Curachaí na Trá Báine

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  • Teideal (Title): Curachaí na Trá Báine.
  • 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.
  • 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): 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.

There is a song first sung in Boston, called — There was a tragedy there, where four people got drowned, and the girl, Bríd Ní Mháille, went to South Boston, and she composed this song about her brothers who was drowned. He wants that song, Curachaí na Trá Báine. The Trá Bháin1, it’s a place I love anyway, and I’m glad to sing it for him. And if I have time, I’ll sing one with you after this2.

Mo mhíle slán leat a Éirinn bhocht, is breá an rud é an tEarrach féin
Níl caint ar obair bossannaí ná rud ar bith mar é
Seal ag tarraingt fheamainne, ag cur fhataí nó ag baint fhéir
Níl fear ar bith dhá bhoichte nach bhfuil feilm aige féin.

‘S mo mhallacht ar na curachaí, mo bheannacht ar na báid
Mo mhallacht ar na curachaí atá thall in sa Trá Bháin
Is iad a bhain mo cheathrar driothár dhíom a raibh an fheilm acu ann
Ach is cuma leis an gCeallach é ós é féin atá ina n-áit.

Báthadh Seán is Peadar orm, bhí caitheamh agam ina ndiaidh
Báthadh driotháir eile, ó Máirtín fadó ariamh
‘Sé Micil Bán a ba mheasa liom dhá bhfaca mé ariamh
Ach mo dhíomú don tonn bháite, ‘sé a d’fhága mé ina ndiaidh.

Muise, shoraidh dhíbhse a dhriotháireachaí, nach dtagann sibh i dtír
Chaoinfeadh mná an bhaile sibh, a gcleamhnaí a’s a ngaoil
Chuirfí cónra gheal oraibh amach ó láimh an tsaoir
Ní bheadh sibh dhá bpocáil idir farraigí ná dhá gcur ó thaobh go taobh.

D’fhágadar an caladh againn ar maidin leis an lá
Dia linn agus Muire! Is iad an triúr a chuaigh sa ngábh
Níl blas ar bith dhár cheannaíodar nach dtáinig don Trá Bháin
Tháinig na maidí ar an duirling, ‘s an churach ar an trá.

[Faraor géar nár cailleadh mé an lá ar baisteadh mé go hóg
Nuair a fágadh i mo chadhain aonraic mé gan féithideach an bhéil bheo
Níl deirfiúr a’m ‘s níl driotháir a’m, a’s níl mo mháithrín beo
Tá m’athair bocht lag éalannach, a’s a Chríost cén t-ionadh dhó?

Tá caitheamh is cáin ar Éirinn bhocht, a’s m’anam nach cóir a bheith
Tá an fear ag baint na bhfataí ann a’s an bhean ag bleán na bó
Ní hionnan é ‘s South Boston, saoraigh airgid nó lig dhó
Mar saothraíonn bean ach dollar ann, beidh an fear amuigh dhá ól.

Nach é an Ceallach a bhí náireach nach labhródh sé le Bríd
Chaith sí seacht seachtainí i stór na ragannaí
Níor chleachtas mór é sin uirthi dhá mbeadh a muintir cruinn
Ó, bheadh sí ag baint na carraigín is dhá triomú leis an ngaoth.]

Translation

My thousand farewells to poor Ireland, [where] the Spring is a lovely thing,
with no talk of working for bosses or anything like that,
but rather a spell harvesting seaweed, planting potatoes or cutting hay;
and where there’s no man, however poor, who doesn’t have his own farm.

My curse upon the curraghs, and my blessing on the boats;
my curse upon the curraghs over in Trá Bhán;
for it’s they who took my four brothers from me, who owned a farm there –
and Kelly doesn’t give a damn, for now he’s got their place.

Seán and Peadar were drowned, and I missed them terribly;
another brother, Martin, was drowned long ago;
fair Micheal was my favourite of the lot of them;
and bad cess to the drowning wave that has left me behind them.

Oh, bad luck to you, brothers, that you never came ashore!
The village women would keen you, their nearest and dearest;
you’d be placed in bright coffins, from the carpenter’s hand;
and you wouldn’t be butted about between seas, or tossed from side to side.

They left the quay this morning at dawn –
God and Mary be with us! – they were the three who went into danger;
there isn’t a thing they bought that didn’t float to shore on the Trá Bhán:
the oars landed on the stony beach, and the curragh on the strand.

[Too bad I didn’t die the day I was baptized,
when I was left all alone without a soul for company;
I’ve neither sister nor brother; my mother isn’t living;
my father is weak and debilitated – and Christ, it’s no wonder!

Poor Ireland is slandered and criticized, and upon my soul, it shouldn’t be:
there, the man harvests the potatoes, and the woman milks the cows.
It’s not like South Boston, where people earn money or don’t bother;
and if the woman earns a dollar, the man’s out drinking it.

Wasn’t it shameful of Kelly not to speak to Bríd?
She spent seven weeks in the rag store;
that wouldn’t have been so bad for her if her family had been there;
she would have been gathering carrageen and drying it in the wind.]

Notes

1. Trá Bháin is a townland on the eastern side of Garumna Island in Conamara. A commemorative stone containing a verse of this song now stands near the quay.

2. Joe sang this song as an encore at the request of Gerry Shannon, from Doolin in Co. Clare, who was a member of the audience at this concert and who provided this recording of it. Joe’s usual choice for an encore would have been a song that would allow the audience to join in. See a video of the entire concert.

Curachaí na Trá Báine (also known as Amhrán na Trá Báine or Amhrán a Bhá) occurs on a number of Joe’s commercial recordings, and it was one of the best-known of the big Conamara songs in the 1970s and thereafter. Joe sang a number of additional verses to this song (included here in square brackets), and was inclined to swap the order of verses around from performance to performance; see discography.

At a concert in 1975, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he gave Virginia Blankenhorn a more detailed account of the song’s composition:

‘She came over to Boston after her three brothers was sunk coming in a little curragh from Galway in to Trá Bháin. They lost their lives. And she had nobody left. She left her little home in the Trá Bháin, which is near Cuigéal, Conamara, and she came to South Boston. Now, at that time, South Boston was South Boston. The neighbours could leave their doors open and walk out, and go into one another and talk, and sit on the doorstep and talk to one another, and when she came over, they made what they called a ‘time’ for her, which they always did that time – a little céilí for anyone who came – and this is the song that she sang at that céilí.’

For additional verses and discussion, see Ríonach uí Ógáin (ed.), Faoi Rothaí na Gréine: Amhráin as Conamara a Bhailigh Máirtín Ó Cadhain (Dublin, 1999), 19-24 and 30-32; also an tAth. Tomás Ó Ceallaigh, Ceol na n-Oileán (Dublin 1931), 103-5 and notes. In the booklet issued with the double CD The Road from Connemara, Éamonn Ó Bróithe’s notes provide illuminating discussion of the controversial story behind the composition of this song.