Cáit Ní Dhuibhir

Play recording: Cáit Ní Dhuibhir

view / hide recording details [+/-]

  • Teideal (Title): Cáit Ní Dhuibhir.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 850105.
  • 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.

Tráthnóinín beag déanach, is mo thréad agam dá gcur ón sliabh
i lúib na coille craobhaí is nach aerach a bhí mo thriall
Bhí an chuach is an lon is an chéirseach ag tréitheadh1 is gach nóta fíor
is i mbun is i mbarr gach béarsa, ‘Beidh Éire fós ag Cáit Ní Dhuibhir.’

‘S tá liosacháinín féarmhar agam féin ag ceann mo thí
Is bíonn gach maidin ghréine an spéirbhean ann ‘s í romham ina suí
Tá leabhar aici don Ghaeilge is beagáinín don Bhéarla thríd
‘Sé tús is deireadh mo scéil-se go mbeidh Éire fós ag Cáit Ní Dhuibhir.

[Is bean ró-mhór i bpéin mé is mo chéile a chuaigh thar toinn
mo chlann go bhfuil i ndaorbhroid go tréithlag is gan preab ina gcroí
Ach éireoidh clanna Gael agus léimfidh go mear gach claíomh
Is gurb é tús agus deireadh mo scéilse go mbeidh Éire fós ag Cáit Ní Dhuibhir.]2


Late in the evening, as I was bringing my herd down from the hill,
in a corner of the woods – and wasn’t my way a pleasant one! –
the cuckooo, blackbird and thrush were [singing], and every note true;
and the beginning and end of every verse was ‘Ireland will one day belong to Cáit Ní Dhuibhir.’

I have a grassy little fairy-fort at the end of my house,
and every sunny morning there’s a beautiful woman sitting there before me.
She has a book in Irish, with a bit of English in it, too.
The beginning and end of my story: Ireland will one day belong to Cáit Ní Dhuibhir.

[I am a woman in great pain, since my husband went abroad;
my children in slavery, weak and listless;
But the children of the Gael will rise up, and every sword will leap to life,
and the beginning and end of my story – that Ireland will once again belong to Cáit Ní Dhuibhir!]


1. The word tréitheadh may be one Joe made up on the spur of the moment to fill a gap in his memory. It doesn’t appear in the main Irish dictionaries — but then neither do a lot of historically-established words found in living, everyday Gaeltacht vocabularies. The context strongly suggests that birdsong is what he has in mind.

2. Joe does not sing this stanza, but he does refer to the first few words of it in his conversation with Jim, so we can be fairly sure he knew it.

Johnny Mháirtín Learaí Mac Donnchadha from Carna tells us that this is one of the songs that he learned at school, and it seems probable that Joe also would have first heard it during his schooldays. Joe is singing it for Jim Cowdery in response to a question from Jim; Cáit Ní Dhuibhir is a Munster song, and it was not in Joe’s active repertoire. As Joe explains — and as is fairly clear from the text itself — the song is allegorical, with the name of the woman ‘Cáit Ní Dhuibhir’ standing as a metaphor for the Irish people.

Additional verses of this patriotic vision-song may be found in T. Ó Concheanainn (ed.), Nua-Dhuanaire III (Dublin, 1978), 4-5 and notes. Ó Concheanainn explains that the song first appeared in print in 1904, in Bolg an tSoláthair, and subsequently elsewhere. One of these later editors, Róis Ní Ógáin, remarks, ‘This beautiful simple traditional song is of a type very common in the eighteenth century. In these poems the poet sees a vision of Ireland, lovely and forlorn, but ever looking for succour from oversea, or for help from her sons’ (Duanaire Ghaeilge I, Dublin 1921, p. 107).