): Joe’s background.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Joan Rabinowitz.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 07/04/1982.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): radio programme (KRAB).
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Growing up

Jobs before school; no shoes; milking the cow; took the donkey for a basket of turf; children would carry a sod of turf under their arm to school.

At National School

Teacher’s name was Mister O’Connor from Mayo, and his wife. Went out of his way to try to get good students a scholarship. Treated children very well out of their own pocket. No dole at this time, money very scarce. You’d try to assemble sixpence for Féile Eoin, but it was hard. Teacher was respected. If he said to go straight home from school, you did. Children never called their parents by their first name; that was unthinkable. Children had to go to church, no choice in the matter. After school, there would be privilege of staying up an extra hour for the one who did an extra chore. At Christmas, you were lucky if you got a handful of raisins. You had to be good all year! And you weren’t supposed to see Santa Claus!

Siamsa Tine

Once supper was over in the evenings, the storytelling and singing would begin. The children were supposed to be in bed by nine; but Joe would creep to the top of the stairs, having greased the door with some candle grease so it wouldn’t squeak.

Notes

The tape runs out at end of segment.

Joe Heaney: Background (2)

Play recording: Joe Heaney: Background (2)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Joe Heaney: Background (2).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 830904.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): Joe’s background.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Ewan Mac Coll and Peggy Seeger.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 1963.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): London, England.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): inverview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Ewan Mac Coll: Where is it that you come from?
Joe Heaney: Carna in County Galway, Republic of Ireland.
EM: That’s in the southwest of Ireland, isn’t it?
JH: Yes, southwest1.
EM: And Carna, what do the people in Carna do for a living? What’s the main occupation?
JH: The main occupation is fishing and, of course, working small farms.
EM: And this was your family occupation, was it, this is what your father did?
JH: Yes, that’s what they did. Of course, the farms there, there’s more rocks than land. Only for the fishing, they couldn’t, never hope to make a living out of it.
EM: They were rock farmers.
JH: [laughs] Oh, well, you could call them that, rock farmers. Both ways, by the sea and the farm. Rocks, they meet rocks all the way.
EM: And you were one of how many children?
JH: Seven — living. I was what they call the black sheep of the family.
Peggy Seager: Why?
JH: Because I never did anything right, that’s why. Nothing to please anybody.
EM: Now, Joe, who was it in your family that sang?
JH: Well, my father was a very good singer. In fact, he had more songs than I’ll ever hope to have. They went to the grave with him. He died when I was thirteen, so I had no hope of getting the songs because I thought I’d have plenty time to get them off him. But they went to the grave with him. More songs — I heard him sing songs that I never heard since and I haven’t got myself.
EM: What, songs in Gaelic and English?
JH: Gaelic and English, both.
EM: Did you learn no songs from him, then?
JH: Oh, I did. In fact, most of all the songs I have I learned from him. But I could have learned more if I knew he was going to die so young, you know.
EM: But, did any of your uncles sing or aunts as well?
JH: They did. Well, Colm, you know, Colm.
EM: Colm Keane?
JH: He had an awful lot of songs. In fact, that’s the man who gave Seamus Ennis two hundred and two and he probably has more left, but Seamus never went back to get the rest off him. And he was always singing, of course. They were all singing and telling stories and that was the carry on there during the winter — singing sings, playing music, step dancing, telling stories2.
EM: Where did they do this, Joe?
JH: In the houses in the villages
EM: Like, one night they’d be in your house, would they, in your father’s house?
JH: Well, most nights they were in my father’s house. See, in every village there was one house that everybody seems to come to. One of those special things and our house was one of them.
EM: So it wouldn’t only be members of the family who came?
JH: Oh no, no, anybody from the village or outside the village.
PS: How big was the village, Joe?
EM: How many people lived in the village?
JH: Oh, say about eighty people.
EM: Eighty. That’s not many, is it?
JH: No. But, you see they’re all small villages, about a hundred villages in the one parish, you know. Our village was small, say about twenty houses in the one village.
EM: So, when people would come in for a céilí in the evening — did you call it a céilí?
JH: What we called it was a siamsa tine, around the fire, carry on, round-the-fire sport or a pastime.
EM: And was that how it would be, everybody would sit round the fire?
JH: They’d all sit around and one man would tell a story, one man would sing a song, one man would play a tune, one man would do a bit of step dancing and that’s the way they’d carry on.
EM: I notice you say ‘one man’, didn’t the women sing, or tell stories?
JH: Well, not as a rule. The women very seldom did anything, except knit, as she’s doing now3.
EM: But they didn’t tell stories.
JH: No. The men usually told the stories. The women, of course, after the men had finished, the women used to gossip among themselves.
EM: This is odd, isn’t it, because, among the Scottish travellers, it’s the women who do most of the singing and story telling and the men just sit and listen.
JH: There’s an odd woman, all her life she’ll lilt a tune for somebody to dance, but the men as a rule tell the stories, mostly the stories and the old woman would sit in the corner and lilt a tune — mouth music, I should say — lilt the tune — port béil — and somebody would dance to it if there’s no musician in the house. She’d lilt the tune and they’d start step dancing to it.
EM: And it would be the men who danced?
JH: Oh the men.
EM: Not the women.
JH: Sometimes the women, but very few of the women did.
EM: When they were dancing in partners, would it be a man and a woman or two men?
JH: Oh, a man and a woman in partners. What we call a breakdown or a set. That’s the name they had for the old step dancing, you know, breakdown4.

Notes

1. Mac Coll’s geography is inaccurate. Carna is of course on the western coast of Ireland, but on a latitude that rests more or less half-way down the country, placing it firmly in the west rather than the south-west. Interestingly, Joe does not correct him, although the tone in which he agrees with Mac Coll’s mistake bears contemplation.

2. Colm Ó Caodháin, Joe’s second cousin, from whom Séamas Ennis collected over 340 items including songs, tunes and seanchas (traditional history and lore). The majority of these items — some 212 in all — were songs.

3. Presumably Peggy Seeger is knitting as this conversation takes place.

4. Joe seems to have the terms ‘set dancing’ and ‘step dancing’ confused; not the dancing itself, of course, but the terms used for them in English. Generally one would expect step dancing to refer to solo dancing (what has become known as sean-nós dancing in the post-Riverdance era) and set dancing to refer to the activity in which a number of couples (usually four; two in a half-set) get up on the floor together and perform an established ‘set’ of figures. This latter type of dancing is presumably what Joe means by the term breakdown. None of these, of course, has anything to do with with breakdancing, which is something else entirely.

This transcription was made by Fred Mc Cormick as part of his transcription of all of the interviews conducted by Mac Coll and Seeger with Joe Heaney in late 1963 and early 1964, before Joe emigrated to the United States. The interviews in their entirety can be read at the Musical Traditions Internet Magazine. We are grateful to Fred for allowing us to use this excerpt here.

Joe Heaney: Background (1)

Play recording: Joe Heaney: Background (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Joe Heaney: Background (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781501.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): Joe’s background.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Fredric Lieberman, Cynthia Thiessen, Esther Warkov.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 24/02/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Oliver Cromwell and ‘to Hell or Connacht’

Joe tells his understanding of history of the place. Cromwell. ‘To Hell or Connacht’. How Joe’s family came from County Meath.

Carna during Joe Heaney’s youth

Fishing; how Joe had to help with this before and after school; Gael-Linn support for fishing. 1955; no radio or television, therefore entertainment was limited to what people could supply for themselves; lore that went back to the middle ages. Living conditions, two or three generations in the one house. Oíche airneáil; travelling musicians.

Education in Ireland

In Joe’s grandmother’s time it was a crime to speak Irish. Education was not legal before his grandmother’s time so people had to hire Seán na Scoile to teach their children, and the more provisions they could give that person, the more education their children would get. In his grandmother’s time, children used be made wear the tally stick and would be punished for speaking Irish.

The Great Famine

Grandparents all from the same parish. All fishermen. Even during the famine people looked after the famine sufferers. People in Carna area were well-fed. Famine victims buried where they fell. Stone on grave. Left lots of songs around the area, especially the English ballads. Years 1845–50 some 1.5 million died along the roadside.

Notes

Joe Heaney could be prone to exaggeration and some — but by no means all — of the things he says here are less than the literal truth. These things do, however, give insight into what Joe believed to be true, and thus suggest the bedrock upon which many of his performances were based.

See also Lore About the Great Famine and Come Lay Me Down.

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

How Songs And Stories Come Into Existence

Play recording: How Songs And Stories Come Into Existence

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): How Songs And Stories Come Into Existence.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 903901.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): lore; song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Kenneth Goldstein.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Department of Folklore and Folklife, University of Pennsylvania, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): day class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Kenneth Goldstein asks Joe to tell the class how the song Didtherumdo and other songs were composed. Joe begins by telling a couple of stories connected with the Conamara poet Micheál Mac Suibhne [Sweeney].

First, he discusses Fáilte Uí Cheallaigh1 [Kelly’s Welcome]:

Fáilte na múrthaíl sa samhradh nuair a bhíonns an t-uisce gann. (You’re welcome as the showers in summer when water is scarce.)
Fáilte chatharnach mhatharnach chiúin dheas chóir. (Nice, smooth, even, straight welcome, if you’ll have it.)
Fáilte na máthar roimh an leanbh atá i mbroinn go fóill. (The welcome of a mother for a baby who’s still in her womb.)
Fáilte ‘s fiche is cuirim na céadta leo. (You’re welcome and twenty, and I add another hundred.)
A’s fáilte gan filleadh más miste leat-sa bheith ‘ measc na sléibhte. (And a welcome that you’d don’t come back ever if you don’t like to be among these pretty hills here.)

Then Joe tells how Sweeney was on the way to Galway, and on the road from Moycullen he met the parish priest, who began criticising Sweeney for composing bawdy songs. Sweeney tells the priest that he does no such thing, but it’s the people he meets that put the words into the songs. As proof, he makes a bet with the priest – although he has no money himself, he knows that the priest has money – that the priest will compose a verse of a song before they reach Galway. At this point, Joe cuts the story short, but reveals that Sweeney won the bet.

Lastly, Joe tells the story behind Didtherumdo and sings it for the class.

Notes

1. Joe apparently recited the story of Fáilte Uí Cheallaigh when he competed at the Oireachtas in 1942, where the Irish Folklore Commission’s collector Séamas Ennis transcribed it on that occasion (CBÉ ms. 1280:71):

Fáilte Uí Chealla’ (Seanchas ar an Suibhneach.)

Beirt fhear a bhí ‘sa gClochán agus bhí strainséara mór ná ra’ riamh i n-áit fhiadháin dhe leithéide Chonamara, bhí sé le thigheacht ‘na tighe ag duine dhen bheirt. Bhí geáll curtha ag a’ strainséara le duine acu nach bhfuigheadh sé aon fhear i gConamara a chuirfeadh fáilte mhór roimhe — fáilte a thaithneochadh leis mar adéar thú. Chuir fear a’ tigh fios ar a’ Suíbhneach — Micheál Mac Suibhne – agus d’innis sé ‘n scéal dó. D’fhan an Suibhneach i gcumaraidheacht (i gcotharaidheacht) (likeness) cheann dhe na fir agus nuair tháinic a stróinséar isteach thosa’ sé mar seo:

Fáilte na múrthaigheal sa samhradh rót nuair a bhíos a’ t-uisce gánn
Fáilte chatharnach mhatharnach[?] chiúin dheas chóir
Fáilte na máthar roim an leanabh atá i mbroinn go fóill
Fáilte ‘s fiche is cuirim na céadta leob
‘S fáilte gan filleadh muna miste leat-sa bheith ‘ measc na sléibhte fuar.

Siné an Fháilte Uí Chealla’ anois. Níor chuala mé ariamh ach ag m’athair é[?].

Seósamh Ó h-Éighnigh. (Cárna) Oireachtas 1942.

For another telling of this story in Irish, with a bit more detail about the background to the contest, see Hartmann, Hans, Tomás de Bhaldraithe and Ruairí Ó hUiginn (eds.), Airneán: Ein Sammlung von Texten aus Carna, Co. na Gaillimhe, Max Niemeyer Verlag Tübingen (1996), vol 1, lines 5607-5639.

Mrs Mc Grath (2)

Play recording: Mrs Mc Grath (2)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Mrs Mc Grath (2).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 678.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Geordie Mac Intyre.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney, Geordie Mac Intyre.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Geordie McIntyre.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Clydebank, Scotland.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

‘Oh, Mrs Mc Grath’, the sergeant said,
‘Would you like to make a soldier out of your son Ted?
With a nice fur coat and a big cocked hat
Mrs Mc Grath, wouldn’t you like that?’

With me too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah
With the too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah.
Love beg the cracker-oh!

Now, Mrs Mc Grath lived on the seashore
For the space of seven long years or more
‘Til she saw a big ship sailing into the quay
‘It’s my son Ted, musha clear the way!’

With me too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah
With the too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah.
Love beg the cracker-oh!

‘Oh captain, dear, where have you been?
Have you been on the Mediterranean?
Or have you any tidings of my son Ted?
Is the poor boy living or is he dead?’

With me too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah
With the too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah.
Love beg the cracker-oh!

Out stepped Ted without any legs
In their place were two wooden pegs
She kissed him a dozen times or two
Saying, ‘Holy Moses! It isn’t you!’

With me too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah
With the too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah.
Love beg the cracker-oh!

‘Well then, were you drunk or were you blind
That you left your two fine legs behind?
Or was it walking across the sea
Where your two fine legs from the knees away?’

With me too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah
With the too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah.
Love dun the cracker-oh!

‘Oh, I wasn’t drunk and I wasn’t blind
When I left my two fine legs behind
But a cannonball on the first of May
Stole my two fine legs from the knees away.’

With me too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah
With the too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah.
Love dun / beg the cracker-oh!

‘Well Teddy me dear’ the widow cried
‘Your two fine legs were your mammy’s pride.
Them stumps of a tree won’t do at all
Why didn’t you run from the big cannonball?’

With me too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah
With the too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah.
Love dun /beg the cracker-oh!

‘Now foreign wars do I declare
Between Don John and the King of Spain
And be heaven, I’ll make them rue the day
They took the legs of a child of mine!’

With me too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah
With the too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah.
Love dun / beg the cracker-oh!

‘Then Ted if I had you back again
I’d never let you go and fight the King of Spain
For I’d rather me Ted as he used to be
Than the King of France and his whole navy!’

With me too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah
With the too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah.
Love beg the cracker-oh!

Mrs Mc Grath (1)

Play recording: Mrs Mc Grath (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Mrs Mc Grath (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853904.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 678.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Lucy Simpson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 07/08/1979.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

…[this is] another Crimean War song1, about the sergeant of the army telling Mrs Mc Grath, who had only one son, wouldn’t her son look beautiful if he had a nice fur coat and a big cocked hat? And she said that would be fine, so they gave him the fur coat and the cocked hat and they took him away to the Crimea. And she was down at the shore every day waiting on every boat coming in to see was her son on the boat, and one day he did come. And he had a wooden leg, and the story goes on from there.

‘Oh, Mrs Mc Grath’, the sergeant said,
‘Would you like to make a soldier out of your son Ted?
With a nice fur coat and a big cocked hat
Oh, Mrs Mc Grath, wouldn’t you like that?’

With me too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah
With the too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah.
Love beg the cracker-oh!

Now, Mrs Mc Grath lived on the seashore
For the space of seven long years or more
‘Til she saw a big ship sailing into the quay
‘It’s my son Ted, musha clear the way!’

With me too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah
With the too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah.
Love beg the cracker-oh!

‘Oh captain, dear, where have you been?
Have you been on the Mediterranean Sea?
Or have you any tidings of my son Ted?
Is the poor boy living or is he dead?’

With me too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah
With the too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah.
Love beg the cracker-oh!

Out walked Ted without any legs
In their place were two wooden pegs
She kissed him a dozen times or two
Saying, ‘Holy Moses! It isn’t you!’

With me too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah
With the too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah.

‘Oh, Teddy me boy’, the widow cried,
‘Your poor fine legs were your mammy’s sight!
Those stumps of a tree won’t do at all
Why didn’t you run from the big cannonball?’

With me too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah
With the too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah.

‘Oh, were you drunk or were you blind
That you left your two fine legs behind?
Or was it walking on the sea
Swept your two fine legs from the knees away?’

With me too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah
With the too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah.
Love beg the cracker-oh!

‘Oh, I wasn’t drunk and I wasn’t blind
When I left my two fine legs behind
But a cannonball on the first of May
Stole my two fine legs from the knees away.’

With me too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah
With the too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah.
Love beg the cracker-oh!

‘Now foreign wars do I declare
Between Don John and the King of Spain
And be heaven, I’ll make them rue the day
They took the legs of a child of mine!’

With me too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah
With the too-rye-ah, fol-the-deedle-dah
Too-rya oo-rye oo-rye ah.
Love beg the cracker-oh!

Well it’s not a very good song but I suppose ’twill do!

Notes

1. In fact, this song doesn’t date from the Crimean War but from the Napoleonic period and specifically (going by the last verse) from the time of the Peninsular Campaign. But Joe is correct in calling attention to the similarity between Mrs Mc Grath and the likes of Patrick Sheehan (The Glen of Aherlow) as both were anti-recruitment songs, helping Irish people to understand that, notwithstanding the momentary temptation of The King’s shilling, joining the British Army wasn’t a healthy career choice.

Joe also recorded this song as a duet with Scottish singer Geordie Mac Intyre, singing the verses in alternation. The contrasting styles of the two singers is fascinating.

Joe’s clarification near the start of this recording, prompted by Lucy, is of the spelling but not the pronunciation of the surname Mc Grath. Readers unfamiliar with the name should note that it is pronounced ‘ma-graa’ rather than ‘ma-grath’ or ‘ma-grat’.

Lore About the Wren

Play recording: Lore About the Wren

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Lore About the Wren.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781503.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): lore; song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Esther Warkov.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 02/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Dreoilín, Dreoilín, Rí na nÉan

Joe Heaney: And you know how it got the name King of the Birds? The wren — how it came to be called the King of Birds? Well, long ago, there was a big race between all the birds, to see who would fly the highest. And of course the eagle was odds-on favourite to win. And the wren being a little bird, he jumped on the eagle’s back, and of course the eagle never felt him on his back. And the eagle went as high as he could, and he said, “I’m king of the birds!” And the little wren went off his back, up another bit, “No”, he says, “you’re not — I’m king of the birds!” And then the eagle followed him. And the wren — The wren, you see, can never fly above the wall. He was afraid of the eagle. And another thing, he was afraid of the enemies he made when he jumped out of the furze bush as Saint Stephen was passing. He was hiding from his enemy in a furze bush, and the wren jumped out and the soldiers looked in and found St Stephen in the furze bush. And Saint Stephen put a curse on him. “Never”, he said, “you’ll never be able to fly higher than a wall ever again”. And the wren never does. He can fly so low — probably because he’s small, but that’s the myth and the legend behind it.

Interviewer: How would you try to catch him?

JH: Well then, if we failed to catch him — which we often did, in the daytime — the thatched houses — the wren used to sleep in the thatch on the — outside, over the door of the houses in the thatched cottages. And we’d get a flash-lamp and shine the light into this little hole, and if the wren was there, he’d come out, the light would blind him, and you’d catch him then and put him into a glass jar, with a bit of ivy round it. And the following morning you went around from house to house in the village, or the next village, and you said:

Dreoilín, dreoilín, Rí na nÉan
Is mór a mhuirthín, is beag é féin
Lá ‘le Stiofáin a gabhadh é
Is tabhair dhom pingin a chuirfeas é.

The wren, the wren, the king of the birds,
St Stephen’s Day was caught in the furze.
Hurry up, woman! Hurry up, man!
Give me a penny to bury the wren.

As I was walking down the road
I saw a [wren]1 upon a stone
I lifted my stick, and I threw it at him
At four o’clock in the morning!

Dreoilín, dreoilín, Rí na nÉan
Is mór a mhuirthín, is beag é féin
Lá ‘le Stiofáin a gabhadh é
Is tabhair dhom pingin a chuirfeas é.

We used to do that every door, from door to door. We might get a penny or tuppence2, or something. Somebody might ask you to sing a song at the door. And you’d get more, then, by singing any old song — they might ask you to sing any old song, like I sang here last week. And the more you entertained them, it’s the more money you got. But you couldn’t stay too long in one house because you had to do the whole village before nightfall. And then, at nightfall, there’d be three or four of us, and we’d divide the money we got, you know… Sometimes, in other parts of Ireland, men would dress up as women, and the women would dress up as men, blacken their faces and go around; and the money they got, they’d have a good drink, because they were waking the wren. The wake for the wren, you see. Although you let the wren out, after the day — if he was still alive — you waked him then at night. This was a wake — but the wren was supposed to be killed, you know, after this.

Interviewer: Oh, really?

JH: Oh, yeah. And then you were waking him. The wake was plenty drink, and songs, you know, and all that.

Interviewer: With the money that you collected.

JH: With the money that you collected from house to house.

Interviewer: What would happen if you couldn’t get a wren? Would you —

JH: Well, if you couldn’t get a wren, you see, you might camouflage something. But you didn’t get the same money as if you had the real wren; you had to have the real wren or you’d get no money. Some people used to trim up a little potato, and make him look like a wren, with a match for a beak or something like that, two legs. But they’d have to — In my place, they’d have to see the wren jumping. Without that, you got nothing, they’d say “get off with you — you have no wren”.

Interviewer: And that was the only song that you used, when you knocked-
JH: That’s the only thing we used. And maybe somebody would have a… lilting match or something at the door, to get a bit more money, you know. They’d ask you to sing if they knew you could sing; you’d sing and they’d be dangling a sixpence — at that time sixpence was a lot of money, you know. And you’d do anything for that sixpence — that was a lot of money that time.

Notes

1. Joe actually says “hen” here but ‘wren’ is clearly what he means.

2. Twopence.

Elements of this story correspond to international tale-types; see A-T 221 Election of Bird-King and 221A Who can fly highest?

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

Lore About the Great Famine and Come Lay Me Down

.

Play recording: Lore About the Great Famine and Come Lay Me Down

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Lore About the Great Famine and Come Lay Me Down.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853908.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 3355.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore; song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Lucy Simpson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 02/01/1980.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Lore about The Great Famine

Joe Heaney: I’m singing this song now, Lay me down, and treat me decent, now. As far as I remember, as far as I heard, it’s a Famine song. And maybe the words wouldn’t make sense to a lot of people, but during the Famine, 1845–49–50 — ’49, almost ended — the people, a lot of people went about with a little can tied around their neck. And nine times out of ten they were found beside the roadside or something, with an open grave dug, because they, they thought it advisable to dig the grave while they were still strong enough to dig it, so they’d be — they’d lie into it, or die, die, fall into it when they were dead. And they had a little can tied around their neck, and anybody passing — whether they were blind, and most of them were blind by the starvation — they’d cry “lay me down and treat me decent” — that means, ‘lay me down and fill my can’. That means, ‘whatever you do, don’t desert me in my hour of need, just put something in my can’. Or, in other words, it could, it could mean that ‘fill my can’ means ‘fill my, my dream of, of being buried decent, and put in a decent grave, don’t leave me to the, to be taken by the vultures’, or something like that.

LS: What do they actually want in the can?

JH: They — Anything at all that could, that could resemble food. Maybe a drop of water.

LS: So this is while they’re still alive.

JH: Drop of milk. While they’re still alive. ‘Fill my can’. And another thing could mean ‘fill my can’ mean, is often used as an expression that means, ‘make my dream come true, fulfil me with what I want’, you know, ‘give me fulfilment’. And, eh, I’ll try and — I’ll sing it the way I heard it. But I’m not altering one iota, so, I mean, it’s not me, it’s not up to me at all to do anything. But it’s the way I heard it. It think I’ll start off as, there’s a man going out for a walk, and he sees all this thing and they speak to him and he answers them back, and —

LS: That expression, ‘fill my can’, meaning, ‘make my dreams come true’?

JH: It could mean, we have that expression. Now ‘fill my can for me’ —

LS: Does it come from that period, or was it before that?

JH: No, no, no, from that, it comes from that period, ‘fill my can’, ‘make my wish come true’. It’s a great expression in Gaelic, líon mo mhála, líon mo chupán.

LS: People still use it?

JH: Oh yeah.

LS: What do they usually mean by it, nowadays?

JH: Well it means… more or less, ‘don’t disappoint me’ now. If somebody comes at Christmas Eve to the door, and they said, “Oh my God, my time is full now”. That means that ‘this is something I wanted to see, I wasn’t disappointed, the person came’.

As I walked out through Galway City
As I walked out on a pleasant walk
As I was walking I could hear them talking
Oh, surely he is an honest man.

Come lay me down, love, and treat me decent,
Come lay me down, love, and fill my can
Oh, lay me down, love, and treat me decent
For once I was an honest man.

Oh, I will lay you down, love, and I’ll treat you decent
I will lay you down, love, and I’ll fill your can
I will lay you down, love, and treat you decent,
For surely you were an honest man.

My body is tired now, my bones are weary,
My soul forever must leave this land
But but pray be kind, sir, and bury me decent
For once I was a happy man.

When I return, I will treat you decent
When I return, I will fill your can
But if you die I will bury you decent
For surely you were an honest man.

Oh lay me down, love, and treat me decent
Oh lay me down, love, and fill my can
Come lay me down, love, and treat me decent
For once I was a happy man.

Notes

Lillis Ó Laoire and Sean Williams have written convincingly about this song, and about Joe’s assertion that it derived from the experience of the Great Famine in Conamara (cf. Singing the Famine: Joe Heaney, Johnny Seoighe and the Poetics of Performance in A. Clune, Dear Far-Voiced Veteran: Essays in Honour of Tom Munnelly. Miltown Malbay 2007, 229-247). Suffice it to say here that Joe is the only person ever to have argued for such a connection, and notwithstanding what Joe told Lucy on this occasion, the song appears to have originated as a late 19th-century American music-hall song, Muldoon, the Solid Man, from which the love song developed that Lucy mentioned in the conversation following Joe’s performance on this occasion; see Mick Moloney, Far from the Shamrock Shore: The Story of Irish-American Immigration Through Song (2002), 24-5.

Songs actually datable to the Famine period are few and far between in Ireland, whether in English or in Irish. Possibly, some things are just too awful to sing about. The few that come to mind include The Praties They are Small, Na Prátaí Dubha and the Conamara song Johnny Seoighe. Apparently Joe always denied knowing the latter song but in this he is clearly being disingenuous, as a transcription of the song appears in the Irish Folklore Collection, taken down by Joe’s brother Seán from the singing of their father, Pádraig Ó h-Éighnigh, in 1932 (CBÉ 74:246-8). The possible reasons for Joe’s reluctance to sing this song — or even to admit knowing it — are discussed by Ó Laoire and Williams in the article cited above.

Great Famine, The (1)

Play recording: Great Famine, The (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Great Famine, The (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 841402.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Joan Rabinowitz.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 07/04/1982.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): radio programme (KRAB).
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Famine refugees bring English-language songs to Conamara

Joe tells how English-language songs came into western parts of Ireland during famine period. Irish-speaking communities in the west took in and looked after English-speaking refugees from the east. These western communities were well-fed off the sea and had their own small plots of potatoes that didn’t fail.

Burial of the Famine dead

By the time the people reached Conamara they were too far gone. Heard grandmother telling about what her mother had told her. When they died, the local people buried them. And when children were going to school, parents urged them to place a small stone on the graves they met along the way.

Notes

Elements of what Joe says regarding The Great Famine should be treated with caution. For example, while it is true that access to seafood attenuated the effects of the Famine in some coastal regions — to a point — communities in those areas were far from immune from them. See discussion of this topic in Lore about The Great Famine and Come Lay Me Down.

Fairy Boy, The

Play recording: Fairy Boy, The

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Fairy Boy, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853906.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 9293.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore; song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Lucy Simpson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 06/11/1979.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Anyway, this song — The Fairy Boy — there’s a… myth — and indeed, that’s how many years ago, people believed it, and some of them still believe it — that if a young child gets drowned in a well, in a spring well — especially a spring well, that’s where the water comes out of the rock — that the fairies have something to do with that particular drowing. That they — What they do, is they take the child, and put the body of the child into somebody old, and put somebody old in the form of a child, and put them in the well, so that they’ll be taken out an buried. And that means that the body they’ve taken goes into one of their own, who’s getting old, and they can live another lifetime. Well, this mother discovers a baby drowned in the well, and she believes that the fairy king — The rath… where the fairies supposed to live was beside the house and she went to the rath, pleading with the fairy king to let her boy come. But she knew he didn’t die accidentally. She knew it was sort of… They, they planted him in the well and… took his body away. The Celts had the same belief, that if… somebody died, they went the Isle of… Hy-Brasail and was reincarnated after a hundred years, and came back again into this world. But any[way], here goes.

A mother came while stars were paling, wailing round a lonely spring
Thus she cried, as tears were falling, calling on the fairy king.
Why would spoil a mother’s treasure, courting him with fairy joy?
Why destroy a mother’s blessing? Whyfore steal my baby boy?

[hums]

O’er the mountains, through the wild wood, where in childhood he longed to play
Where the flowers are freshly springing, there I wander day by day.
There I wander, growing fonder of the child that made my joy
And the echoes while recalling — please restore my baby boy.

[hums]

But in vain my plaintive calling; tears are falling all in vain
He now sports with fairy treasure — he’s the pleasure of their train.
So fare thee well, my child forever! In this world I’ve lost my joy
In the next we ne’er shall sever! There I’ll find my baby boy.

[hums]

So fare thee well, my child forever! In this world I’ve lost my joy
In the next we ne’er shall sever! There I’ll find my baby boy.

Notes

Joe tells Lucy that he learned this song from the same old woman from whom he learned I Wish I Had Someone to Love Me. On other occasions he tells her that this old woman was his grandmother, who lived in their house while he was growing up. He goes on: “That’s why I love women singers, because they can do more justice to an awful lot of songs than men can, you know. They can put more feeling into them. That’s why I love to hear lots of women singing, you know, anywhere I go.”

The air is the same one used for Anach Cuain. The practice of humming, or crónán, is associated with private lamentation. See also the lullabies Joe sang in Irish for more examples.

A number of Joe’s songs and stories relate to the widespread belief in people being stolen by the fairies. See The Changeling, Lore About Changelings, Tháinig Bean Cois Leasa, The Fairy Greyhound, The Woman Who Came Back from the Dead, Why Children are Stolen by the Fairies, and the lullabies Seoithín, Seo-hó and Dún do Shúil.

D. L. Ashliman, in A Guide to Folktales in the English Language (Greenwood Press, New York, Westport CT, London, 1987, p. 104.), has added a new classification to the Aarne-Thompson index, and gives the following description:

504 Changeling. While working in a field, a mother left her newly born child on a stack of hay. When she came back, she knew that the baby lying there was not hers, for it greedily sucked her milk and made inhuman noises. The landowner told her to beat the child with a switch, and she would witness a miracle. She did this, and the devil took his child back, returning the stolen baby.

Ashliman indicates that versions of this story appear in W. B. Yeats, Fairy and Folk Tales of Ireland, pp. 48 and 51; also in Henry Glassie, Irish Folktales, No. 62.

Eileen Aroon

Play recording: Eileen Aroon

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Eileen Aroon.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 844001.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Susan Auerbach.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 1982.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

I know a valley fair, Eileen Aroon
I knew a cottage there, Eileen Aroon
Far in that valley’s shade, I knew a gentle maid
Flower of a hazel glade, Eileen Aroon.

Who is the song so sweet? Eileen Aroon
Who in the dance so fleet? Eileen Aroon
Dear were her charms to me, dearer her laughter free
Dearest her constancy, Eileen Aroon.

Who like the rising day, Eileen Aroon
Love sends his early ray, Eileen Aroon
What makes its dawning glow changeless through joy or woe?
Only the constant know, Eileen Aroon.

Is it the laughing eye? Eileen Aroon
Is it the timid sigh? Eileen Aroon
Is it the tender tone, soft as the stringed harp’s moan?
Oh! It is truth alone, Eileen Aroon.

Youth must with time decay, Eileen Aroon
Beauty must fade away, Eileen Aroon
Castles are sacked in war, chieftains are scattered far
Truth is a fixed star, Eileen Aroon.

Notes

This song has been the subject of a good deal of enquiry down the years. The air is associated with the Scottish song Robin Adair, and a good deal of energy has been expended in deriving one song from the other, with the balance falling in favour of the air’s ultimate Irish origin. As to the text, there have been several; the present one appears to be the work of a nineteenth-century versifier, Gerald Griffin (1803–1840), to whom Hy-Brasail, The Isle of the Blest is also attributed. The story associated with Eileen Aroon is generally given as the one associated with Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh and Eleanor Kavanagh. As Joe explained to Lucy Simpson (UW 853907), he used Eileen Aroon (which he learned from a book) in his teaching as an English adjunct to Eileanór a Rún, which he learned at home. In addition, there are several Irish texts to the air Joe sings here; for one such, see an tAthair Tomás Ó Ceallaigh, Ceol na n-Oileán (Dublin, 1931), 131 and notes.

On this occasion, Joe was singing the song for a private student, Susan Auerbach, so that she could hear the air. As the sound of page-turning before the final verse indicates, they were reading the text from a published source.

Droighneán Donn, An (2)

Play recording: Droighneán Donn, An (2)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Droighneán Donn, An (2).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): The Máire Nic Fhinn Collection.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Liam Clancy.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): unavailable.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): unavailable.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

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

And I got a fairing, oh, on a fair-day from a handsome young man
And a hundred sweet kisses from my own darling John
I’ll go roaming all day ’til the evening comes on
And I’ll be sheltered by the blossoms early of my droighneán donn.

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

And of late I’m captivated by a handsome young man
And I’m daily complaining for my own darling John
Confuse them, consume them who says you’re not true
But through lonesome glens and valleys I will wander with you.

Dhá mbeinn i mo bhádóir nach deas mar a shnámhfainn an fharraige anonn
Dhá mbeinn mo fhaoileán nach deas mar d’éiróinn ar bharr na dtonn
Bheinn ag éalú le mo chéadsearc is á fáisceadh a coim
Ach an lá nach bhféadaim, ó, bean a bhréagadh níl an báire liom.

I wish I had a small boat on the ocean to roam
And I’d follow my true love where e’er he would go
I would rather have my true love to rove, sport and play1
Than all the gold and silver by land or by sea.

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

Translation

Verses 1, 3 and 5.

And I got a present on a fair-day from a handsome young man,
and a hundred kisses the next day from the flower of young men.
A day of woe be on the one who says you aren’t my love;
and the next day wouldn’t I gladly escape with you into the woods!

A hundred women think I’m theirs when I’m drinking ale;
two-thirds of it goes down when I think of their conversation with me;
blown snow, constantly falling on Sliabh Uí Fhloinn;
my love is like the blossom of sloes on the brown blackthorn.

If I were a boatman wouldn’t I gaily float over the sea;
if I were a seagull I would rise nicely above the waves;
I would be escaping with my first love, my hand around her waist;
but the day I can’t coax a woman, the game is lost.

Notes

1. 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 valuable because it was sung not in front of an audience, or in the recording studio, but in an informal company of people, many of whom — if not all — are clearly Irish speaking natives of Conamara (as evidenced by the way they call out encouragement and join in with the song, as is normal in the Gaeltacht singing tradition). The pace is much slower than in some of Joe’s formal performances of the song, which enables him to wring the last drop of emotion out of every syllable. The communication between Joe and his listeners is very much two-way in this recording (again, in keeping with the Gaeltacht tradition), and like so many of his live recordings it illustrates the powerful ingredient which an audience — especially one composed of Conamara natives — contributed to Joe’s singing.

Another recording of An Droighneán Donn, which Joe made while living in the United States, appears on Come All You Gallant Irishmen. In that instance, the pace is a bit quicker and the sound quality much better. Polished but lacking some of the essential elements present here.

We are greatful to the late Liam Clancy for permission to use this recording.

Droighneán Donn, An (1)

Play recording: Droighneán Donn, An (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • 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): none.
  • 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.

Translation

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.

Notes

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.

Did the Rum do and What Will You do When the Kettle Boils Over?

Play recording: Did the Rum do and What Will You do When the Kettle Boils Over?

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Did the Rum do and What Will You do When the Kettle Boils Over?
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 855203.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 3051.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Warren Fahey.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 1976.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Sydney Opera House, Australia.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): concert.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

This man had three daughters. Their mother was dead. They were the apples of his eye, and he was the apple of their eye. And they always looked after him as a daughter should look after a father. And one night he came home, feeling awful bad. And the daughters put their three heads together and said, ‘Daddy doesn’t feel well today. What are we going to do with him?’ So the decided the best thing to do, to make him a glass of punch, and put him into bed. So they got the biggest glass they could find in the house, and they filled up to there with rum. A spoon of sugar, and a spoon of boiling water, and they topped it off with — rum. And they gave it to him in the bed. And the following morning he was jumping on the top of the stair. And the oldest daughter came up to him and said, ‘Did the rum do?’ — that means, did the rum do the job? Did the rum do. And the second daughter came up and she said, ‘Did the rum do, Da?’ And the youngest girl came up and she said, ‘Did the rum do, Daddy?’ And he started tapping his feet, like that:

Ditherum-doo, ditherum-doo, ditherum-doo-dah-dee
Ditherum-doo, ditherum-doo, ditherum-doo-dah-dee
[continues lilting]

What will you when the kettle boils over?
What will you but fill it again!
What will you when you marry a soldier?
What would you do but follow his gun.
What will you do when he dies on the ocean?
What will you do but marry again.
What will you do when the cow eats the clover?
What would you do but set it again.

[lilting]

D’imigh an sioc1 and the frost is all over
Kitty move over, lie next to the wall!

[lilting]

God bless you again, and good night!

Notes

1. ‘The frost went’; that is, ‘the frost is gone’. This couplet has nothing to do with ‘what will you do…?’ but everything to do with the jig-tune to which it is sung.

This is an excellent performance of a standard item from Joe’s concert repertoire. On many occasions, he added the remark that the story explained how tunes were often composed. As here, he often used it to end a programme.

The jigs lilted are The Dingle Regatta and The Frost Is All Over.

We are grateful to Warren Fahey, who promoted and recorded the concert from which this entry was taken, for allowing us to use this recording. The concert can be heard in its entirety on his website.

Did the Rum Do?

Play recording: Did the Rum Do?

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Did the Rum Do?
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 855203.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 5301.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Warren Fahey.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 1976.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Sydney Opera House, Australia.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): concert.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

This man had three daughters. Their mother was dead. They were the apples of his eye, and he was the apple of their eye. And they always looked after him as a daughter should look after a father. And one night he came home, feeling awful bad. And the daughters put their three heads together and said, “Daddy doesn’t feel well today. What are we going to do with him?” So the decided the best thing to do, to make him a glass of punch, and put him into bed. So they got the biggest glass they could find in the house, and they filled up to there with rum. A spoon of sugar, and a spoon of boiling water, and they topped it off with — rum. And they gave it to him in the bed. And the following morning he was jumping on the top of the stair. And the oldest daughter came up to him and said, ‘Did the rum do?’ – that means, did the rum do the job? Did the rum do. And the second daughter came up and she said, ‘Did the rum do, Da?’ And the youngest girl came up and she said, ‘Did the rum do, Daddy?’ And he started tapping his feet, like that:

Ditherum-doo, ditherum-doo, ditherum-doo-dah-dee
Ditherum-doo, ditherum-doo, ditherum-doo-dah-dee
etc…

What will you when the kettle boils over?
What will you but fill it again?
What will you when you marry a soldier?
What would you do but follow his gun?
What will you do when he dies on the ocean?
What will you do but marry again?
What will you do when the cow eats the clover?
What would you do but set it again?

[lilting]

D’imigh an sioc1 and the frost is all over
Kitty move over, lie next to the wall!

[lilting]

God bless you again, and good night!

Notes

1. ‘The frost went’; that is, ‘the frost is gone’. This couplet has nothing to do with ‘what will you do…?’ but everything to do with the jig-tune to which it is sung.

This is an excellent performance of a standard item from Joe’s concert repertoire. On many occasions, he added the remark that the story explained how tunes were often composed. As here, he often used it to end a programme.

The jigs lilted are The Dingle Regatta and The Frost Is All Over.

We are grateful to Warren Fahey, who promoted and recorded the concert from which this entry was taken, for allowing us to use this recording.
The concert can be heard in its entirety on Warren’s website.

Death Customs and Caoineadh

Play recording: Death Customs and Caoineadh

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Death Customs and Caoineadh.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781503.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): Joe’s background.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Esther Warkov.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 02/03/1978 – 03/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Joe describes how the keening women used to cry over the dead at wakes and funerals. Links with how people used to attend when Caoineadh na dTrí Muire was being sung on Good Friday. People would become emotional, and cry. Meaning of the word ochón. Keening women did not have to be related to the dead person; they weren’t paid to do it, but they specialised in it and they did it. They got great respect — at the end everybody was in tears; men, women and children. They’re dying out now. People aren’t waked for three days and nights any more; nowadays they only have them one night in the house, then one night in the church, and the third day they’re buried. No special songs or hymns at funerals — just the keen, when people would sing the lament, the keen, praising the person who has died, wishing they were still here. The person who was performing this lament would actually be crying their own dead. There wasn’t a great deal of variability in these laments, most of what would be said about the dead person would be of a general enough character that even though the person performing the caoineadh would be — as Joe puts it — ‘crying their own dead’, the sentiments expressed would be applicable to the person who died on this occasion. Joe says he heard this often enough, but that he doesn’t do it himself — there are some things that are more appropriate for women than men, and this is one of them.

Deaf Coach, The (2)

Play recording: Deaf Coach, The (2)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Deaf Coach, The (2).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840121.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Joan Rabinowitz.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 19/10/1984.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): KRAB Radio.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

The Deaf Coach, a supernatural coach that passes people’s houses at certain times of the year (such as Hallowe’en), is a common enough archetype in Irish folklore.

In this telling, Joe gives the original Irish name for the coach — An Cóiste Bodhar. He says it is so called because you cannot hear it coming, although you can hear the panting of the people inside. Both the four horses pulling the coach and the two men driving them are headless. Riding inside the coach is a púca — the most malevolent of the several types of fairies described by Joe — who keeps his head under his arm. The púca holds a large bowl of blood on his hand. If he sees an open door he throws the blood in through it, causing everyone in the house to die within nine months. Joe tells us that this is why people shut their doors.

Notes

Joe related this folklore with minor variations in other tellings. See Deaf Coach, The (1).

The date given is 19 October 1984, but this is likely to be the broadcast date, as Joe Heaney died in May of that year.

Deaf Coach, The (1)

Play recording: Deaf Coach, The (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Deaf Coach, The (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840121.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 31/01/1984.
  • 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.

The Deaf Coach, a supernatural coach that passes people’s houses at certain times of the year (such as Hallowe’en), is a common enough archetype in Irish folklore.

In this telling, Joe says that you can both hear and see it coming. Both the horses and the two men driving them are headless. Inside the coach is a man with the head of a billy-goat. This character holds a big quart of blood in his paw-like hands. If he sees an open door he throws the blood in through it, causing everyone in the house to die within nine months.

Joe refers to turnips and cabbages being thrown at doors (he does not specify who throws them), which he says is a warning to people that the púca is on the way. ‘The púca’, in this case, probably refers to the man with the head of a goat. In other tellings (see Deaf Coach, The (2)) Joe specifies from the outset that the coach is carrying a púca.

Dance to Your Daddy, Cucandy-o and What Will You do if the Kettle Boils Over?

Play recording: Dance to Your Daddy, Cucandy-o and What Will You do if the Kettle Boils Over?

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Dance to Your Daddy, Cucandy-o and What Will You do if the Kettle Boils Over?.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 843901.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 2439; 5301.
  • 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): Jill Linzee.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): between 1982 and 1984.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Dance to your Mammy-o
Dance to your Daddy-o
You are me Mammy’s darling.

I’ll buy my love a saucepan
I’ll buy my love a spoon
I’ll buy my love a writing desk
And send him off to school.

Dance to your Daddy-o
Dance to your Mammy-o
Dance to your Daddy-o
You are your Mammy’s darling.

Cucanandy-nandy, cucanandy-o
Cucanandy-nandy, cucanandy-o
Cucanandy-nandy, cucanandy-o
Cucanandy-nandy ‘s iníon Philib an Cheoil.

He didn’t dance, dance, he didn’t dance today
He didn’t dance, dance, today or yesterday.
He didn’t dance, dance, he didn’t dance today
He didn’t dance, dance, today or yesterday.

Throw him up, up, throw him up high
Throw him up, up, and he’ll be down bye and bye.

Throw him over over over overboard
Throw him over over, throw him overboard

Cucanandy-nandy, cucanandy-o
Cucanandy-nandy, cucanandy-o
Cucanandy-nandy, cucanandy-o
Iníon Sheáin na Coille ‘s iníon Philib an Cheoil1.

Nigh do chosa2, a Sheáinín
Nigh do chosa, a Mháir’3
Nigh do chosa, a Sheáinín
Nigh do chosa, a stór

Cucanandy-nandy, cucanandy-o
Cucanandy-nandy, cucanandy-o

Now what will you do when the kettle boils over?
What will you do but fill it again.
What will you do when you marry a soldier?
What will you do but follow his gun.
What will you do when he dies on the ocean?
What would you do but marry again.
What will you do when the cow eats the clover?
What would you do but set it again.

[lilting]

Notes

1. Seán of the Forest’s daughter and the daughter of Philip of the Music.

2. Wash your feet; presumably before going to bed.

3. Máire.

Joe often represented these pieces — especially the first two — as tunes that would be sung by women when they were engaged in carding wool. He told people that his mother and his grandmother both sang them in this sort of context.

Without wishing to contradict Joe on this point, it must be said that all three of these songs were recorded early in 1951 by Alan Lomax from Elizabeth Cronin, the renowned traditional singer from Baile Mhic Íre, Musgraí Uí Fhloínn, in mid-County Cork, and in 1955 they appeared on an LP in Columbia Records World Library of Folk and Primitive Music series (Columbia AKL 4941; Rounder 1742). It would be hard to overestimate the influence of this LP on those who participated in the subsequent folk revival, especially on those interested in singing; and it would be hard to imagine that Joe Heaney did not possess a copy of, or have access to, a copy of it at some time. In any case, Joe’s version of the songs, not to mention the association between them, is far closer to that of Elizabeth Cronin than one might normally expect, given the physical distance separating Carna from Baile Mhic Íre.

It is curious to note that a number of Joe’s other standards — including The Banks of the Roses, The Rocks of Bawn, Deoindi, The Wife of the Bold Tenant Farmer, Connla, Bean Pháidín, She Moved Through the Fair, Johnny Morrissey and the Russian Sailor, Molly Bawn, Mrs Mc Grath, The Lament for Úna Bhán, Soldier, Soldier, Will You Marry me Now?, and even a version of Tháinig Bean Cois Leasa — also appear on this LP. A number of them, of course, would have been known to Joe at home, and appear on the LP in performance by the likes of Seán ‘ac Dhonncha (Johnny Joe Phaitsín), Seán Jeaic Mac Donncha, and Joe’s second cousin, Colm Ó Caodháin (Colm Keane); in addition, several of the songs in English are performed by Séamas Ennis, who accompanied Alan Lomax for a time during his research, and who may have learned them during his fieldwork trips in the Carna district. It is nonetheless interesting that so many of the songs on this LP — twelve out of twenty-six — are found in Joe’s repertoire, almost as if the recording made them important songs to have, and to be known for having. It is also interesting to speculate that Joe himself might have sung for Lomax had he not been living in Scotland at the time of Lomax’s visit.

Cultural Change (2)

Play recording: Cultural change (2)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Cultural Change (2).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 860903.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): thoughts.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Ewan Mac Coll and Peggy Seeger.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): late 1963 to early 1964.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): London, England.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Joe Heaney says radio is doing away with a lot of the old singing and customs, especially among the young people.

Dancing has changed — in his youth dance other than ceilí dancing was illegal.

Fears that all the old traditions will die out when the older generation is gone.

Notes

At the time of the conversation, Joe Heaney hadn’t been home for five years; presumably Christmas 1958.

Fred Mc Cormick has transcribed this segment as part of the long interview conducted by Mac Coll and Seeger in 1963–4, before Joe emigrated to the United States. See Part 5.

Cultural Change (1)

Play recording: Cultural change (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Cultural change (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 841404.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): thoughts.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Joan Rabinowitz.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 09/04/1982.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): day class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Joe believes that radio and television have damaged cultural transmission at in Ireland. Nothing will ever convince the people there that their culture is superior to anything you can get on television. In Joe’s native area, even today, the people will turn off the television in order to listen to a song. But it’s there, and Joe says he’s seen the changes in many places. In Dublin, for instance, country-and-western music is very popular. There was more Irish spoken in Ireland 20 years ago than there is today.

People are better off now; they can get in their cars and go somewhere. But when people were confined in one place, they had their own culture, not something that was given to them. Joe says he’d rather be in America — and America built his confidence, talking about Irish culture in classes and festivals — than to try to do the same thing in Dublin.

Cúilín Triopallach na Gruaige Báine (1)

Play recording: Cúilín Triopallach na Gruaige Báine (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Cúilín Triopallach na Gruaige Báine (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Bailiúchán Mháire Nic Fhinn.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Liam Clancy.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): unavailable.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): unavailable.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Is nach b’fhurast aithne dhom nach tú a bhí i ndán dom
Nuair a chuir tú amach mé ‘s bhí an lá báisteach
Baineadh truisle asam i mbéal na bearna
‘S níor dhúirt tú Dia linn liom a’s bhí tú i láthair.

Ó, déarfá Dia linn le mac do námhaid
Ní hé amháin an té a bhfuil a chroí istigh i ngrá leat
Fadó fadó an lá a dtug mé grá duit
A chúilín triopallach na gruaige báine.

‘S is fada í anocht agus is fada í amárach
Is fada í an bhliain a’s is fada í an rátha
Ach fadó, fadó an lá a dtug mé grádh dhuit
A chúilín triopallach na gruaige báine.

Is dhá mbeadh a’msa glac billeógaí báidhte
Is rud beag eile a gcuirfinn spás ann1
Bhrúighfhinn is mhillfhinn iad le cúl mo láimhe
Is thabhairfinn cailín deas ó ghlúin a máthar.

‘S is fada í inniu agus is fada í amárach
Is fada í an bhliain a’s is fada í an ráithe
Fadó, fadó an lá a dtug mé grá dhuit
A chúilín triopallach na gruaige báine.

Translation

Wasn’t it obvious to me that you weren’t destined for me
When you threw me out on a rainy day
When you saw me trip going through the gap,
You never even said ‘God with us’.

Oh, you’d say ‘God with us’ to the son of your enemy
Let alone the one who’s in love with you
It was a long, long time ago that I fell in love with you
My fair-haired girl of the ringlets.

It’s long tonight and it’s long tomorrow
It’s a long year and a long season
But it’s long, long ago that I fell in love with you
My fair-haired girl of the ringlets.

And if I had a handful of wet leaves
Or anything else that I’d have room for
I’d crush and grind them with the back of my hand
And I’d take a nice young girl from her mother’s knee.

It’s long tonight and it’s long tomorrow
It’s a long year and a long season
But it’s long, long ago that I fell in love with you
My fair-haired girl of the ringlets.

Notes

1. Joe’s manuscript gives this line as nó rud beag eile nach bhféadaim trácht air (or any other small, worthless thing).

It appears that Joe recorded this song on no other occasion. It was, however, one of the first songs he learned at home, as evidenced by the fact that he contributed the words to the Irish Folklore Commission sometime in the 1930s (cf. CBÉ 1275:441-2). He does not name his informant, but in 1932 his older brother Seán also contributed material to the Commission, naming their father as the source.

Words and air were also collected by Séamas Ennis from Colm Ó Caoidheáin in Glinsce in the 1940s (CBÉ 1280:729-30 and CC 018.049). Interestingly, Colm’s version does not resemble Joe’s all that closely, suggesting that Joe probably got the song from a source other than his cousin.

Cuaichín Ghleann Néifinn

Play recording: Cuaichín Ghleann Néifinn

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Cuaichín Ghleann Néifinn.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): CF0114b.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Séamas Ennis, Kevin Danaher.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 14/12/1942.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Carna, County Galway, Ireland.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Tá féar fada agus fásach i ngleanntán álainn i bhfad ó bhaile
Tá úllaí ‘gus deálraí ‘ fás go hard ar bharra gcrann ann.
Dá mbeinnse is mo stóirín pósta is a saol ag gabháil mar ba cheart linn
Bheadh an t-airgead inár bpócaí is luach an óil ag mná na [sic] leanna.

Tá smúit ar na réalta, ar an ngréin is ar an ngealaigh
Is ar amharc mo shúl fhéin, ní léir dhom na bealaí
I ndiaidh cuaichín Ghleann Néifinn níor fhéad mé riamh a mhealladh
Ach a stóirín ná tréig mé, is í do mhéin bhreá atá ‘mo leagan.

Translation

There is long grass and wilderness in a lovely glen far from home,
Where apples and bounty [?] grow high on the tops of trees.
If my love and I were married, and life going as it should with us,
We’d have money in our pockets, and the price of drink for the landladies.

There’s a mist on the stars, on the sun and the moon,
And on the sight of my eyes, the roads are not clear to me
Since I have never been able to win the little cuckoo of Glen Néifinn.
My little treasure, don’t abandon me, it’s your lovely bearing that is laying me low.

Notes

See CBÉ manuscript CC 018.022 for a musical transcription of the first verse of this song.

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), 165-7; also Micheál agus Tomás Ó Máille, Amhráin Chlainne Gael, ed. William Mahon (Indreabhán 1991), 90-1 and notes.

This recording was released on a commercial recording, Seosamh Ó hÉanaí (Gael Linn LP CÉF 028 / CEFCD 191-2), 1971; reissued 2007.

Crúiscín Lán, The (1)

Play recording: Crúiscín Lán, The (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Crúiscín Lán, The (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781515.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 2309.
  • 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): Cynthia Thiessen.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 06/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): day class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Fredric Lieberman.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Let the farmer praise his ground
And the huntsman praise his hound,
The shepherd his sweet shady grove;
But I’m more blessed than they,
Spend each happy night and day
With my smiling little cruiscín lán, lán, lán,
With my smiling little cruiscín lán, lán, lán.

Grá mo chroí mo chrúiscín
Is sláinte geal mo mhúirnín
Grá mo chroí mo cruiscín, lán, lán, lán,
Grá mo chroí mo chrúiscín
Is sláinte geal mo mhúirnín
Oh my smiling little crúiscín lán lán lán.

Immortal and divine,
For great Bacchus, god of wine
Create me by adoption of your son,
In hope that you’ll comply
For my glass will ne’er run dry
Or my smiling little cruiscín lán, lán, lán,
Or my smiling little cruiscín lán, lán, lán,

Grá mo chroí mo chrúiscín
Is sláinte geal mo mhúirnín
Grá mo chroí mo cruiscín, lán, lán, lán,
Grá mo chroí mo chrúiscín
Is sláinte geal mo mhúirnín
Oh my smiling little crúiscín lán lán lán.

And when grim Death appears
In a few and pleasant years,
And says that my glass it has run
I’ll say, ‘Begone, you knave!
For great Bacchus gave me léave
To fill another cruiscín lán, lán, lán,
To fill another cruiscín lán, lán, lán’.

Grá mo chroí mo chrúiscín
Is sláinte geal mo mhúirnín
Grá mo chroí mo cruiscín, lán, lán, lán,
Grá mo chroí mo chrúiscín
Is sláinte geal mo mhúirnín
Oh my smiling little crúiscín lán lán lán.

Then fill up your glasses high,
Let them part with lips not dry,
For the lark now proclaims it is dawn.
And since we can’t remain,
May we shortly meet again
To fill another cruiscín lán, lán, lán,
To fill another cruiscín lán, lán, lán.

Grá mo chroí mo chrúiscín
Is sláinte geal mo mhúirnín
Grá mo chroí mo cruiscín, lán, lán, lán,
Grá mo chroí mo chrúiscín
Is sláinte geal mo mhúirnín
Ó is cuma liom do chúilín dubh nó bán.

Notes

Séamas Ennis transcribed this song from Joe for the Irish Folklore Commission on 14 December 1942 (CC 018.019). The transcription appears in CBÉ manuscript 1280, pp. 584-5; a note at the top of page 584 indicates that it was also recorded on an ediphone cylinder.

Joe often remarked that this song was a favourite of his father, who was often asked to sing it at weddings.

Connla (2)

Play recording: Connla (2)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Connla (2).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): The Máire Nic Fhinn Collection.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish and English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney, Séamas Ennis.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Liam Clancy.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): unavailable.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): unavailable.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable

…Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
‘Maybe I shouldn’t’ says Connla.

Cé hé sin thíos atá bualadh na fuinneoige?
Cé hé sin thíos atá bualadh na fuinneoige?
Cé hé sin thíos atá bualadh na fuinneoige?
‘Mise héin’ a dúirt Connla.

A Chonnla, a chroí, ná tearaigh níos goire dhom!
A Chonnla, a chroí, ná tearaigh níos goire dhom!
A Chonnla, a chroí, ná tearaigh níos goire dhom!
‘Cóir dom sin’ a dúirt Connla.

Who is that out there that’s tapping my window pane?
Who is that out there that’s tapping my window pane?
Who is that out there that’s tapping my window pane?
Nobody only Connla.

Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
‘Maybe I shouldn’t’ says Connla.

Cé hé sin thíos atá coigilt na teine dhom?
Cé hé sin thíos atá coigilt na teine dhom?
Cé hé sin thíos atá coigilt na teine dhom?
‘Mise héin’ a dúirt Connla.

A Chonnla, a chroí, ná tearaigh níos goire dhom!
A Chonnla, a chroí, ná tearaigh níos goire dhom!
A Chonnla, a chroí, ná tearaigh níos goire dhom!
‘Cóir dom sin’ a dúirt Connla.

Who’s that there raking the fire for me?
Who’s that there raking the fire for me?
Who’s that there raking the fire for me?
Nobody only Connla.

Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
‘Maybe I shouldn’t’ says Connla.

Cé hé sin thíos atá tarraingt na pluide dhíom?
Cé hé sin thíos atá tarraingt na pluide dhíom?
Cé hé sin thíos atá tarraingt na pluide dhíom?
‘Mise héin’ a dúirt Connla.

A Chonnla, a chroí, ná tearaigh níos goire dhom!
A Chonnla, a chroí, ná tearaigh níos goire dhom!
A Chonnla, a chroí, ná tearaigh níos goire dhom!
‘M’anam go dtiocfaidh!’ a dúirt Connla1.

Who is that there that’s dragging the blankets off?
Who is that there that’s dragging the blankets off?
Who is that there that’s dragging the blankets off?
Nobody only Connla.

Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
‘Maybe I shouldn’t’ says Connla.

Cé hé sin thíos atá tochas mo bhonnachaí?
Cé hé sin thíos atá tochas mo bhonnachaí?
Cé hé sin thíos atá tochas mo bhonnachaí?
‘Mise héin’ a dúirt Connla.

A Chonnla, a chroí, ná tearaigh níos goire dhom!
A Chonnla, a chroí, ná tearaigh níos goire dhom!
A Chonnla, a chroí, ná tearaigh níos goire dhom!
‘Cóir dom sin’ a dúirt Connla.

Who is that there that tickles the toes of me?
Who is that there that tickles the toes of me?
Who is that there that tickles the toes of me?
Nobody only Connla.

Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
‘Maybe I shouldn’t’ says Connla.

Notes

1. Joe makes a slight alteration to the chorus here to reflect the advancement of the plot: M’anam go dtiocfaidh! (upon my soul, I will!).

Although it’s a pity the tape was not set going until after the song had begun, the sheer joy taken in the performance by Joe and his old sparring-partner, the famous piper and folk song collector Séamas Ennis, comes through strongly   as does that of their audience. Joe and Séamas usually made things lively when they got together, and this occasion was no exception.

In an interview with Joe’s biographer, Liam Mac Con Iomaire, Liam Clancy described what might have been the circumstances of this recording. A few days before Joe was to depart for England, someone suggested a spur-of-the-moment trip to Baile an Fheirtéirigh in the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht of County Kerry. We went off to Ballyferriter, Joe Heaney, Séamas Ennis, my wife Kim, Barney Mc Kenny and, I think, Ciarán Bourke. I have recordings from these nights and I have some wonderful stuff with Joe. On the way back to Dublin, the lads had a bottle of whiskey in the back, and I had the tape recorder going as they tried to outdo one another. And Séamas Ennis would get under Joe’s skin by singing a verse of some obscure Colm Keane [Colm Ó Caodháin] song, a verse he’d think Joe wouldn’t know. And Joe would say, “Jesus Christ Almighty, you stole that from my uncle Colm Keane!” (Liam Mac Con Iomaire, Seosamh Ó hÉanaí: Nár fhágha mé bás choíche, Cló Iar-Chonnachta (2007), 219.)

Certainly there was always a sense of rivalry between Joe and Ennis, who were born in the same year. Joe sometimes complained to students in the U.S. that Ennis had profited financially from his collecting work for the Irish Folklore Commission in the 1940s, principally by learning the songs he got from informants and performing them himself on the radio, for a fee. It seems probable that the number of tracks featuring Séamas Ennis’s singing on the seminally-important 1955 LP issued from Alan Lomax’s recordings for Columbia Records, the Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music: Ireland, did not go unnoticed by Joe Heaney, who would himself surely have appeared on that recording if he had not been living in Scotland at the time of Lomax’s field-trip. But while it may be fair to describe Ennis as a self-promoter, very few others at that time were troubling themselves to promote him or the music in which he passionately believed. The story was no different for Joe Heaney.

We are greatful to the late Liam Clancy for permission to use this recording

Connla (1)

Play recording: Connla (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Connla (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 855203.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Warren Fahey.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 1981.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Sydney Opera House, Australia.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): concert.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Cé hé sin amuigh atá leagann na gclaidheacha?
Cé hé sin amuigh atá leagann na gclaidheacha?
Cé hé sin amuigh atá leagann na gclaidheacha?
‘Mise mé héin’ a dúirt Connla.

I think I’ll sing it in English now.

Who’s that out there knocking the ditches down?
Who’s that out there knocking the ditches down?
Who’s that out there knocking the ditches down?
Nobody only Connla.

Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
‘Maybe I shouldn’t’ says Connla.

[lilting]

Cé hé sin thíos atá bualadh na fuinneoige?
Cé hé sin thíos atá bualadh na fuinneoige?
Cé hé sin thíos atá bualadh na fuinneoige?
‘Mise mé héin’ a dúirt Connla.

A Chonnla, a chroí, ná tearaigh níos goire dhom!
A Chonnla, a chroí, ná tearaigh níos goire dhom!
A Chonnla, a chroí, ná tearaigh níos goire dhom!
‘Is cóir dom sin’ a dúirt Connla.

Who is that out there that’s tapping my window pane?
Who is that out there that’s tapping my window pane?
Who is that out there that’s tapping my window pane?
Nobody only Connla.

Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
‘Maybe I shouldn’t’ says Connla.

[lilting]

Cé hé sin thíos atá a’ fadú na teine dhom?
Cé hé sin thíos atá a’ fadú na teine dhom?
Cé hé sin thíos atá a’ fadú na teine dhom?
‘Mise mé fhéin’ a dúirt Connla.

A Chonnla, a chroí, ná tearaigh níos goire dhom!
A Chonnla, a chroí, ná tearaigh níos goire dhom!
A Chonnla, a chroí, ná tearaigh níos goire dhom!
‘Is cóir dom sin’ a dúirt Connla.

Who’s that there raking the fire for me?
Who’s that there raking the fire for me?
Who’s that there raking the fire for me?
Nobody only Connla.

Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
‘Maybe I shouldn’t’ says Connla.

[lilting]

Who is that there that’s tickling the toes of me?
Who is that there that’s tickling the toes of me?
Who is that there that’s tickling the toes of me?
‘Only meself’ says Connla.

Oh, Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
‘Maybe I shouldn’t’ says Connla.

[lilting]

Who is that there pulling my blanket off?
Who is that there pulling my blanket off?
Who is that there pulling my blanket off?
‘Only meself’ says Connla.

Oh, Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
Connla, dear, don’t come any nearer me!
‘Maybe I shouldn’t’ says Connla.

[lilting, then sings The Banks of the Roses]

Come Butter

Play recording: Come Butter

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Come Butter.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853911.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Lucy Simpson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): between 3rd March ahd 5th May 1980.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): unavailable.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Joe tells Lucy about the belief that a visitor to a house where cream was being churned to make butter had to put their hands on the churn before leaving — or they would take all the butter with them. The person churning could increase the yield of butter by saying ‘Come butter! Come butter! Ím an dá bhaile seo!1

Notes

1. Like it’s broad English equivalent, ‘home’, he Irish word baile can have slightly different meanings, depending on context. In this case, ím an dá bhaile seo (the butter of these two ‘homes’), the word refers to a fairly localised rural geographical area, often centred around one single bóithrín (‘small road’), or bounded by two of them. This area will be known by a generally-recognised placename and be considered a distinct ‘neighbourhood’. A more robust general-purpose translation of baile would be ‘dwelling place’. Although this English form is a little clumsy it is greatly preferable to ‘village’: every village is a baile but not every baile is a village! Similarly, a baile is not the same thing as a baile fearainn (townland).

Claddagh Ring, The

Play recording: Claddagh Ring, The

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Claddagh Ring, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840119.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore; 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): 24/01/1984.
  • 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: Lynch’s Son and the Spanish Suitors

About the seventeenth century, there was a man in Galway called Lynch – John Lynch – and he was a judge and the mayor of Galway at the time. As I said before, this was the greatest trading port in… the western world, Galway Bay, and they were going back and forth to Spain with ships. And a nobleman’s son from from Spain came to stay in Lynch’s castle, to spend his vacation with Lynch’s son. And Lynch’s son was engaged to a girl, and when she put her eye – or her two eyes – on the Spaniard (and thereby goes a tale), she fell for him. Now, whether Lynch’s son recognized that or not, nobody knows, but the next day they went out to play a game of hurling, and Lynch’s son killed the Spaniard accidentally with the hurley – you know, the hurley they have to play the Gaelic games, like, something like a hockey stick, but played on ground. And everybody said that he did it because the Spaniard was after the girl, and most of the people felt sorry for him — they said it was an accident.

But Lynch being the judge, he tried his own son and he sentenced his own son to death. And bad and all as the hangman was at the time, he refused to hang Lynch’s son. And Lynch said, “You hung other people’s sons, so we’ll have to do it”. So Lynch hung his own son from the third window of that castle, as you’ll see today, the Allied Irish Bank in the main street in Galway. Now, from then on he didn’t do much good. And a year after, a cousin of the Spaniard came to Galway. And the girl fell for him too. And when Lynch heard this, because [of] the tragedy before that, he was going to put a stop to it. And they heard it, and they took a little boat, a currach or a canoe, out from the Claddagh, to go out to the big ship in Galway Bay that would take them to Spain. And because they were never in a little boat before, the boat capsized, and… they were drowned. And when they were found, his arm was around her heart. And that is the crown of Spain on the top there.

Now if your heart is open, so you’re not confined to one person, you turn it like that; but when you’re engaged, or when you’re married, or when you’re rehearsing properly, you turn it like, you turn the heart in. So that is a good idea. Now, there’s a song about that called The Claddagh Ring.

The old Claddagh ring it belonged to my grandmother1
She wore it a lifetime and gave it to me
on her worn finger she wore it so proudly
‘Twas made where the Claddagh rolls down to the sea.
What tales it could tell of trials and hardships
And the grand happy days when the whole world would sing
Away with your sorrow, ’twill bring life2 tomorrow
Being everyone loves it, the old Claddagh ring.

‘Twas her gift to me, and it made me so proudly
With this on my finger my heart it would ring!3
No king on a throne could be more happy
Than I when I’m wearing the old Claddagh ring.
When the angels above call me into heaven
In the heart of the Claddagh their voices will ring
Away with your sorrows, you’ll be with us tomorrow
But be sure and bring with you the old Claddagh ring.

Notes

This version of ‘The Claddagh Ring’ has been chosen largely because of the wonderful story that precedes it. Unfortunately, the text of the song itself is a bit rough in spots. On other occasions, Joe’s lines scan a bit better, and make more sense:

1. the old Claddagh ring, it was my grandmother’s

2. luck

3. ‘Twas her gift to me, and as she told me her stories / The smile on her face, it would charm a king

In this transcription the verses are represented as eight-line stanzas, to reflect the fact that Joe sings them to an eight-line (AABA) air.

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

Children Stolen by Fairies and Tháinig Bean Cois Leasa

Play recording: Children Stolen by Fairies and Tháinig Bean Cois Leasa

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Children Stolen by Fairies and Tháinig Bean Cois Leasa.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781516.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore; song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Cynthia Thiessen.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 07/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Fredric Lieberman.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Now, I want to get onto the fairies again. Well, the fairies, now — I’m not talking about fairies, I’m talking about ‘good people’ they call them, who live in a big — inside the big rocks, called a lios. There’s a myth that, if somebody gets drowned in a spring well, the fairies — especially if that person is very young, which always happens to young little boys — that the fairies wants to take the form of a young person, and live again; and put their own form, which could be a hundred years old, into the little boy they take away.

Now, there’s a Gaelic one and there’s an English one1. The Gaelic one is about the woman, she was out washing clothes by the river. And the week before, her little boy was killed, and dead and buried. And there was a woman standing at the other end of the river, and the woman was a taibhse… you know, a sort of a spirit. And the woman said, ‘Your child is inside that rath, and the man who stole your child will be passing this way tonight.’

And now, when you’re going to kill an evil spirit, you’re supposed — the knife you use is supposed to have a black handle. No other handle will do. And she said, ‘When… you see two leaves dropping off the tree on top of the stile’ — a stile is a step, and it steps over a fence, on both sides — ‘stick your knife in that leaf; and when you go home, your little boy will be sitting beside the fire.’

So the story goes on to say that that actually happened — in the Gaelic one; in the English one it doesn’t. They are not related, but… almost the same. And the Gaelic one goes like this. Lios is the Gaelic for rath — that’s where the fairies supposed to have their headquarters. That’s where all the meetings and seminars take place.

Tháinig bean anuas cois leasa, seoithín, seoithín
Tháinig bean go moch cois leasa, seoithín, seoithín
A bhean úd thall ar chois an tsrutháin, seoithín, seoithín
Tá do leanbh istigh sa gcarraig, hó, seoithín
Teara anocht chuig bun na staighre, hó-ín, seoithín
Scian cois-duibhe a thabhairt i do láimh leat, seoithín, seoithín
Fan go socair, fan go macán[ta]
Fan go socair ag an gcú [?]
Teirigh abhaile, beidh do mhaicín
Ina shuí ag tine, a’ failliú-leó
Seoithín, seoithín, seoithín, seoithín-seó.

Translation

A woman came down early to the foot of the lios.
‘Oh woman over there at the end of the stream,
your child is inside the rock.
Come tonight to the bottom of the stile,
with a black-handled knife in your hand.
Wait patiently and politely, wait patiently at the [meaning unclear];
go home, your child will be sitting at the fireside.

Notes

1. The ‘English one’ Joe is referring to is The Fairy Boy.

A number of Joe’s songs and stories relate to the belief in changelings.

This song appears to be related to a Scottish song, A Bhean ud Thall, which it resembles in terms of both structure and — superficially, at least — content. In many Scottish Gaelic waulking-songs, a refrain element consisting of meaningless vocable syllables occurs at the ends of the lines, as here. In terms of content, the line beginning A bhean úd thall ar chois an tsrutháin, as well as the overall setting (by a body of water) and narrative situation (a conversation between two women, one of whom needs the other’s help) suggest a relationship with the international ballad The Twa Sisters (Child 10). Here are some lines from a Scottish version (K. C. Craig,Orain Luaidh Màiri Nighean Alasdair (Glasgow, 1924), 1.):

A bhean ud thall, hù gó
an cois na tràghad, hù gó
Sìn do chas dhomh,hao ri ho ró
Sìn do làmh dhomh, hù gó.

A version of this song migrated to Donegal (L. Ó Muireadhaigh, Amhráin Chúige Uladh. Revised, C. Ó Baoill (Cló Iar-Chonnachta, 2009), 81.)…

A bhean udaidh thall, a thíogadh,
Atá ag siubhal ‘na trágha, a thógadh,
Nach truaigh leat bean ag cealgadh ceoigh?
‘Sí dul d’a báthadh, maille leo!

…where it ultimately became a hit for Altan.

Oh woman yonder at the edge of the strand,
Extend your foot to me, extend your hand to me.

Oh woman yonder walking the strand,
Have you no pity for a woman about to be drowned?

Still another version, The Fairy Lullaby, was recorded in West Cork by Máire Ní Shúilleabháin for Alan Lomax in 1951; see Columbia Records’ LP The World Library of Folk and Primitive Music: Vol. 2 — Ireland (Columbia AKL 4941; Rounder 1742).

Unlike these versions, however, the song Joe sings draws not upon the story of two sisters contesting over the same man, but rather upon the traditions surrounding the abduction of mortals — especially young children — into the fairy otherworld. Dónal O’Sullivan gives a version in Songs of the Irish in which a husband is given instructions — including the use of a black-handled knife — in order to rescue his young wife from captivity in a lios, where she is being held as a foster-mother for fairy children (Songs of the Irish, Dublin, 1960, pp. 18–20).

For a discussion of the connection between the Irish and Scottish versions, see Alan Bruford, ‘The Sea-Divided Gael’ in Irish Folk Music Studies (1972–3), Vol. 1, pp. 13–18. The structural similarities are discussed in V. S. Blankenhorn, Irish Song-Craft and Metrical Practice Since 1600 (Lampeter, 2003), 293–4. Other songs in Joe’s repertoire that illustrate this atypical refrain structure are Eileanóir na Rún (probably related to the Scottish song Robin Adair) and An Tiarna Randal (Child 12).

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

Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh: Seachrán Chearbhaill (2)

Play recording: Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh: Seachrán Chearbhaill (2)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh: Seachrán Chearbhaill (2).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): CF0116.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Leo Corduff.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 1967.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): unavailable.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): Interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Information about this recording to follow.

Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh: Seachrán Chearbhaill (1)

Play recording: Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh: Seachrán Chearbhaill (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh: Seachrán Chearbhaill (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853920.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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.
  • Catagóir (Category): song, story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Lucy Simpson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 14/04/1981.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Cearbhallán — Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh — rinne sé Eileanóir a Rún agus ansin rinne sé… an ceann eile faoin siochrán1, nuair a fuair na daoine aithne Chearbhalláin chuir a hathair daoine ina dhiaidh, agus tháinigdar chuig an teach seo agus bhí time ar bun sa teach, agus nuair a bhí a fhios ag Cearbhallán go rabhdar ag an doras, chuaigh sé isteach faoin mbord, agus lig sé air féin go raibh sé a’ rámhailtí. Agus nuair a d’imíodar amach aríst, d’éirigh sé suas agus dúirt sé ceathrú d’amhrán. Tháinigdar ar ais agus chuaigh sé isteach faoin mbord aríst agus thosaigh sé a rámhailtí. Siochrán Chearbhalláin.

Muise lá breá a ndeachaigh mise ag breathnú ar an spéirbhean bhreá
Ó b’iúd í ainnirín na malaí is na ngeal-chromh lámh.

Bhí a grua mar na ballaí le go mbreactar ar an t-aol mar bhláth
Is a seang-mhalaí searca le go nglaoitear air an aol-tsúil bhreá.

Ó tá siúd aici, deir Peadar, más fíor le rá:
Ó rós-bhéilín tanaí le caiseal agus taoim-bhéal tláth.

Bhí pingin ins an maide aici ‘gus dhá leithphingin eile anuas ar an gclár
Ní raibh fáil aici ar an gcluiche údan ó mhaidin nó go n-éiríodh lá.

Muise, an gcluineann sibhse mise libh, a chailíní na sráide údan thiar,
A bhfuil mé i ngean oraibh le fada is mé faoi ghrásta Dé.

Tabhair scéala uaim chuici agus aithris di nach taobh léi atáim
Mar go bhfuil ansin bean eile údan le fada do mo chloí le grá.

Ó lán doirne díomhaine ins gach buine dá dlaoi-fholt bhreá
Nó an bhfuil sibh in bhur gcodladh mar is mithid díbh m’úrscéal a fháil.

Dar seo is dar siúd, is é an t-úrscéal a bhí ansiúd ná triúr bodachaí i dtús earraigh a chuaigh ar thóir móna, iad féin agus an dá mhada con a bhí acu. Chuadar ag iarraidh cead coille ar an gCoirbíneach, agus thus sé é sin dóibh. Chrochadar leo a bpéire tuannaí, cúl ramhara, béal tanaí. Dhearmadar ar an tapa, thugadar an míthapa leo. Bhriseadar na giarsaí, lig siad na maidí rámha leis an sruth.

Muise ar arraingeachaí agallta dhom nó pianta báis
Mar tá mé do mo stangadh ag an arraing atá dul thrí mo lár.

Ó, b’fhearr liom seal fada a bheinn ag breathnú ar a mínchnis bhreá
Nó dhá bréagadh go maidin, cé go mbaoisiúil dom a leithéid a rá.

Bhuel, dar seo ‘gus dar siúd, is é an t-úrscéal a bhi ansiúd ná Cormac Mac Airt Mac Chuinn Mac Thréanmhór Uí Bhaoiscne. Chuaigh ag tois na léime bine brice bua a bhí ar an mBinn Éadair Mhic Céadta Mhic Amhlaí, san áit a dtáinig an chéad loing agus an chéad laoch go hÉirinn ariamh.

Muise dheamhan sin gort socair nach bhogas chugat a’ nóinín fraoigh
Agus dheamhan sin loch ar bith gan abhainn a bheith ag dul uaithi síos.

Tá an rotha seo sna sodair agus níl aon chónaí faoi
Is ní minic a tháinig sonas gan an donas a bheith ina orlaí thríd.

Bhuel, dar seo ‘gus dar siúd, is é an t-úrscéal a bhi ansiúd ná rotha mór mo mháthar mór a chuaigh isteach sa teampall mór ag réabadh amach deskannaí. Mara a dtaga sibh roimhe rotha mór mo mháthar mór, déanfaidh sé an divvil sa teampall mór.

Is má théann tú thart siar ansin ag seanbheainín bhéasach
A bhfuil aici scata de pháistí bréagach,
Cuimil do bhosa go sleamhan dhá n-éadan
Is fainic a lochtófá tada dhá dtréithre
‘S an bhaigearó-éaró, sí an chraoibhín gheal donn.

Má théann tú thart siar ansin in easca údan tomáin
Fainic thú féin ar eas údan Shiobháin:
Báitheadh dhá chaora inti, minseach is mionnán
Capall Uí Dhónaill, a chú ‘gus a ghearrán,
‘S an bhaigearó-éaró, sí an chraoibhín gheal donn.

Discussion with Lucy Simpson

LS: The rambles?

JH: The Rambles of Carolan. When he eloped, he eloped with Eleanor. Her father sent people after them, to bring her back. And he disguised himself, you know. And… wherever they were, her father’s people came looking for them. He turned out to be a tramp, by the way, and he used to sit down in the middle of the floor and start saying this, so they wouldn’t recognize him. This makes no sense, you know, what he says in the talk, now. When he’s finished one verse, he starts talking, by the way that he’s mad. You get me now? Rambles. He’s rambling — like somebody rambling in his sleep…
[sings Seachrán Chearbhaill as above]

LS: What on earth does it mean? What is it?

JH: Well, this is what he was saying, you see, he was rambling, by the way that they wouldn’t know who he was. He was talking about different things that happened, you know.

LS: Like what?

JH: He was still praising her; but when they looked around and said, ‘Who is that man?’ he started rambling then. It makes no sense, what he was saying, but it did, in a way. He was talking about the first boat and the first ship — the first things that ever came to Ireland came at Binn Éadair [Howth], which was right, you know; and this is what he was saying [when] her father’s people from — ‘Who’s that? Who’s that fool?’

LS: Is the singing…? Or just the talking, you said, the silly stuff?

JH: The… talking is the silly thing, the ramble, that’s when he’s rambling. The singing is good. Praising her. But you see, every time somebody got suspicious of the man who was singing, he pretended he was mad, he was, you know, he was loony. That’s a very ancient, that’s really, really ancient.

LS: Are all those verses different — all those talking verses?

JH: Oh, they are different, yeah.

LS: What are you talking about? Just — odds and ends?

JH: They’re talking about… Fionn Mac Cumhaill, the first time he ever landed in Ireland in Binn Éadair, you know, the boat he had; and then about two brothers who went to ask permission of the forester to cut down two trees, if they brought with them their two hatchets, you know — dhearmadar an tapa is thugadar a mí-thapa leo — they forgot to say ‘good morning’ and they started saying ‘good-night’. Bhriseadar na giarsaí is lig siad — They broke the hatchets, and they both fell down and drowned. I mean it’s only — it’s like you waking up with a nightmare2.

LS: Is that a verse? That thing about the forest?

JH: Dar seo is dar siúd, is é an t-úrscéal a bhí ansiúd ná triúr bodachaí i dtús earraigh a chuaigh ar thóir móna, iad féin agus an dá mhada con a bhí acu. Chuadar ag iarraidh cead coille ar an gCoirbíneach, agus thus sé é sin dóibh. Chrochadar leo a bpéire tuannaí, cúl ramhara, béal tanaí. Dhearmadar an tapa, thugadar an míthapa leo. Bhriseadar na giarsaí, lig siad na maidí rámha leis an sruth. That’s it. But you got to say it quick, you know! It’s like telling a story — embellishing a story.

LS: Each verse is about something?

JH: Each verse is about something. He’s praising the woman between these things, you know. But these things are about something; and it doesn’t make sense, really, that’s why it’s called rambles. And that’s how he tricked her father’s people.

LS: What is that last verse where you get real-you slow down?

JH: This is, now… a different tune, different words [sings]: Má théann tú thart siar ag an seanbheainín bhéasach ‘If you go back, a little bit, to an old little woman’ [speaks] a bhfuil aici scata de pháistí bréagach ‘who has a multitude of kids that never tells the truth’ cuimil do bhosa go sleamhan dá n-éadan ‘rub your hands gently on your mouth’ is fainic a lochtó-‘but whatever you do, don’t fault them in front of the woman.’

LS: That’s how it is?

JH: That’s how it is.

LS: That’s the end of the song? Just like that? What does that mean?

JH: That’s what I’m trying to tell you again — this is the rambles of Carolan!

LS: But that’s not speaking — that’s you singing.

JH: Well, Má théann tú thart siar ar an each údan tomáin ‘If you go back there you’ll see a horse’ — Fainic thú féin ar eas údan Shiobháin ‘Watch out for Siobháin’s goat’ Báitheadh dhá chaora inti, minseach is mionnán ‘she drowned two sheep and a goat’ capall Uí Dhónaill — O’Donnell’s horse, his hound and his foal ‘S an bhaigearó-éaró, sí an chraoibhín gheal. This doesn’t belong — the point is, this is absolutely the end of the song.

LS: That’s the very end of the song?

JH: That’s the very end.

LS: I thought you talked3

JH: Well, Dar seo ‘gus dar siúd, is é an t-úrscéal a bhi ansiúd: Rotha mór mo mháthar mór a chuaigh isteach sa teampall mór ag réabadh- Rotha mór mo mháthar mór: ‘My mother’s billy-goat went into the church and he started tearing out the desks in the church. Mara a dtaga sibh roimhe rotha mór- If you don’t stop my grandmother’s ram – or goat – he’ll create a divvil in the church.’ See, these things were never meant for translation. Pure, old Irish4.

Notes

1. The word seachrán is spelt siochrán here to reflect Joe’s pronunciation.

2. Joe’s translation is inaccurate. The hatchets weren’t broken and nobody drowned. The passage actually goes something like this: By this and by that, the story was this: three old fellows at the beginning of spring went looking for turf, themselves and their two hound dogs. They went to Corbett looking for permission to go into the forest, and he gave it to them. They took with them their two wide-backed, thin-bladed hatchets. They forgot their quickness and took their slowness with them: they broke the joists and let the oars drift.

3 In performing the Seachrán for Lucy, Joe transposed the final spoken passage with the two verses of the second song, so that the spoken passage came last. Normally he performed it so that the two verses ending with an chraoibhín gheal donn came last.

4. Joe’s translation goes astray here as well — though, interestingly, he tries to sustain the inaccuracy when he ‘corrects’ himself near the end. There is no billy-goat, and his mother wasn’t involved. What it actually says is: By this and by that, the story was this: my grandmother’s big ram went into the big [Protestant] church tearing out pews. If you don’t put a stop to my grandmother’s big ram, he’ll play the divil in the big church.

This extraordinary tour-de-force has been the subject of much study. For those interested in learning more, here are a few places to start:

  • The poetic form used in the Seachrán is known as crosántacht, a mixture of verse and prose. For a discussion of this form, see Alan Harrison, An Chrosántacht (Dublin, 1979).
  • For more about Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, Seachrán Chearbhaill and the song Eileanóir na Rún, see James Doan, ‘The Folksong Tradition of Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh’ in Folklore, Vol. 96, No. 1 (1985), 67-86; also L. Ó Laoire, S. Williams and V. S. Blankenhorn, ‘Seosamh Ó hÉanaí agus Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh: Cleasa an Chrosáin san Oileán Úr,’ New Hibernia Review (2011).
  • Ó Laoire, Lillis and Sean Williams, Bright Star of the West: Joe Heaney, Irish Song-Man. Oxford University Press.
  • Three of Joe’s performances of Seachrán Chearbhaill, recorded commercially.

Joe has a point when he says that ‘these things were never meant for translation’. The great delight of this song is in its sounds — the amazing succession of rhymes and alliterative words that vividly illustrate the Irish love of language for its own sake. This aspect can be appreciated even by those who don’t understand a word of Irish, especially once they’ve understood that the meaning of the words is meant to be mysterious anyway. For those who want to see a literal translation based on Joe Heaney’s text of the Seachrán, one is included — along with full discussion of this important text — in Ó Laoire, L., and Williams, S., Bright Star of the West: Joe Heaney, Irish Song-Man (Oxford University Press).

A translation is also supplied with a recording of Seachrán Chearbhaill made by Peadar Ó Ceannabháin, one of the finest singers to have emerged from the tradition in recent years (Mo Chuid den tSaol: Traditional Songs from Conamara, Cló Iar-Chonnachta CICD 131). Some of his CD notes are included online, including his own text of the Seachrán and his translation of it. Note that Ó Ceannabháin’s text is based on a version collected at the turn of the nineteenth century by Mícheál and Tomás Ó Máille near Cor na Mona. This text is more internally coherent than Joe’s, which has suffered the vicissitudes of oral tradition to the point where it’s hard to differentiate the passages which were intentionally mysterious from those which have simply become so over time.

The form of the Seachrán is basically as Joe describes it to Lucy: a mixture of sung lines (the structure of the air puts them across as couplets, but they may originally have been stanzas or paragraphs of different lengths) alternating with the prose rambles. With the exception of the last two stanzas, the sung portions refer generally to the vagaries of love, while the prose sections — the first two of them, anyway — are similar to the stylized, formulaic ‘runs’ occurring in stories about Fionn Mac Cumhaill and other heroes.

The third prose passage, with its use of English and its reference to a Protestant church, is more likely just a play-on-words; it doesn’t appear in the version collected by the Ó Máille brothers. Neither do the two stanzas ending in the refrain ‘s a bhaigeró éaró, sí an chraoibhín gheal donn, which involve neither courship nor Fenian lore.

Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh: Eileanóir a Rún and how Cearbhall got the Gift (2)

Play recording: Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh: Eileanóir a Rún and how Cearbhall got the Gift (2)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh: Eileanóir a Rún and how Cearbhall got the Gift (2).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 841415.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story; song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Joan Rabinowitz and Steve Coleman.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 08/06/1983.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): taifeadadh do KRAB Radio, Seattle.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

A rendition of the story that provides the explanation relating to the song Eileanóir a Rún.

Notes

Note the similarity between Cearbhall’s tasting of the beestings and Fionn Mac Cumhaill’s experience with the Salmon of Knowledge.

Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh: Eileanóir a Rún and how Cearbhall got the Gift (1)

Play recording: Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh: Eileanóir a Rún and how Cearbhall got the Gift (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh: Eileanóir a Rún and how Cearbhall got the Gift (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781512.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Esther Warkov.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 01/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Now the song is called Eileanóir a Rún. The way that Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh… composed this, and put music to it himself. And the story attributed to Carolan1. I hope you don’t mind listening to this story. This is one of the finest stories ever behind a Gaelic song.

When Carolan was a young man, his job was to do odd jobs for anybody who’d give him work, and he was travelling around the country doing such things until he was about twenty years of age. And one day, he came to this farmer’s house, and the farmer told him he’d give him a job to watch four cows. The rest of the cattle was watched by somebody else. ‘And keep your eye,’ he said, ‘on the white cow, because there’s a legend about the white cow, that she’ll give birth to a calf, and who will ever taste the milk of the mother first will have the gift of all knowledge, master of all trades, and any woman who will ever look at him will fall twice in love with him at the one time.’

So anyway, Carolan took the cattle out grazing, and nothing happened for a couple of months. And this day, he was grazing the cattle beside a huge big rock — like that wall there. And the rock opened up. And out of the rock walked the most beautiful, the most ferocious bull that a man ever laid eyes on. And the bull didn’t look right or left — he walked up to the white cow. Now, whatever they said to one another, the bull and the white cow took off to one corner of the field, and they stayed there all day until the sun was setting. And, you know the myth about something out of the other world, like the banshee — they have to go back before the sun sets, and stay there ’til twelve o’clock at night. Well, anyway, they came back, and the rock opened; the bull gave the cow a little kick with his hind leg, and back he goes into the rock again.

Then Carolan came home and he told the master what happened; and he said ‘Keep an eye on the white cow until she has a calf; and whatever you do, don’t let the calf suck its mother, because whoever tastes the first of that milk is okay for the rest of his life.’

So the day the cow gave birth to the calf, Carolan forgot what the master told him. And he saw the calf about to suck his mother, and went over and he took the milk off the mouth of the calf, and he rubbed his fingers across his mouth, like that. And then he was told: ‘Carolan, you tasted the milk of the white cow and the black bull first. Now, you’re a gifted man. The first thing you do, don’t go home to the farmer and tell him this, because he’ll kill you.’

So he sets off, and he was travelling for three or four months, until one night he came to this shoemaker’s house. And the shoemaker was making a pair of shoes. And Carolan came in and he bid him good evening and he told him to sit down, he’d get him something to eat; but at the moment he was busy trying to finish a pair of shoes for the lady in the big house. The lady in the big house was Eleanor Kavanagh — that was her surname. ‘And I must finish the shoes tonight’, he says, ‘because she’s going to a dance.’ So Carolan says, ‘Could I’, he says, ‘do one of the shoes for you?’ And he said, ‘No, these… have to be perfect. I have to make them myself’. But the poor shoemaker was so tired that he fell asleep; and Carolan took over, and he finished the pair of shoes that was yet untouched. And when the shoemaker woke up, he saw the shoe, and he said ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I hope the shoe that you made,’ he said, ‘fits her like the one I made.’ And he said, ‘Will you bring them up now,’ he says to Carolan, ‘bring them up to… Eleanor, because she’s waiting.’

So when Carolan went up to the door, he saw Eleanor, standing inside the door. And he said in the song — the first thing he said in the song was ‘mo ghrá den chéad fhéachaint thú, Eileanóir a rún’ — ‘my love to you at first sight.’ He brought the shoes in; she tried them on; one shoe fitted her, and the other didn’t. And she said, ‘Whoever made this shoe, I’ll follow him for the rest… of my life’. And that’s when she eloped with Carolan.

Now, there is no English translation to this, either. Not this way. There is, the other way — the way it’s in the book2. And this is the way Carolan did it.

Mo ghrá thú den chéad fhéachaint, is tú Eileanóir a rún
Is ort a bhím ag smaoineamh tráth a mbím im shuain.
A ghrá den tsaol is a chéad-searc
Is tú is deise ná ban Éireann
A bhruinnilín deas óig, is tú is deise milse póig
Chúns mhairfead beo beidh gean a’m ort
Mar is deas mar a sheolfainn gamhnaí leat, a Eileanóir a rún.

Now, Carolan starts praising her. ‘She has a gift’, he says, ‘she could get the birds off the limbs of the trees; she had a gift she could even make the corpse move while laid out on the board3 and she has another gift I’ll never tell anybody until such a time as we get married.’

‘S bhí bua aici go meallfadh sí na héanlaith ón gcrann
‘S ba mhílse blas a póigín ná a chuaichín roimh an lá
Bhí bua eile aici nach ndéarfad
Sí grá mi chroí ‘s mo chead-searc
A bhruinnilín deas óig, is tú is deise milse póig
Chúns mhairfead beo beidh gean a’m ort
Mar is deas mar a sheolfainn gamhnaí leat, a Eileanóir a rún.

Well, Carolan always said, ‘Is deas mar a sheolfainn gamhnaí leat’ — ‘I would love to drive the cattle with you’. Because he was thinking of the white cow that made him the man he was. So he’s always talking about driving the cattle with Eleanor.

Translation

You’re my love at first-sight, Eleanor my secret4.
It’s of you that I am thinking while I lie asleep
My love and my first treasure
You are the best of the women of Ireland
Lovely young maiden, you have the nicest, sweetest kiss
As long as I live I will desire you
For I would love to drive the calves with you, Eleanor my secret.

She had the gift that she could entice the birds from the trees
And the taste of her kiss was sweeter than the cuckoo before day
She had another gift that I will not tell
She is the love of my heart and my first treasure
Lovely young maiden, you have the nicest, sweetest kiss
As long as I live I will desire you
For I would love to drive the calves with you, Eleanor my secret.

Notes

1. Having told his audience that the poet’s name was Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, Joe refers to this person as ‘Carolan’ for the remainder of the tale. Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh was not the same person as the famous harper Toirdhealbhach Ó Cearbhalláin, although Conamara folklore appears to have confused the two names. The legends surrounding Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh are well examined in James Doan, ‘Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh as Archetypal Poet in Irish Folk Tradition’, in Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium, Vol. 1 (1981), 95-123; see also L. Ó Laoire, S. Williams and V. S. Blankenhorn, ‘Seosamh Ó hÉanaí agus Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh: Cleasa an Chrosáin san Oileán Úr’ in New Hibernia Review.

2. Here Joe is referring to a song in English, Eileen Aroon, which he says is based upon the same legend. He told Lucy Simpson that he found Eileen Aroon in a book and that while he doesn’t really think much of the song he learned it so that he would have something in English that would go some way towards satisfying his American audiences’ desire for a translation of Eileanór a Rún, which he said he learned at home from his father (UW 853907).

3. As Joe’s translation indicates, there is an alternative second line to the stanza he is about to sing: Bhí bua aici go dtóigfeadh sí an corp fuar ón mbás — ‘She had the gift of being able to raise the cold corpse from death’. In the event, he sings a line comparing the sweetness of Eleanor’s kiss to the song of the cuckoo.

4. The Irish word rún literally means ‘secret’. However, it is also used by lovers in the phrase a rún as a term of endearment. So while the literal meaning is ‘Eileanóir, you secret’ the actual meaning is nearer to ‘Eileanóir, my darling’ or similar. The variant a rúnaigh also exists. Similar affectionate phrases, most of them not limited to romantic usage, include a stór (store; implying thing of (emotional) value), a thaisce (also means ‘store’; Ulster Irish), a chroí (heart), a chumann (does not translate cleanly; romantic union / relationship; a bheith i gcumann le duine: to be going out with someone) and so on…

Normally Joe adds a third verse, in which the poet asks Eleanor to elope with him. Presumably he felt the constraint of time on this occasion. The stanza is, however, included in his commercially-available recordings of this song:

An dtiocfaidh tú nó an bhfanfaidh tú, a Eileanóir a rún?
Nó an aithneofá an té nach gcáinfeadh thú, a chuid den tsaol ‘s a stóir?
Ó, tiocfaidh mé is ní fhanfaidh mé
Is maith a d’aithneoinn an té nach gcáinfeadh mé
A bhruinnilín deas óig, is tú is deise milse póig
Chúns mhairfead beo beidh gean a’m ort
Mar is deas mar a sheolfainn gamhnaí leat, a Eileanóir a rún.

‘Will you come or will you stay, Eleanor my secret?
Or would you recognize the one who would not slander you, my life’s portion and my treasure?’
‘Oh, I will come and I will not stay
It’s well I would recognize the one who would not slander me.’
Lovely young maiden, you have the nicest, sweetest kiss
As long as I live I will desire you
For I would love to drive the calves with you, Eleanor my secret.

Peadar Ó Ceannabháin, a highly-regarded singer from Aill na Brón, Cill Chiaráin, who has studied Joe Heaney’s songs and singing over a long period, believes that Joe learned Eileanór a Rún from his second cousin Colm Ó Caodháin, but says that Colm sang it to a different air; see L. Mac Con Iomaire, Seosamh Ó hÉanaí: Nár fhágha mé bás choíche (Cló Iar-Chonnachta, 2007), 177. Séamas Ennis transcribed some 212 songs from Colm Ó Caodháin for the Irish Folklore Commission. These transcriptions, along with a few sound recordings, are kept in the National Folklore Collection, UCD. At the time of writing, Ríonach uí Ógáin, the current director of the Collection, is at work on an edition of Colm Ó Caodháin’s contributions to the national archive; it will be a very welcome addition to our understanding of the heritage that inspired Joe Heaney and the other singers of his and subsequent generations.

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

Cathal Buí agus An Buinneán Buí (3)

Play recording: Cathal Buí agus An Buinneán Buí (3)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Cathal Buí agus An Buinneán Buí (3).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 850405.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Jill Linzee.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): between 1982 and 1984.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

In this recording, Joe tells the story of the death of Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Gunna, and of how the song An Buinneán Buí came to be composed.

The poet Cathal Búi Mac Giolla Gunna (c. 1680–1756), an habitual drunkard, was near death. The local parish priest heard a knock at the door, where he found a woman and a boy telling him to go to Cathal’s house. When he got there, he told Cathal about the message he had had from him; but Cathal said he had sent to messenger to the priest, he didn’t know anybody to send. When the priest described the messengers, the woman and the little boy, Cathal understood that it was the Blessed Virgin and Jesus who had appeared to the priest.

Notes

Compare this version of the story with the one Joe tells in Cathal Buí agus An Buinneán Buí (2).

Cathal Buí agus An Buinneán Buí (2)

Play recording: Cathal Buí agus An Buinneán Buí (2)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Cathal Buí agus An Buinneán Buí (2).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 841417.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Joan Rabinowitz.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 10/06/1983.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Seabold Community Center, Bainbridge Island, Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): concert.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

In this recording, Joe tells the story of the death of Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Gunna1, and of how the song An Buinneán Buí came to be composed.

This song is about Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Gunna. ‘Yellow’ Cathal Mac Giolla Gunna was a poet in Ulster, in fact he was born in Cavan. And he was a habitual drunkard, and he was excommunicated by the Catholic Church because he kept drinking… Cathal Buí was drinking, and the night he was — dying, he wanted to send for the priest, but he couldn’t — he had nobody to go for the priest. Anyway he was afraid to send for him, because at that time you were dead scared of priests, you know. So the priest was just going to bed when there was a knock on the door, and there was a lady and a child2 standing outside the door, and they asked him to go [to] Cathal Buí’s house, that he was dying. And the priest asked them something, and when he looked around, they were gone. So he went to the house, and Cathal Buí, ‘Thank God’, he said, ‘you came. I was just praying’, he said, ‘that I had somebody to send for you’. And the priest said, ‘You did’ he said ‘send somebody for me!’ And Cathal Buí said, ‘I did not’. There was no sign of the lady or the boy. Nobody knew who they were.

Now, he went out one morning and he saw the bittern, which is extinct in Ireland at the moment, dead on the lake outside. The lake was frozen, and the bittern was dead. And he was trying to put his beak through the ice to get a drop of water. And he made a song, putting himself in the place of the yellow bittern. And what would happen if I died of thirst? Wouldn’t it be better to keep on drinking? And make no mistake that I would ever die of thirst. See what happened the yellow bittern? He died because he couldn’t get a drink. ‘Although my sweetheart told me’, he said — This; I’m translating the song for you now, but the song is originally in Irish — ‘she told me not to drink, or I wouldn’t live long. But I told her that drink makes me healthy, and I’d rather die drinking than die without it. And there’s nothing up from heaven or down from heaven I’d give before I’d give a drink’.

Notes

1. Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Gunna (1680–1756). See B. Ó Buachalla (ed.), Cathal Buí: Amhráin (1975).

2. On another occasion when telling this story, Joe stated explicitely that it was the Blessed Virgin and Christ who called at the priest’s door.

Compare this version of the story with the one Joe tells in Cathal Buí agus an Buinneán Buí (3).

Cathal Buí agus An Buinneán Buí (1)

Play recording: Cathal Buí agus An Buinneán Buí (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Cathal Buí agus An Buinneán Buí (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 841421.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Joan Rabinowitz.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Seattle, Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): radio programme.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

A bhuinneáin bhuí, mo thrua thú sínte
Tá do chnámha reoite faoi bhun na dtom
Tá do ghob is do scórnach ar dhath an óir bhuí
Is do bhéilín ró-dheas ‘na leaca lom1.
Dhá gcuirfeá scéala faoi mo dhéin
Rachainn i d’fhéachaint dhá uair roimh lá
Ó, bhainfinn géimneach as leac Loch Éirne
D’fhliuchfainn do bhéilín, is do chroí i do lár.

Ní bó ná gamhna atá mé a’ chaoineadh
An londubh, an chéirseach ná an t-éinín glas2
Ach an buinneán buí a dtug mé gnaoi dhó
Is geall liom féin a shnuadh is a dhath.
Mar bíonn sé i gcónaí a’ síor ól na dí
Is deir siad liom, go raibh mé amhlaigh seal
Dheamhan deoir dhá bhfaighidh mé nach scaoilfead síos é
Ar eagla go bhfaighinn féin bás le tart.

Dúirt mo stór liom, mara ligfinn den ól
Nach mairfinn féin beo ach tamall gearr
Dúirt mé léi ‘ó, tá tú bréagach
Is fad ar mo shaol dom, an braon úd a fháil’.
An bhfaca tú éan an phíobáín réidh
A chuaigh i n-éag le tart ar ball
A cháirde gaeil, ólaidh a bhfaighidh sibh
Dheamhan deoir a ghlaoifaidh sibh le h-éis a mbáis.

Translation

Poor yellow bittern, I’m sorry to see you stretched out there
Your bones frozen beneath the bushes.
Your beak and throat are the colour of yellow gold
and your sweet mouth on the bare stones.
If you sent for me I would come to you two hours before daybreak
I would knock groans out of the slab of Loch Erne
And I would moisten your mouth, and your heart within you.

It’s not a cow or a calf that I’m lamenting
Blackbird, thrush, or heron,
But the yellow bittern that I took a fancy to,
Whose shape and colour are like my own.
For he is everlastingly drinking
And they tell me I was like that, too.
Devil a drink do I get that I don’t down it
For fear that I’d die of thirst!

My sweetheart told me that if I don’t give up the drinking
I’ll only live for a little while.
I said to her, ‘Oh, that’s not true
The drop of drink actually lengthens my life’.
Did you see the bird with the long, smooth throat
That died of thirst a while ago?
Dear friends, drink all that you get
You’ll never call for a drop after you’re dead!

Notes

1. The sense of this line is unclear, likely owing to the vicissitudes of oral transmission. Breandán Ó Buachalla’s edition of the poem gives the line as thú bheith sínte ar leacaibh lom (you being stretched out on bare stones).

2. There’s some uncertainty regarding the species referred to here as an t‑éinín glas (literally, ‘the little grey bird’, although the ‑ín suffix is frequently used to convey fondness or affection, with no reference at all to size). Ó Buachalla’s edition gives an chorr ghlas , which is the heron.

An Buinneán Buí includes other verses that Joe did not record on this occasion. One of them appears on two of his commercial recordings however: Ó Mo Dhúchas and Nár Fhagha Mé Bás Choíche. It is given here for completeness.

Is beidh an lá amáireach, mar an Domhnach
Is tá mo phócaí féin fann go leor
Siad mná an ósta a chráigh go mór mé
Ach le méid a d’ól mé, liath mo cheann.
Níl ní dá bhreátha anuas ón Ard Rí
A dtabharfainn biorán air dá bhfaighinn de braon.
Ach a Rí na nGrásta, nach mór an feall é
Nach dtug tú féin fáil dom ar léamh mo chroí.

This can be translated as:

Tomorrow will be like a Sunday
And my pockets are empty enough.
It’s the landladies who have me tormented
The amount I’ve drunk has made me go gray.
There’s nothing, however beautiful, on this earth
That I’d give a pin for if I’d get a drink from it;
But God of Graces, isn’t it a great pity
That you gave me no insight into my own heart.

Séamas Ennis transcribed this song from Joe for the Irish Folklore Commission in 1942; see CBÉ manuscript 1280:331-2 and CC 018:006. Joe told Ennis that he learned the song from his next door neighbour, Seán Choilm Mac Donnchadha.

For additional verses and some discussion, see an tAth. Tomás Ó Ceallaigh, Ceol na n‑Oileán (Dublin, 1931), 56-7 and notes.

Although extant documentation gives the 10th October 1984 as the recording date, it is more likely to be the broadcast date of the radio programme as Joe died in may of that year.

Casadh an tSúgáin (2)

Play recording: Casadh an tSúgáin (2)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Casadh an tSúgáin (2).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 854001.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Gerald Shannon.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): unavailable.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): concert.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Ó, thíos is Sligeach a chuir mé eolas ar na mná
Agus thiar i nGaillimh a d’ól mé leo mo sháith
Ach dar bhrí mo mhaide mar a ligean siad dhom feasta seachas mar atá
Ó, déanfaidh mise cleas a bhainfeas siúl as na mná!

Má bhíonn tú liom, bí liom de ló geal is d’oíche
Má bhíonn tú liom, bí liom ós comhair lán an tí
Má bhíonn tú liom, is gur liom gach órlach in do chroí
Is é mó thrua le fonn nach liom Dé Domhnaigh thú mar mhnaoi.

Agus rinne mé cleas i dteach Uí Dhonaill aréir
Is an dara cleas i dteach a bhí go dtlúth lena thaobh
Ach a tríú cleas — nach náireach le aon fhear a insíonn mo scéal
Chuir an chailleach amach le casadh a tsúgáinín mé.

Agus chuirfhinn is threabhfainn is chaithfinn an síol go domhain sa gcré
Agus sheolfainn gamhnaí ar an tamhnaí is airde a bhfásann féar
Chuirfinn crú ar an each ba deise ba lúfar a shiúil ariamh féar
Is go n-éalódh bean le fear nach ndéanfadh é sin féin.

Tá mo cheann-sa liath, is ní le haois a liath sé
Ach mo cháirde gaoil do mo lua le bean gan aon spré
Ó, táim i do dhiaidh le bliain, is níl fáil agam ort féin
Is gur geall le fia ar shliabh mé a mbeadh gáir con ‘na déidh.

Má bhíonn tú liom, bí liom ós comhair lán an tí
Má bhíonn tú liom, bí liom de ló geal is d’oíche
Má bhíonn tú liom, is gur liom gach órlach in do chroí
Is é mó thrua le fonn nach liom Dé Domhnaigh thú mar mhnaoi.

Which means, ‘It’s my own wish that you’d be with me as me wife on a Sunday afternoon’.

Translation

It’s down in Sligo that I first became acquainted with women
And back in Galway that I drank my fill with them
And I swear that if they don’t leave me alone from here on out
I’ll play them a trick that will have them running!

If you’re with me, be with me by day and by night
If you’re with me, be with me in the presence of all in the house
If you’re with me, and if you’re with me in every inch of your heart
It’s my regret that you’re not with me on Sunday as my wife.

I played a trick in O’Donnell’s house last night
And a second one in a house close by
But the third trick, shameful for any man to relate,
The old woman put me out with the twisting of a hay-rope.

I’d plant and plough and sow the seed deep in the ground
And I’d drive the cattle on the uplands with the tallest grass
I’d shoe the finest, swiftest stallion that ever trod grass
And there’s women who’d elope with a man who didn’t do any of that.

My head is gray, and it’s not age that’s made it so
But my nearest and dearest mentioning me with a woman of no dowry
I’ve been after you for a year, without getting you
Until I’m like a deer on the mountain with the baying of hounds after it.

If you’re with me, be with me in the presence of all in the house
If you’re with me, be with me by day and by night
If you’re with me, and if you’re with me in every inch of your heart
It’s my regret that you’re not with me on Sunday as my wife.

Casadh an tSúgáin (1)

Play recording: Casadh an tSúgáin (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Casadh an tSúgáin (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): none.
  • 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, story.
  • 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.

Well now, this is a very interesting story. You could call it love, maybe — and maybe you wouldn’t call it love. Casadh an tSúgáin — ‘The Twisting of the Rope’. The rope that they’re talking about, it’s the rope they used to tie down the thatched cottages long ago. The way they used to do it, you had some straw or hay, and you came up, and you got a bit of a stick, and I was sitting here with the straw. And you put the stick into the straw and started twisting it and backing away like this, now [demonstrates]. Get me? And I’d be letting out the straw to you, until the rope was long enough to be cut; and then you’d start another rope, and tie them up until the day you were thatching the house.

Well, this fellow was in love with this particular girl, and there was only the girl and the mother in the house. And people say the mother was a bit jealous because he fancied the daughter; the daughter fancied the fellow, and the mother fancied the fellow, and the fellow fancied the daughter and he didn’t fancy the mother — let me put it that way. But anyway, he was going around from place to place, you know, moaning his loss, ’til one night he says to himself, ‘I may as well make a bee-line for this house again’. So in he goes, and when the old lady saw him coming, she said ‘I don’t want — I don’t like this at all’. And he was sitting down, and he said to the old woman, ‘I like your daughter’, he said, ‘Ma’am. Suppose if I married your daugher, what kind of a dowry would she get?’ (Cén spré a bheadh ag d’iníon, a chailligh?) And the old woman started tapping her foot. And she said — I can’t write this down, this is something I cannot write — stráca an phota is mar sin. Stráca an phota is the old thing that used to lift up the pot off the fire. Was made… of wool or something, or knitted like a sock and pulled on. And she said, [sings] ‘Stráca an phota is mar sin’. And then she started tapping her feet. When an old woman… starts like this, it’s dangerous:

[lilting]

‘Now, suppose if I married yourself, woman — dhá bpósfainn thú féin, a chailligh, cén spré a bheadh a’d — what dowry would you have?’ ‘Bheadh pluideannaí agus leabrachaí agus ‘chuile [indistinct] agus beithigh a’m — I’d have sheets, I’d have blankets, I’d have cattle and everything else’, and then she’d break into this:

[faster lilting]

‘Now, a chailligh, is fearr liom d’iníon ná thú féin — I prefer your daughter.’

[very slow lilting]

…and she was getting ahold of the tongs at the same time.

[more slow lilting]

‘Well, a mháistreás’, he said, ‘I want to marry your daughter’. And she said, ‘Well’, she said — she was thinking as she was playing the tune. ‘You know what’, she said, ‘you’re a nice-looking fellow’. She said, ‘The house outside —’ and there was nothing in the world wrong with the house — ‘The scraw’, she said, ‘the thatch is rising up with wind. Would you twist a little rope for me until we tie down the house?’ And he said, ‘Surely!’ Now he thought she had turned to him. And she got the straw… and she was well able to do this. And he got a stick, and he started twisting the rope. And she told the daughter, ‘Open the door, Mary’, she said, ‘for I want to make a long rope’. And he was going out, and out. See, in the countryside, in the country houses you don’t tell anybody to get out unless they get out-of-hand altogether. And she had another way of doing it. And he went out, and out, and when she saw him well outside the door, she cut the rope, and closed the door and locked him out.

Now there is two ways of singing this song… One of them is sort of laughing at the joke, and the other one is crying over the joke. It all depends on where you come from. This is one of them.

Má bhíonn tú liom, bí liom a ghrá ghil mo chroí
Má bhíonn tú liom, bí liom ós comhair lán an tí
Má bhíonn tú liom, is gur liom gach órlach in do chroí
Is é mó thrua le fonn nach liom Dé Domhnaigh thú mar mhnaoi.

Tá mo cheann-sa liath, ní le haois a liath sé
Mo cháirde gaoil do mo lua le bean gan aon spré
Ó, táim i do dhiaidh le bliain, níl fáil agam ort féin
Gur geall le fia ar shliabh mé a mbeadh gáir con ‘na déidh

Now, that’s one version — that’s one way of singing it. Now, the other way:

Má bhíonn tú liom, bí liom ós comhair lán an tí
Má bhíonn tú liom, bí liom de ló geal is d’oíche
Má bhíonn tú liom, is gur liom gach órlach in do chroí
Is é mó thrua le fonn nach liom Dé Domhnaigh thú mar mhnaoi.

Tá mo cheann-sa liath, is ní le críonnacht a liath sé
Ach mo cháirde gaoil do mo lua le bean gan aon spré
Ó, táim i do dhiaidh le bliain, níl fáil agam ort féin
Gur geall le fia ar shliabh mé a mbeadh gáir con ‘na déidh.

Translation

If you’re with me, be with me, darling of my heart
If you’re with me, be with me in the presence of all in the house
If you’re with me, and if you’re with me in every inch of your heart
It’s my regret that you’re not with me on Sunday as my wife.

My head is gray, and it’s not age that’s made it so
But my nearest and dearest mentioning me with a woman of no dowry
I’ve been after you for a year, without getting you
Until I’m like a deer on the mountain with the baying of hounds after it.

Caoineadh na dTrí Muire (2)

Play recording: Caoineadh na dTrí Muire (2)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Caoineadh na dTrí Muire (2).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 863805.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Fredric Lieberman.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 01/08/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): New York, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Lisa Null, Peter Bellamy.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

‘S a Pheadair, a aspail, an bhfaca tú mo ghrá bán?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Chonaic mé ar ball é dhá ruaigeadh ag an námhaid.
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Muise, cé hé an fear breá atá ar chrann na páise?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
An é nach n-aithníonn tú do mhac, a mháithrín?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
An é sin an maicín a d’iompair mé trí ráithe?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Nó an é sin an maicín a rugadh ins an stábla?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Nó an é sin an maicín a hoileadh in ucht Mháire?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
A mhicín mhúirneach tá do bhéal is do shróinín gearrtha.
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Is crochadh suas í ar ghuaillí árda
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Is buaileadh anuas í faoi leacrachaí na sráide.
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Is cuireadh go cnoc Chealbhraí é ag méadú ar a pháise;
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Ag iompar na croiche agus Simon lena shála.
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Is cuireadh táirní maola thríra chosa ‘gus a lámha
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Is cuireadh sleá thrína bhrollach alainn.
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Muise éist, a Mháthair, is ná bí cráite
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Tá mná mo chaointe le breith fós, a Mháithrín.
Ochón, is ochón ó!

Notes

As Angela Partridge points out, the title by which this lament is known in Joe’s native Carna is Caoineadh na Páise (The Passion Lament). However, he accepted the title Caoineadh na dTrí Muire, which was given to the song following his first public performance of it in Dublin (Partridge, op. cit., 31). Caoineadh na dTrí Muire was a title associated with the song/poem in County Mayo. Versions from Donegal, Clare, Cavan, Kerry and Cork have also been recorded.

The song is best understood as a conversation between a number of participants including Peter, Jesus, the Blessed Virgin, and the Roman soldiers. This device advances the story with the greatest possible economy, allowing us to focus on the emotional intensity of each moment, from the viciousness of the soldiers to the disbelief and distress of Mary and finally to the quiet stoicism of Jesus, offering comfort to his distraught mother.

This is surely the most famous of the songs that Joe brought to public notice, and one of his own favourites. Along with Amhrán na Páise and Oíche Nollag, this lament reveals his deep reverence both for the spirituality of the subject-matter and for the tradition that his grandmother and others like her held up for her grandchildren and her community every year. As Máirtín Ó Cadhain wrote following Joe’s first public performance of this song in Dublin, In Caoineadh na dtrí Muire he brings home to us the joys and sorrows of Mary with the intimacy and poignancy of a Fra Angelico painting (quoted in Angela Partridge, Caoineadh na dTrí Muire: Téama na Páise i bhFilíocht Bhéil na Gaeilge, Dublin 1983, 4).

It seems to have been the case that singing this lament was, for Joe’s grandmother and other women in the community, not so much a performance as a very personal, painful, emotional experience. Angela Partridge, recording the song in 1975 from a near neighbour of Joe’s in Aird Thoir, Máire a’ Ghabha (Máire Bean Uí Cheannabháin), describes how the singer broke down in tears in the middle of the song and was unable to continue, saying ‘Tá mé goite chomh fada ansin is tá mé in ann… mar léifidh tú scéal ar ‘chuile mháthair, mar nach mbeidh ‘chuile mháthair mar sin lena mac féin? Gortaíonn Caoineadh na Páise mé an-mhór.’ (I’ve gone as far as I can… for you know it’s the story of every mother, for wouldn’t every mother be like that with her own son? Caoineadh na Páise really hurts me.) (Partridge, op. cit. 167-80).

Caoineadh na dTrí Muire (1)

Play recording: Caoineadh na dTrí Muire (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Caoineadh na dTrí Muire (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781503.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Esther Warkov.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 03/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Well, Good Friday, you see, was a time that, when I was growing up a little boy, our grandmother, who… had a fantastic way of… doing the lament, and she used to really do the lament, and gather us around her. And not a murmur would be out of us until she finished the Passion of Christ right from the cross, when Peter was standing there, and the Blessed Virgin came up to Peter and she said, ‘Who is that man on the cross of passion?’ And Peter said, ‘Don’t you recognize your own son, Mother?’ And then she said, ‘Is that the son that I carried for nine months? Is that the son who was born in the stable? Is that the son I reared on my knees? Oh, child’, she says, ‘your face and mouth is bleeding’.

And then they go on to the streets of Jerusalem. And they lifted her up to get her out of the way, and they threw her down on the bare stones. And… he said, ‘Beat me, but don’t touch my mother!’ And the answer he got back: ‘We’ll crucify you, and beat your mother!’

And then it goes on to tell how Simon, who was such a man, that… he was laughing at him when he started out first, and he took pity on him when he fell with the cross three times, you know, and Simon helped him with the cross, you know, up to Calvary.

And of course, on Calvary, when he was dying, the fourth king — the man who set out on Christmas Eve — gave him a drop of the bottle of water he was carrying. He was a poor king, that’s all he could give him. And he kept the bottle of water for thirty-three years ’til that day, and he gave it to him. And this is how my grandmother used to do it.

‘S a Pheadair, a aspail, an bhfaca tú mo ghrá bán?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Chonaic mé ar ball é dhá ruaigeadh ag an námhaid.
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Muise, cé hí sin siar a bhfuil a gruaig le fána?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Muise, cé a bheadh ann mara mbeadh mo mháithrín?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Muise, cé hé an fear breá atá ar chrann na páise?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
An é nach n-aithníonn tú do mhac, a mháithrín?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
An é sin an maicín a d’iompair mé trí rátha?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Nó an é sin an maicín a rugadh ins an stábla?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Nó an é sin an maicín a hoileadh in ucht Mháire?
Ochón, is ochón ó!
A mhicín mhúirneach tá do bhéal is do shróinín gearrtha.
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Is crochadh suas í ar ghuaillí árda
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Is buaileadh anuas í faoi leacrachaí na sráide.
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Muise, buailigí mé féin, ach ná bainidh le mo mháithrín!
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Maróidh muid thú féin, agus buailfidh muid do mháithrín.
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Is cuireadh go cnoc Chealbhraí é ag méadú ar a pháise;
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Bhí se ag iompar na croiche agus Simon lena shála.
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Is cuireadh táirní maola thríra chosa ‘gus a lámha
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Is cuireadh sleá thrína bhrollach alainn.
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Muise éist, a Mháthair, is ná bí cráite
Ochón, is ochón ó!
Tá mná mo chaointe le breith fós, a Mháithrín.
Ochón, is ochón ó!

Translation

[Blessed Virgin] ‘Peter, apostle, have you seen my fair love?’
[Peter] ‘I saw him just now, being chased by the enemy.’
[Soldier] ‘Who is that going past with her hair in disarray?’
[Jesus] ‘Who would that be only my mother?’
[Blessed Virgin] ‘Indeed, who is that lovely man on the tree of passion?’
[Jesus] ‘How can you not recognize your son, Mother?’
[Blessed Virgin] ‘Is that the son that I carried for three seasons? Is that the son who was born in the stable?’
[Blessed Virgin] ‘Is that the son who was nurtured at Mary’s breast?
Oh my darling little son, your mouth and little nose are cut.’
She was raised up on high shoulders
And cast down onto the flagstones of the street.
[Jesus] ‘Beat me, but don’t touch my mother!’
[Soldier] ‘We’ll kill you, and we’ll beat your mother!’
And he was taken to the hill of Calvary, to increase his passion.
He was carrying the cross, and Simon at his heels.
Blunt nails were driven through his feet and hands
And a spear through his lovely breast.
[Jesus] ‘Listen, Mother, and don’t be tormented
the women who will mourn for me me have yet to be born.’

Notes

As Angela Partridge points out, the title by which this lament is known in Joe’s native Carna is Caoineadh na Páise (The Passion Lament). However, he accepted the title Caoineadh na dTrí Muire, which was given to the song following his first public performance of it in Dublin (Partridge, op. cit., 31). Caoineadh na dTrí Muire was a title associated with the song/poem in County Mayo. Versions from Donegal, Clare, Cavan, Kerry and Cork have also been recorded.

The song is best understood as a conversation between a number of participants including Peter, Jesus, the Blessed Virgin, and the Roman soldiers. This device advances the story with the greatest possible economy, allowing us to focus on the emotional intensity of each moment, from the viciousness of the soldiers to the disbelief and distress of Mary and finally to the quiet stoicism of Jesus, offering comfort to his distraught mother.

This is surely the most famous of the songs that Joe brought to public notice, and one of his own favourites. Along with Amhrán na Páise and Oíche Nollag, this lament reveals his deep reverence both for the spirituality of the subject-matter and for the tradition that his grandmother and others like her held up for her grandchildren and her community every year. As Máirtín Ó Cadhain wrote following Joe’s first public performance of this song in Dublin, In Caoineadh na dtrí Muire he brings home to us the joys and sorrows of Mary with the intimacy and poignancy of a Fra Angelico painting (quoted in Angela Partridge, Caoineadh na dTrí Muire: Téama na Páise i bhFilíocht Bhéil na Gaeilge, Dublin 1983, 4).

It seems to have been the case that singing this lament was, for Joe’s grandmother and other women in the community, not so much a performance as a very personal, painful, emotional experience. Angela Partridge, recording the song in 1975 from a near neighbour of Joe’s in Aird Thoir, Máire a’ Ghabha (Máire Bean Uí Cheannabháin), describes how the singer broke down in tears in the middle of the song and was unable to continue, saying ‘Tá mé goite chomh fada ansin is tá mé in ann… mar léifidh tú scéal ar ‘chuile mháthair, mar nach mbeidh ‘chuile mháthair mar sin lena mac féin? Gortaíonn Caoineadh na Páise mé an-mhór.’ (I’ve gone as far as I can… for you know it’s the story of every mother, for wouldn’t every mother be like that with her own son? Caoineadh na Páise really hurts me.) (Partridge, op. cit. 167-80).

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

Bríd Thomáis Mhurchú

Play recording: Bríd Thomáis Mhurchú

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Bríd Thomáis Mhurchú.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 850119.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): James Cowdery.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): between 1979 and 1981.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

‘S a Bhrídeach na gcarad, tuig feasta nach súgradh é
Ó thug mo chroí gean duit, ar mhalrait ná diúltaigh mé
Má shíl tú mé a mhealladh le bladar deas ciúin do bhéil
‘S gur thug mise gean duit seachas a bhfacas de mhná óga an tsaoil.

Translation

My dear little Bridget, please understand that I’m not fooling
Since my heart bestowed love on you, please don’t change your mind and refuse me.
You thought you’d seduce me with the sweet soft nothings of your mouth,
So that I fell in love with you above any other young woman I’d ever seen.

Notes

Joe told Jim Cowdery that he learned this song from his father, and that his father was the only person he knew that had the song when he was growing up. While the air is for the most part the usual one associated with this song, Joe’s air differs somewhat from the one made popular by Johnny Joe Phaitsín ‘ac Dhonncha. The last line of Johnny’s air is slightly different, and his performance as a whole has a more marked, four-square rhythm than Joe uses here. See Gael Linn EP recording GL13.

In recent years this song has become a favourite throughout Conamara, and predictably turns up at the annual Oireachtas competition when singers are asked for an amhrán sciopaí (a fast song). 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), 75–77; also an tAthair Tomás Ó Ceallaigh, Ceol na n-Oileán (Dublin, 1931), 38–9 and notes.

Boats and Fishing (3)

Play recording: Boats and Fishing (3)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Boats and Fishing (3).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840104.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): Joe’s background.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 01/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): lecture / demonstration.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Superstitions

Joe says he’s a pagan at heart, because he used to love these superstitions.

Seeing a red-headed woman before going to sea

It’s terrible hard luck to meet a red-headed woman — especially if she’s one of the travelling people — when you’re going fishing. If she sees you first, you’re in trouble; if you see her and duck under the wall or something, you may have a chance. If you see a red-headed woman heading for your house, you’re going to have bad luck; if she’s going the other direction, it’s OK. Of course, Joe says, he’s not talking about a bottle-redhead here. Joe was once going fishing with a man who was really superstitious, and happened to mention that he’d seen so-and-so, a woman, who happened to be red-headed. The man put Joe out of the boat, wouldn’t let him come. It would have been worse if the woman had been chasing a rabbit — rabbits were bad luck, too.

Churning cream to make butter

Joe once went into the house of this same superstitious man. His wife was churning, and her husband had put all kinds of things under the churn — horse-shoes, cinders, sods of turf — that were supposed to keep the fairies from stealing the butter in the churn, to the point that the churn was at a rakish angle. Visitors were expected to put their hands on the churn before leaving, if churning was taking place, and say, ‘Come butter! Come butter! Ím an dá bhaile seo!‘ It was bad luck if they didn’t.

Notes

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

Boats and Fishing (2)

Play recording: Boats and Fishing (2)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Boats and Fishing (2).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781512.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): Joe’s background.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 01/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): lecture / demonstration.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Joe talks about how people used to light a fire on shore to guide boats home on a bad night in order to warn of rocks, in case a sailor would go off course in bad weather.

Notes

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

Boats and Fishing (1)

Play recording: Boats and Fishing (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Boats and Fishing (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781501.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): Joe’s background.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Fredric Lieberman, Cynthia Thiessen, Esther Warkov.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 24/02/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Joe talks about different nets used for herring, mackeral, pollock; mostly fishing by line. Sings Óró mo Bháidín (one stanza). Kissing the boat when they get into it and get out of it. Different patterns to sweaters to help identify people who were drowned. St Colm Cille; Cuimhní Dé is Colm Cille muid. Currach 18 feet long, six oars, made of wood, covered with tar on the underside.

Notes

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

Babes in the Wood

Play recording: Babes in the Wood

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Babes in the Wood.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 843901.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 288.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): Q34.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Jill Linzee.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): between 1982 and 1984 .
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Now, this is an old folktale, very old, and very sad too. And it’s about two little bab — two little children… the boy was eight years of old, and the girl was seven. And they were very happy living with their parents, much loved by their parents, well-to-do parents, too. And the parents died within one week of one another when the children were that young, eight and seven. And the children was taken into the care of their uncle. And because he got a bit greedy and he wanted the estate of the children to himself, he decided to do away with the children. And he hired two bad men to take the children away and to kill them. And the two bad men took the children with them, promising the children they were going to take them to a fair and treat them very well.

And they took them into a wood. And while they were walking through the wood, the little girl was holding one of the bad men’s hand and she was telling him, “you’re such a nice man, taking us to the fair and buying us this and that”. And whatever she said turned — melted the heart of the man who was taking her into the wood. And when the time came to dispose of the two children, this man wouldn’t let the other man kill them. So they both started fighting one another, and the good man killed the other man. But when he was — after that, the children had disappeared and got lost in the wood. And all that night they were running up and down in the wood, crying and crying, and finally they lay down. And ’twas a very cold, bitter time of the year, and before night was out, they both died under the tree. And the little robin redbreast came and started covering them over with leaves. And this is the song:

My dears don’t you know
How a long time ago
Two poor little children, their names we don’t know
Were taken away
On a fine summer day
And left in a wood, so we heard people say.

And when it was night
So sad was their plight
The sun had gone down and the moon gave no light;
They sobbed and they sighed
And they bitterly cried
The poor little infants, they lay down and died.

When they were dead
The robin redbreast
Brought strawberry leaves and over them spread;
And all the night long
It sang a sad song
Poor babes in the wood, poor babes in the wood.
And always remember the babes in the wood.

Notes

This venerable English tale, which contains elements of the Hansel and Gretel story, has been recorded throughout the English-speaking world. It has provided the basis for pantomime productions and even a film by Disney.

Joe doesn’t say where he learned it.

For a good native English rendition, see Magpie Lane’s version of this song

As I Roved Out (2)

Play recording: As I Roved Out (2)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): As I Roved Out (2).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853908.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 3479.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Geordie Mac Intyre.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 1964 or 1965.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Clydebank, Scotland.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

And as I roved out on a May morning, on a May morning quite early,
I met me love upon the way, oh lord but she was early.
Her hair was dark, her teeth were white, her buckles shone like silver,
She had a dark and a roving eye, and her hair hung o’er her shoulder.

And she sang riddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle dum and she
highdle deedle dum but she hidle deedle doo and she landy.

‘And who are you, me pretty fair maid, and who are you me darling?
And who are you, me pretty fair maid, who are you me darling?’
She answered me right modestly, ‘I am mammy’s daughter’.

With me roo-rum-raw, fra-the-deedle-aw, dye-ree-addle-eedle aye-ree-oh.

‘How old are you my pretty fair maid, how old are you my darling?’
She answered me right modestly, ‘Sixteen come Monday morning’.

But she sang riddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle dum
and she highdle deedle dum but she hidle deedle doo and she landy.

‘Do you want to marry me, pretty fair maid, do you want to marry me darling?
Do you want to marry me, pretty fair maid, do you want to marry me darling?’
She answered me right modestly, ‘I would but for my mammy’.

With me roo-rum-raw, fra-the-deedle-aw, dye-ree-addle-eedle aye-ree-oh.

‘Will you come up to me mammy’s house when the moon is shining brightly?
‘I’ll arise and I’ll let you in and me mammy won’t be hearing’.

And she sang riddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle dum and she highdle deedle
dum but she hidle deedle doo and she landy.

So I went up to her mammy’s house when the moon shone bright and clearly
I went up to her mammy’s house when the moon shone bright and clearly.
She arose to let me in but her mammy chanced to hear her.

With me roo-rum-raw, fra-the-deedle-aw, dye-ree-addle-eedle dairy-oh.

She took her by the top of her hair and to the parlour brought her;
With the end of a hazel-stick she was a well-bet1 daughter.

But she sang riddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle dum
and she highdle deedle dum but she hidle deedle doo and she landy.

She took my horse by the bridle and reins and led him to the stable
She took my horse by the bridle and reins and led him to the stable
‘There is plenty of oats for the soldier’s horse, as fast as he can eat it!’

With me roo-rum-raw, fra-the-deedle-aw, dye-ree-addle-eedle dairy-oh.

She took me by her lily white hand and led me to a table.
She took me by her lily white hand and led me to a table.
‘There is plenty of wine for the soldier lad as fast as he can take it’.

With me roo-rum-raw, fra-the-deedle-aw, dye-ree-addle-eedle dairy-oh.

And she went up and dressed the bed, she dressed it soft and easy.
I went up and I rolled her in. ‘Oh, my lassie, are you able?’

And she sang riddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle dum and she highdle deedle
dum but she hidle deedle doo and she landy.

And it’s there I stayed ’til the break of day and the devil a one2 did hear me
there I stayed ’til the break of day, devil a one did hear me.
I got up and put on me clothes, ‘My lassie, I must leave you’.

With me roo-rum-raw, fra-the-deedle-aw, dye-ree-addle-eedle dairy-oh.

‘Now when will you return again and when will we get married?’
‘When broken delft3 make Christmas bells, it’s then we will get married!’

And she sang riddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle dum and she highdle deedle
dum but she hidle deedle doo and she landy.

Now a pint at night is my delight and a gallon in the morning.
The old women are my heartbreak – but the young ones they’re me darling.

And she still sang riddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle
aye-dle dum and she highdle deedle dum but she hidle deedle doo and she landy.

Notes

1. Well-beaten.

2. Nobody.

3. Crockery. Named after Delft in Holland, whence a great deal of common crockery was imported. The term is still in common usage; often as ‘delf’.

As I Roved Out (1)

Play recording: As I Roved Out (1)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): As I Roved Out (1).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853908.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 3479.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Lucy Simpson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 19/12/1979.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

And as I roved out on a May morning, on a May morning quite early,
I met me love upon the way, oh lord but she was early.
Her hair was dark, her teeth were white, her buckles shone like silver,
She had a dark and a roving eye, and her hair hung o’er her shoulder.

And she sang riddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle dum and she
highdle deedle dum but she hidle deedle doo and she landy.

‘And who are you, me pretty fair maid, and who are you me darling?
And who are you, me pretty fair maid, who are you me darling?’
She answered me right modestly, ‘I am mammy’s daughter’.

With me roo-rum-raw, fra-the-deedle-aw, dye-ree-addle-eedle aye-ree-oh.

‘How old are you my pretty fair maid, how old are you my darling?’
She answered me right modestly, ‘Sixteen come Monday morning’.

But she sang riddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle dum
and she highdle deedle dum but she hidle deedle doo and she landy.

‘Do you want to marry me, pretty fair maid, do you want to marry me darling?
Do you want to marry me, pretty fair maid, do you want to marry me darling?’
She answered me right modestly, ‘I would but for my mammy’.

With me roo-rum-raw, fra-the-deedle-aw, dye-ree-addle-eedle aye-ree-oh.

‘Will you come up to me mammy’s house when the moon is shining brightly?
‘I’ll arise and I’ll let you in and me mammy won’t be hearing’.

And she sang riddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle dum and she highdle deedle
dum but she hidle deedle doo and she landy.

So I went up to her mammy’s house when the moon shone bright and clearly
I went up to her mammy’s house when the moon shone bright and clearly.
She arose to let me in but her mammy chanced to hear her.

With me roo-rum-raw, fra-the-deedle-aw, dye-ree-addle-eedle dairy-oh.

She took her by the top of her hair and to the parlour brought her;
With the end of a hazel-stick she was a well-bet1 daughter.

But she sang riddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle dum
and she highdle deedle dum but she hidle deedle doo and she landy.

[She took my horse by the bridle and reins and led him to the stable
She took my horse by the bridle and reins and led him to the stable
‘There is plenty of oats for the soldier’s horse, as fast as he can eat it!’

With me roo-rum-raw, fra-the-deedle-aw, dye-ree-addle-eedle dairy-oh.]

She took me by her lily white hand and led me to a table.
She took me by her lily white hand and led me to a table.
‘There is plenty of wine for the soldier lad as fast as he can take it’.

With me roo-rum-raw, fra-the-deedle-aw, dye-ree-addle-eedle dairy-oh.

And she went up and dressed the bed, she dressed it soft and easy.
I went up and I rolled her in. ‘Oh, my lassie, are you able?’

And she sang riddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle dum and she highdle deedle
dum but she hidle deedle doo and she landy.

And it’s there I stayed ’til the break of day and the devil a one2 did hear me
there I stayed ’til the break of day, devil a one did hear me.
I got up and put on me clothes, ‘My lassie, I must leave you’.

With me roo-rum-raw, fra-the-deedle-aw, dye-ree-addle-eedle dairy-oh.

‘Now when will you return again and when will we get married?’
‘When broken delft3 make Christmas bells, it’s then we will get married!’

And she sang riddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle dum and she highdle deedle
dum but she hidle deedle doo and she landy.

Now a pint at night is my delight and a gallon in the morning.
The old women are my heartbreak – but the young ones they’re me darling.

And she still sang riddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle aye-dle iddle
aye-dle dum and she highdle deedle dum but she hidle deedle doo and she landy.

Notes

1. Well-beaten.

2. Nobody.

3. Crockery. Named after Delft in Holland, whence a great deal of common crockery was imported. The term is still in common usage; often as ‘delf’.

As Joe sings it, this song is a tour-de-force, requiring two separate airs and refrains. As he says himself, ‘It took me years to learn how to do this song, with the two different choruses, and the two different airs in the one song’. When Lucy asks him why the song had two tunes, he explains that the song ‘is usually sung by a man and a woman, and to distinguish between the two — who’s talking, and when — the two tunes was used, you know’. As Lucy points out, however, both speakers are usually heard from in every verse, not in alternating verses as Joe’s explanation implies, and most of the time the voice is that of the man. It it likely the case that Joe combined the two versions of the song himself and was reluctant to say so, and that his remarks about his father and Seán Choilm Mac Donncha singing it as a duet are an attempt at misdirection.

This interpretation is borne out by the evidence of another version of the song, recorded by singer/songwriter Geordie Mac Intyre at Joe’s home in Clydebank in 1964 or ’65. This earlier version leaves out all mention of the girl’s mother; adds the stanza about the soldier’s horse; and uses only the one air. Geordie (and at least one other person) can be heard joining in at the chorus of this performance.

Joe’s later version — the one transcribed here — represents a fusion of two narratives: one that assumes the old woman sleeps through the soldier’s visit, and the other requiring that she arise and punish her daughter. Joe gets around this by telling listeners that, having reprimanded her daughter and sent her to bed, the mother herself retires — whereupon the girl gets up, sneaks into the kitchen, opens the back door to her lovelorn suitor, and then proceedes to regale him with wine and other delights.

This song appears on other recordings made by Joe, including the double CD The Road from Conamara. In his review of that CD, the late Tom Munnelly hazards the guess that ‘Joe probably got [this song] from Sara Makem by way of the Clancy Brothers. His singing of it is almost as good as Mrs Makem’s, and that’s saying something!’. Joe tells Geordie Mac Intyre, however, that he learned the song when he was ‘about the size of a fairy’. Take your pick!

Amhrán Mhaínse

Play recording: Amhrán Mhaínse

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Amhrán Mhaínse.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): The Raidió Teilifís Éireann Archive.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Tony Mac Mahon.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): unavailable.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): radio programme.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Dá mbeinn trí léig i bhfarraige nó ar thalamh i bhfad ó thír
Gan aon neach beo i mo ghaobhar ach an raithneach geal is fraoch;
An sneachta dá shéideadh ó thuaidh ‘s ó dheas ‘s an ghaoth dá fhuadach díom
Is mé a bheith ag comhrá le mo Teaimín Bán níorbh fhada liom an oíche.

A Mhuire dhílis, céard a dhéanfas mé, tá an geimhreadh anois an-ghann
A Mhuire dhílis, céard a dhéanfas an teach seo ná a bhfuil ann?
A Dhia, cén fáth nár fhág tú mé nó go scalfadh an lá breá,
Go mbeadh an chuach ag gairm is gach duilliúr glas ag fás.

Dhá mba thusa féin a d’imeodh agus mise fanacht beo,
Thógfainnse do chlann duit an dá lá is bheidís beo.
Shiúilfinn féin na Liberties agus páirt de Chontae an Chláir
‘S ní chuimhneoinn an fhad is mhairfinn aon fhear eile a chur in d’áit.

Dhá mbeadh mo chlann sa mbaile agam an oíche a bhfaighinnse bás
Thórróidís go fiúntach mé trí oíche agus trí lá.
Bheadh na píopaí fada cailce ann, is na ceaigeanna is iad lán,
Is bheadh triúr ban óg ó shléibhte le mé a chóiriú os cionn cláir.

A’s bíodh mo chónra déanta ó fhíor-ghealscoth na gclár,
Má tá Seán Ó hEidhin i Maínis, bíodh sí déanta óna láimh;
Bíodh mo ribín is mo chaipín is iad go ródheas faoi mo cheann,
A’s tabharfaidh Páidín Mór go Maínis mé nó is garbh a bheadh an lá.

Ag gabháil anoir ag ínse Ghainimh bíodh an brat againn sa gcrann,
Ná cuiridh i Leitir Calaidh mé mar ní ann atá mo dhream;
Ach cuirigí i Maínis mé, san áit a gcaoinfear mé go breá,
Beidh soilsí ar na dumhachannaí, ní bheidh uaigneas orm ann.

Translation

If I were three leagues out on the ocean, or in a land far from home,
With nobody around me but only bracken and heather,
Snow swirling from north and south and the wind blowing me off my feet,
As long as I was conversing with my fair Tommy, the night wouldn’t seem long to me.

Sweet Mary, what shall I do, the winter is very scarce.
Sweet Mary, what will become of us all in this house?
Oh, God, why didn’t you leave me until the fine weather broke through,
Until the cuckoo would be calling and every green thing growing.

If it were you who was going, and myself remaining alive,
I would raise you children for you, though they would only live two days.
I would walk the Liberties and part of County Clare,
And however long I lived I wouldn’t put any other man in your place.

If my children were at home the night of my death,
They would wake me decently for three days and nights.
There would be the long clay pipes, and full kegs,
And there would be three young women from the hills to lay me out.

Have my coffin made from the best of timber;
And if Seán Hynes is in Mweenish, let him be the one who makes it;
Have my ribbons and my cap nicely round my head;
And Big Páidín will take me to Mweenish unless the day is very rough.

Going west at Inse Ghainimh, let the flag fly from the mast;
Don’t bury me in Leitir Caladh, for my people aren’t there;
But bury me in Mweenish, where I’ll will be keened properly;
There will be lights on the sandbanks, and I won’t be lonely there.

Notes

Amhrán Mhaínse is currently available on YouTube in two excellent recordings made by TG4, the national Irish-language television station. The first of these recordings is sung by Antaine Mac Donnchadha and the second by Máirtín Seoighe.

This song was taken from a commercial recording: © RTÉ; recorded by Tony Mac Mahon for the radio programme The Long Note; published in L. Mac Con Iomaire, Seosamh Ó hÉanaí – Nár fhágha mé bás choíche (Cló Iar-Chonnachta: Indreabhán 2007), 518-9 and accompanying CD.

Amhrán Bréagach, An t-

Play recording: Amhrán Bréagach, An t-

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Amhrán Bréagach, An t-.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): CF0115b.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Séamas Ennis, Kevin Danaher.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 1946.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Carna, County Galway, Ireland.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Céard a deir tú le Gaillimh a bhuail challenge ar Chontae an Chláir?
‘S céard deir tú le Garumna casadh ina fhear fianaise ann?
Tá Sceirde ‘s Dún Gadail ‘sa sodair ag tíocht le cóir
‘S mara stopfaí an Bhrachlainn iad réabfaidh siad Árainn Mhór.

Agus bhí mé lá i nGaillimh lá farraige ‘s gála mhóir
Cé d’fheicfinn ag teacht chugam Ceann Gainimh faoi lán trí scód
Bhí lampaí airgid i mbarr a cuid crainnte seoil
‘S ba é réalt an t-seaca a bhí a’ lasadh ‘na gcoinnle dhóibh.

A’s chonnaic mé broc i nglais ghoirt ‘s é bleán na mbó
Bhí naoi gcinn de choiníní ar meisce léis brandaí a ól
Chonnaic mé portán ag éirí an-ard san aer
A’s fear ag ól bainne gan carbat, srón ná béal.

A’s chonnaic mé cearc ‘s ba mhaith uaithi an túirne a shníomh
A’s chonnaic mé lacha is í striopáilte ag cardáil lín
Bhi frag insa nglaise agus watch ina phóca thíos
A’s dreoilín ar fhuinneoig ar maidin ‘s é ag damhsadh ríl.

Is chonnaic mé iontas nach bhfaca mórán fós
Loch fhada Ghlionnáin faoi chruithneacht ag dhá mhíol mhór
An fheamainn a bhaineadh faoi Shamhain ar Mhín na nGabhar
Bhí eascann ar maigín dhá tarraingt go barr na habhann.

‘S deir Oileán Mhic Dara go bhfaca sé iontas mór
Caora ar leath-chois is maide aige ag seoladh bó
Tower Chnoc an Choillín mar egg-stand ag Myle Mór
A’s gliomach ‘seol’ beithíoch i ngleanntán a’s é ag gabháil ceo.

Tá fíodóir i gCamus arb ainm dó Sál a’ Laoi
Tá bréidín caol fite aige ar Gharmainn Thóin Uí Fhloinn
Sé Tóin Chnoc na Seangán an tóin eiteáin is fearr sa tír
Is gur amuigh ar an gcnocán a chuirfinn‑se an únn sa tslín.

Notes

This song was among those that Joe sang for Séamas Ennis in 1942, when Ennis was collecting material for the Irish Folklore Commission, now the National Folklore Collection at University College Dublin. See CBÉ 1280, pp. 581–2. Some of the stanzas he sang on that occasion, however, do not appear in the version here, while others appear here that are not in Ennis’ manuscript, and still others have lines and couplets swapped about. Perhaps the fact that the song was meant to be nonsense allowed a certain degree of improvisation.

We are grateful to the National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin, for allowing us to use this recording here.

Amhrán na mBréag was also commercially recorded by Dara Bán Mac Donnchadha, who was raised in the house next door to the one occupied by Joe’s family. See Rogha Amhrán (Cló Iar-Chonnachta 1999).

Transcription taken from the commercial recording: Amhráin Aniar (Gael Linn GL4), 1965.

American Wake, The and A Stór mo Chroí

Play recording: American Wake, The and A Stór mo Chroí

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): American Wake, The and A Stór mo Chroí.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 855203.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore, song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Warren Fahey.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 1976.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Sydney Opera House, Australia.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): concert.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

What I’m trying to do tonight, in the space I have, is to give you a bit of everything. And the next thing I’m going to do — maybe some of you heard about it, I don’t know — is called The American Wake. Now it’s nothing to do, directly, it’s nothing to do with America. But long ago, when people were going to America and emigrating, their parents knew they’d never see that particular person in this life again.

And the night before they left, the woman or the man who was leaving — It wasn’t so easy then to come home as it is now. They settled down more or less when they went to America, and they got married, and their parents died, meantime they could never see them. But anyway, the man or the woman who was going away visited all the old people in the village, invited them to have a dance that night in the house. And those that weren’t able to go, they gave them a bottle of something as a remembrance.

And they invited the people — Now I’m talking about a time when there was no musical instruments. And of course, long ago, musical instruments were barred, because some of the clergy reckoned that if you played music you were a druid or something — something pagan about you. So maybe it was a good thing, too. But anyway — there was somebody, always, who lilted a tune, and somebody danced to that tune.

Now, in the old country houses they had what was known as a half-door1. And sometimes when somebody was dancing on a concrete kitchen floor they lifted off the half-door, and danced on top of the half-door. Now two of the tunes they used to play was a reel, My Love She’s in America, and a hornpipe, Off to California. This was during the night; and in the morning, of course, the song — the lament — was sung by always — nearly always — the woman. But this is somebody lilting a tune for somebody dancing. My Love She’s in America went something like this:

[lilts]

That’s My Love She’s in America. Now Off to California:

[lilts]

Now, the dancing was over [applause], and in the morning, usually the mother, put her hands around whoever was going away, pointing out to that person that ‘Even though you’re going away, remember, you’ll get no money thrown on the pavements. Where you’re going you’ll see somebody rich; but remember, behind that person there may be twenty people who’s very poor. And when you’re walking the streets at night, remember, stop and listen, because as sure as anything the voice you’ll hear will be mine, calling you back; because you know I’ll always love you’. And the song they used to sing was A Stór Mo Chroí.

A stór mo chroí, when you’re far away from the home you’ll soon be leaving
And it’s many a time by night and day your heart will be sorely grieving.
Though the stranger’s land might be rich and fair, and riches and treasure golden
You’ll pine, I know, for the long long ago and the love that’s never olden.

A stór mo chroí, in the stranger’s land there is plenty of wealth and wearing
Whilst gems adorn the rich and the grand there are faces with hunger tearing2.
Though the road is dreary and hard to tread, the lights of their city may blind you
You’ll turn, a stór, to Erin’s shore and the ones you left behind you.

A stór mo chroí, when the evening sun over the mountain and meadow is falling
Won’t you turn away from the throng and listen and maybe you’ll hear me calling.
The voice that you’ll hear will be surely mine of somebody’s speedy returning
A rún, a rún, will you come back soon to the one who will always love you.

That’s the American Wake.

Notes

1. For a fuller description of half-doors and how they were used as dance-platforms, listen to Joe’s introduction to The Half-Door.

2. In most versions of this song, the first line of the second stanza ends with the word ‘wailing’, which rhymes with ‘paling’ in line two.

This presentation, which Joe honed over many years specifically for his American audiences, became a standard item on his concert programmes. The presentation as a whole, and the musical elements included in it, reflect Joe’s concern with helping his listeners appreciate the emotional reality of an appalling situation, in which parents and child were bidding farewell to each other in the full knowledge that they were unlikely ever to meet again.

In 1980, while he was living in New York, Joe gave a valuable account of what really happened at these American Wakes to Lucy Simpson (UW85–39.13). He himself attended three such wakes during the 1920’s, when he was a young boy. He said that one of the reasons why such partings were permanent was the age of the parents, who would probably be in their late fifties or sixties when their child emigrated. People at that time tended to marry late in life. A man might be over forty, because he would be reluctant to bring a woman into his parents’ home for fear of domestic upheaval. So by the time the children were of an age to think of emigrating, the parents were getting older; and by the time the emigrant would have settled down and have saved enough to return to Ireland for a visit, there would be no one left alive to return to.

The day before the departure, the emigrating person would visit all the old people in the village and share a drop of whiskey or a cup of tea, and invite everyone in the village to come to the house that night for what they called a time — a send-off that included dance and singing that lasted throughout the night. In the morning, young and old would gather quietly at the door of the house, while the person who was going away had a quiet hour with the mother and father; then the jaunting-car would come to take the emigrant to the railway station. That was time, said Joe, when ‘the mother would really let go’. It really was like a funeral.

As Joe explained to Lucy Simpson, he worked A Stór mo Chroí into his presentation about the American Wake because it fits so well into the narrative he was setting forth. The advice contained in the song would have been delivered when the parents spoke quietly with their son or daughter. In reality, however, the emigrant’s mother would not have sung her final farewell — she would have been engulfed in grief. Even if she did have the strength and will to sing, she would surely have done so in Irish. For a short discussion in Irish of the American Wake and of the experience of emigrating from home, see Hartmann, Hans, Tomás de Bhaldraithe and Ruairí Ó hUiginn (eds.), Airneán: Ein Sammlung von Texten aus Carna, Co. na Gaillimhe, Max Niemeyer Verlag Tübingen (1996), vol 1, lines 9308–9335.

We are grateful to Warren Fahey, who promoted and recorded the concert from which this recording was taken, for allowing us to use it here. the concert can be heard in its entirety on his website.

All Among the Heather and Mary Had a Little Lamb

Play recording: All Among the Heather and Mary Had a Little Lamb

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): All Among the Heather and Mary Had a Little Lamb.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 841414.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 7622.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Jill Linzee.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 14 December 1983.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Sanislo Elementary School, Seattle, Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

The fairies they are dancing by brake and by bower,
For this in their land is the merriment hour.
Their steps are soft, their robes are light,
And they trip at ease in the clear moonlight.

Up the airy mountain, down the little glen,
We dare not go a-skipping for fear of little men.
Tripping, skipping, dancing all together,
Singing and lilting all among the heather.

The king was in the parlour, counting out his money
The queen was in the bedroom, drinking milk and honey
The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes
When down came a blackbird and snapped off her nose!

Mary had a little lamb
Its fleece was white as snow.
Everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go.

He followed her to school one day
It was against the rules.
It made the children laugh and play
To see a lamb in school.

Soon the teacher turned him out
But still he lingered near.
And waited patiently about
‘Til Mary did appear.

“What made the lamb love Mary so?”
The eager children cried.
“Oh, Mary loved the lamb, you know.”
The teacher did reply.

Notes

Jill Linzee, a student at University of Washington who was interested in children’s songs, invited Joe to come and sing for a roomful of children at a local elementary school (similar to an Irish National School). The sound quality of this recording is not the best, owing to the fact that Joe is trying to help Jill organize (and motivate) the children into a round-dance.

The verses of these songs will be familiar to many people. The airs, however, may not be what you expect.

Bonny Bunch of Roses, The

Play recording: Bonny Bunch of Roses, The

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Bonny Bunch of Roses, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 855412.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 664.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Robin Hiteshew.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 16/03/1980.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Devon, Pennsylvania, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): concert.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

There was a time when England, Ireland and Scotland was more or less one. During Napoleon’s period, now, time, you know, the name given to England, Ireland and Scotland was ‘the bonny bunch of roses.’ And this is the story of Napoleon’s son, and the conversation with his mother. And he said he was going to emulate his father, and take an army and conquer Moscow, and then return and get the bonny bunch of roses. But his mother told him, ‘Your father tried the same thing; now he’s dead in St Helena. Anyway, you’re on your deathbed,’ she said, ‘so stay there.’ Here’s what happened:

By the margin of the ocean, one pleasant evening in the month of June
When all the feathered songsters their liquid notes they sweetly tuned
It’s there I met a female, on her features were signs of woe
Conversing with young Bonaparte concerning the bonny bunch of roses-o.

Out speaks the young Napoleon, he takes his mother by the hand
Saying ‘Mother, dear, be patient, until I’m able to take command;
Then I’ll raise a mighty army and through tremendous dangers go,
And ne’er will I return again til I conquer the bonny bunch of roses-o.

‘When first you met great Bonaparte you fell upon your bended knees
You asked your father’s life of him; he granted it right manfully.
Twas then he took an army and o’er the frozen Alps did go;
He said ‘I’ll conquer Moscow, and return for the bonny bunch of roses-o.’

‘He took six hundred thousand men and kings likewise to bear his train;
He was so well provided-for that he could sweep the world for gain.
But when he came to Moscow he was overpowered by sleet and snow
And with Moscow all a-blazing he lost the bonny bunch of roses-o.’

‘Now, Son, be not too venturesome, for England is the heart of oak,
And England, Ireland, Scotland, their unity shall ne’er be broke.
Remember your brave father: in St Helena he lies low.
And if you follow after, beware of the bonny bunch of roses-o.’

‘Now, Mother dear, I bid you adieu; I now lie on my dying bed;
If I’d ‘a lived I’d be more clever; but now I droop my youthful head.
And when my bones lie mouldering, and weeping willows o’er me grow
The name of young Napoleon will enshrine the bonny bunch of roses-o.’

Notes

This song appears, to a different air, in Colm O Lochlainn, Irish Street Ballads (Dublin, 1939), 32.

Tiarna Randal, An

Play recording: Tiarna Randal, An

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Tiarna Randal, An.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781515.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 10.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): 12.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Cynthia Thiessen.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 06/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): day class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Fredric Lieberman.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

‘The story we had … [was] that his newly-married wife… gave him an eel full of poison for his dinner. And that his sister was sitting by his bedside, asking him questions. ‘Where were you all day? Cé raibh tú ó mhaidin, a dhriotháirín-ó?’ And then, ‘What will you leave your father? What will you leave your mother? What will you leave your brother? You know. What will you leave your wife?’ And he said, ‘Ifreann mar dhúiche aice. Hell may be her destiny. Flaithis a bheith dúinte uirthe. Heaven may be shut against her.’

And then he had two sons, according to this story, too, and she asked him, ‘What will you leave your little sons?’ ‘Hopping,’ he said ‘from place to place, begging their food,’ he said, ‘and ending up with the same way’ he said ‘I’m dying now.’ He was bitter, and who wouldn’t be? And this is the way they used to sing it at home.’

Cé raibh tú ó mhaidin, a dhriotháirín-ó?
Cé raibh tú ó mhaidin, a phlúir na bhfear óg?
Ag iasgach ‘s a foghlaéaracht,
Cóirigh mo leaba dhom
Tá mé tinn fó mo chroí, agus ligí dhomh luí.

Céard a d’ith tú ar do dhinnéar, a dhriotháirín-ó?
Céard a d’ith tú ar do dhinnéar, a phlúir na bhfear óg?
Eascann a raibh lúib uirthe,
Nimh fuinte brúite uirthi.
Tá mé tinn fó mo chroí, agus ligí dhomh luí.

Céard a fhágfas tú ag do daddy, a dhriotháirín-ó?
Céard a fhágfas tú ag do daddy, a phlúir na bhfear óg?
Eochair mo stábla aige
Sin is mo láir aige
Tá mé tinn fó mo chroí, agus ligí dhomh luí.

Céard a fhágfas tú ag do bhean phósta, a dhriotháirín-ó?
Céard a fhágfas tú ag do bhean phósta, a phlúir na bhfear óg?
Ifreann mar dhúiche aice,
Na Flaithis a bheith dúinte uirthi.
Tá mé tinn fó mo chroí, agus ligí dhomh luí.

Céard a fhágfas tú ag do mháithrín, a dhriotháirín-ó?
Céard a fhágfas tú ag do mháithrín, a phlúir na bhfear óg?
Dhá bhfágfainn saol brách aice
D’fhágfainn croí cráite aice.
Tá mé tinn fó mo chroí, agus béad go deo deo.

Translation

Where have you been all day, little brother?
Where have you been all day, flower of young men?
Fishing and hunting,
Make my bed for me,
I am sick to my heart, and I want to lie down.

What had you for your dinner, little brother?
What had you for your dinner, flower of young men?
An eel cooked in herbs
With poison pressed into it
I am sick to my heart, and I want to lie down.

What will you leave your daddy, little brother?
What will you leave your daddy, flower of young men?
The key to my stable
And my mare for him
I am sick to my heart, and I want to lie down.

What will you leave your wife, little brother?
What will you leave your wife, flower of young men?
Hell for her dwelling-place
Heaven being closed to her
I am sick to my heart, and I want to lie down.

What will you leave your mother, little brother?
What will you leave your mother, flower of young men?
If I were to leave her eternal life
I would only leave her a broken heart
I am sick to my heart, and always will be.

Notes

Although on this occasion Joe attributes the questions to Lord Randal’s sister, he explains elsewhere that a dhriotháirín (brother) is a form of address that can be used by a friend as well as by a sibling, and that therefore the questions might not necessarily have come from a family member. On one occasion he says that his grandmother thought the questioner might have been the dying man’s aunt. At other times Joe included two further verses:

Céard a fhágfas tú ag do dhriotháir [or do dheirfiúr (your sister)]?… Eochair mo thrúinc aige, sin is míle púnt aige

Céard a fhágfas tú ag do chlann mhac [or do chleamhnaí (your in-laws)]?… Fuacht fada is seachrán, is oíche ar gach bothán

With regard to this second verse and the reference to the in-laws, this legacy seems fitting for them given the wife’s treachery.

Note that, in addition to changing ‘brother’ to ‘sister’ on at least one occasion, Joe often reverses the legacies to the brother and the father; on the Topic LP recorded by Joe in the 1960s, the dying man leaves to his brother each ins an stábla aige, sin is mo láir aige ‘the stallion in the stable, along with the mare.’ In the end it’s hard to tell whether Joe learned such variations at home, or whether they emerged in his own performances, perhaps as a way of maintaining his own interest in a song which contains a great deal of repetition – a fact that he himself noted in a conversation with Fred Lieberman (UW 812905).

He was also clearly conscious of the possibility of boring an American audience that had no Irish, and – as the performance given here illustrates – tended to make cuts in his songs in the Irish language, knowing that his audience would be none the wiser. Whatever the explanation, these verses tend to be variable in his performances.

The song is sung to a variant of that well-travelled and ubiquitous air usually known as The Star of the County Down. 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), 154-6; also An tAth. Tomás Ó Ceallaigh, Ceol na n-Oileán: Amhráin a Chruinnigh an tAthair Tomás Ó Ceallaigh in Oileáin Chonamara (Dublin, 1931), 54 and notes.

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

Mahons, The: How the Mahons Became Expert Bonesetters

Play recording: Mahons, The: How the Mahons Became Expert Bonesetters

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Mahons, The: How the Mahons Became Expert Bonesetters.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840111.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 15/11/1983.
  • 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.

A man and his sons, out fishing, are caught in a fog; when the fog clears they find themselves next to a beautiful island. But when they are about to step ashore, an old man approaches and begs them not to come ashore, saying the island is Hy-Brasail – an enchanted island – and if they set foot on it the enchantment will be broken. To compensate them for not coming ashore, the old man gives them a book and tells them not to open it for a year and a day. The fog lifts and they go home. A week or so later, one of the sons tells the father, ‘Go on, open the book!’ There were 365 pages, but only the first seven had writing on them – full of cures for bone-setting. The family was known for bone-setting for generations afterwards.

On another tape (UW 850117), Joe tells Jim Cowdery about cures that this man effected, as well as additional cures; see here. Material relating to Hy-Brasail includes the song Hy-Brasail, the Isle of the Blest as well as an anecdote in which Joe relates the time he himself saw the enchanted island.

Notes

In his biography of Seosamh Ó hÉanai, Nár Fhágha Mé Bás Choíche, Liam Mac Con Iomaire gives the following account (p. 29–30):

Bhí seanchas cliste ag Seosamh ina óige freisin faoi mhuintir Laidhe, a bhíodh ina ndochtúirí… ag na Flathartaigh, an fhad is fhíodar sin i gceannas thiar… Nuair a chaill na Flathartaigh a gcumhacht, agus muintir Laidhe a ngairm, fuadaíodh Murcha Ó Laidhe (más fíor) go Beag-Árainn i 1668 agus fuair sé bua na dochtúireachta ar ais ansin nuair a bronnadh ‘Leabhar Mhuintir Laidhe’ air, ina raibh leigheas ar chuile ghalar beo, scríofa i nGaeilge agus i Laidin… De réir leagan eile den scéal céanna is san Aird Thoir, baile dúchais Sheosaimh, a bhí cónaí ar Mhurcha Ó Laidhe. Is é fírinne an scéil go bhfuil a leithéid de leabhar ann…

Joe heard lore in his youth regarding the Lees, who were doctors to the Flahertys at the time that the latter were chieftains in the west. When the Flahertys lost their power – and the Lees their calling – Murchadh O’Lee was chased (if it’s true) to Hy-Brasail in 1668, and his healing powers were restored to him when ‘The Book of the O’Lees’ was bestowed upon him, which contained a cure for every disease, written in Irish and in Latin… According to another version of the story, Murchadh O’Lee lived in Ardeast, Joe’s village. The truth of the matter is that there actually is such a book…

The book in question – ‘The Book of the O’Lees’ or ‘The Book of O’Brazil’ – is lodged in the Royal Irish Academy (23 P 10 ii; no. 453), and used to be linked to the one mentioned in the traditional accounts: Tomás Ó Concheanainn, ‘Seanchas ar Mhuintir Laidhe,’ Éigse 33 (2002), 211. For a story in Irish similar to the one Joe tells here, see Hartmann, Hans, Tomás de Bhaldraithe and Ruairí Ó hUiginn (eds.), Airneán: Ein Sammlung von Texten aus Carna, Co. na Gaillimhe, Max Niemeyer Verlag Tübingen (1996), vol 1, lines 3031-3102. This story relates how Mac Bhriain Uí Laoidhe obtained a cure for smallpox.

I have been unable to discover – and would be pleased to learn – why Joe calls the central figure of this story ‘Mahon’ rather than ‘Lee’. It could be that similar stories were connected with two different families; or that the two families were connected in some way, and that the lore associated with the Lees transferred to the Mahons through that connection; or that the Mahons were specifically bonesetters, whilst the Lees were able to cure a wider variety of ailments.

For more about Hy-Brasail (in Irish, ‘Beag-Árainn’ or ‘Lesser Aran’), see Daithí Ó hÓgáin, ‘The Mystical Island in Irish Folklore,’ in P. Lysaght, S. Ó Catháin and D. Ó hÓgáin (eds.), Islanders and Water-Dwellers: Proceedings of the Celtic-Nordic-Baltic Folklore Symposium held at University College Dublin 16-19 June 1996, DBA Publications Ltd. for the Department of Irish Folklore, UCD (1999), 247-60.

Woman Who Outwitted the Magistrate, The

Play recording: Woman Who Outwitted the Magistrate, The

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Woman Who Outwitted the Magistrate, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781512.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Cynthia Thiessen.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 01/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Fredric Lieberman.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

A woman used to sell poitín   the real mountain dew. The police   the peelers, as they called them   knew she sold it; so did the parish priest. But nobody could ever prove it.

One day a neighbour tells her she has heard that the peelers are to come to search her house the next day. So she takes a bottle, filled it up with urine   ‘master’ as she calls it   puts a cork in it, and leaves it on a dresser in her house where she knows the peelers can’t miss it.

Sure enough, they come the next day, see the bottle, and don’t even bother to uncork it, but take it with them to lodge as evidence against her.

When she is summoned to court, she makes a great show of being lame. When the magistrate passes her on the stairs, she limps extravagantly to be sure he’ll notice. And when she is called to account for the possession of poitín, she points out that the bottle only contains máistir that she uses to ease the pain of her rheumatism.

The court has the bottle uncorked, and after taking a whiff of the contents, the judge not only dismisses the charge against her, but also awards her a hundred pounds for defamation of character, and transfers the policeman who arrested her to another parish.

Notes

Joe starts this segment by mentioning wool, specifically the weaving of bréidín (tweed) and the fact that they used to put something through it to make it strong and waterproof.

Although he doesn’t go into any detail, his train of thought possibly includes a traditional use of máistir (master, but used here, possibly euphemistically, to mean urine) for strengthening the homespun wool cloth. The traditional soaking and fulling of homespun cloth is well-attested in Ireland as well as in Scotland; but unlike the Scots, the Irish have no body of waulking songs specifically associated with this task.

See the account (in Irish) of tweed manufacture — including fulling — in Hans Hartmann, Tomás de Bhaldraithe and Ruairí Ó hUiginn (eds.), Airneán: Ein Sammlung von Texten aus Carna, Co. na Gaillimhe (Niemeyer Verlag, Tubingen, 1996), vol. 1, pp. 1-17; a summary in English is provided in vol. 2, pp. 97-99.

Blessed is the Corpse

Play recording: Blessed is the Corpse

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Blessed is the Corpse.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 841401.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Joan Rabinowitz.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 07/04/1982.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington’s Music Cultures, Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Blessed is the corpse that the rain falls on

A couple has one son. The mother is thoroughly evil-tempered, while the father is good and kind. The mother dies six months before the father, and the day she’s buried is a beautiful, sunny day; but when the father dies, his funeral takes place in pouring rain and lashing wind. This seems unfair to the son, who sets out to find an explanation. His travels eventually reveal not only why it’s better to have a rainy funeral than a sunny one, but also why a blacksmith’s forge is never open after sunset on a Saturday, and answers to a lot of other questions besides. The story reflects Christian teaching and salvation.

When asked which was his favourite story, this is the story that Joe named.

Another story of a similar moral character is The Farmer, the Teacher and the Priest.

Fionn Mac Cumhaill (6)

Play recording: Fionn Mac Cumhaill (6)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Fionn Mac Cumhaill (6).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 850114.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): James Cowdery.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): between 1979 and 1981.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

The importance of storytelling before radio and television

This segment largely consists of Joe explaining to Jim Cowdery how storytelling was an important element in the social life of Conamara in the days before radio and television, and how people would gather at his father’s house on a winter’s evening to listen to stories and songs. Some of the stories could stretch over nights and weeks before they would come to an end.

Fionn Mac Cumhail Plays a Game of Cards

As an example of such a story, Joe tells a short fragment of a long tale about how Fionn Mac Cumhaill was enticed into a game of cards by an old woman with magic powers, and when Fionn lost the card-game, he was then put under an enchantment (faoi gheasa) to do anything the old woman wanted him to do.

A most interesting part of this segment is Joe’s description of the scene in the house while the story is being told: how quiet everyone was and how Joe used to creep out of his bed and listen at the top of the stairs.

Notes

A manuscript in the National Folklore Collection, Department of Irish Folklore, University College Dublin, contains a version of this story in Irish, ‘Grabaire Beag Fhinn Mhac Cumhaill’, that Joe Heaney himself contributed to the Collection in the 1930s. See CBÉ 1275:430-8.

Thugamar Féin an Samhradh Linn

Play recording: Thugamar Féin an Samhradh Linn

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Thugamar Féin an Samhradh Linn.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781504.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Esther Warkov.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 06/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Bhí mise ‘s óigbhean lá gabháil an bóthar
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn
Cé chasfaí dhúinn ach an gruagach cróga1
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn
Samhradh, samhradh, bainne na ngamhna
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn
Samhradh, samhradh, bainne na ngamhna
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn

Is iomadh sin bó ag dhul thar chlaí teorann
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn
Ag tógáil seilbhe ar sheilbh na gcomharsan
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn
Samhradh, samhradh, bainne na ngamhna
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn
Samhradh, samhradh, bainne na ngamhna
Thugamar féin an samhradh linn

Translation

Myself and a young woman were one day walking the road,
We brought the summer with us
Whom should we meet but the lively gremlin,
We brought the summer with us
Summer, summer, the milk of the calves,
We brought the summer with us
Summer, summer, the milk of the calves,
We brought the summer with us

It’s many a cow that’s gone over the boundary wall,
We brought the summer with us
Taking possession of the neighbours’ pasture,
We brought the summer with us
Summer, summer, the milk of the calves,
We brought the summer with us
Summer, summer, the milk of the calves,
We brought the summer with us

Notes

1. What Joe actually says is an gruagaire róga, which makes no sense. Amhráin Mhuighe Sheóla gives these words as an Gruagach Cródha, which have not been translated, but which roughly means ‘the lively giant’ (or perhaps an ogre, goblin, brownie, or an uncouth, hairy person). The word Joe says – gruagaire – is the term used nowadays for a hairdresser – hardly likely, in the circumstances. In the only other recording he made of this song, Joe translates the phrase for Jim Cowdery as ‘the town gossip’ (UW 850112). Given the circumstances – and depending upon who the young woman was – the young man in the song might have preferred a hairy gremlin.

Donal O’Sullivan writes that this song has been connected to ‘pastoral May Day ceremonies’ and that the air, which first appears in written form in 1745, ‘is doubtless of considerable antiquity.’ He goes on to report that ‘reliable tradition says that the song was sung as a welcome to the Duke of Ormonde when he landed as Lord Lieutenant after the Restoration (July, 1662). Versions of the words have survived in the Irish-speaking districts until the present day, and one of the last of the learned poets David Ó Bruadair (c 1625-1697), alludes to the song twice in one of his poems’ (Songs of the Irish, Dublin, 1960, p. 3).

Further verses can be found in Eibhlín Bean Uí Choisdealbha, Amhráin Mhuighe Sheóla: Traditional Songs from Galway and Mayo (1923), 67-9. It’s not clear whether Joe would have heard this song at home or not; natives of Carna, consulted during 2010, say that they learned it ‘from the nuns’ at school.

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

Joe Heaney: Joe is Best Man at a Dog’s Wedding

Play recording: Joe Heaney: Joe is Best Man at a Dog’s Wedding

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Joe Heaney: Joe is Best Man at a Dog’s Wedding.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840109.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 07/11/1983.
  • 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.

Having recently returned from a trip to France, Joe was questioned by students about his trip. The story – at first glance a ‘shaggy dog story’ – he told was of having been asked by a French woman to stand as best man at the woman’s dog’s wedding. He says he was paid 800 francs, and a piece of cake; and the happy couple were in Greece on their honeymoon.

Notes

Truth is stranger than fiction. Liam Mac Con Iomaire, in his 2007 biography of Joe Heaney, quotes the following account from Liam Clancy. Apparently Joe was in the habit of regaling the Clancys and other friends at The Lion’s Head in Greenwich Village with stories about things that happened while he was working as doorman at 135 Central Park West in New York (p. 244-5):

He was the best man at the wedding of two poodles! He didn’t know that it was dogs that were getting married. He thought it was people, because the woman said: ‘Joe, I need you to hire a tuxedo. Here’s the money, and I want you to go out and get a nice tuxedo, as I want you to be the best man at this wedding.’

He went out and he got the tuxedo. He went up to the apartment, and there were these poodles, all dressed up! One of them was in a wedding gown! ‘And you wouldn’t believe the food that these poodles were eating! And what did she give me? A sausage!’

Diarmaid and Gráinne

Play recording: Diarmaid and Gráinne

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Diarmaid and Gráinne.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840112.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 15/11/1983.
  • 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.

Fionn Mac Cumhaill is chieftain of Fianna Éireann, and Diarmaid Mac Duibhne is one of his men – the handsomest of them, it is said. He is also reputed to have a beauty spot1 somewhere on his body that makes him even more attractive to women.

Fionn and the Fianna are invited by king Cormac Mac Airt to come to his castle for a celebration. When they arrive, they are greeted by king Cormac and his daughter Gráinne, a great beauty. Fionn immediately falls in love with her, and tells Cormac that he would like to have her for his wife. Cormac is honoured by the request, and agrees.

Meanwhile, Gráinne is serving wine to the guests; and however it happens, she catches sight of Diarmaid’s beauty spot and falls head-over-heels in love with him. She drugs the wine of all present, except for Diarmaid, and the two of them escape from the castle.

For years afterward, Fionn keeps up the hunt for Diarmaid and Gráinne all over the country. Because of his encounter with the Salmon of Knowledge years before, Fionn is able to track their movements; but they use various ruses to fool him, and so escape being caught.

In the meantime, Fionn devises a plan to trick Diarmaid. Knowing that Diarmaid cannot resist joining in a hunt if one is organized, Fionn announces that he will be hunting in a certain area where he suspects that Diarmaid and Gráinne have been hiding. This also happens to be an area frequented by a certain wild boar – an animal that is actually the son of an enemy of Diarmaid Mac Duibhne’s father, enchanted into the form of a boar, and destined to be the death of Diarmaid.

When Diarmaid tells Gráinne that he will be going hunting that day, she pleads with him not to go; at least, she argues, he should take his sword with him, that never misses its target. But Diarmaid doesn’t think he will need it, and goes to the hunt without it. In the event, he is attacked by the boar, which leaves him nearly dead.

Only one thing can cure Diarmaid’s wounds: a drink of water from the hand of Fionn Mac Cumhaill himself. The Fianna are fond of Diarmaid, despite his having run off with Gráinne, and they entreat Fionn to get him a drink and save his life. Fionn’s grandson Oscar is especially insistent. But each time Fionn brings water cupped in his hands to Diarmaid, the thought of what Diarmaid has done causes him to let the water slip through his fingers. Finally, Fionn makes his way back from the spring a third time, only to find Diarmaid dead when he arrives.

Notes

The motif of the raven’s blood in the snow also appears in the story of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Raven.

Singing (4)

Play recording: Singing (4)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Singing (4).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781502.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): singing style.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Esther Warkov.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 02/03/1978 – 03/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Repertoire

Joe discusses his repertoire; the difference between the religious songs (Passion Song and Good Friday lament) and other serious songs like Úna Bhán and Eileanóir na Rún; the importance of these songs, and of their not being abused with accompaniments.

Beinnsín Luachra, An

Play recording: Beinnsín Luachra, An

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Beinnsín Luachra, An.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 850111.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): James Cowdery.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): between 1979 and 1981.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

A chailín bhig na luachra, an trua leat mo bheart ar lár1
Cén fáth nach dtiocfá ar uaigneas liom faoi bhruach na coille is glaise bláth
Sagart ní bhfaighidh scéala air ná éinne dá bhfuil le fáil
Go dteaga caint don chéirseach is Gréigis don londubh bhreá.

Ní mheallfaidh tú mé, a bhuachaill, le cluanaíocht, ‘s níl maith dhuit ann
‘S is iomadh cailín stuama ag iompair ualaigh is ag gabháil le fán
B’fhearr liom ag baint an luachair ‘s dhá tuaradh go lá an bhrá’2
Ná do leanbh a bheith ar mo ghualainn ‘cur do thuairisc gan tú le fáil.

Ó gheall tú giní is púnt dom ‘s bhí súil agam le cur ‘na ceann
Culaith ó bhonn go huachtar is cóta den síoda bán
Ó sin nó theacht ar cuairt chugam gach tráthnóna is maidin bhreá
Le luach mo bheinnsín luachair le [a] bhfuair mé [de] easonóir.

Translation

Young girl of the rushes, do you feel sorry for my unfulfilled desire?
Why won’t you come alone with me to the edge of the forest, under the green wood canopy?
No priest will ever hear of it, nor any other living soul,
until the thrush learns to talk and the blackbird to speak Greek.

You won’t coax me, boyo, with your flattery, you’re on a hiding to nothing,
with all the sensible young women carrying burdens and going astray;
I’d rather cut rushes and be tying them up forever
than to have your child on my shoulder and yourself nowhere to be found.

You promised me a guinea and a pound, and I wanted to add to it;
a suit of clothes and a coat of white silk;
and to come visiting me every afternoon and fine morning,
with the price of my bunch of rushes and all the dishonour I got.

Notes

1. Usually: ‘nach trua liom do bheart ar lár’ which could be translated, I’m sorry to see your bundle on the ground, referring to the bundle of rushes. In the present case, we are relying upon a more abstract meaning of ‘beart ar lár’ meaning unfulfilled plan/wish.

2. Usually: ‘go lá mo bháis’ until the day of my death.

As the talk reveals, Jim Cowdery intends to learn this song, and Joe is singing it so that Jim can study it at home. It is also clear that Joe is consulting a written text as he sings.

This song is a pastourelle, a type of love-song that may have originated in medieval France and migrated to Ireland at the time of the Anglo-Norman settlement; see Seán Ó Tuama, An Grá in Amhráin na nDaoine (1960). For additional verses and some discussion, see Micheál agus Tomás Ó Máille, Amhráin Chlainne Gael, ed. William Mahon (Indreabhán 1991), 88-9.

Hen that Stole the Corn, The

Play recording: Hen that Stole the Corn, The

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Hen that Stole the Corn, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840109.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 07/11/1983.
  • 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.

A king required his subjects to tell him stories – and if they couldn’t, he took their heads off. This man told the king that his father had had a field of corn, and one day a hen came and took a mouthful of corn, took it to the far end of the field and ate it, and then came back to where the corn was being harvested, took another mouthful, took it to the far end of the field and ate it… and so on for four days on end. The king asked him if he was ever going to come to the point, and the fellow said to him, ‘Look how much more corn there is for the hen to eat!’ – whereupon the king told him to stop already, enough with the hen and the corn.

Notes

This story clearly operates from the same premise as the Scheherezade legend, and represents an international tale-type, AT 2301, ‘Corn carried away a grain at a time.’

Will you Come With me Over the Mountain?

Play recording: Will you Come With me Over the Mountain?

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Will you Come With me Over the Mountain?
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 850404.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 9632.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Jill Linzee.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): between 1982 and 1984.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

‘Will you come over the mountain?’ is a real courting song. People long ago used to court a bit more slowly than they do at the moment. I mean, this man… used to come once a week to see his girlfriend, he’d come from over the mountain. And this night he came, he was giving her an ultimatum: ‘I’ve courted twelve months now, and that’s enough. Either you come, or I don’t come any more.’ That was the ultimatum he gave the girl. Well, reading between the lines, she thinks she had no intentions of going. But of course, when somebody’s challenge is called, sometimes their bluff is answered in a- different ways. And… got this from an old man, next-door neighbour of mine.

The only English song he had – he never spoke English – but this is one thing he had good. And the first time ever I went to him to get the song, I heard him- I said to me mother, ‘I was over,’ I said – in Irish, of course, I said, ‘Bhí mé thíos sa teach aréir ag éisteacht leis dhá rá an amhráin, I was down in that old man’s house li-‘ And I’ll never forget what he said, ‘Will you come over the mountain?’ Well she said, ‘If you go down there again, I’ll make you go over the mountain!’ Without telling me where you’re going. But then it was alright when I told her, you know.

Now this is the song. …I’m going to try to sing it exactly the same way as this man sang it. It’s more of a dialogue than any song I know.

One night when the moon illumined the sky
I first took a notion to marry
So I put on me hat and away I did hie –
You’d swear I was in a great hurry
Till I came to a spot where often I’d been
My heart gave a leap when my darling I’d seen
I opened the door and bid her goodnight
Saying, ‘Will you come over the mountain?’

Now the next verse has a word there called fut. ‘What kind of a fut is come over you now?’ Well that’s a legitimate word. It’s not f-o-o-t, it’s f-u-t, it’s an Irish word for fuadar1 – that means ‘You’re in a mood tonight, I never saw you acting like this before.’ And that’s what it means.

‘What kind of a fut is come over you now?
But I’m glad to see you so merry,
It’s now twelve o’ clock, you should be in bed;
But come in or you’ll waken me mammy.’
‘If you think I’m jesting, my jesting is through!
I’ve courted twelve months, and I think that should do;
But before I go home, I’ll be married to you
If you’ll come with me over the mountain.’

‘If I was to make an elopement with you
It’s sure to be wrought with great danger
The neighbours would censor and tattle us all;
My friends they would gaze on in wonder’
‘Oh let them censor or tattle away
Consult with yourself, for it’s very near day
And I don’t give a rap what the lot of them say
If you’ll come with me over the mountain!’

‘But I must away now, it’s home I must go
I think it is fitting and better;
So farewell, my darling, farewell to you now
And that’ll put an end to the matter.’
‘Oh wait just a minute, till I put on me shoes!’
My heart gave a leap when I heard the glad news
She came to the door, saying ‘Maybe I’ll choose
To come with you over the mountain.’

By this time the moon had sunk in the west
‘Twas the dawn of a bright summer morning
Off we did go, the pair of us went
For the wedding our two hearts were pining
The sagart he came, without more delay
He married us both on the very same day;
And it’s often we talk when we’ve nothing to say
Of the trip we took over the mountain.

That verse is saying, ‘the sagart he came.’ Well, they reckoned there was more power in the word ‘priest’ if you said it in Irish! …That’s where the power was, saying it in Irish. You have more emphasis and power in that.

Notes

1. Rush, hurry, bustle.

A couplet from this song, along with a similar air, is given in P. W. Joyce, Old Irish Folk Music and Songs (London and Dublin, 1909), 128.

Farmer’s Cursed Wife, The

Play recording: Farmer’s Cursed Wife, The

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Farmer’s Cursed Wife, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 855412.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 160.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): 278.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Robin Hiteshew.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 16/03/1980.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Devon, Pennsylvania, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): concert.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

The Devil came to this farmer and he asked him, is there any of your family- I must take away one of your family; who do you want to give [me]? And the man said, ‘Take away my wife,’ he said, ‘because she’s nagged me all my life, and I can’t stand it any longer.’ And this is the way it was:

The Devil he came to the man at the plough
Daigh-dee diddle-um diddle-um dee
He said ‘One of your family I must take now!’
With me raigh-full doo-full daddely diddle-um dee.

‘Which of my family do you like best?’
‘Your wife, of course – she’s well-known in Hell!’

‘Take her away with all of me heart –
For twenty long years she’s broken my heart!’

So the Devil he hoisted her up on his back
Through fields and meadows he went awful far

He never stopped til he came to Coote Hill
‘Put me down, put me down me water to spill!’

They never stopped til they came to Hell’s gate1
She jumped on a thorn(?), she battered his face

One little devil jumped up on a wall
‘Take her away! Take her away! She’ll batter us all!

So the Devil he hoisted her up on his back
He was nine days going, one day coming back

The Devil he staggered coming up the lane2
With a battering ram he pulled on the chain(?)

She came to the old man in the bed3
She lifted the pan and she smashed in his head

Then she ran away over the hill
‘If the Devil won’t have me, I wonder who will?’

Now they say that the women are worse than the men:
When they go to Hell, they’re kicked out again!

It’s not fair, is it?

Notes

Some variant readings from another performance (UW85-54.16):

1 They never stopped til they came to Hell’s wall
She jumped on his back and she scolded them all

2 The old man looked through a crack in the wall
He saw the old Devil stagger and fall

3 The old woman came to the man in the bed
She lifted a chair and she smashed in his head

Unfortunately, UW85-54.16 is not as good in terms of sound quality but it makes better sense of some of the lines here and, incidentally, shows the process of Joe’s aural memory at work: if the words don’t come, make up something on the fly that more-or-less fits the bill!

By the Dawning of the Day

Play recording: By the Dawning of the Day

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): By the Dawning of the Day.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853905.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 370.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): P16.
  • 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): Lucy Simpson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 25/09/1979.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Fáinnín Bán an Lae – well now, this is supposed to be a man who met a sí ghaoithe – beautiful girl who happened to be one of the ‘good people.’ And after he proposed to her, you know, she said ‘I must be away now, the daylight is just coming through, it’s the dawning of the day.’ And she just disappeared from view…

Ar maidin moch dár ghabhas amach faoi bhruacha Locha Léin
Bhí an samhradh ag teacht ‘s an chraobh lena ais is lonnradh te ón ngréin
Ag taisteal dom thrí bhailte poirt agus bánta míne réidh
Cé gheobhainn lem ais ach an cúilfhionn deas le fáinnín bán an lae.

One morning early as I roved out by the margin of Loch Léin
The summer sun was sinking fast, and autumn loomed again
I left the town and wandered off through fields all rich and rare
And who should I meet but my own colleen by the dawning of the day.

Ní raibh bróg ná stoca, caidhp ná cloakar mo stóirín óg ón spéir
A falt fín ór síos go troigh ag fás go barr a néill
Bhí calán crúite aice ina glaic ‘s ar dhrúcht ba dheas an scéimh,
‘S do thug barr gheana ó Bhénus deas le fáinnín bán an lae.

No cap no cloak did my love wear, her neck and feet were bare
And o’er her lily-white shoulders hung her lovely golden hair.
A milking-pail was in her hand; she was lovely, young and gay
And she stole a pass from Venus grand by the dawning of the day.

And I sat me down on a mossy bank with this maiden by my side.
With gentle words I courted her, and asked her to be my bride.
She said, ‘Young man, don’t bring me pain, but let me go away,
For the morning light is shining bright – it’s the dawning of the day.’

Notes

Before singing the song, Joe explains to Lucy that he heard it sung at home in Carna by both his father – who sang both the English and Irish verses – and by an aunt, his father’s sister, Máire Ní Éinniú, who sang only the Irish text. He says that his aunt used a less common air – the first one heard in this excerpt – than the one usually associated with this song, and explains that he would himself prefer to use her air, except that it doesn’t work so well with the English verses. The second, better-known air is the one used by Luke Kelly and a host of others to the song of the same title that begins On Raglan Road…

The second and fourth stanzas provide a fairly close translation of the preceding verses in Irish, so a literal translation has been omitted here.

For discussion of the Irish poem, see T. Ó Concheanainn, Nua-Dhuanaire III (Dublin 1978), p. 48 and notes.

Erin Grá mo Chroí

Play recording: Erin Grá mo Chroí

Níl an taifead seo ar fáil faoi láthair.

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Erin Grá mo Chroí.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 14056.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): none.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Ewan Mac Coll and Peggy Seeger.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 1963.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): London, England.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): unavailable.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Well, this is about an emigrant who was in New York and he was looking back, how it broke his mother’s heart that he had to go away and he was thinking of the turf fire burning at home at night while he was in a foreign land.

At the setting of the sun, when my daily work was done
I wandered to the sea shore for a walk
I being all alone, I sat down upon a stone
To gaze on the scenery of New York.

Oh Erin grá mo chroí1, you’re the only land for me
You’re the fairest spot my eyes did e’er behold
You’re the bright star of the west, and the land St Patrick blessed
You’re far dearer than silver or of gold.

The turf will burn bright on the hearth at home tonight
The snowflakes will fall fast on a winter’s day
St Patrick’s day will come and the shamrock will be worn
In my own native isle so far away.

Chorus

It broke my mother’s heart when from her I went to part
Will I ever see my darling any more?
Not until my bones are laid in a cold and silent grave
In my own native isle so far away.

Chorus

This what I call Erin grá mo chroí, which means Ireland, Love of my Heart… Most of the songs I sing, first of all are Gaelic, secondly they are sad, because at the time these songs were composed and made, it was a crime to speak the Gaelic language. It was an offence under sentence of death to speak the Gaelic language and, of course, the people were persecuted in every way if they did speak the Gaelic language… That’s why all the songs are sad. Mostly about people who suffered, you know, all the time. Because, I’m afraid they had nothing to laugh about them times.

Notes

1. Love of my heart.

Tom Munnelly remarks that in his collecting days he ‘encountered this song in practically every county in Ireland even though it seldom appears in print’.

As regards the sentence of death for people speaking the Irish language: there were indeed harsh sanctions against the speaking of Irish — especially if you were a child at school during a certain period — but it is doubtful that was ever formally a capital offence. Joe did, however, make this and similar claims on a number of occasions.

This recording was issued on The Road from Conamara (Cló Iar-Chonnachta CICD 143 / Topic TSCD 518D).

Captain Wedderburn’s Courtship

Play recording: Captain Wedderburn’s Courtship

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Captain Wedderburn’s Courtship.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 855415.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 36.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): 46.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): Song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Robin Hiteshew.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 12/12/1981.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Philadelphia, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): concert (Ancient Order of Hibernians).
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Now, as I said before, women – God bless them – are very clever. But they are clever! This is the story of one woman, she wouldn’t marry anybody unless they could answer her thirteen questions she set in riddles. Now, there’s a line coming into this song, they sing it in song: ‘Meetcheldase1 was a priest unborn’. Now I rode on a horse myself that was never born. The mother, the mare was dead seconds before the foal was taken out… from her, therefore the horse was never born. Meetcheldase was the same way with his mother. His mother died a couple of seconds before he was taken away from his mother, and he eventually became a priest. So when you hear that, don’t think I’m crazy, but that’s the way it was.

Now, this song is sometimes called ‘Captain Wedderburn’s Courtship.’ You had a few verses of this in a song here in America one time, ‘I’ll get my love a cherry,’ or something like that; but this is the old song.

A gentleman’s fair daughter walked down a narrow lane
She met with Captain Wedderburn, he was keeper of the game.
He said unto his servant, ‘If only for the law
I’d have that girl in bed with me, and she’d lie next the wall2.’

‘Oh, go your way, young man,’ she said, ‘and do not bother me
Before you and I on one bed lie you must answer me questions three.
Three questions you must answer me, and I’ll set forth them all;
Then you and I on the one bed lie, and I’ll lie next the wall.

‘For my breakfast you must get for me a cherry without a stone;
For my dinner you must find for me a chicken without a bone;
For my supper you must find for me a bird without a gall;
Then you and I on the one bed lie, and I’ll lie next the wall.’

‘A cherry when in blossom surely has no stone;
A chicken when it’s in the egg surely has no bone;
The dove it is a gentle bird, it flies without a gall;
So you and I on the one bed lie, but you’ll lie next the wall.’

‘Ah, go your way, young man,’ she said, ‘and do not me perplex.
Before you and I on the one bed lie you must answer me questions six.
Six questions you must answer me, and I’ll set forth them all;
Then you and I on the one bed lie, and I’ll lie next the wall.

‘What is rounder than a ring? What’s higher than a tree?
What is worse than women’s wrath? What’s deeper than the sea?
What bird sings best? What flower buds first? And on it the dew first fall?
So you and I on the one bed lie, and I’ll lie next the wall.’

‘The world is rounder than a ring; heaven is higher than a tree;
The Devil he’s worse than women’s wrath; Hell is deeper than the sea;
The lark sings best; the heath buds first, and on it the dew first fall;
So you and I on the one bed lie, and you’ll lie next the wall.’

‘You must get for me some winter fruit that in December grew.
You must get for me a silk mantle that weft ne’er went through;
A sparrow’s horn; a priest unborn, who’ll wed us two in twa;
Then you and I on the one bed lie, and I’ll lie next the wall.’

‘My father has some winter fruit that in December grew;
My mother has a silk mantle that weft ne’er went through;
A sparrow’s horn is easily found: there is one on every claw;
And Meetcheldase was a priest unborn; so you’ll lie next the wall.’

This couple they were married, as you may plainly see:
They live happy together, and children they have three.
She set forth the questions; he answered one and all.
He rolled her in his arms, while she lay next the wall.

Notes

1. Melchisidec!

2. On another occasion, Joe explains: ‘In the olden times, the men was so fond of the women, that they put them lying next the wall out of danger. Now, I don’t know did they put them lying next the wall so they couldn’t run away, or because they wanted to protect them. Have it your way! But, they tell me it’s to protect them they did it. Some people still do it! (UW85-54.12-13)

Joe uses this air for other songs in his repertoire; see Glenswilly and The Holly and Ivy Girl.

Mountain Streams where the Moorcocks Crow, The

Play recording: Mountain Streams where the Moorcocks Crow, The

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Mountain Streams where the Moorcocks Crow, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853910.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 2124.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Lucy Simpson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 25/02/1980.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

This is the man who goes fowling1 with his dog and gun, and he meets this pretty girl, and they talk about love and this and that… And then he said, would she marry him – a rover? And she says, her people wouldn’t take too kindly to her marrying a rover. But. And he says, well if you’ll prove- ‘I’ll I’ll prove constant,’ he said, ‘if you’ll promise to marry me… I’ll come back next year,’ he said, ‘and I’ll make sure- If you’re in the same place, we’ll be married.’ And he said, ‘Tell me your name.’ ‘I can’t,’ she said, ‘but I’ll tell you I live near the mountain streams where the moorcocks crow.’

With my dog and gun through the blooming heather
To seek for pastime I took my way
Where I spied a lovely fair one
Her charms invited me a while to stay
I said, ‘My darling, you will find I love you
Tell me your dwelling and your name also’
‘Excuse my name, and you’ll find my dwelling
Near the mountain streams where the moorcocks crow.’

I said, ‘My darling, if you wed a rover
My former raking I will leave aside
Here is my hand, and I pledge my honour
If you prove constant, I’ll make you my bride.’
‘If my parents knew that I loved a rover
Great affliction I would undergo
I’ll stop at home for another season
Near the mountain streams where the moorcocks crow.’

‘Then farewell, darling, for another season
I hope we’ll meet in yon woodland vale
And when we meet we’ll embrace each other
I’ll pay attention to your lovesick tale.
It’s hand in hand we will join together
And I’ll escort you to yon valley low
Where the linnet sings her sweet notes so pleasing
Near the mountain streams where the moorcocks crow.’

Notes

1. In Conamara, fowling appears to be a generic term for hunting. The Irish word for ‘hunting’ is foghlaereacht – a word clearly borrowed from English – and can either mean (as here) with ‘dog and gun’ or (as perhaps in bygone times) with a hunting ‘fowl’ – a hawk or falcon.

Joe told Lucy Simpson that he learned this song in 1959 from Fermanagh/Donegal singer Paddy Tunney. This song was, indeed, central to Tunney’s repertoire, and he recorded it a number of times; compare Topic Voice of the People, vol. 6 (TSCD 656), in which Tunney sings an additional verse.

Chúilfhionn, An

Play recording: Chúilfhionn, An

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Chúilfhionn, An.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 855413.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Robin Hiteshew.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 16/03/1980.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Devon, Pennsylvania, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): concert.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

An bhfaca tú an chúilfhionn ‘s í ag siúl ar na bóithre
Maidin gheal drúchta, ní raibh smúit ar a bróga
Is iomadh ógánach súlghlas ag tnúth lena pósadh
Ach ní bhfaighidh siad mo rún-sa ar an gcúntar is dóigh leo.

An bhfaca tú mo bhábán lá breá is í ina haonar
A cúl dualach drisleánach go slinneán síos léi?
Mil ar an ógmhnaoi is rós breá ina héadan
Gur dóigh le gach spreasán gur leannán leis féin í.

An bhfaca tú mo spéirbhean ‘s í taobh leis an toinn
Fáinní óir ar a méara ‘s í ag réiteach a cinn?
‘Sé dúirt an Paorach a bhí ina mhaor ar an loing
Go mb’fhearr leis aige féin í ná Éire gan roinn.

Translation

Have you seen the faired-haired girl walking down the road
on a bright dewy morning, not a drop on her shoes?
Many’s the grey-eyed youth thinking to marry her,
but they’ll not get my treasure for the bargain they have in mind.

Did you see my baby on a fine day on her own,
her twining tresses tumbling down to her shoulders?
Sweet young woman of rosy countenance,
whom every worthless youth imagines will be his sweetheart.

Did you see the goddess by the side of the sea,
gold rings on her fingers, dressing her hair?
Power, steward on the boat,
said that he’d rather have her than the whole of Ireland.

Notes

‘The Coolin’ is one of the most famous of Irish slow airs, recorded by Edward Bunting at the end of the eighteenth century, and almost always performed instrumentally. In fact, this text doesn’t really suit the air – or not, at least, as we are used to hearing it. Normally, a text takes precedence over its air in suggesting the rhythmical nuance of the performance; in this case, however, Joe is constrained by the well-known air into bending the verse to fit. The result is that some words seem to receive stress on the wrong syllable, others are stretched to breaking-point, and still others race by for no good reason. ‘An Chúilfhionn’ is more convincing on the harp or the uillean pipes.

Erin’s Lovely Home

Play recording: Erin’s Lovely Home

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Erin’s Lovely Home.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853908.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 1427.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): M6.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Lucy Simpson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 02/01/1980.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

It’s about a fellow, of course, in love with a girl, and the father thought she was too good and too rich for him, so he tried to transport him. At that time they could transport him, you see, if they… put one false step, they could transport him to Van Dieman’s Land, Tasmania, you know. And, that’s what happened this fellow. What she wanted- She wanted to go with him!

When I was young and in my prime, my age was twenty-one
I acted as a servant to a gentleman
I served him true and honest, and very well it’s known,
But in cruelty he banished me from Erin’s lovely home.

The reason that he banished me I mean to let you know
I own I loved his daughter, and she loved me also;
She had a large fortune, and riches I had none;
That is why he banished me from Erin’s lovely home.

‘Twas in her father’s garden all in the month of June
We were viewing of the flowers all in their youthful bloom;
She said, ‘My dearest Willie, if with me you will roam,
We’ll bid adieu to all our friends in Erin’s lovely home.’

I gave consent that very night along with her to roam
Far from her father’s dwelling; it proved my overthrow.
The night was bright; the moon shone bright as we set off alone
Thinking to get us safely away from Erin’s lovely home.

When we came to Belfast by the break of day
My love she then got ready our passage for to pay
Five thousand pounds she counted down, saying ‘This shall be your own;
But do not mourn for those we left in Erin’s lovely home.’

Now our sad misfortune I mean to let you hear:
‘Twas in a few hours after, her father did appear.
He marched me back to Omagh Jail in the county of Tyrone;
From there I was transported from Erin’s lovely home.

When I heard my sentence, it grieved my heart full sore;
But parting from my own true love, it grieved me ten times more.
There are seven links upon my chain; for every link, a year;
Before I can return again to the arms of my dear.

While I lay in my prison cell, before I sailed away,
My love she came into my cell, and this to me did say:
‘Cheer up your heart, don’t be dismayed, for I’ll not you disown,
Until you do return again to Erin’s lovely home.’

Notes

Joe tells Lucy Simpson that he first heard this song as a schoolchild in Carna, sung by a cousin, a Mrs King from Dúiche Eithir. He didn’t learn all of it, however, as his English wasn’t very good, and he was more occupied with picking up songs in Irish at that time. He did, however, maintain an interest in learning the rest of it.

It would appear from his conversation with Lucy that she had compiled a collection of songs from sources in the local library, and it was from this compendium that Joe finally learned all the words to the song. Before he sang it on this occasion, he went to fetch a copy of the verses, saying ‘if I sing it a couple of times, I’ll be able to sing it myself’ – presumably, in performance. The sound of page-turning before the seventh verse confirms that he is reading from a printed source here.

The air to the song is the same one that he uses with the song ‘John Mitchel.’ The verses are printed in Colm O Lochlainn, Irish Street Ballads (Dublin, 1939), 202.

Parting Glass, The

Play recording: Parting Glass, The

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Parting Glass, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 844004.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 3004.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Susan Auerbach.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 1982.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private lesson.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Of all the money e’er I had
I spent it in good company
And all the harm that e’er I’ve done
At last it was to none but me;
And all I’ve done for want of wit
To memory now I can’t recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all.

Oh! All the comrades e’er I had
They’re sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts e’er I had
They’d wish me one more day to stay;
But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise and you should not
Gently rise, and softly call
Goodnight and joy be with you all.

If I had money enough to spend
And leisure time to sit awhile
There is a fair maid in this town
That sorely has my heart beguiled;
Her rosy cheeks and ruby lips
I own she has my heart in thrall
Then fill to me the parting glass
Goodnight and joy be with you all.

Four Hunchbacks, The

Play recording: Four Hunchbacks, The

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Four Hunchbacks, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781515.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Cynthia Thiessen.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 06/03/1978 – 07/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Fredric Lieberman.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

In response to a question about his story, The Two Hunchbacks, Joe launches into a summary of a funny play he remembers, Na Cruiteacháin. This is a one-act verse play by Pierre Jalabert, La Farce des Bossus, published in 1933 and translated into Irish by Liam Ó Briain, which tells the story of a woman married to a hunchback. He has a bad temper, and she is tired of him. One night when he is out, there comes a knock at the door – and it’s another hunchback. ‘As long as it’s not my husband,’ she thinks, ‘he might as well come in.’ The two are sitting over a bottle of wine, when another knock comes to the door. Fearing her husband’s return, she hides her visitor in a cupboard. When she opens the door – there is yet another hunchback. The same thing happens: they sit down with a glass of wine, another knock is heard, and once again she hides the second fellow in the cupboard along with the first one. But once again, it’s not her husband, but a third hunchback. They follow the same routine, and when the door-knocker goes again, she shoves him into the cupboard with the first two.

This time it is her husband, who is glad to see that she has been behaving herself while he has been out. He goes out again, whereupon she opens the cupboard so that she can clear the house of strange men before he returns for the night. All three of the visitors fall out of the cupboard, stone dead.

Now she has the problem of disposing of the bodies. She calls in a spailpín – an itinerant labourer – and asks if he’d like to earn a pound. She tells him her husband has died, and she’s afraid that the neighbours will accuse her of killing him, and would he take the body away and bury it someplace? He agrees. When he comes back for his wages, however, there’s another body there – another hunchback – and the wife tells him, ‘You didn’t bury him deep enough – he came back!’ He drags the second corpse away with him; but when he returns for payment the same scene unfolds. Finally he has buried the same man – as he thinks – three times, and goes back to the ‘widow’ for payment, only to find her seated at the table drinking wine with a hunchback. Assuming it’s the same man come back to life yet again, the spailpín flies into a rage and beats the woman’s husband to death.

Free of hunchbacked suitors at last, the widow and the spailpín get married and live happily ever after.

Notes

Joe tells this story elsewhere, with some elaborations not included here.

Legend of the Dogwood, The

Play recording: Legend of the Dogwood, The

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Legend of the Dogwood, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840115.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 29/11/1983.
  • 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.

You know the dogwood, the way it grows now? That wasn’t the way it grew long ago. It grew as tall as the oak tree, or any tree.
At the time of the Crucifixion, the dogwood was about the size of the oak and other forest trees. So firm and strong was the tree, it was chosen as the timber for the cross. To be used thus, for such a cruel purpose, greatly distressed the tree; and Jesus, nailed upon it, sensed this. And in his gentle pity for all sorrow and suffering he said to the dogwood, ‘Because of your regret and pity for my suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a cross.

Henceforth it shall be slender and bent and twisted, and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross, two long and two short petals. In the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail-prints, brown with rust and stained with red. And in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns. And all who see it will remember.’

Boston Burglar, The

Play recording: Boston Burglar, The

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Boston Burglar, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853915.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 261.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): L16A-B.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Lucy Simpson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 09/06/1980.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

I was bred and born in Boston, a place you all know well
Brought up by honest parents, the truth to you I’ll tell
Brought up by honest parents, and reared most tenderly
Til I became a sporting lad at the age of twenty-three.

My character was broken, and I was sent to jail;
My friends and parents did their best to get me out on bail
The jury found me guilty, and the clerk he wrote it down:
‘For the breaking of the Union Bank you’ll be sent to Charlestown.’

I can see my aged father a-standing at the bar
Likewise my poor old mother, a-tearing of her hair
A-tearing of her old grey locks, the tears came tumbling down.
‘Oh Son, oh Son, what have you done to be sent to Charlestown?’

I was placed on board an eastbound train on a cold December’s day;
And every station I passed by, I could hear the people say,
‘There goes the Boston Burglar, in irons he is bound,
For the breaking of the Union Bank he is sent to Charlestown.’

There is a girl in Boston, a girl I love well
If ever I gain my liberty, with her I mean to dwell.
If ever I gain my liberty, bad company I will shun,
Staying out late at night, likewise the drinking of rum.

So come all you young fellows, a warning take from me,
Never stay too late at night a-breaking the laws of man.
For if you do you’ll sure rue the day and find yourself like me:
Serving twenty-five years in the penitentiary!

…I was wrong there. I was wrong with the last verse there.

So while you have your liberty, keep it if you can.
Never stay too late at night breaking the laws of man.
For if you do, you’ll rue the day and find yourself like me:
Serving twenty-five years in the penitentiary!

Isn’t that better?

She Moved Through the Fair

Play recording: She Moved Through the Fair

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): She Moved Through the Fair.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781508.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 861.
  • 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): 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): 24/02/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): day class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable

At the time this song was made, ‘She Moved Through the Fair,’ TB was a deadly disease. Now, she knew she was dying of TB. But she didn’t want, eh- Everybody was talking that they’d never get married because she had this particular disease. Anyway, she died without him marrying her.

My young love said to me, my mother won’t mind
And my father won’t slight you for your lack of kind1
Then she stepped away from me, and this she did say
‘It will not be long, love, till our wedding day.’

She stepped away from me, and moved through the fair
And fondly I watched her move here and move there
She then turned homeward with one star awake
As the swan in the evening moves over the lake.

And the people were saying that us two’d never wed
For one has a sorrow that I mustn’t tell
She sighed as she passed with her goods and her gear
And that was the last I saw of my dear.

Last night she came to me, my dead love came in
So softly she came, that her feet made no din
She laid her hand o’er me, and this she did say,
‘It will not be long, love, till our wedding day.’

Notes

1. i.e. kin; family status.

In 1979, Joe tried to persuade Lucy Simpson that the last line of the song, as he remembered it sung by everyone at home, should be ‘It will not be long, love, ’til next market day’ (UW85-39.3). Whatever about that, there’s no doubt that this was an extremely popular song. The version Joe sings here is the commonly-heard version adapted from traditional material by writer Padraic Colum (1881-1972) who is said to have encountered the song originally in Donegal; the air was arranged by Herbert Hughes (1882-1937), who also arranged ‘Down by the Sally Gardens’ and ‘My Lagan Love’.

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

Sceilpín Droighneach, An

Play recording: Sceilpín Droighneach, An

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Sceilpín Droighneach, An.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 850114.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): James Cowdery.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): between 1979 and 1981.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

JH: But he’s supposed to have fallen into a sort of a mearbhall – a sort of an eerie feeling came over him when he passed this bush, you know, and he saw this beautiful woman, you see.

JC: Like a vision?

JH: A vision, yeah. And he goes on to praise her, you know… The air- It’s a very old song, and this is the old air to it.

Maidin chiúin dár éiríos amach faoi bharr na gcoillte
Tá mé cinnte gur bualadh saighead orm, is mo leigheas níl le fáil
Faoi bhun an sceilpín droighnigh a dhearc mé an ógmhnaoi mheidhreach
Gheit mo chroí le radharc uirthi ach níor éirigh liom í a fháil.

‘A stóirín, ó, ná tréig mé mar gheall ar bha ná caoirigh
a ghaire is a bhéidís ag imeacht uait in imeacht bliain nó dhó
Dhá mba liomsa dúiche an Phaoraigh ba tú mo rogha ‘s mo chéad-searc
Ach is minic a rinne duine gníomh a chlisfeadh ar a ghrá.’

Translation

A quiet morning, as I went out into the forest,
I’m sure I was struck by a dart – and there was no cure for me.
Beneath the thorn-bush there I saw the beautiful young woman;
My heart leapt with looking upon her, but I could not attain her.

‘O my treasure, don’t abandon me on account of cattle or sheep,
for they’d be gone soon enough in a year or two.
If I had all of Power’s land, you would be my choice and my first love;
But it’s often that a man did something that betrayed the one he loved.’

Notes

From the sound of rustling paper, it seems likely that Joe was looking at a written text when he sang these verses for Jim Cowdery. This was a common practice with them: Jim would express interest in a particular air, and Joe – if he didn’t have the words – would come to a subsequent meeting with the text in hand. In other cases, Jim brought in books of songs and airs, and sometimes Joe would use these as prompts for the words. In this way Jim was able to collect a great many of the airs that Joe knew, but that he either had not sung for a long time, or that had never been part of his active repertoire.

For additional verses and some discussion, see Ríonach uí Ógáin (ed.), Faoi Rotha na Gréine: Amhráin as Conamara a Bhailigh Máirtín Ó Cadhain (Dublin, 1999), 81-3; also an tAth. Tomás Ó Ceallaigh, Ceol na n‑Oileán (Dublin, 1931), 31-3.

Tá na Páipéir dhá Saighneáil

Play recording: Tá na Páipéir dhá Saighneáil

Níl an taifead seo ar fáil faoi láthair.

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Tá na Páipéir dhá Saighneáil.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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.
  • 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): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): unavailable.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): unavailable.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Tá na páipéir dhá saighneáil ‘s tá na saighdiúir ag gabháil anonn
Tá drumadóirí aoibhinn aerach ag clann Gael ag gabháil go Tír na Long
Dá mbeadh agam is dhuit a bhéarfainn céad is dhá mhíle bó
Ar chúntar thú a bheith i d’fhéirín liom go Contae Mhaigh Eo.

Ar mo luí dhom ar mo leaba déanaim osna bhíos mór
‘S ar m’éirí dhom ar maidin sí mo phaidir mo dheoir
Tá gruaig mo chinn ag titim a’s ag imeacht mar an gceo
A’s le cumha i do dhiaidh a stóirín ní bheidh mé i bhfad beo1.

Nuair a éirím amach go huaigneach is bhreathnaím uaim ar an gcnoc úd thall
Bím ag smaoineamh ar do chúilín dualach d’fhág an arraing thrí mo lár.
Tá mo chroí ina leac ‘s ina ghual dubh – ní le fuath dhuit é, a mhíle grá
Pé ar bith óigfhear a bhéarfas uaim thú, go síntear suas é i gcónra chláir.

Tá mo stocaí uilig stróicthe is tá mo phócaí gan pingin
Tá mo nua-chulaithín phósta ar ndóigh gan aon ní2
Tá giní i dteach an óil orm ach níor ól mé riamh braon
Le cumha ‘do dhiaidh a stóirín ní mhairfead beo mí.

Nach aoibhinn do na héiníní a éiríos go hard
A bhíos ag ceiliúr le chéile ar aon chraoibhín amháin
Ní hé sin dom féin ná mo chéad mhíle gra –
Is fada fánach óna chéile bhíos ár n-éirí gach lá.

Translation

[The papers are being signed, and the soldiers are heading overseas
The drummers of the Gael are going to the Land of Ships
If I had twelve hundred cows, I would give them all to you
If you would only be my keepsake in County Mayo.

As I lie in my bed, I can’t help sighing
When I get up in the morning, my tears are my prayers.
My hair is falling out and disappearing like the mist
And with missing you, my darling, I won’t live long.]1

When I arise alone and look out over the far hill
I’m thinking of your twining tresses that have left a stabbing pain within me.
My heart is like a stone, like black coal, but not from hatred of you, my thousand loves!
Whatever young man takes you from me, may he be stretched in his coffin!

My stockings are all torn, and my pockets are empty;
[The fabric for] my new wedding-costume has yet to be spun2
I owe the public house a guinea, though I never drank a drop
and with lamenting your loss, my darling, I shall not live a month.

Isn’t it lovely for the birds who rise up high
And who sing together on the same branch
Not so for me, or for my thousand loves
Who must arise far from one another each day.

Notes

1. The first two stanzas given here do not appear on Joe’s recording, but would normally be expected in this song.

2. Normally this line would be: Tá mo nua-chulaith pósta céad faraoir fós le sníomh (‘My new wedding-costume, alas, has yet to be spun’); as Joe sings it, the sense of the line is difficult to make out.

For additional verses and some discussion, see Micheál agus Tomás Ó Máille, Amhráin Chlainne Gael, ed. William Mahon (Indreabhán 1991), 82-3 and notes.

This song has been taken from a commercial recording by Seosamh Ó hÉanaí (Gael Linn LP CÉF 028 / CEFCD 191-2), 1971; reissued 2007.

Broom, Sweet Broom

Play recording: Broom, Sweet Broom

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Broom, Sweet Broom.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853902.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 379.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Lucy Simpson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 9/06/1979.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

JH: The name of this song is ‘Broom, Sweet Brooms’ and I’ll be honest with you, the only thing I know about it is, a man, long ago, they sold brooms, just to make a living. This old man was always cutting brooms, but the son was thinking about different brooms, you know, having a good time. And he stayed in his bed all day. But sure, one day the father made him get out of bed and down to the woods – and what happened when he was down in the woods? He ended up a rich man and married happily – unhappily ever after.

LS: Who do you remember singing this?

JH: All the old people at home used to sing this.

LS: Nobody…

JH: Nobody in particular. No… Oh, they all sang it. Eh-

LS: Where, in the evening?

JH: At parties. Mostly at parties, you know, something like that. It’s a party song. Mostly at parties they sang it, you know. It’s a good song, you see, because, it’s a sort of- in a way it’s a sort of a bawdy song, you know. In an indirect way, you know.

There was an old man who lived in the woods
His trade it was cutting down broom, sweet broom
He had a son, his name it was John,
And he stayed in his room until noon, day noon
He stayed in his room until noon.

Early one morning the old man arose
Went into his son’s gay room, gay room
Saying, ‘You lazy old sod, get out of your bed
And go down to the woods and cut broom, sweet broom
Go down to the woods and cut broom.’

John arose and put on his clothes
He looked at his room, his room, gay room
Saying, ‘A man of me birth who got learning on earth,
Why shouldn’t1 I stoop to cut broom, sweet broom?
Why should I stoop to cut broom?’

So John went out and down to the woods
He started to cut his own broom, sweet broom
The evening came on and he lay down to rest
And forgot about broom, sweet broom, sweet broom
Forgot about broom, sweet broom.

The lady was up in her mantle so gay
She saw this young man with his broom, sweet broom
She said to her maid, ‘go down to the woods
And bring up this young man with his broom, sweet broom,
Bring up this young man with his broom.’

John went up to the mansion so gay,
Went into the lady’s gay room, gay room,
He stayed there all night til early next day
And never thought of his brooms, sweet brooms,
And never thought of his brooms.

They sent for the priest to marry them both
Inside her room, her room, gay room
They were happy and gay the rest of their days
And never had broom, sweet brooms, sweet brooms,
And never had broom, sweet brooms.

JH: What do you think of that? It’s a good lilt of a song, isn’t it?

Notes

1. Presumably this should be ‘why should I stoop…’ as in the line following.

Rustling of paper between verses four and five suggests that Joe may be reading the words of this song out of a book. He occasionally does so in private situations like this, although the context here is ambiguous.

Maid of Sweet Gurteen, The

Play recording: Maid of Sweet Gurteen, The

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Maid of Sweet Gurteen, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 903909.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 3025.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): Song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Kenneth Goldstein.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): Unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): probably at the University of Pennsylvania, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): day class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Now, I think it would be better for me if I sang a song about this poor man who was deprived of marrying the girl he loved because her parents reckoned… she wasn’t good enough for him, they said, because she was a servant girl. And they locked her up because she wanted to see him, and they sent her away. And he, of a broken heart, wrote this song about her. And the song is called ‘The Maid of Sweet Gurteen.’

Come all you gentle1 muses, combine and lend an ear
Whilst I unfold the praises of this comely lady fair
‘Twas the curling of her yellow locks that stole away my heart
And it’s death I’m sure will be the cure if she and I must part.

The praises of this comely maid I am going to unfold
Her hair hangs o’er her shoulders in lovely links of gold
With the carriage neat, and her limbs complete, it fractured quite my brain
And her skin more fairer than the swan that swims on the purling stream.

‘Twas of her cruel father, the cause of all my woe,
He locked her in a closed room and would not let her go
It’s often I watched her window, thinking she might be seen
In hopes to get another sight of the maid of sweet Gurteen.

And two or three days after a horse he did prepare
He sent my darling away from me to a place I know not where
I may go and view my darling wherever she may be
For here in pain I can’t remain for the maid of sweet Gurteen.

My father he did come to me and this to me did say
‘Oh son, dear son, be advised by one, don’t throw yourself away
To marry a poor country girl whose parents are so mean
So stay at home and do not roam but along with me remain.’

‘Oh father, dearest father, don’t part me from my dear
I would not part my darling for ten thousand pounds a year
Was I possessed of William’s crown, of her I’d make my queen
Of a high renown I’d wear the crown for the maid of sweet Gurteen.’

So now to conclude and make an end I’ll take my pen in hand
John O’ Brien it is my name and Flowereel2 is my land
My days are spent in merriment when my darling first I’d seen
I’m here alone living near the road in a place called sweet Gurteen.

Notes

1. Joe actually says ‘gentile,’ although it seems clear that ‘gentle’ is what he means.

2. In the text of this ballad contained in Colm Ó Lochlainn’s collection Irish Street Ballads, the place-name is given as ‘Flower Hills’ (p. 44–5).

Joe told Lucy Simpson that this song was very popular in Carna when he was growing up; his father had it, as did ‘another old man in the village, too, who used to come in and every time he came in he sang that song, too’ (UW85-39.2). He said that there were two places named Gurteen (Ir. Goirtín; a small field), one in Sligo and the other outside Roundstone in Conamara; he thought the Sligo location was the more likely setting for the events of the song.

Johnny Seoighe

Play recording: Johnny Seoighe

Níl an taifead seo ar fáil faoi láthair.

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Johnny Seoighe.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): 74:246-8.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 1808.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Pádraic Ó hÉighnigh.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Seán Ó hÉighnigh.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 1932.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Carna, County Galway, Ireland.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Amhrán Sheán Uí Sheoighe1

A Sheáin Uí Sheoighe tuig mo ghlór is mé ag tigheacht le dóchas faoi do dhéint
Mar is tú an réalt eólais ba deise lóchrann dár dhearc mo shúil ariabh
Is tú bláth na h-óige is deise breághtha i dhearc mo shúil i d-Teampall Dé
Agus as ucht Chríost, tabhair dom relief go gcaithfear oidhche Nodlaig féin.

Lá ar na mháireach nuair i fuair mé an páipéar is mé a bhí sásta agus ghluais mé an siubhail
Ní bhfuair mé freagra ar bith an lá seo acht mé féin is mo pháistí amuigh faoi an drúcht
Tá mé caillte, bruighte, feannta, dóighte gearrtha ó neart an t-siúil
Agus i Mhister Joyce tá an Work-House lán agus ní glacfear ann isteach níos mó.

Nach mór an cliú do phoball Carna ó thosuigh an lánmhain seo ag dul thrid
Ba deise breághtha méin na mná ná an Morning Star nuair d’eirigheócha sí
Tá an Bhanríoghan tinn is i na luighe lag síos, deir na dochtúirí go bhfaoi sí bás
Sé fios m’údair go ndeir siad liomsa faoi nach bhfuil sí pósta ag Mr Joyce.

Seo amhrán eile a déanamh aimsir an droch shaoghail 1847. Rinne file é a dtugtaí Micheál Mharcuis, Micheál Mac Con Iomaire as Cárna, nuair a chuaidh sé ag iarraidh leath-chloch mine buidhe ar Sheán Seoighe, an fear nó an máighistir a bhí ar an min agus deite sé é. Nuair a chinn air rinne sé an cheathramhadh dheireanach den amhrán ag moladh na mná agus thug an bhean an leath-chloch dó.

Translation

Johnny Seoighe, hear my voice as I come to you in distress;
for you are the lodestar of truest light that my eye has ever beheld.
You are the flower of youth, the fairest I have ever seen in God’s temple;
and for Christ’s sake, give me relief until Christmas night is past.

The very next day I got the paper, and I was content as I walked away;
but I got no reply that day, with my children and myself out under the dew.
I am tormented, broken and flayed, burnt and gashed from all the walking;
and Mister Joyce, the workhouse is full and won’t accept any more.

Isn’t it a great compliment to the Carna district since this couple began to frequent its streets!
The woman’s countenance is fairer and kinder than the morning star when it rises!
The Queen is ill, lying weak in her bed, and the doctors say that she will die;
and the reason is, as the doctors tell me, that she’s not married to Mr Joyce.

Here’s another song that was composed during the Famine of 1847. A poet named Micheál Mharcuis, Micheál Mac Con Iomaire from Carna, composed it when he went looking for a half-stone of yellow meal from Seán Seoighe, the man, or the master, who controlled the meal, and he refused him2. When his appeal was denied, he composed the final stanza of the poem, praising the woman, and the woman gave him the half-stone.

Notes

1. The title is normally given nowadays as Johnny Seoighe. A number of non-standard spellings in this manuscript are preserved here. Not only was the scribe a schoolboy at the time but the text pre-dates the creation of the first official spelling standard for Irish by many years.

2. The poem is also attributed to another local poet, Tomás Shiúnach, who lived at the time of the Famine.

As far as can be discovered, Joe Heaney never sang this song, although — given that the version here was transcribed by Joe’s elder brother from the singing of their father — he must have known it. As one of the few songs in the Irish language known to have been composed during the Famine, it is an important artefact of that period. While the song has been recorded a number of times in recent years, there was previously — and this was true in Joe’s day — a considerable reluctance to sing it, owing to controversy surrounding the relieving officer, Johnny Seoighe, and the understanding that his female companion was not his lawful wife. At the same time, other people — the Heaneys among them, if the seanchas given above can be taken to represent their views — felt that the woman was more generous than ‘Mister Joyce’ himself.

Liam Mac Con Iomaire, Joe Heaney’s biographer, explains that ‘while Johnny Seoighe appears to be a sorrowful song… Carna lore has it that it was composed as a satire, because Johnny Seoighe was a playboy who abandoned his wife and family in Oughterard and ran off with Peggy (Pegsy) Barry, daughter of the bailiff who was in Carna at the time… It was reported that Johnny Seoighe had stolen the relief book from the Relieving Office, and that he started to share out the yellow meal as he saw fit. Tim Robinson, in his book Conamara: Listening to the Wind says ‘This cannot be quite right, as Joyce was in fact a relieving officer for Roundstone, but it is probably not far from the truth, as he was eventually dismissed for corruption…’ (Liam Mac Con Iomaire, Seosamh Ó hÉanaí: Nár fhágha mé bás choíche, 118; also Tim Robinson, op. cit. 205-6.)

We are grateful to the National Folklore Collection, UCD, for allowing us to publish this item.

Fairy Lore

Play recording: Fairy Lore

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Fairy Lore.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781516.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 07/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): lecture/demonstration.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

A student asks Joe, ‘How many different kinds of spirits are there in Irish tradition?’ Joe explains that there are both good and bad fairies: The púca, somebody with only one eye and one ear – the fairies hate the púca. Then there’s the evil spirit, which comes in the form of the devil, with the cloven hoof. Then there’s the taibhse – someone who dies and comes back from the dead. The síóg can be either male or female, is related to the bean-sí. The bean-sí was the woman who cried over all the people who died that belonged to her when she was on earth, whenever that may be. And there’s only some families that the bean-sí.

Death customs

When somebody died, the keening women would come to the wake and cry over that particular person, maybe not someone of their own, but they were crying over their own as well as the one who had just died. When the corpse was taken to the graveyard the keening women would go to the graveyard and keen over their own graves as well. At one time, the corpse would lie in the house for three days and nights, and no one would do any manual work at that time; nowadays, the corpse is taken to the church on the second night, and money changes hands (is given to the priest), and keening doesn’t happen any longer.

Notes

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

Bhruinnilín Phéacach, An

Play recording: Bhruinnilín Phéacach, An

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Bhruinnilín Phéacach, An.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 850114.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): James Cowdery.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): between 1979 and 1981.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

A bhruinnilín bhéasaigh, is tú a mhéadaigh m’osna i mo lár
Is go luaitear le chéile na céadta nach bpósann go brách
Do dhá shúilín chlaona is do bhéilín chiúin tanaí tláth
‘S tú mo stóirín le bréagadh, is dá bhféadfainn é ghabhfainn do cheann.

Is nach mise bhíonns cúthail sa gclúid nach mbíonn aithne orm ann
Ag cuimhneadh ar mo mhúirnín tráthnóna is go moch leis an lá
A Dhia Mór na gcumhachta, níor shiúil sé fear eile níos fearr
A stóir, ná tabhair cúl dhom, ‘s tú mo mhúirnín go dtug mé dhuit grá.

Translation

Mannerly fair maiden, it’s you who have increased the sighing in my breast –
and hundreds are mentioned together who will never marry;
your roguish eyes and your quiet, slim, tender mouth;
you are my treasure to entice, and if I could I would have you.

Am I not the shy one, in the corner where nobody knows me,
thinking of my dear one in the evening and early in the day;
Great God of the powers, no better man ever walked;
my treasure, don’t turn your back on me, you’re my darling to whom I’ve given my love.

Notes

Further verses may be found in Eibhlín Bean Mhic Choisdealbha, Amhráin Mhuighe Seóla: Traditional Folksongs from Galway and Mayo (1923), 116; and William Mahon (ed.), Amhráin Chlainne Gael (1991), 11-12 and notes.

Bealtaine: May Day Beliefs and Practices

Play recording: Bealtaine: May Day Beliefs and Practices

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Bealtaine: May Day Beliefs and Practices.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781505.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): lore.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Esther Warkov.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 07/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): interview.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Old people had a superstition that they wouldn’t get up on the first of May until mid-day; they would want someone – preferably a child – to waken them that day for good luck; on one occasion an old woman asked Joe to do this for her the following day, but when he told his mother she forbade him to have anything to do with it, condemning it as superstition. People also used to put the ashes from the fire around the house to keep it safe from any ill-feeling that anyone would have for them; the first milk of the cow on the first of May is supposed to ensure plenty milk in the coming year; they would tie a string around the cow’s tail and try to tie it to the cow’s ear, or tie red strips on the cow, in order to keep the fairies from milking that cow on May day.

Notes

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

Gander and the Price of the Tea, The

Play recording: Gander and the Price of the Tea, The

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Gander and the Price of the Tea, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 850117.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): James Cowdery.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): CT between 1979 and 1981.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

This is an anecdote about the time that tea was a novelty in Conamara. It was supplied by a local character, whose nickname was the Gander, who would leave the supply of tea outside the door on the understanding that he would call back for payment at a later time. Of course, the people wanted to avoid paying him if they could manage to do so. On this occasion, the man of the house arranged for a couple of neighbours to come over to help him with his hay on the day that the Gander was supposed to return for his money.

When they saw the Gander approaching, this man sent his mother indoors, having coached her in how to deal with him. The Gander duly arrived and was sent inside to collect his money from the woman, who was alone in the house. The woman let out a screech and when the men went inside, armed with pitchforks, they found the Gander on top of her in the bed. The Gander paid them fifty pounds not to accuse him of ‘rape’.

Balor of the Evil Eye

Play recording: Balor of the Evil Eye

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Balor of the Evil Eye.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840119.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 24/01/1984.
  • 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.

Balor was one of the Fomorians, an ancient race that came from under the sea and inhabited Ireland long ago and had magical powers. As a result of a childhood mishap, Balor acquired an evil eye. His people kept the eye covered – except when it came in handy to have Balor look at enemies in battle, or mountains they wanted to tunnel through.

Notes

The following motifs are associated with this story:

  • A128.2.1 ‘God with evil eye’.
  • D2061.2.1 ‘Death-giving glance’.
  • D2071 ‘Evil Eye’.

See Tom Peete Cross, Motif-Index of Early Irish Literature, Bloomington, Indiana (1952); Kraus Reprint (1969).

Galway Shawl, The

Play recording: Galway Shawl, The

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Galway Shawl, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 860204.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 2737.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): Song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Mary E. Johnson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 10/10/1980.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): San Francisco, California, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): Larry Lynch’s Céilí.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Now, in the olden times – and you still see it in the Aran Islands – feiceann sibh go minic é in Oileáin Arainn faoi láthair, tá na mná ag caitheamh an rud céanna a bhíodar ag caitheamh blianta ó shin – in the Aran Islands off the west coast of Galway, and even back in the side of Conamara and Carraroe, the old women still wear the petticoats, or the long coat with three rows of black velvet at the bottom. And they have a shawl, where they call a ‘cross-over’ under the shawl. In the olden times, women were never supposed to reveal their ankles. Maybe today it’d be a good job if some of them didn’t do it yet! But anyway, they do it now. But that was a… terrible, mortal sin to reveal the ankles. And they used to wear what they call the Galway shawl – beautiful knitted, crocheted shawl, with all the frills you wanted on the bottom – and they still wear that in the Aran Islands.

In Oranmore, in the County Galway
One pleasant evening, in the month of May
I spied a colleen so fair and handsome
Her beauty stole my heart away.

She wore no jewels, no costly diamonds
No paint, no powder, no, none at all
She wore a bonnet with a ribbon on it
And o’er her shoulders the Galway shawl.

As we were walking we still kept talking
‘Till her father’s cabin came into view;
She said, ‘Come in and meet my father
And please and play him ‘The Foggy Dew.’

She sat me down beside the fire
Beside her father who was six foot tall
And very soon she had the kettle boiling
But all I could think of was my Galway shawl.

I played ‘The Blackbird,’ ‘The Stack o’ Barley’
‘Rodney’s Glory’ and ‘The Foggy Dew.’
She danced each note like an Irish linnet
While tears ran down her eyes so blue.

I started off early next morning
To hit the road for Donegal
She sighed and kissed me, and then she left me
She stole my heart in her Galway shawl.

Beartlí Ó Domhnaill

Play recording: Beartlí Ó Domhnaill

Níl an taifead seo ar fáil faoi láthair.

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Beartlí Ó Domhnaill.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): 1275:444-6.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): unavailable.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Seosamh Ó h-Éighnigh .i. Joe Heaney.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Carna, County Galway, Ireland.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Sgéal atá mé aithris ar thír a’s ar thalamh
Dá innseacht do lag is do láidir
Dá chur chuig na sagairt ‘s as sin chuig na sagairt
‘S iad sin dá sgriobhadh chuig an bPápa.

Salann na mallacht dá léigheamh ón altóir
Ar aonduine dhéanfadh cleas náireach
‘Sé Beartlí an gaduidhe sé ‘s cionntaighe ar fad leis
Nuair a robáil sé Wallace gon ádhbhar.

Chuaidh sé lá cheana chuig Colm ag baint chreathuighe
‘S ag dul siar dhó thar teach Phádhraic Mháirtín
Bhí siad dá dhearcadh ‘s dá thabhairt sin faoi deara
Gur cosamhail le fear a bhí i mbád é.

Labhair Micil Thomáis nuair a d’éirigh sé ar maidin
‘Sílim gur duine é gan náire
Ach rachainn i mbannaidhe nach leigfinnse isteach é
Nó go bhfuighinnse teisteas ní b’fhearr air.

Árduigheadh an sgeach roimhe taobh thiar
Is cuiridh amach é le fánadh
Deir Pádraic Ó Biadha ná fheicidh mé Dia
Má leigim thar Choigéal go bráth é.

Labhair Páidín Sheán Breathnuigh nuair a déirigh sé ar maidin
Sé[a]rd dubhair sé mac Bheartlín Pádhraic
Nach olc a rud gaduidhe i measc daoine cneasda
Ag tuirim i bpeacaidh mar gheall air.

Dubhairt Mac Ruadh Sheán Bhreathnuigh é a cheangal de’ tairseach
‘S é fhágáil annsin go dtí amáireach
Go dtiocfadh muinntir Chamus, Rosmuic ‘s Glinn Chatha
‘S nach mbeadh fhios cé’r chuireadh ‘un báis é.

Dubhairt Caitlín Úna go mbearr é a phlúcadh
Nó é thabhairt ag an gcrumpán le Báireadh
Ach sgread maidhne ar an bhfeamuinn a ghoid sé ó Wallace
‘Sé d’fhága ‘Beairtlí Gaduidhe’ go bráth air.

Notes

This song, composed by poet Colm de Bhailís (1796-1906) from Leitir Mulláin, contains the poet’s thoughts about a local man who stole a load of seaweed that Colm had cut and left on the strand, to be hauled up the following day and used as fertilizer.

Joe wrote probably wrote this song down in 1935, the year he finished National School (primary school). Joe’s text is preserved here as he wrote it down. It is, however, very faulty, and the reader is advised to consult Gearóid Denvir, Amhráin Choilm de Bhailís (Cló Iar-Chonnachta, 1996) for a more authoritative text. The song has been recorded by Máirtín Chóil Neaine Pháidín Mac Donncha; see Fleadh agus Féasta (Cló Iar-Chonnachta CICD 111), track 13.

Baile Uí Laí

Play recording: Baile Uí Laí

Níl an taifead seo ar fáil faoi láthair.

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Baile Uí Laí.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): none.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): none.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): Irish.
  • 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): unavailable.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): unavailable.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): unavailable.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Ag gabháil chun Aifrinn dom le toil an Ard Rí
Bhí an lá báisteach a’s d’athraigh gaoth.
Casadh an ainnir dom ar bhruach Chill Tártain
Is thit mé láithreach i ngrá le mnaoi.
Labhair mé léithe go múinte mánla
Is do réir a cáilíocht sea d’fhreagair sí.
Séard adúirt sí, ‘Raiftearaí, bheadh m’intinn sásta
Ach gluais an lá seo go Baile Uí Laí.’

Nuair a fuair mé an tairiscint níor lig mé ar cáirde é
Ach rinne mé gáire agus gheit mo chroí.
‘S ní raibh le ghabháil againn ach trasna páirce
Níor thug muid an lá linn ach go tóin an tí.
Leag sí anuas bord a raibh gloine is cárt air
Is a cúilín fáinneach le m’ais ina suí;
Séard adúirt sí, ‘Raiftearaí, bí ag ól is céad fáilte
Tá an siléar láidir againn i mBaile Uí Laí.’

‘S nach aoibhinn aerach ar thaobh an tsléibhe
Is tú ag breathnú síos uait ar Bhaile Uí Laí,
Ag siúl na ngleannta ag baint cnó is sméartha
Is ceiliúr éan ann mar na ceolta sí.
Níl maith sa méid sin dá bhfaighfeá léargas
Ar bhláth na gcraobh atá lena thaobh,
Is níl maith dhá shéanadh, ‘s ní cheilfead choíche
An pabhsaí gléigeal atá i mBaile Uí Laí.

Is a réalt an tsolais is a ghrian bhreá an Fhómhair,
A chailín stuama a mheall mo chroí,
Dá dtiocfá liomsa i gcaitheamh an Fhómhair
Ó dhéanfainn teach duit ar bheagán cíos.
Ach cén mhaith bheith ag caint air ach ní dhéanfad fós é
‘Gus sin é an pósadh nach ndéanfad choíche.
Is a Rí na Glóire, go dtriomaí an bóthar
Is go bhfaighe mé an t-eolas ar ais arís.

Translation

As I was going to Mass, by the will of God,
It was a rainy and blustery day,
When I met a fair one near Kiltartan,
And fell in love with the woman on the spot.
I spoke to her in a mannerly fashion,
And accordingly she responded,
‘Raftery, I would be delighted
If you would come along with me today to Ballylee.’

When I got the offer I didn’t think twice,
But laughed as my heart sprang within me.
We had only to go across the park,
And it didn’t take us all day to get to the house.
She set the table with drink and glasses,
And the lovely one sat down next to me,
saying, ‘Raftery, you’re welcome to drink —
We’ve a mighty cellar in Ballylee!’

Isn’t it pleasant and jolly on the mountainside
Looking down at Ballylee?
Walking the valleys picking nuts and berries
And birdsong there like fairy music.
All that pales if you got a glimpse
Of the flowery branches nearby.
And there’s no good in denying it, and I’d never hide [deny] it,
The fair flower in Ballylee.

Star of light and fine Autumn sun,
Sensible, capable girl who beguiled my heart,
If you’d come with me during the Autumn
Oh, I’d provide you with a house at little rent.
But what’s the use in talking about it as I won’t do it yet
And that’s the marriage that I’ll never make.
And God above, may the road dry
And may I get the knowledge of it back again.

Notes

This song was taken from a commercial recording: Sraith 2: Ó mo Dhúchas (Gael Linn LP CÉF 051 / CEFCD 191-2), 1976; reissued 2007.

Concert in San Francisco (1983)

Play recording: Concert in San Francisco (1983)

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Concert in San Francisco.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 861401.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): 18/11/1983.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): San Francisco, California, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): concert.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Information about this recording to follow.

Happy as Larry

Play recording: Happy as Larry

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Happy as Larry.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840117.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): between 1979 and 1981.
  • 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.

There is always a reason for everything. This story explains where the expression ‘Happy as Larry’ came from.

A king has everything he wants – but he’s not happy. He goes to a wise old man to find out how he could be happy. The wise old man tells him he needs to get a shirt from a poor, happy man. So the king sends his soldiers out to see if they can find such a person, and get his shirt from him. After searching Ireland for a man who is both poor and happy, the soldiers think they’re going to have to return to the king empty-handed, when they hear the voice of a man, singing, from behind a wall.

The man is poor, and he’s happy – but he doesn’t own a shirt.

Notes

This story corresponds to an international type, AT 844, The luck-bringing shirt.

Túirne Mháire

Play recording: Túirne Mháire

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Túirne Mháire.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781513.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Cynthia Thiessen.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 02/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Fredric Lieberman.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

…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 gle
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

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.

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.

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

Woman Who Finds a Bucket of Blood in her Kitchen, The

Play recording: Woman Who Finds a Bucket of Blood in her Kitchen, The

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Woman Who Finds a Bucket of Blood in her Kitchen, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 841421.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Joan Rabinowitz.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): probably 19/10/1984.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): KRAB Radio.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

A king’s son travels to a far kingdom to marry, with the understanding that when his father dies, he will travel back to Ireland with his wife for the funeral. About a year after the wedding, when he and his wife have a new baby, his father dies, and they set out by boat.

On the journey, the king’s son feels tired and goes below for a rest, leaving his wife and child in the care of the crew on deck. All of a sudden, the young woman sees a boat made of stone passing their boat, and a witch in charge of it, with her long crooked nose driving the boat, like an engine. As the boats come close together, the witch reaches into the other boat, grabs the mother and child, and brings them into the stone boat. She then takes the child herself back into the other boat, sending the stone boat – with the young mother in it – on its way, telling it not to stop until it reaches ‘the king of the underground.’

The stone boat disappears, and the witch assumes the form of the young mother. But the baby won’t stop crying; and when the king’s son wakes up, he can’t understand why the baby is making such noise, when he never used to cry before. When they reach Ireland, the king’s son finds a nurse for the baby, and the child immediately stops crying when the nurse takes charge of him.

At the same time, the king’s son is puzzled that the woman with him seems to be very different from the woman he’d married. The king’s son is now king, his father having died, and the woman is queen, which is what she wanted. Two young boys who happen to pass the queen’s chamber overhear her laughing an evil laugh to herself and saying, ‘Roly poly, roly poly, roly poly, I’ll be queen, I’ll be queen, I’ll be queen!’ The two young fellows thought the queen must be going mad. Going back later that night, they heard the same thing again; and bending to look through the keyhole, they saw the floor open up, and a huge feast emerge from the floor. The queen eats everything in sight, which they find odd, as they’ve previously heard that the queen wouldn’t eat anything, and the king is afraid she will starve herself.

Finally, the two young men tell what they’ve seen to the baby’s nurse, who tells the king. The king comes into the room, and slashes with his sword at the hand that’s holding up the food for the witch – that’s what she was – who has taken over the form of his wife. The hand of the giant falls off, and the king’s own wife emerges out of the hole in the floor. She has been chained all this time onto this giant, who is the witch’s son. The minute the witch sees what’s happened, she drops dead and turns into a pool of blood on the floor. The two young men who revealed the truth are well rewarded; and the when the baby recognizes his true mother, he flies into her arms straightaway.

Notes

This story, although somewhat abbreviated, contains many of the same details as an Icelandic version included by Andrew Lang (1844-1912) in The Yellow Fairy Book, originally published in 1894.

Joe tells many stories involving the enchantment of people into different forms: see The Seal-Woman, The woman who removed a thorn from a seal’s fin, Oisín and Niamh of the Golden Hair, and The Twelve Swans.

The recording date given is 19 October 1984. However, this is presumed to be the broadcast date; Joe Heaney died in May of that year.

Old Woman of Wexford, The

Play recording: Old Woman of Wexford, The

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Old Woman of Wexford, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 841417.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 183.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): Q2.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Joan Rabinowitz.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 10/06/1983.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bainbridge Island, Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): day class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Fredric Lieberman.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

There are certainly different kinds of love. And the man who can describe love – I suppose his mother hasn’t been born yet. Well, my grandmother had a great explanation for love, because when I was growing up, I thought I fell in love ten times each day. And she called me aside one day and she said, ‘Remember,’ she said, ‘love is blind – but marriage can be a great eye-opener.’ And that advice, you know, has kept ringing in my ears all these years. But it’s an awful coward who didn’t make an attempt, anyway.

Well, this lady was in love, and it was the most contrary love I ever heard of in my life. She wanted to make her husband blind, and nobody knew why. But people were saying she was up to no good, anyway. And she wasn’t young, either – she was like myself, getting on in years and facing very little future. And she said- She went to the doctor, but she forgot the doctor was a friend of the old man. And she said, ‘Doctor, give me something to make the man blind.’ What an awful thing she had up her sleeve! And the doctor, as I said before, being a friend of the old man, he told her to give him something that would make him strong. Then he wrote the old man a letter, telling him what the old lady was up to. ‘And whatever you do – play into her hands! Pretend you’re blind!’ Now, this is what happened:

There was an old woman in Wexford, and in Wexford town did dwell
She loved her husband dearly, but another man twice as well.
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

And one day she went to the doctor some medicine for to find
She said ‘I want something for to make me old man blind.’
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

‘Oh, feed him eggs and marrow-bones, and make him suck them all
It won’t be so very long after ’til he can’t see you at all.’
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.
But the doctor wrote a letter, and he sealed it with his hand
He sent it to the old man just to let him understand.
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

She fed him eggs and marrow-bones and made him suck them all
It wasn’t so very long after ’til he couldn’t see the wall.
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

‘Oh,’ he said, ‘I’d go and drown myself, but that would be a sin.’
She said, ‘I’ll come to the water’s edge and help to push you in.’
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

And they jogged and jogged and jogged along ’til they came to the water’s brim
She said, ‘You came here to drown yourself, and me to push you in.’
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

And the old woman stepped back a bit for to push him in;
The old man quickly stepped aside and she went tumbling in.
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

How loudly did she yell and how loudly did she bawl!
‘Arra, hold your whist, dear woman’ he said, ‘sure I can’t see you at all.’
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

She swam and swam and swam around ’til she came to the farther brim
He grabbed a sally wattle and he pushed her further in.
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

Now eggs and eggs and marrow-bones may make your old man blind
But if you want to drown him you must creep up close behind.
To me rye-fol diddle-la-lair-oh, and me rye-fol dye-fol dee.

And the ending of the story was – the blind man he could see!

Notes

This song appears on The Road from Conamara, the CD compiled from recordings made by Ewan Mac Coll and Peggy Seeger in 1963, when Joe was living in London.

In his review of this compilation, Tom Munnelly suggests Joe may have learned it from Séamas Ennis or the Clancy Brothers, as ‘it does not appear in Clár Amhrán Bhaile na hInse, Ríonach Ní Fhlathairtaigh (Uí Ógáin)’s exhaustive index of songs collected by the Folklore commission in Ballinahinch, Joe’s part of Connemara’.

Yellow Silk Handkerchief, The

Play recording: Yellow Silk Handkerchief, The

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Yellow Silk Handkerchief, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840121.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 246.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): 272.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): 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): 31/01/1984.
  • 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.

I think I may as well sing one of the eerie songs for you now. Now, there’s a certain… belief that when somebody dies, you’ll see them after death, provided — we’ll say, you had a date with somebody tonight. And meantime, something happens that person — he dies or is killed accidentally — you’ll see that person when that particular time, unless he says, or she says, ‘God willing, or if I’m still alive’.

Now the one I’m going to sing first is called The Yellow Silk Handkerchief. There’s an awful lot in this… story that the song doesn’t tell. Now whether the verses were lost between handing it down to people or not, I do not know. But this is the way the old people used to sing it. And the story goes — I’ll tell you the story first — most of it, I won’t tell it all, because if I did, I’d spoil the song. This girl… lots of men came to court her. For long ago, I don’t know why… these girls always fell for the poor person. And that doesn’t happen any more! So, when her father came to hear of it, he sent her away about forty miles or something — and believe me, forty miles in them days was a long way, because the only way you could travel was on horseback or walking, with the hay-down-treaders, they used to call the old boots one time. So he sent her away to an uncle, and meantime, although the song doesn’t tell you this either, they were supposed to be married nine months after the day she left. They had their wedding day set — that’s why the father sent her away. And unknown to him, they sent her away, and they waylaid him the same night, the brothers, couple of… nights after, and they killed him. And this night, the night of their intended marriage, she was lying in bed, and she heard his voice coming from outside the road. And she immediately knew the voice. She got up and went out, and he pulled her up on the horse — a white horse — and she put her arms around his waist, and she stroked his… cheek, and when she kissed his mouth, she said ‘you’re awful cold.’ Well, if you ever kissed a corpse, you’ll know what that means. [Laughter] Well, people did — and people do! And she pulled out the yellow silk handkerchief she had, and she tied it round his neck and over his head like that to keep him warm. And then he said, ‘we’ll have to go.’ And they came to her father’s gate.

She was so happy — although he didn’t say much, except a few words — she was so happy that the father had eventually come to his senses, and sent him to pick her up so they could get married. And he put her down at her father’s gate, and then he said ‘I’ll have to go. I won’t see you any more.’ She looked around, and the horse and rider was gone. And that’s when she began thinking. And she raced in to her father’s door, and knocked and cried and knocked. And he opened the door, and then she said, ‘Did you send for me?’ mentioning his name. The father [unintelligible], knowing he was dead, he started tearing his hair out. And she said, ‘You did. Because he came to me on your white horse.’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘that’s a lie,’ he said. He didn’t tell her he was dead yet. ‘That’s a lie, because my horse never moved out of that stable for a week.’ So to convince her and to solace her, he went with her to the stable, and there was the horse all sweat, and shaking with, after the horse was doing his long journey. And then he started crying more. And then he told her that he was dead. And she wouldn’t believe him. And to convince her they took her to the graveyard. And — I’ll stop there. And this is the song:

It’s of a lord who lived in this town
He was was loved by all the people round
He had a daughter, a beauty bright

And many a young man came to court this maid,
But none of them could her favour gain
Until a young man of low degree
Came courting her, and she fancied he.

When her father heard they were thus engaged
He sent her away to a distant place
Forty miles or more he sent her away
For to deprive her of her wedding day.

One night she lay in her bed alone
She heard his voice in the distant road
‘Rise up my darling, come along with me
I own I love your own company.’

She got up and put on her clothes
She ran out to the distant road
He lifted her up on his milk-white steed
‘Oh, my dearest darling, you remember me!’

She put her arms around his waist
She stroked his head and she stroked his hair3
She kissed his lips, and those words did say
‘Oh my dear, you’re colder than the clay.’

The name they called her was Young Heart’s Delight.
A yellow silk handkerchief she then pulled out
She put it around his neck and brow
He drew her arms around his waist
‘Oh, my dearest darling, I cannot stay.’
And when they came to her father’s gate
He put her down and those words did say:
‘Go home, my darling, go home and sleep
For I must leave you, no more to see.’

And then she ran to her father’s door
She cried and knocked and she cried some more
‘Oh, father, father, did you send for me
By such a messenger?’ naming he1.

Her father, knowing this young man was dead
He tore the grey hairs down from his head
And whilst her father grieved heart full sore,
The young man’s darling cried more and more.

And then they went and they dug his grave
They opened the coffin and laid him bare;
But although her true-love was nine months dead
The yellow silk handkerchief was around his neck.

Well, that was the proof that she had seen him that night.

Now, sometimes when you’re singing a song that you don’t sing often, you’re inclined to step off a bit, maybe, and include a word that doesn’t do it any harm, but is not the actual word. That’s the positive proof you didn’t get that song out of a book! So if you’re ever singing a song and you make a mistake in a word or two, don’t worry; so long as you bring the song together, it’s alright.

Notes

1. In two of the four performances contained in the UW archives, this line goes ‘By such a messenger, named Tom A’ Lee.’

This song is widely attested in the English-language tradition of Ireland, and has been recorded by a number of singers over the past half-century. It is sometimes also known by the title The Suffolk Miracle.

Molly Bawn

Play recording: Molly Bawn

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Molly Bawn.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840121.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): 166.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): O36.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): 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): 31/01/1984.
  • 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.

Now as we’re on the subject of fairies and dead people coming back- Now there’s a story about this girl, she came back when her lover was on the brink of being hung for killing her; her spirit appeared. And the song is called ‘Molly Bawn.’ And ‘a fowler’ is a man of course that uses a gun1. And he killed his own girlfriend because he thought she was a fawn on the edge of a lake. A fawn is a young deer. And he saw the fawn – what he thought was a fawn – and he shot the fawn, and what was it but his own girlfriend going to visit her uncle. And she had her apron over her head to keep the rain off, and instead of shooting the fawn, he shot his girlfriend. And this is the song…

Come all you young fowlers who carries a gun
Don’t ever go a-shooting by the setting of the sun
I was once a brave young fowler, as you may understand
And I shot my own true love, I took her for a fawn.

She was going to her uncle when the rain it came on
She went under a bush for to let the rain pass
With her apron all around her, I took her for a fawn
Oh, I never would have shot my own Molly Bawn.

And when he came to her, and found it was she
His limbs, they grew weary, his eyes could not see
His heart it was broken in sorrow and in grief
And imploring to heaven he looked for relief.

Young Jimmy went home with his gun in his hand
Saying, ‘Father, dearest Father, I have done what’s wrong:
With her apron all around her, I took her for a fawn-
Oh, alas, and alas, I shot my Molly Bawn.’

[‘I rapped her fair temples, and found she was dead
A torrent of tears for my true love I shed
And now I’ll be forced by the laws of the land
For the killing of my darling my trial for to stand.]2

And the day of her funeral, her spirit it appeared
Saying, ‘Uncle, dearest Uncle, do not hang my dear
With my apron all around me he took me for a fawn
Oh, he never would have shot his own Molly Bawn.’

Notes

1. In Conamara, ‘fowling’ appears to be a generic term for ‘hunting’. The Irish word for ‘hunting’ is foghlaereacht – a word clearly borrowed from English – that can either mean (as here) shooting or (as perhaps in bygone times) going out with a hunting ‘fowl’ – a hawk or falcon.

2. This additional verse occurs in a performance recorded at ‘Afternoon Tea with Joe Heaney,’ University of Washington, April, 1983 (UW83-13.2).

Joe told Lucy Simpson, ‘My father had that. And the funny thing – it’s the same way Mrs Cronin in Cork had it… But in the north of Ireland they have another version of it… Some people added verses to it that had nothing to do with the song at all. ‘The girls of this place is all glad that Molly Bawn is gone’ – I don’t know where that came from.’ He also insisted to her that the young fowler mistook his target for a fawn, not a swan, because there were laws passed in Ireland since time immemorial that prohibited hunting swans. When Lucy asked him what word had been in Mrs Cronin’s version, Joe told her it was ‘fawn’ (UW85-39.8).

Joe is mistaken here however. Apart from employing the same air, Elizabeth Cronin’s version of ‘Molly Bawn’ (The Songs of Elizabeth Cronin, Four Courts, 2000) differs in a number of respects from the version Joe sings – and she sings ‘swan,’ not ‘fawn.’ Joe’s version does, however, bear some similarities to a longer version recorded by Donegal singer Packie Manus Byrne for Topic’s ‘Voice of the People’ series (TSCD 656). The only other version I’ve encountered in which the word ‘fawn’ occurs is the one given by P.W. Joyce, Old Irish Folk Music and Songs (London and Dublin, 1909), p. 220.

Joe Heaney: The Mermaid, Hy-Brasail and The Leprachaun

Play recording: Joe Heaney: The Mermaid, Hy-Brasail and The Leprachaun

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Joe Heaney: The Mermaid, Hy-Brasail and The Leprachaun.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 850407.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Jill Linzee.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): between 1982 and 1984.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Joe tells of his own encounters with the supernatural – all of which he swears really happened.

The Mermaid

Joe’s account of his meeting with the mermaid includes a reference to the Cleggan Disaster of 1927, when Joe would have been seven or eight years old.

Hy-Brasail

Hy-Brasail, Joe says, is a mythical island that is located between the Aran Islands and Oileán Mhic Dara (St Macdara’s Island). A poem by nineteenth-century poet Gerald Griffin, ‘Hy-Brasail, the Isle of the Blest,’ became a fairly standard item when Joe was dealing with otherworld beliefs in his classroom. Hy-Brasail is also connected with lore surrounding the Mahons, a family who were granted healing powers following an encounter with the island1.

The Leprachaun

As Joe tells it, he had two encounters with leprachauns: the one mentioned here, which he says occurred on the same day that he saw Hy-Brasail; and the second one – when Joe was presumably somewhat older – in which a leprachaun hitched a ride home with Joe on a bicycle.

Notes

1. For more about Hy-Brasail (in Irish, ‘Beag-Árainn’ or ‘Lesser Aran’), see Tomás Ó Concheanainn, ‘Seanchas ar Mhuintir Laidhe’ in Éigse 33 (2002), 179-225; also Daithí Ó hÓgáin, ‘The Mystical Island in Irish Folklore,’ in P. Lysaght, S. Ó Catháin and D. Ó hÓgáin (eds.), Islanders and Water-Dwellers: Proceedings of the Celtic-Nordic-Baltic Folklore Symposium held at University College Dublin 16-19 June 1996,DBA Publications Ltd. for the Department of Irish Folklore, UCD (1999), 247-60.

A Mother’s Love’s a Blessing

Play recording: A Mother’s Love’s a Blessing

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): A Mother’s Love’s a Blessing.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 853916.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Lucy Simpson.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 26/08/1980.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): private.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.