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.


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.


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.