Bonnán Buí, An (Máire Ní Chéilleachair)

Play recording: Bonnán Buí, An (Máire Ní Chéilleachair)

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  • Teideal (Title): Bonnán Buí, An (Máire Ní Chéilleachair).
  • 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): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): song.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Máire Ní Chéilleachair.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): none.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 1999.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): Secret Garden Studios, Glanmire, County Cork, Ireland.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): studio album recording.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Johnny Campbell (sound engineer), Tom Mc Cormick (assistant engineer).
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): © Máire Ní Chéilleachair. All rights reserved.

A bhonnáin bhuí that ne’er broke out
On a drinking bout might as well have drunk.
For his bones lie thrown on a naked stone
Where he lives all alone like a hermit-monk.
A bhonnáin bhuí, I pity your lot
For they say that a sot like myself was cursed,
I was sober a while, now I’ll drink and be wise
For fear I might die in the end of thirst.

It’s not the common bird that I would mourn,
The blackbird, the corncrake or the crane.
But for the bittern that’s shy and apart
And drinks in the marsh from the lone bog – drain.
If had known you were near your death
Whilst my breath held out I’d have ran to you
’Til a splash from the Lake Of the Son of the Bird
Your soul would have stirred and waked anew.

My darling she told me to drink no more
Or my life would be o’er in a very short while.
But I told her ’twas the drink gives me health and strength
And lengthens my road by many’s the mile.
You see how the bird of the long smooth neck
Could get his death from the thirst at last.
Come son of my soul and drink your cup
For you’ll get no sup when your life is past.

Máire’s album sleeve notes

[NB: Various sources give differing dates for Cathal Buí’s birth and death.]

In Irish

Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna (1690–1756) ó Chontae an Chábháin a chúm an t‑amhrán seo as Gaeilge. Seo aistriúchán ar an ndán le Thomas Mac Donagh. Caoineadh magaidh atá anseo ar bhás an bhonnáin bhuí, a fuair bás den tart toisc go raibh an loch reoite. Bhí dúil san ól ag Cathal agus b’uafásach an ní é, dar leis, bás a fháil den tart. Molann sé, dá bhrí sin, do gach duine aoibhneas an ólacháin a bhlaiseadh ar an saol seo mar ná beidh braon le fáil tar éis bháis.

Ba ó amhránaíocht bhrea Danny Maidhcí Uí Shúilleabháin ó Chúil Aodha a d’fhoghlamaíos é seo agus tá amhráin eile dá chuid le clos ar an gcaiséad Carraig Aonair.

In English

This song was written in Irish by the Cavan poet Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna (1690–1756). This is a translation by Thomas Mac Donagh. Tradition has it that Cathal, who was fond of the drink, had just promised his wife to stop drinking while on his way home from a party when he found a bonnán buí, a yellow bittern, which had frozen to death on a lake shore. He laments the tragic death of the bird and now has an excuse for continuing to drink. He urges us all to drink while we can in this life as we won’t get a ‘sup’ after death.

I learned this song from the fine singing of Danny Maidhcí Ó Súilleabháin [page bilingual; scroll down for information in English] from Cúil Aodha, many of whose songs can be heard on his cassette Carraig Aonair.

Photo of the sleeve notes for An Bonnán Buí.
Pages 27 and 28 of the album booklet

Notes

By Míċeál Ó Loċlainn

Compare and contrast


The album cover artwork for the Guth ar Fán album. Abstract painting; in blue, green and yellow.
The Guth ar Fán album cover.

This is one of the series of entries in the Cartlanna which is intended to highlight Joe’s singing in local, national and international contexts.

The Cartlanna feature several examples of Joe singing An Buinneán Buí in the original Irish. (See, for example, the Tradition Club Session, 18th July 1973 entry.) This recording by Máire Ní Chéilleachair [page bilingual; scroll down for information in English] gives us a fine example of the English language version of the song, and has been taken from her 1999 album Guth ar Fán (track 13).

Máire Ní Chéilleachair

Máire is an accomplished exponent of the singing tradition of Músgraí Uí Fhloínn, the district in mid-County Cork that stretches from a few miles west of Cork City back to the County bounds. She was born in An Fearann, although her family were originally from Cíll na Martra (Tuath na Droman) in the Músgraí Gaeltacht, and is a regular participant in the sean-nós singing competitions at Oireachtas na Gaeilge. In 2013 she won Corn na mBan, the women’s competition and in 2018 she won the highly-prestigious Corn Uí Riada.

She released her most recent album, Ceantar Glas Mhúscraí, in 2019.

Bonnáin and Buinneáin

An Bonnán Buí is noteworthy in that it appears in the repertoires of traditional singers throughout all the Gaeltacht areas of Ireland. It’s partly for this reason that we’ve included Máire’s version here. Attentive readers will have noticed the use of two spellings: ‘bonnán’ and ‘buinneán’. This isn’t by accident: ‘bonnán’ reflects the Munster form of the word (the Official Standard for written Irish also conforms to this spelling) whereas ‘buinneán’ is typical in Iorras Aithneach and Carna. As with certain other song titles — Cónnla / Connla / Cúnnla / Cunnla for example — we’ve respected the native form as used by the singers and their peers.

Thanks and credits

Gabhaimíd míle buíochas le Máire as cead chun an taifeadadh so a úsáid sna Cartlanna is chun clúdach an albaim ⁊ na nótaí clúdaigh a chóipeáil.