Bonny Portmore: the ornament tree

Leggi in italiano

When the great oak of Portmore was break down in 1760, someone wrote a song known as “The Highlander’s Farewell to Bonny Portmore“; in 1796 Edward Bunting picked it up from Daniel Black, an old harpist from Glenoak (Antrim, Northern Ireland), and published it in “Ancient Music of Ireland” – 1840.
The age-old oak was located on the estate of Portmore’s Castle on the banks of Lugh Bege and it was knocked down by a great wind; the tree was already famous for its posture and was nicknamed “the ornament tree“. The oak was cut and the wood sold, from the measurements made we know that the trunk was 13 meters wide.


1032910_tcm9-205039Loch un Phoirt Mhóir (lake with a large landing place) is an almost circular lake in the South-West of Antrim County, Northern Ireland, today a nature reserve for bird protection.
The property formerly belonged to the O’Neill clan of Ballinderry, while the castle was built in 1661 or 1664 by Lord Conway (on the foundations of an ancient fortress) between Lough Beg and Lough Neagh; the estate was rich in centenarian trees and beautiful woods; however, the count fell into ruin and lost the property when he decided to drain Lake Ber to cultivate the land (the drainage system called “Tunny cut” is still existing); the ambitious project failed and the land passed into the hands of English nobles.
In other versions more simply the Count’s dynasty became extinct and the new owners left the estate in a state of neglect, since they did not intend to reside in Ireland. Almost all the trees were cut down and sold as timber for shipbuilding and the castle fell into disrepair.

Bonny Portmore could be understood symbolically as the decline of the Irish Gaelic lords: pain and nostalgia mixed in a lament of a twilight beauty; the dutiful tribute goes to Loreena McKennitt who brought this traditional iris  song to the international attention.
Loreena McKennitt in The Visit 1991
Nights from the Alhambra: live

O bonny Portmore,
you shine where you stand
And the more I think on you the more I think long
If I had you now as I had once before
All the lords in Old England would not purchase Portmore.
O bonny Portmore, I am sorry to see
Such a woeful destruction of your ornament tree
For it stood on your shore for many’s the long day
Till the long boats from Antrim came to float it away.
All the birds in the forest they bitterly weep
Saying, “Where will we shelter or where will we sleep?”
For the Oak and the Ash (1), they are all cutten down
And the walls of bonny Portmore are all down to the ground.
1) coded phrase to indicate the decline of the Gaelic lineage clans

Laura Marling live
Laura Creamer

Lucinda Williams in Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys ANTI 2006

Dan Gibson & Michael Maxwell in Emerald Forest instrumental version
And here I open a small parenthesis recalling a personal episode of a long time ago in which I met an ancient tree: at the time I lived in Florence and I had the opportunity to turn a bit for Tuscany, now I can not remember the location, but I know that I was in the Colli Senesi and it was summer; someone advised us to go and see an old holm oak, explaining roughly to the road; in the distance it seemed we were approaching a grove, in reality it was a single tree whose foliage was so leafy and vast, the old branches so bent, that to get closer to the trunk we had to bow. I still remember after many years the feeling of a presence, a deep and vital breath, and the discomfort that I tried to disturb the place. I do not exaggerate speaking of fear at all, and I think that feeling was the same feeling experienced by the ancient man, who felt in the centenarian trees the presence of a spirit.

Carrickfergus or Do Bhí Bean Uasal

Leggi in italiano

“Carrickfergus” comes from a Gaelic song titled Do Bhí Bean Uasal (see) or “There Was a Noblewoman” and is also known by the name of “The Sick Young Lover”, which appeared in a broadside distributed in Cork and dated 1840 and also in the collection of George Petrie “Ancient Music of Ireland” 1855 with the name of “The Young Lady”. Text and melody passed through the oral tradition have spread and changed, without leaving a consistent trace in the collections printed in the nineteenth century. This song has been attributed to the irish bard Cathal “Buí”

cathal buiCathal “Buí” Mac Giolla Ghunna (c1680-c1756) a rake-poet from Co. Cavan.
Curious character nicknamed “Buil” the yellow, a bard vagabond storyteller and composer of poems, which have spread throughout Ireland and are still sung today.
The scholar Breandán Ó Buachalla has published his collection in the book “Cathal Bui: Amhráin” in 1975. In Blacklion County of Cavan there is also a small stele in his memory and it is celebrated the Cathal Bui Festival (month of June).
A incomplete priest able with words and with women, he also had a lot of “irish humor” and was obviously a heavy drinker, he went around Breifne, the Irish name of the area including Cavan, Leitrim, and south of Fermanagh ( one of the many traveler with his caravan or even less).


But it is the version known by Peter O’Toole that was the origin of the version of Dominic Behan recorded in the mid-1960s under the title “The Kerry Boatman“, and also the version recorded by Sean o’Shea always in the same years with the title “Do Bhí Bean Uasal”. Also the Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem made their own version with the title “Carrickfergus” in the 1964 “The First Hurray” LP.

Chieftains from “The Chieftains Live” 1977


This version has been attributed musically to Seán Ó Riada (John Reidy 1931-1971) it is not clear if it is only an arrangement or a real writing of the melody. Certainly the text is taken from the poetry of Cathal “Buí” Mac Giolla Ghunna.

Sean o’Shea in “Ò Riada Sa Gaiety” live in Dublino with the Ceoltóirí Chualann, 1969.

English translation
A lady was betrothed to me for a while
And she refused me, oh my hundred woes
I went to towns with her
And she made a cuckold (or a fool ) of  me before the world,
If I had got that head of hers into the church
And if I were again  n command of myself,
But now I’ weak and sore,  and there’s no getting of a  cure for me,
And my people will be weeping after me
I wish I had you in   Carrickfergus
not far from that place ‘Quiet Town”
Sailing over the deep blue waters
my bright love from a northern sky
For the seas are deep, love, and I can’t swim over
And neither have I wings to fly,
I wish I met with a handy boatman,
Who would ferry over my love and I
The cold and the heat are going together [in me]
and I can’t quench my thirst
And if I took my oath from November to February
I wouldn’t be ready until Michaelmas
I’m seldom drunk though I’m never sober!
A handsome rover from town to town.
But now I am dead and my days are over
Come Molly, my little darling, now   lay me down!


Do bhí bean uasal seal dá lua liom,
‘s do chuir sí suas díomsa faraoir géar;
Do ghabhas lastuas di sna bailte móra
Ach d’fhag sí ann é os comhair an tsaoil.
Dá bhfaighinnse a ceannsa faoi áirsí an teampaill,
Do bheinnse gan amhras im ‘ábhar féin;
Ach anois táim tinn lag is gan fáil ar leigheas agam.
Is beidh mo mhuintir ag gol im’ dhéidh.
I wish I had you in Carrickfergus
Ní fada ón áit sin go Baile Uí Chuain(1)/Sailing over the deep blue waters/ I ndiaidh mo ghrá geal is í ag ealó uaim./For the seas are deep, love, and I can’t swim over
And neither have I wings to fly,
I wish I met with a handy boatman,
Who would ferry over my love and I.
Tá an fuacht ag teacht is an teas ag tréigint
An tart ní féidir liom féin é do chlaoi,
Is go bhfuil an leabhar orm ó Shamhain go Fébur
Is ní bheidh sí reidh liom go Féil’ Mhichíl;/I’m seldom drunk though I’m never sober!
A handsome rover from town to town.
But now I am dead and my days are over
Come Molly, a stóirín, now lay me down!

1) “baile cuain”= “quiet town” or Harbour Town


And we come to what remains of this song in our day, that is the version of Carrickfergus spread by the major interpreters of Celtic music.
The sweet melancholy of the melody and its uncertain textual interpretation have made the song very popular, some capture the romantic side and also play it at weddings, others at the funeral (for example that of John F. Kennedy Jr -1999).
Certainly it has something magical, sad and nostalgic, the man drowns in alcohol the pain of separation from his beloved (or more likely he drinks because he has a particular predilection for alcohol): a vast ocean divides them (or a stretch of sea) and he would like to be in Ireland, in Carrickfergus: he would like to have wings or to swim across the sea or more realistically find a boatman to take him to her, and finally he can die in her arms ( or at her tombstone) now that he is old and tired.

In my opinion, the general meaning of the text remains clear enough, but if you go into detail then many doubts arise, which I tried to summarize in the notes.

Loreena McKennitt & Cedric Smith  from Elemental, 1985

I wish I was
in Carrighfergus (1)
Only for nights
in Ballygrant (2)
I would swim over
the deepest ocean
Only for nights in Ballygrant.
But the sea is wide,
and I can’t swim over
Neither have I wings to fly
If I could find me a handsome boatman
To ferry me over
to my love and die(3)

Now in Kilkenny (4), it is reported
They’ve marble stones there as black as ink,
With gold and silver
I would  transport her (5)
But I’ll sing no more now,
till I get a drink
I’m drunk today,
but I’m seldom sober
A handsome rover
from town to town
Ah, but I am sick now,
my days are over
Come all you young lads
and lay me down.(6)

1) Carrickfergus (from the Gaelic Carraig Fhearghais, ‘Rocca di Fergus’) is a coastal town in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, one of the oldest settlements in Northern Ireland. Here the protagonist says he wants to be at Carrickfergus (but evidently he is somewhere else) while in other versionssays “I wish I had you in Carrickfergus”: the meaning of the song changes completely.
Some want to set the story in the South of Ireland and they see the name of Fergus,as the river that runs through Ennis County of Clare.
2) Ballygran – Ballygrant – Ballygrand. There are three interpretations: the first that Ballygrant is in Scotland on the Hebrides (Islay island), the second that is the village of Ballygrot (from the Gaelic Baile gCrot means “settlement of hills”), near Helen’s Bay that it is practically in front of Carrickfergus over the stretch of sea that creeps over the north-east coast of Ireland (the Belfast Lough). It seems that the locals call it “Ballygrat” or Ballygrant “and that it is an ancient settlement and that at one time there were some races with the Carrickfergus boats at Ballygrat.The third is a corrupt translation from the Gaelic” baile cuain “of the eighteenth-century version and therefore both a generic quiet location, a small village.
But between the two sentences there is already an incongruity or better there is need of an interpretation, ascertained that Ballygrant is not a particular place of Carrickfergus for which the protagonist feels nostalgia for some specific connection with his love story passed in youth, then it is the place where it is at the moment. So the protagonist could be an Irishman who found himself in the Hebrides, but who would like to return to Carrickfergus from his old love or he is a Scot (who was a young soldier in Ireland) and remembers with regret the Irish woman loved in youth.
The protagonist could be in Helen’s Bay on the opposite side of the inlet that separates it from Carrickfergus: if he were healthy and young nothing would prevent him to go to Carrickfergus even on foot, but he is tired and he is dying and so in his fantasy or delirium he is looking at the sea in the direction of Carrickfergus deaming of flying towards his love of the past or he wants to be ferried by a boatman to be able to die next to her.
3) “and die” tells us that the protagonist who is in Ballygrant (wherever he is) would like to go to Carrickfergus to die in the arms of his love of youth.
In other versions the phrase is written as “To ferry me over my love and I” the protagonist would like to be transported by the boatman, together with his woman, to Carrickfergus. So nostalgia is about the place where the protagonist is supposed to have spent his youth and would like to see again before he died.
4) and 5)
Now on the Kilkenny stone it is written,
on black marble like ink,
with gold and silver I would like to comfort her
Replacing the verb “to transport” used by Loreena with “to support” more used in other versions. That is: on the black stone of Kilkenny (in the sense that it is usually a type of stone such as Carrara marble,  the black stone extracted from Kilkenny but also used in Ballygrant, wherever it is) that will be my tombstone where I have recorded my epitaph, I also wrote a sentence of comfort for my love
4) Kilkenny = Kilmeny some see a typo and note that Kilmeny is the parish church of Ballygrant (Islay Island) formerly a medieval church, also here there is a stone quarry, which was the main industry of Ballygrant in the eighteenth century and XIX. Now I ask myself: but with all these references to the Islay Island, (where at least there should be the tomb of the protagonist) how is it that the song is not known in the local tradition of the Hebrides and instead is it in Belfast?
6) the protagonist urges his friends to bury him

Nella versione live aggiunge anche la strofa intermedia che è stata scritta da Dominic Behan per la sua versione registrata a metà degli anni 1960 con il titolo di “The Kerry Boatman”.

Jim McCann in Dubliners Now 1975 (I and III)

Jim McCann live (with the second stanza written by Dominic Behan for his version recorded in the mid-1960s under the title “The Kerry Boatman”.

I wish I was
in Carrickfergus (1)
Only for nights
in Ballygrand(2)
I would swim
over the deepest ocean
Only for nights in Ballygrand.
But the sea is wide
and I cannot swim over
And neither have I the wings to fly
I wish I had a handsome boatman
To ferry me over my love and I(3)
My childhood days
bring back sad reflections
Of happy time there spent so long ago
My boyhood friends
and my own relations
Have all passed on now
like the melting snow
And I’ll spend my days
in this endless roving
Soft is the grass and my bed is free
How to be back now
in Carrickfergus
On the long road down to the sea

And in Kilkenny
it is reported
On marble stone
there as black as ink
With gold and silver
I would support her (5)
But I’ll sing no more now
till I get a drink
‘cause I’m drunk today
and I’m seldom sober
A handsome rover
from town to town
Ah but I am sick now
my days are numbered
Come all me young men
and lay me down


She Moved through the Fair like the swan in the evening moves over the lake

Leggi in italiano

The original text of “She Moved trough the Fair” dates back to an ancient Irish ballad from Donegal, while the melody could be from the Middle Ages (for the musical scale used that recalls the Arab one). The standard version comes from the pen of Padraic Colum (1881-1972) which rewrote it in 1909. There are many versions of the text (additional verses, rewriting of the verses), also in Gaelic, reflecting the great popularity of the song, the song was published in the Herbert Hughes collection “Irish Country Songs” (1909), and in the collection of Sam Henry “Songs of the People” (1979).
In its essence, the story tells of a girl promised in marriage who appears in a dream to her lover. But the verses are cryptic, perhaps because they lack those that would have clarified its meaning; this is what happens to the oral tradition (who sings does not remember the verses or changes them at will) and the ballad lends itself to at least two possible interpretations.

In the first few strophes, the woman, full of hope, reassures her lover that her family, although he is not rich, will approve his marriage proposal, and they will soon be married; they met on the market day, and he looks at her as she walks away and, in a twilight image, compares her to a swan that moves on the placid waters of a lake.

cigno in volo

The third stanza is often omitted, and it is not easy to interpret: the unexpressed pain could be the girl’s illness (which will cause her death) – probably the consumption- for this reason people were convinced that their marriage would not be celebrated.
And we arrive at the last stanza, the rarefied and dreamy one in which the ghost of her appears at night: an evanescent figure that moves slowly to call him soon to death .

The other interpretation of the text (shared by most) supposes she escaped with another one (or more likely her family has combined a more advantageous marriage, not being the suitor loved by her quite rich). But the love he feels for her is so great and even if he continues his life by marrying another, he will continue to miss her.
The verses related to an unexpressed pain are therefore interpreted as the lack of confidence in the new wife because he will be still, and forever, in love with his first girlfriend.
The final stanza becomes the epilogue of his life, when he is old and dying, he sees his first love appear beside to console him.

As we can see both the reconstructions are adaptable to the verses, admirable and fascinating of the song, precisely because of their meager essentiality (an ante-litteram hermeticism): no self-pity, no sorrow shown, but the simplicity of a great love, that few memories passed together can be enough to fill a life.

A single, strong, elegiac image of a candid swan in the twilight, anticipation of her fleeting passage on earth. The song is a lament and there are many musicians who have interpreted it, recreating the rarefied atmosphere of the words, often with the delicate sound of the harp.

Loreena McKennitt  from Elemental  ( I, II, III, IV)
Nights from the Alhambra 2007

Moya Brennan & Cormac De Barra from Against the wind

Cara Dillon live

Sinead O’Connor  (Sinead has recorded many versions of this song )

My (young) love said to me,
“My mother(1) won’t mind
And my father won’t slight you
for your lack of kind(2)”
she stepped away from me (3)
and this she did say:
“It will not be long, love,
till our wedding day”
She stepped away from me (4)
and she moved through the fair (5)
And fondly I watched her
move here and move there
And then she turned homeward (6)
with one star awake(7)
like the swan (8) in the evening(9)
moves over the lake
The people were saying
“No two e’er were wed”
for one has the sorrow
that never was said(10)
And she smiled as she passed me
with her goods and her gear
And that was the last
that I saw of my dear.
IV (11)
Last night she came to me,
my dead(12) love came
so softly she came
that her feet made no din
and she laid her hand on me (13)
and this she did say
“It will not be long, love,
‘til our wedding day”
1) Padraic Colum wrote
“My brothers won’t mind,
And my parents.. ”
2) kind – kine: “wealth” or “property”. Others interpret the word as “relatives” so the protagonist is an orphan or by obscure origins
3) or she laid a hand on me (cwhich is a more intimate and direct gesture to greet with one last contact)
4) or She went away from me
5) the days of the fair were the time of love when the young men had the opportunity to meet with the girls of marriageable age
6) Loreena McKennitt sings
And she went her way homeward
7) the evening star that appears before all the others is the planet Venus
8) The swan is one of the most represented animals in the Celtic culture, portrayed on different objects and protagonist of numerous mythological tales. see more
9) in the evening it refers to the moment when they separate
10) the sorrow that never was said: obscure meaning
11) Loreena McKennitt sings
I dreamed it last night
That my true love came in
So softly she entered
Her feet made no din
She came close beside me
12) some interpreters omit the word “death” by proposing for the dream version, or they say “my dear love” or “my own love” but also “my young love
13) or “She put her arms round me

Chieftains&Van Morrison

Chieftains&Sinead O’Connor
Fairport Convention

Alan Stivell from “Chemíns De Terre” 1973
Andreas Scholl

A version entitled “The Wedding Song” has been handed down, which develops the theme of abandonment, and which is to be considered a variant even if with a different title
second part


Bonnie Kellswater

“Bonnie Kellswater” è un brano tradizionale irlandese (Irlanda del Nord) reso popolare dai Planxty (già in repertorio degli Irish Rovers nel loro album The Unicorn del 1967) . Raccolto sul campo da Sam Henry dalla voce di Jim Carmichael di Ballymena (contea di Antrim)  che lo riporta nel suo monumentale “The Song of the People” (con note di John Moulden 1979 già pubblicate sul  “Northern Constitution” tra il 1923 e il 1939) al numero H695.

[“Bonnie Kellswater” is a traditional Irish song (Northern Ireland) popularized by Planxty (formerly in Irish Rovers’ repertoire in their 1967 album The Unicorn) dedicated to the Kells Water River that runs through Antrim County. Collected on the field by Sam Henry (from Jim Carmichael of Ballymena) in his monumental “The Song of the People” (with notes by John Moulden 1979 already published in the “Northern Constitution” between 1923 and 1939) to the number H695 .]

Del brano si conoscono vari testi sempre legati alla stessa melodia con versioni sia al maschile che al femminile, nelle versioni maschili si tratta di un sereno canto d’amore dedicato a Marta (Molly) con immagini dolci e bucoliche dell’amato Kellswater; in quelle al femminile invece l’amore è contrastato dal padre della ragazza che riesce a separare i due innamorati: il canto assume così l’andamento di un farewell, triste e malinconico (emigration song), è la donna ad attendere il caro Willy nella vecchia Irlanda con la certezza nel cuore che lui ritornerà a prenderla.

“We know several texts always related to the same melody with both male and female versions, in the male versions it is a serene love song dedicated to Martha (Molly), with sweet and bucolic images; in women version instead the love is contrasted by the girl’s father who manages to separate the two lovers: the song is like a Farewell, sad and melancholy (emigration song), it is the woman to wait for her dear Willy in old Ireland with the certainty in her heart that he will return and take her.”

Ascoltiamola in un arrangiamento per chitarre del gruppo Cord’Accord

Planxty in The Woman I Loved So Well 1980
Loreena McKennitt in “Elemental” canta la versione dei Planxty (Planxty version)

Here’s a health to you, bonny Kellswater (1)
Where you’ll get all the pleasures of life,
Where you’ll get all the fishing and fowling,
And a bonny wee lass for your wife.
Oh, it’s down where yon waters run muddy,
I’m afraid they will never run clear.
And it’s when I dig in for to study,
My mind is on them that’s not here.
It’s this one and that one they court him,
but if anyone gets him but me,
It’s early and late I will curse them
That parted lovely Willie from me.
Oh, a father he calls on his daughter,
“Two choices I’ll give unto thee.
Would you rather see Willie’s ship a-sailing,
Or see him hung like a dog from yon tree?”
“Oh, Father, dear Father, I love him.
I can no longer hide it from thee.
Through an acre of fire I would travel
Alone with lovely Willie to be.”
Oh, hard was the heart that confined her,
She took from her her heart’s delight.
May the chains of old Ireland bind around them,
And soft be their pillows at night.
“Oh, yonder’s a ship on the ocean
And she does not know which way to steer.
From the east to the west she’s a-going.
She reminds me of the charms of my dear.
Oh, it’s yonder my Willie will be coming,
He said he’d be here in the spring,
And it’s down by yon green shades I’ll meet him,
And among yon wild roses we’ll sing.
For a gold ring he placed on my finger,
Saying “Love, bear this in your mind,
If ever I sail from Old Ireland,
You’ll mind I’ll not leave you behind.”
Traduzione italiana Cattia Salto
Salute a te, bel Kellswater
dove si trovano tutti i piaceri della vita
dove si trova da pescare e cacciare in abbondanza/ e una bella ragazza per moglie.
Oh è laggiù dove corre quel fiume dalla acque fangose,/ temo che non scorreranno mai limpide,/e quando mi metto sotto a studiare
la mia mente è con loro tranne che qui.
Questa e quella lo corteggiano
ma nessun’altra lo avrà tranne me,
presto o tardi  maledirò
coloro che hanno separato il bel Willy da me
Un padre chiama la figlia
“Ti darò due scelte./ Preferiresti vedere salpare il tuo Willy su una nave/o vederlo impiccato ad un albero come un cane ?”
“Padre, caro padre io lo amo.
Non posso nascondertelo più a lungo.
In mezzo a un acro di fuoco andrei pur di stare da sola con il mio bel Willy”
Oh duro era il cuore che la confinava in casa
che le toglieva la gioia del cuore.
Possano le catene della vecchia Irlanda legarsi attorno a loro
e i cuscini di notte essere soffici.
“C’è una nave sull’oceano
e non sa che rotta prendere
da oriente a occidente è in partenza,
mi ricorda il fascino del mio amore.
Da laggiù il mio Willy ritornerà
diceva che sarebbe stato qui per la primavera
e tra quei verdi boschetti lo incontrerò
e tra quelle roselline selvatiche canteremo
Perchè lui mi mise l’anello al dito
dicendo “Amore, tieni questo in mente
anche se parto dalla vecchia Irlanda
ricordati che non ti lascio indietro”

1) nome di un fiume ma anche di un piccolo villaggio nella contea di Antrim vicino a Kells.John Moulden scrive “Il Kellswater, un affluente del fiume Main, diventa il fiume Glenwhinny sul versante ovest della collina di Agnews che domina Larne, e poi scorre verso ovest attraverso Kells, prendendo il suo nome mentre avanza, e si unisce al Main a circa cinque miglia a nord di Randalstown . ”
[a river and a hamlet nearby Kells in Co. Antrim. John Moulden writes “The Kellswater, a tributary of the River Main, rises as the Glenwhinny river on the west slope of Agnews hill which overlooks Larne, and then flows westward through Kells, collecting its name as it goes, and joins the Main about five miles north of Randalstown. ]

Irish Rovers in The Unicorn 1967

Here’s a health to you, bonnie Kellswater
For its there you’ll find the pleasures of life
And its there you’ll find a fishing and farming
And a bonnie wee girl for your wife
II (1)
On the hills and the glens and the valleys
Grows the softest of women so fine
And the flowers are all dripping with honey
There lives Martha, a true love of mine
Bonnie Martha, you’re the first girl I courted
You’re the one put my heart in a snare
And if ever I should lose you to another
I will leave my Kellswater so fair
For this one and that one may court her
But no other can take her from me
For I love her as I love my Kellswater
Like the primrose is loved by the bee
Traduzione italiana Cattia Salto
Salute a te,
bel Kellswater
perchè è qui che i trovano tutti i piaceri della vita
dove si trova da pescare e
da coltivare
e una bella ragazza per moglie.
Sui colli, le forre e le valli
cresce la più dolce delle donne, così bella
e i fiori stillano miele
dove vive Marta,
il mio vero amore
Bella Marta sei la prima ragazza per cui spasimo
colei che mi ha preso al laccio,
e se mai dovessi perderti per un altro
lascerò il mio Kellswater così bello.
Perchè questo e quello possono farle la corte
ma nessuno me la può togliere
perchè io l’amo come amo il mio Kellswater, come la primula è amata dall’ape

1) verso alternativo [or]
The hills and the dales and low valleys,
are all covered with linen so fine,
and the trees are a drooping sweet honey,
and the rocks are all grown over with thyme.


Follow me up to Carlow

Leggi in italiano

The text of “Follow me up to Carlow” was written in the nineteenth century by the Irish poet Patrick Joseph McCall (1861 – 1919) and published in 1899 in the “Erinn Songs” with the title “Marching Song of Feagh MacHugh”.
Referring to the Fiach McHugh O’Byrne clan chief, the song is full of characters and events that span a period of 20 years from 1572 to 1592.

McCall’s intent is to light the minds of the nationalists of his time with even too detailed historical references on a distant epoch, full of fierce opposition to English domination. 16th century Ireland was only partly under English control (the Pale around Dublin) and the power of the clans was still very strong. They were however clans of local importance who changed their covenants according to convenience by fighting each other, against or together with the British. In the Tudor era Ireland was considered a frontier land, still inhabited by exotic barbarians.


The land of the O’Byrne clan was in a strategic position in the county of Wicklow and in particular between the mountains barricaded in strongholds and control posts from which rapid and lethal raids started in the Pale. The clan managed to survive through raids of cattle, rivalries and alliances with the other clans and acts of submission to the British crown, until Fiach assumed the command and took a close opposition to the British government with the open rebellion of 1580 that broke out throughout the Leinster . In the same period the rebellion was reignited also in the South of Munster (known as the second rebellion of Desmond)

The new Lieutenant Arthur Gray baron of Wilton that was sent to quell the rebellion with a large contingent, certainly gave no proof of intelligence: totally unprepared to face the guerrilla tactics, he decided to draw out the O’Byrne clan, marching in the heart of the county of Wicklow, the mountains! Fiach had retired to Ballinacor, in the Glenmalure valley, (the land of the Ranelaghs), and managed to ambush Gray, forcing him to a disastrous retreat to the Pale.


Follow me up to Carlow

The melody was taken from McCall himself by “The Firebrand of the Mountains,” a march from the O’Byrne clan heard in 1887 during a musical evening in Wexford County. It is not clear, however, if this historical memory was a reconstruction in retrospect to give a touch of color! It is very similar to the jig “Sweets of May” (first two parts) and also it is a dance codified by the Gaelic League.

“Follow me up to Carlow” (also sung as “Follow me down to Carlow”) was taken over by Christy Moore in the 1960s and re-proposed and popularized with the Irish group Planxty; recently he is played by many celtic-rock bands or “barbarian” formations with bagpipes and drums.


Fine Crowd

The High Kings live

Lift Mac Cahir Óg(1) your face,
broodin’ o’er the old disgrace
That Black Fitzwilliam(2) stormed your place,
and drove you to the Fern(3)
Gray(4) said victory was sure,
soon the firebrand(5) he’d secure
Until he met at Glenmalure(6)
with Fiach McHugh O’Byrne
Curse and swear, Lord Kildare(7),
Fiach(8) will do what Fiach will dare
Now Fitzwilliam have a care,
fallen is your star low(9)
Up with halberd, out with sword,
on we go for, by the Lord
Fiach McHugh has given the word
“Follow me up to Carlow!”(10)
See the swords at Glen Imaal (11),
flashin’ o’er the English Pale(12)
See all the children of the Gael,
beneath O’Byrne’s banner
Rooster of a fighting stock,
would you let a Saxon cock
Crow out upon an Irish Rock,
fly up and teach him manners.
From Tassagart (11) to Clonmore (11),
flows a stream of Saxon gore
How great is Rory Óg O’More(13)
at sending loons to Hades
White(14) is sick, Gray(15) is fled,
now for Black Fitzwilliam’s head
We’ll send it over, dripping red,
to Liza(16) and her ladies
See the swords at Glen Imaal (11),
flashin’ o’er the English Pale(12)
See all the children of the Gael,
beneath O’Byrne’s banner
Rooster of a fighting stock,
would you let a Saxon cock
Crow out upon an Irish Rock,
fly up and teach him manners.
From Tassagart (11) to Clonmore (11),
flows a stream of Saxon gore
How great is Rory Óg O’More(13)
at sending loons to Hades
White(14) is sick, Gray(15) is fled,
now for Black Fitzwilliam’s head
We’ll send it over, dripping red,
to Liza(16) and her ladies

1) Brian MacCahir Cavanagh married Elinor sister of Feagh MacHugh. In 1572 Fiach and Brian were implicated in the murder of a landowner related to Sir Nicholas White Seneschal (military governor) of the Queen at Wexford.
2) William Fitzwilliam “Lord Deputy” of Ireland, the representative of the English Crown who left office in 1575
3) In 1572 Brian MacCahir and his family were deprived of their properties donated to supporters of the British crown
4) Arthur Gray de Wilton became in 1580 new Lieutenant of Ireland
5) appellation with which he was called Feach MacHugh O’Byrne
6) Glenmalure Valley: valley in the Wicklow mountains about twenty kilometers east of the town of Wicklow, where the battle of 1580 occurred that saw the defeat of the English: the Irish clans ambushed the English army commanded by Arthur Wilton Gray made up of 3000 men
7) In 1594 the sons of Feach attacked and burned the house of Pierce Fitzgerald sheriff of Kildare, as a result Feach was proclaimed a traitor and he become a wanted crimunal
8) Feach in Irish means Raven
9) William Fitzwilliam returned to Ireland in 1588 once again with the title of Lieutenant, but in 1592 he was accused of corruption
10) Carlow is both a city and a county: the town was chosen more to rhyme than to recall a battle that actually took place: it is more generally an exhortation to take up arms against the British. Undoubtedly, the song made her famous.
11) Glen Imael, Tassagart and Clonmore are strongholds in Wicklow County
12) English Pale are the counties around Dublin controlled by the British. The phrase “Beyond the Pale” meant a dangerous place
13) Rory the young son of Rory O’More, brother of Feagh MacHugh, killed in 1578
14) Sir Nicholas White Seneschal of Wexford fell seriously ill in the early 1590s, shortly thereafter fell into disgrace with the Queen and was executed.
15) in the original version the character referred to is Sir Ralph Lane but is more commonly replaced by Arthur Gray who had left the country in 1582
16) Elizabeth I. Actually it was Feach’s head to be sent to the queen!
The new viceroy Sir William Russell managed to capture Fiach McHugh O’Byrne in May 1597, Feach’s head remained impaled on the gates of Dublin Castle.


Fear a’ bhàta

Leggi in italiano

“Fear a ‘bhata” is a Scottish Gaelic song probably from the end of the 18th century and the legend (an anecdotal addition to the nineteenth century versions printed) says it was written by Sine NicFhionnlaigh (Jean Finlayson) of Tong, a small village on the Isle of Lewis (Hebrides) for a young Uig fisherman, Domhnall MacRath (Donald MacRae) who eventually married.
‘Fear’ translates as “man” and “Bhata” with “boat”: the man of the boat, or the boatman. Also written as Fear A Bhata, Fear Ah Bhata, Fhear A Bhata, Fhear Ni Bhata, Fhir A’ Bhata, Fir Na Fhata, O(h) My Boatman.

Homer Winslow
Homer Winslow

The song appears first published in The Scottish Gael byJames Logan, 1831 (with its score) in which it is classified as a slow and an iorram (the song to the oars that had the function of giving rhythm to the rowers, but at the same time it was also a funeral lament). “Fhir a bhata, or the boatmen, the music of which is annexed, is sung in the above manner, by the Highlanders with much effect. It is the song of a girl whose lover is at sea, whose safety she prays for, and whose return she anxiously expects.

The melody is a lament, sometimes played as a waltz (in instrumental versions) that lends itself to delicate and smooth arrangements

Maire Breatnach on fiddle (live at Dougie MacLean‘ s house)

There are many text versions of the song composed of about ten verses although in the most current recordings only the first three stanzas are sung mostly.

For the full text see

Scottish gaelic version

The girl is waiting for a visit of the handsome boatman who seems instead to prefer other girls! But she waits for him and frowns worried about the health of her handsome boatman.

Capercaillie from Get Out 1996

Superb and masterly recording a voice and the waves of the sea
 Talitha Mackenzie from “A Celtic Tapestry” vol. 2 1997

Alison Helzer  from Carolan’s Welcome, 2010.

English translation
Oh my boatman, na hóro eile
Oh my boatman, na hóro eile
Oh my boatman, na hóro eile
My farewell to you wherever you go
I often look from the highest hill
To try and see the boatman
Will you come today or tomorrow If you don’t come at all I will be downhearted
My heart is broken and bruised
With tears often flowing from my eyes
Will you come tonight or will I expect you
Or will I close the door with a sad sigh?
I often ask people on boats
Whether they see you or whether you are safe,
Each of them says
That I was foolish to fall in love with you.

Scottish Gaelic
Fhir a’ bhàta, sna hóro eile
Fhir a’ bhàta, sna hóro eile
Fhir a’ bhàta, sna hóro eile
Mo shoraidh slàn leat ‘s gach àit’ an tèid thu
‘S tric mi sealltainn on chnoc as àirde
Dh’fheuch am faic mi fear a’ bhàta
An tig thu ‘n-diugh no ‘n tig thu màireach
‘S mur tig thu idir gur truagh a tha mi
Tha mo chridhe-sa briste brùite
‘S tric na deòir a’ ruith o m’ shùilean
An tig thu ‘n nochd no ‘m bi mo dhùil riut
No ‘n dùin mi ‘n doras le osna thùrsaich?
‘S tric mi foighneachd de luchd nam bàta
Am faic iad thu no ‘m bheil   thu sàbhailt
Ach ‘s ann a tha gach aon dhiubh ‘g ràitinn
Gur gòrach mise, ma thug mi  gràdh dhut

Irish Gaelic version

The Irish version appears for the first time in print in the Sam Henry collection entitled ‘Songs of the People‘. The songs were collected within 20 miles of Coleraine (Northern Ireland) from 1929 to 1939. It is an Irish Gaelic coming from Rathlin Island and more generally  widespread in Ulster, therefore with much resemblance to the Scottish Gaelic.

Niamh Parsons live and from Gaelic Voices 1999 (I, II, IV, V)

And why not! Let’s listen to this celtic-metal version of the German group founded by Ben Richter in 2001!
Thanateros ( I, II, V)



English translation (from here)
O Boatman and another “horo”! [i.e. welcome] /A hundred thousand welcomes everywhere you go
I went up on the highest hill
To see if I could see the boatman
Will you come tonight or will you come tomorrow?
If you do not come, I will be wretched
My heart is broken and crushed.
Frequent are the tears that run from my eyes. /Will you come today or when I’m longing for you, /Or shall I close the door with a tired sigh?
I gave you my love, and I cannot change that.
Not love for a year, and not just words of love,
But love from the beginning, when I was a child, /And I will never cease, even when my death bell tolls.
My love promised me a dress of silk
He promised me that and a gray tartan
A gold ring where I’d see my reflection
But I’m afraid he has forgotten
My heart is lifting
Not for the tailor or the harper
But for the navigator of the boat
If you don’t come, I’ll be very sad
Irish Gaelic (from here)
Fhir an bháta ‘sna hóró éile (1)
Fhir an bháta ‘sna hóró éile
Fhir an bháta ‘sna hóró éile
Ceád mile failte gach ait a te tú (2)
Théid mé suas ar an chnoic is airde,
Féach an bhfeic mé fear an bháta.
An dtig thú anoch nó an dtig thú amárach?
Nó muna dtig thú idir is trua atá mé.
Tá mo chroí-se briste brúite.
Is tric na deora a rith bho mo shúileann.
An dtig thú inniu nó am bidh mé dúil leat,
Nó an druid mé an doras le osna thuirseach?
Thúg mé gaol duit is chan fhéad mé ‘athrú.
Cha gaol bliana is cha gaol raithe.
Ach gaol ó thoiseacht nuair bha mé ‘mo pháiste,
Is nach seasc a choíche me ‘gus claoibh’ am bás mé.
Gheall mo leanann domh gúna den tsioda
Gheall é sin, agus breacan riabhach
Fainne óir anns an bhfeicfinn íomha
Ach is eagal liom go ndearn sé dearmad
Tá mo croíse ag dul in airde
Chan don fidleir, chan don clairsoir
Ach do Stuirithoir an bhata
Is muna dtig tú abhaile is trua atá mé

1) basically a non-sense phrase that some want to translate “and no one else” ie as “mine and no other”
2) or “mo shoraidh slán leat gach áit a dté tú”

My Boatman (english version)


Oh, are ye sleepin’ Maggie?

Leggi in italiano

From the tradition of “night visiting songs” the text is attributed to the Scottish poet Robert Tannahill and in fact various findings place the story in the woods of Paisley. ( in ‘The Poems and Songs of Robert Tannahill’ – 1874  assigned as a “Sleeping Maggie” melody.)
The heroine of this song was Margaret Pollock, a cousin of the Author by the mother’s side. She was the eldest daughter of Matthew Pollock (3rd) of Boghall, by his second marriage (mentioned in the Memoir of the Tannahills); and it is very probable the Poet beheld such an evening as he had described, in walking from Paisley over the high road to his uncle’s farm steading in Beith Parish. Margaret Pollock afterwards lived in family with William Lochhead, Ryveraes, and she and Mrs. Lochhead frequently sang that song together. Miss Pollock died unmarried (from here)


The scene described is not really autobiographical (pheraps more in keeping with Robert Burns‘s temperament): the protagonist arrives at Maggy’s house in a dark and stormy night (the picture is rather gothic: an icy winter wind raging in the woods , a night of new moon without stars, the disturbing moaning of the owl, the iron gate that slams against the hinges) and he hopes that in the meantime the lover has not fallen asleep, letting come him in secret! And then no more worries or fears in the arms of Maggy every gloomy thought is dissolved!

I must mention the version collected by Hamish Henderson from the voice of Jeannie Robertson (see fragment of 1960) which shows a different melody from that later made famous by Tannahill Weavers.

The song was made known to the general public by the Tannahill Weavers, the good “weavers” of Robert Tannahill, also by Paisley,
At the moment you can find several live versions on you tube, but the best performances of the group are two: one in Mermaid’s Song 1992 (listen from Spotify) a faster version integrated with the reel “The Noose In The Ghillies” (with Roy Gullane , Phil Smillie, Iain MacInnes, Kenny Forsyth) and the first in Are Ye Sleeping Maggie 1976 with Roy Gullane, Phil Smillie, Hudson Swan, and Dougie MacLean (fiddle). In this first version the melody is slower and full of atmosphere (with hunder, wind and the rain effect)

Tannahill Weavers from Are Ye Sleeping Maggie 1976

Dougie Maclean (who collaborated with Tannahill Weavers from 1974 and until 1977 and then toured with them in 1980) in Real Estate -1988 and also in Tribute 1995

Jim Reid in The Complete Songs of Robert Tannahill Volume I(2006) 

Mirk and rainy is the nicht,
there’s no’ a starn in a’ the carry(1)
Lichtnin’s gleam athwart the lift,
and (cauld) winds dive wi’ winter’s fury.
Oh, are ye sleepin’ Maggie
Oh, are ye sleepin’ Maggie
let me in, for loud the linn
is roarin'(2) o’er the Warlock Craigie(3).
Fearfu’ soughs the boortree(4) bank
The rifted wood roars wild an’ dreary.
Loud the iron yett(5) does clank,
An’ cry o’ howlets mak’s me eerie.
Aboon my breath I daurna’ speak
For fear I rouse your waukrif’ daddie;
Cauld’s the blast upon my cheek,
O rise, rise my bonnie ladie.
She op’d the door, she let him in
I cuist aside my dreepin’ plaidie(6).
‘Blaw your warst, ye rain and win’
Since, Maggie, now I’m in aside ye.
Now, since ye’re waukin’, Maggie,
Now, since ye’re waukin’, Maggie,
What care I for howlet’s cry,
For boortree bank or warlock craigie?
English translation
Dark and rainy is the night
there’s no star in all the carry
lightning flashes gleam across the sky
and cold winds drive with winters fury.
Oh, are you sleeping Maggie
Oh, are you sleeping Maggie
let me in, for the loud the waterfall
is roaring over the warlock crag.
Fearful sighs on the elder tree bank
The rifted wood roars wild and dreary
Loud the iron gate does clank,
And cry of owls makes me fearful.
Above my breath I dare not speak
For fear I rouse your wakeful father
Cold is the blast upon my cheek
O rise, rise my pretty lady.
She opened the door, she let him in
I cast aside my dripping cloak
“Blow your worst, you rain and wind
Since, Maggie, now I’m beside you.”
Now, since you’re woken, Maggie
Now, since you’re woken, Maggie
What care I for owl’s cry,
For elder tree bank or warlock crag?

1) carry is for sky, “the direction in which clouds are carried by the wind”
2) howling
3) warlock crag is the name of a waterfall at Lochwinnoch that forms a large pool or a small pond
4) elder tree in which the fairies prefer to dwell
5) yett is gett according to the ancient custom of writing the two vowels interchangeably
6) plaidie  see more

Great horned owl and chicks. Image size 5.6 by 7.9 inches @ 300 dpi. Photo credit: © Scott Copeland


“Sleepy Maggie” is a reel in two-part and is often paired with the “Drowsy Maggie” reel, sometimes the two melodies are, mistakenly, confused. In the version of Francis O’Neill and James O’Neill (in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland) it is in 3 parts.

Sleepy Maggie as reported by Fidder’s Companion is a traditional Scottish melody whose oldest transcribed source is in Duke of Perth Manuscript or Drummond Castle Manuscript (1734)

Sleepy Maggie is also known in Ireland under different names “Lough Isle Castle,” “Seán sa Cheo” or “Tullaghan Lassies” and is the model for “Jenny’s Chickens”.

Samuel Melton Fisher, Asleep, (1902)
Samuel Melton Fisher, Asleep, (1902)

“Drowsy Maggie” is instead a traditional Irish tune in 2, 3 or 4 parts, but much more popular at least at the recording level (it will be for its appearance in the movie “Titanic”!)

Gaelic Storm  (Titanic Set) – of course there is also the Scottish version: usually slow part and then it gets faster and faster so the title between in deception because there is nothing “sleepy” in the melody that comes to a final paroxysm .


Sleepy Maggie Alasdair Fraser on fiddle
Sleepy Maggie
Gabriele Possenti  on a Mcilroy AS 65c (C)
Tullaghan Lassies Fidil Irish Fiddle trio
Jenny’s Chickens Shanon Corr on fiddle

John Simie Doherty Donegal fiddle master
Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann live

The Chieftains 

Driftwood (Joe Nunn on fiddle)

Jake Wise live

Rock versions
Dancing Willow an Irish folk band from Münster (Germany)
DNA Strings from Cape Town ( South Africa)
Lack of limits faster more and more



Puck Fair: a rebellious billy-goat

Leggi in italiano

In the Irish village of Killorglin, County Kerry (South-West Ireland), the most curious feast is celebrate in August: a wild goat is brought to the village and crowned king for three days and three nights (10, 11 and 12 August) . Put unfortunately in a cage, he is hoisted on a high scaffolding that dominates the houses of the village, to look curiously the activities to which his subjects are dedicated: up there, although imprisoned, the beak is abundantly fed of food and water, and at the end of the fair he is returned to his mountain!




The fair is full of events: horse fair, livestock, craft stalls, street performers, music, parades with the band, dance and fireworks. As is the case with these traditional festivals, the origins are remote and lost in the Middle Ages, so legends are never lacking: the origins are presumably related to the Celtic religion when to celebrate a good harvest they interceded with the god Lughsee more); the legend tells of two rival clans, and of a mountain beak that has had the promptness to warn the village from the armed attack; so the warriors of the village in turn armed themselves and prepared their defense, succeeding in defeating the enemy clan. The beak instead of roasting was crowned King Puck and taken to parade. Other stories bring the legend back to the times of Oliver Cromwell and the “invaders” become the English who went to Ireland to subdue the Irish to the Crown. The soldiers bothered a group of goats, but the head of the pack the “puck” instead of fleeing to the hills, rushed to the town of Killorglin to “warn” the inhabitants.

Other legends indicate the origin of King Puck at the beginning of the nineteenth century: the fair was already flourishing and, as usual, the sellers paid heavy tax to local lord; when the British government made illegal to impose tolls at livestock, horse and sheep fairs, attorney Daniel O’Connell suggested to devote the fair exclusively to goats, as they were not mentioned in the document (August 10, 1808 ); and to show of good faith, a goat was hoisted on a stage at the top of the fair banner.

Historically the fair has obtained legal status from King James I of England and Ireland (and James VI of Scotland) in 1603.

re capro
“Kings may come and Kings may go. But King Puck goes on forever.” The sculpture was inaugurated on August 5, 2001



The goat is not an unusual animal in the Celtic tradition and generally represents fertility. The Amaltea goat fed baby Zeus and the Norse goat Heidrun dispenses mead from its udders to the Valalla warriors.
Fauns and satyrs in Greek and Latin mythology personify sexual desire and libido, the horned god with deer antlers or goat-ram horns became the syncretic god of pre-Christian religions and lent his image to the Devil.

Thus in mythology and religions, the female of goat was represented with a positive image, symbol of nourishment, fertility and abundance, while the male of goat had negative connotations.

In Irish folklore, the bocánach (a goblin-goat) infests the battlefields while in the Scottish Highlands the Glaistig (half woman and half goat) is a of the guardian waters of the cattle. With long, beautiful blonde hair, she hides her animal bottom under a long green dress and attracts men with a song or dance to drink their blood, but in many parts of Scotland, glaistig are considered protectors of livestock and of shepherds, as well as of children left alone by their mothers watching over grazing animals. (see more)


An Poc ar Buile – The Mad Billy Goat

The song was composed by Dónal Ó Mulláin (1880-1965) in 1940, and made famous in the 60s by Seán Ó Sé: singer-farmer of Scrahans, violin and organ player, as well as a gifted dancer, he composed poems and songs in gaelic that were prized and immediately become popular.
Ar buile = bulling means “being angry” that the term in Irish Gaelic translates as “madness, frenzy”.
The beak thus becomes the symbol of the combative and indomitable Irish spirit!

The Chieftains from Water from the Well 2000

Liam Devally 1966 (what a voice!)

Gaelic Storm from Tree 2001

English translation
As I set out with me pike in hand To Dromore(1) town to join a meithil (2) Who should I meet but a tan puck goat(3)
And he’s roaring mad in ferocious mettle.
Aill-il-lu puill-il-iu – Aill-il-lu it’s the mad puck goat.
He chased me over bush and weed And thru the bog the running proceeded,
‘Til he caught his horns in a clump of gorse
And on his back I jumped unheeded.
He did not leave a rock that had a passage through
Which he did not run with force to destroy me
And then he gave the greatest leap
To the big slope of Faille Bríce…
When the sergeant stood in Rochestown(4)
With a force of guards to apprehend us
The goat he tore his trousers down And made rags of his breeches and new suspenders
In Dingle(5) Town the next afternoon The parish priest addressed the meeting
And swore it was The Devil himself He’d seen ridin’ on the poc ar buile
Irish gaelic
Ag gabháil dom sior chun Droichead Uí Mhóradha
Píce im dhóid ‘s mé ag dul i meithil
Cé casfaí orm i gcuma ceoidh
Ach pocán crón is é ar buile…
[curfá] Ailliliú, puilliliú, ailliliú tá an puc ar buile!
Ailliliú, puilliliú, ailliliú tá an puc ar buile!
Do ritheamar trasna trí ruillógach,
Is do ghluais an comhrac ar fud na muinge,
Is treascairt do bhfuair sé sna turtóga
Chuas ina ainneoin ina dhrom le fuinneamh…
Níor fhág sé carraig go raibh scót ann
Ná gur rith le fórsa chun mé a mhilleadh,
S’Ansan sea do cháith sé an léim ba mhó.
Le fána mhór na Faille Bríce…
Bhí garda mór i mBaile an Róistigh
Is bhailigh fórsa chun sinn a chlipeadh
Do bhuail sé rop dá adhairc sa tóin ann
S’dá bhríste nua do dhein sé giobail…
In Daingean Uí Chúis le haghaidh an tráthnóna
Bhí an sagart paróiste amach ‘nár gcoinnibh
Is é dúirt gurbh é an diabhal ba Dhóigh leis
A ghaibh an treo ar phocán buile…

1) Dromore (County of Tyrone, Northern Ireland) in 1798 was a notorious den of rebels so whoever braced the pike did it to fight against the British
2) Meithil (pronuncia MEH-hill) = work gang is a group of farmers who go to help for an “extraordinary” job in the nearby farm. In America, tradition is still rooted and is called “barn raising”
3) a crazy goat !! that is the billy goat (also called beak).
4) Cork County of Munster
5) Dingle (County of Kerry) and its territory were the scene of the “Second Desmond Rebellion” (1579-80)


Ould Lammas Fair

Read the post in English

La più lunga (come estensione) fiera dell’Irlanda del Nord che si snoda lungo la via centrale della cittadina di Ballycastle, Co. Antrim si tiene l’ultimo lunedì e martedì di agosto: è la Lammas Fair le cui origini risalgono al XVII secolo.

Le Lammas Fairs come si dice nelle isole britanniche o le Country fairs come sono più comunemente chiamate in America sono le grandi fiere che si svolgono dopo il raccolto del grano: Già Fiere Medievali  collegate al Santo protettore che attiravano folle di visitatori e i venditori ambulanti.
Man mano che le fiere si ingrandivano si aggiunsero divertimenti di ogni tipo: giochi campestri e tornei, ma anche spettacoli.
Un tempo principalmente mercato del bestiame (in particolare cavalli) dove gli agricoltori si ritrovavano per vendere e comprare i prodotti dell’estate, ma anche un importante evento di socializzazione per le fattorie isolate.

Nella stagione dell’abbondanza si ringraziava la terra per i suoi frutti, e si condivideva la gioia con musica, danze, giochi. Nella tradizione celtica era Lughnasad, il momento delle assemblee plenarie, di grandi mercati e fiere, delle corse di cavalli unitamente ad altri giochi nei quali si cimentavano i guerrieri, ma anche di certami poetici e musicali in omaggio alla pace.

Ould Lammas Fair

Un discreto numero di ballate celtiche hanno come sfondo un giorno di mercato o più in particolare un giorno di fiera, Ould Lammas Fair
è stata scritta da John Henry MacAuley di  Ballycastle, proprietario negli anni 20-30 del Bog Oak Shop di Ann Street: era un violinista e un abile intagliatore di legno rinomato sia per la sua musica che per le sue sculture. Il Bog oak ( o più in generale bog wood) è un legno che è rimasto imprigionato nel fango paludoso e che è stato “mummificato” (essiccato) dai processi naturali di acidità in modo tale da presentarsi compatto e privo di fessurazioni, particolarmente adatto a lavorazioni di pregio. In inglese si dice morta. Più conosciuto da noi è il legno portato dal mare (in inglese definito con una parola sola driftwood).
Ottilie Patterson 1966 (che omette i versi scritti tra parentesi)

Ruby Murray in ‘Irish and Proud of it’ 1962

At the Ould Lammas Fair
in Ballycastle long ago
I met a pretty colleen
who set me heart a-glow
She was smiling at her daddy
buying lambs from Paddy Roe
At the Ould Lammas Fair
in Ballycastle-O
(Sure I seen her home that night
When the moon was shining bright
From the ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle-O )
At the ould Lammas Fair boys
were you ever there
Were you ever
at the Fair In Ballycastle-O?
Did you treat your Mary Ann
to some Dulse and Yellow Man(1)
At the ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle-O

In Flander’s fields afar
while resting from the War(2)
We drank Bon Sante (3)
to the Flemish lassies O
But the scene that haunts my memory is kissing Mary Ann
Her pouting lips all sticky
from eating Yellow Man
(As we passed the silver Margy (4)
and we strolled along the strand
From the ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle-O)
There’s a neat little cabin on the slopes of fair Knocklayde (5)
It’s lit by love and sunshine
where the heather honey’s made
With the bees ever humming (6)
and the children’s joyous call
Resounds across the valley
as the shadows fall
(Sure I take my fiddle down
and my Mary smiling there
Brings back a happy mem’ry
of the Lammas Fair )
Traduzione italiana Cattia Salto
Alla vecchia fiera di Lammas
a Ballycastle una volta,
incontrai una graziosa ragazza
che mi ha attizzato il cuore.
Sorrideva al suo papà
che comprava agnelli da Paddy Roe
Alla vecchia fiera di Lammas
a Ballycastle
(ovvio che  andai a trovarla a casa
quella sera con la luna che  speldeva luminosa, alla vecchia fiera di Lammas a Ballycastle
Siete mai stati alla vecchia fiera di Lammas ragazzi,
siete mai stati alla vecchia fiera di Lammas a Ballycastle?
Avete regalato alla vostra Mary Ann
Dulse e Yellowman
alla vecchia fiera di Lammas a Ballycastle

Nei campi delle Fiandre, mentre riposavamo lontano dalla Guerra
bevevamo alla salute
delle ragazze fiamminghe;
ma la scena che ossessiona i miei ricordi è baciare Mary Ann, le sue labbra imbronciate tutte appiccicose per aver mangiato Yellowman
mentre superavamo l’argeneo Margy
e passeggiavamo per il corso
alla vecchia fiera di Lammas a Ballycastle
C’è una bella casupola sui pendii del bel Knocklayde
riscaldata dall’amore e dal sole
dove si produce il miele d’erica
con le api sempre ronzanti
e le grida allegre dei bambini
risuonano per la valle
mentre scende la sera;
prendo il mio violino
e la mia Mary che sorride,
richiama un felice ricordo
della Fiera di Lammas

1) dulse e yellowman (alga rossa e caramelle mou) è un’accoppiata tipica della fiera, uno street food con un abbinamento di gusto dolce e salato che viene addentando una gommosa alga rossa essiccata insieme a un appiccicoso toffee giallo-
Yellowman (in italiano l’uomo giallo) è una specialità da fiera nella contea di Antrim: è un toffee dallo spiccato colore giallo: la preparazione è a base di zucchero, burro, sciroppo di mais (corn syrup), acqua con l’aggiunta di bicarbonato e aceto per ottenere l’effetto honeycomb (areato) e il colore giallo. La preparazione è semplice ma occorre stare attenti alla temperatura perché lo zucchero caramelli senza bruciare (o si cristallizzi perché troppo mescolato); il caramello deve raggiungere la temperatura di 150° C per essere allo stadio definito “hard crack”, (quando dopo essere stato raffreddato si romperà in pezzi relativamente duri)
Approfondimento sull’alga dulse 
2) la prima guerra mondiale a cui peraltro MacAuley non partecipò essendo disabile a seguito di un incidente nella fattoria paterna quando era ragazzo
3) francese per toasting
4) il fiume Margy
5) Knocklayde è una montagnola che sovrasta Ballycastle ottimo punto panoramico per ammirare il mare e la campagna circostante
6) l’immagine richiama Yeats e la sua Isola di Innisfree

La fiera in un filmato d’epoca anni 1950


Ould Lammas Fair ( Ballycastle)

Leggi in italiano

The longest (as an extension) fair in Northern Ireland that runs along the central street of the town of Ballycastle, Co. Antrim is held on the last Monday and Tuesday in August: it is the Lammas Fair whose origins date back to the seventeenth century .

The Lammas Fairs as they say in the British Isles or the Country fairs as they are more commonly called in America are the big fairs that take place after the wheat harvest: already Medieval Fairs connected to the patron saint who attracted crowds of visitors and street vendors.
As the fairs grew, all kinds of entertainment were added: country games and tournaments, but also shows.
At one time it was mainly a livestock market (especially horses) where farmers gathered to sell and buy summer products, but also an important socialization event for isolated farms.
In the season of abundance, the earth was thanked for its fruits, and joy was shared with music, dance and games. In the Celtic tradition it was Lughnasad, the time of the plenary assemblies, of great markets and fairs, of horse races together with other games for the warriors, but also of poetic and musical certams in homage to peace.

Ould Lammas Fair

A fair number of Celtic ballads are about a market day, particularly a fair day, “Ould Lammas Fair” was written by John Henry MacAuley of Ballycastle, owner in the 20-30 years of the Bog Oak Shop on Ann Street: he was a violinist and a skilled wood carver, renowned for his music and his sculptures. Bog oak (or more generally bog wood) is a wood that has been imprisoned in the marshy mud and has been “mummified” (dried) by the natural acidic processes in such a way as to present itself compact and without cracks, particularly suitable for fine workmanship. In English it is said “morta”.
Ottilie Patterson 1966 (which omits the verses written in brackets)

Ruby Murray from ‘Irish and Proud of it’ 1962

At the Ould Lammas Fair
in Ballycastle long ago
I met a pretty colleen
who set me heart a-glow
She was smiling at her daddy
buying lambs from Paddy Roe
At the Ould Lammas Fair
in Ballycastle-O
(Sure I seen her home that night
When the moon was shining bright
From the ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle-O )
At the ould Lammas Fair boys
were you ever there
Were you ever
at the Fair In Ballycastle-O?
Did you treat your Mary Ann
to some Dulse and Yellow Man(1)
At the ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle-O

In Flander’s fields afar
while resting from the War(2)
We drank Bon Sante (3)
to the Flemish lassies O
But the scene that haunts my memory is kissing Mary Ann
Her pouting lips all sticky
from eating Yellow Man
(As we passed the silver Margy (4)
and we strolled along the strand
From the ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle-O)
There’s a neat little cabin on the slopes of fair Knocklayde (5)
It’s lit by love and sunshine
where the heather honey’s made
With the bees ever humming (6)
and the children’s joyous call
Resounds across the valley
as the shadows fall
(Sure I take my fiddle down
and my Mary smiling there
Brings back a happy mem’ry
of the Lammas Fair )

1) dulse and yellowman (red alga and toffee) is a typical combination of the fair, a street food with sweet and savory taste by biting a gummy red seaweed dried with a sticky yellow toffee.
Yellowman is a specialty of the fair in the county of Antrim: it is a toffee with a strong yellow color: the preparation is based on sugar, butter, corn syrup, water with the addition of bicarbonate and vinegar to obtain the honeycomb effect (aerated) and the yellow color. The preparation is simple but you need to be careful about the temperature because the caramel sugar does not burn (or crystallize because it is too mixed); the caramel must reach a temperature of 150 ° C to be at the “hard crack” stage (when it has cooled it will break into relatively hard pieces)
Pulling the sea-dulse
2) the first world war which MacAuley did not participate in because he was disabled following an accident on his father’s farm when he was a boy
3) French for toasting
4)  Margy river
5) Knocklayde is a hilltop overlooking Ballycastle excellent vantage point to admire the sea and the surrounding countryside
6) the image recalls Yeats and his Innisfree isle

The fair in a vintage movie of the 1950s