Some Cradle songs from the Isle of Man

Leggi in italiano

In Manx Gaelic we have some lullabies from folklore, fairy melodies handed down from mother to daughter, which are the splits of life of the old time. The traditional music of the island has experienced a revival in the years of 1970 with a stirring of interest towards the local Gaelic and more generally of popular culture. Today Manks is taught thanks to the records of the 50-70 years released by the last Manx speakers. A great contribution to the compilation was made by Mona Douglas (1898-1987) who began collecting the songs from 1914 and until 1950 and who did a great job of classification and translation.

“The Smuggler’s Wife’s Song”

Also titled Arrane Ben Hraghtalagh, Smuggler’s Lullaby, Song Of The Smuggler’s Wife, it is a lullaby sung to the occasion, not so much to the child, as to the husband to warn him of the raid of the English excise men.

Caera in Suantraighe 2006

Mannin Folk 

English version
See the excise men are coming
(Sleep my little hero)
They’ll be seeking wine and whiskey
(Sleep my little hero)
Ah me, child of mine
Sleep my little hero
Daddy’s late and we must warn him
This time he’ll have nothing illegal
The Englishmen may board us
Nothing wrong they’ll discover
Let them searching on boat or dwelling
Nothing’s in the hold but herrings.
Manx Gaelic
Jeeagh quoi to cheet! T’an Ferny Keeshyn
(Chaddil oo my Laala!)
Shirraghey son ushteybio ny feeyney.
(Chaddil oo my Laala!)
Oghene, lhiannoo meein,
(Chaddil oo my Laala!)
Hig yn Fer thie ‘sy thie anmagh…
As cha bee noiraanaght echey…
Cuin vees ny Sostynee cheet orrin…
Cha vow ad rederbee meereiltagh…
Lhig daue shirr ayns thie ny baatey…
Beggan aynjee nish agh sceddan!


Mona Douglas classifies this song as originally composed in English and then translated into Manks. The text recalls the nursery rhyme “Rock-a-bye Baby” (in Mother Goose’s Melody 1765)

Rock-a-bye baby
On the tree tops,
When the wind blows,
The cradle will rock
When the bough breaks,
The cradle will fall,
and down will come Baby,
Cradle and all.

Cairistiona Dougherty & Paul Rogers in two versions

 with final melody composed of Caz (flute)

live (voice and guitar)


English translation Mona Douglas
O hush you my child, sleep while I sing
the wind blows your hammock will swing
But if the branch breaks down, down we shall fall
The babe in the cradle, the singer and all!
Oh hush my child on a wave born along
The tall ship is swaying, loud the wind’s song
‘Tis over the tide-ways, over the sea
Wrapped safe you will slumber sailing to me.
On the hills of the West, O child of my love
When darkens the twilight, peace broods above
But cobwebs of music (1) through the air go
Hark! Can you not hear them drift to and fro?
Manx Gaelic
O bee dty host, lhiannoo, er dty lunjean
Tra heidys y geay eisht leaystee yn clean
My brishys y bangan neose gys yn ooir
Hig lhiannoo as clean as ooilley nyn droor
O bee dty host, lhiannoo, er baare y tonn
Tra yllys yn geay lunjeanee y lhong
She harrish yn aarkey, harrish y cheayn
Ayns lhiabbee t’ou cadley, lhiannoo veg veen
Heear er y chronk glass, O lhiannoo my chree
Tra cheerys yn oie vees ooilley ec shee
Agh ass yn aer feayn hig snieuaneyn kiaull
Eaisht! Cluinnee uss adsyn syn troailt noon as noal?

1) The image of the spiders that weave the canvas in the silence of the night is very powerful: it is the concept of Wyrd, the Wyrd canvas which in ancient iconografy is represented by a network of lozenges.
It is a network of threads that runs through the earth, it is the link of destiny for which we are all bound one to others.

Arrane ny niee


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