The Coasts of High Barbary

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The George Aloe and the Sweepstake o (The Coasts of) High Barbary is considered both a sea shanty and a ballad (Child ballad # 285) and certainly its original version is very old and probably from the 16th century. So ‘in the seventeenth-century comedy “The Two Noble Kinsmen” we read: “The George Alow came from the south, From the coast of Barbary-a; And there he met with brave gallants of war, By one, by two, by three-a. Well hail’d, well hail’d, you jolly gallants! And whither now are you bound-a? O let me have your company”



The Muslim pirates of the African coasts came from what the Europeans called Barbary or Algeria Tunisia, Libya, Morocco (and more precisely the city-states of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli, but also the ports of Salé and Tetuan).
The most correct definition is barbarian pirates because they attacked only the ships of Christian Europe (also doing raids in the Christian countries of the Atlantic coast and the Mediterranean to get slaves or to get the best redemptions). The term included Arabs, Berbers, Turks as well as European renegades.
In the affair there were also for good measure the Christian corsairs, which carried out the same raids along the coasts of Barbary (mainly the orders of chivalry of the Knights of Malta and the Knights of St. Stephen, but obviously in these cases it was a matter of “crusade” and not piracy !!

Although pirate activities were endemic in the Mediterranean Sea, the period of maximum activity of the barbarian pirates was the first half of the 1600s.

FIRST VERSION: a forebitter

Stan Hugill in his bible “Shanties From The Seven Seas” shows two melodies: one more ancient when the song was a forebitter and a faster one as a capstan chantey.
The oldest version of the ballad tells of two merchant ships The George Aloe, and The Sweepstake with George Aloe who avenges the sinking of the second ship using the same “courtesy” to the crew of the French pirate ship who had thrown into the sea the Sweepstake crew.
Pete Seeger

Joseph Arthur from  Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys, ANTI- 2006 (biography and records here) rock version

There were two lofty ships
From old England came
Blow high, blow low
And so sail we
One was the Prince of Luther
The other Prince of Wales
All a-cruisin’ down the coast
Of High Barbary
“Aloft there, aloft there”
Our jolly bosun cried
“Look ahead, look astern,
Look to weather an’ a-lee”
“There’s naught upon the stern, sir
There’s naught upon our lee
But there’s a lofty ship to wind’ard
An’ she’s sailin’ fast and free”
“Oh hail her, oh hail her”
Our gallant captain cried
“Are you a man-o-war
Or a privateer?” cried he
“Oh, I’m not a man-o-war
Nor privateer,” said he
“But I am salt sea pirate
All a-looking for me fee”
For Broadside, for broadside
A long time we lay
‘Til at last the Prince of Luther
Shot the pirate’s mast away
“Oh quarter, oh quarter”
Those pirates they did cry
But the quarter that we gave them
Was we sank ‘em in the sea

SECOND VERSION: a sea shanty

The ballad resumed popularity in the years between 1795 and 1815 in conjunction with the attacks of Barbary pirates to American ships.

Tom Kines from “Songs from Shakespeare´s Plays and Songs of His Time”,1960
a version of how it was sung in the Elizabethan era

Quadriga Consort from Ships Ahoy 2013

Assassin’s Creed Black Flag  sea shanty version

The Shanty Crew

“Look ahead, look-astern
Look the weather in the lee!”
Blow high! Blow low!
And so sailed we.

“I see a wreck to windward,
And a lofty ship to lee!
A-sailing down along
The coast of High Barbary”
“O, are you a pirate
Or a man o’ war?” cried we.
“O no! I’m not a pirate
But a man-o-war,” cried he.
“We’ll back up our topsails
And heave vessel to.
For we have got some letters
To be carried home by you”.
For broadside, for broadside
They fought all on the main;
Until at last the frigate
Shot the pirate’s mast away.
“For quarter, for quarter”,
the saucy pirates cried
But the quarter that we showed them
was to sink them in the tide
With cutlass and gun,
O we fought for hours three;
The ship it was their coffin
And their grave it was the sea
But O! ‘Twas a cruel sight,
and grieved us, full sore,
To see them all a drownin’
as they tried to swim to shore


Pulling the dulse

Leggi in italiano

For centuries people living along the coasts have learned to collect, for habitual consumption, different qualities of algae.
In particular in Scotland and Ireland, dulse algae and Irish moss have always been part of the diet of coastal inhabitants.

dulse_3276643cSimilar to a little hand with the open fingers of a purple red, the dulse algae grows along the coasts of the North Atlantic and the North-Western Pacific and it is a superfood, rich iron, calcium, potassium vitamins, amino acids (high quality protein ) and mineral salts. Eaten raw it has an elastic consistency like chewingum and as such was consumed by the English sailors of the seventeenth century who chewed it instead of tobacco. It has a very salty taste, also called spicy and is a very versatile food.


The dulse algae are harvested mainly in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Scandinavia, Iceland and Brittany in the months between June and October during the low tide and they are sold in leaves or minced: the harvesters (in danger of extinction) leave the first hours of morning at high tide, when the sea withdraw they hand-picked dulse from rocks. For self-consumption, the collection of small quantities is done directly on the shore, among the rocks. The algae are then laid out on the beach to dry, at the end they are rolled up in large bales and are brought to the production plants for treatment and packaging.
It is essential that the waters of the sea where the harvest takes place are unpolluted (algae absorb large amounts of pollutants -fertilizers and heavy metals, so they are also good sweepers from the sea ..) and that the production chain guarantees high quality standards .


“Pulling the sea-dulse” is a worker song from the Hebrides collected by Marjorie Kennedy-Fraser and translated into English for her “Songs of the Hebrides”

Quadriga Consort (solist voice Elisabeth Kaplan)

The Salt Flats from The Salt Flats 2011  ♪
Same melody but new arrangement, from Northern Ireland (Belfast) in the notes they wrote: “Pulling the Sea Dulse is a working tune detailing the harvest seaweed at the shore. It is surprisingly upbeat and the Dulse in question resonated with childhood memories of Dulse and Yellow Man at the Auld Lammas Fair in Northern Ireland.” (see more)

Adó, Adé
Clings dulse to the sea rock
Clings heart to the loved one
Be’t high tide or low tide
Adó, Adé.
Pulling the dulse
by the sea rocks at low tide,
Ne’er pull I thy love(1), lad,
be’t high tide or low.
Shoreward the sea mew
comes flying at low tide,
But seaward my heart flies out
seaward to thee(2).

1) she keeps loyalty to his lover
2) probably emigrated to America or embarked on some ship as a sailor (for example on a whaling boat).



Windy old weather (Fishes Lamentation)

Leggi in italiano

The songs of the sea run from shore to shore, in particular “Windy old weather”, which according to Stan Hugill is a song by Scottish fishermen entitled “The Fish of the Sea”, also popular on the North-East coasts of the USA and Canada.
TITLES: Fishes Lamentation, Fish in the Sea, Haisboro Light Song (Up Jumped the Herring), The Boston Come-All-Ye, Blow Ye Winds Westerly, Windy old weather

A forebitter sung occasionally as a sea shanty, redating back to 1700 and probably coming from some broadsides with the title “The Fishes’ Lamentation“. “This song appears on some broadsides as The Fishes’ Lamentation and seems to have survived as a sailor’s chantey or fisherman’s song. Whall (1910), Colcord (1938) and Hugill (1964) include it in their chantey books. We also recorded it from Bob Roberts on board his Thames barge, The Cambria. It also appears in the Newfoundland and Nova Scotia collections of Ken Peacock and Helen Creighton“. (from here)

A fishing ship is practicing trawling on a full moon night, and as if by magic, the fishes start talking and warning sailors about the arrival of a storm. The fishes described are all belonging to the Atlantic Ocean and are quite commonly found in the English Channel and the North Sea (as well as in the Mediterranean Sea).
The variants can be grouped into two versions

FIRST VERSION  Blow the Man down tune

In this version the fish warn (or threaten) the fishermen on the arrival of the storm, urging them to head to the ground. The text is reported in “Oxford Book of Sea Songs”, Roy Palmer

Bob Roberts, from Windy old weather, 1958

David Tinervia · Nils Brown · Sean Dagher · Clayton Kennedy · David Gossage from Assassin’s Creed – Black Flag
“Windy Old Weather”

Dan Zanes &  Festival Five Folk from Sea Music 2003 a fresh version between country and old time.

As we were a-fishing
off Happisburgh(1) light
Shooting and hauling
and trawling all night,
In the windy old weather,
stormy old weather
When the wind blows
we all pull together
When up jumped a herring,
the queen (king) of the sea(2)
Says “Now, old skipper,
you cannot catch me,”
We sighted a Thresher(3)
-a-slashin’ his tail,
“Time now Old Skipper
to hoist up your sail.”
IV (4)
And up jumps a Slipsole
as strong as a horse(5),
Says now, “Old Skipper
you’re miles off course.”
Then along comes plaice
-who’s got spots on his side,
Says “Not much longer
-these seas you can ride.”
Then up rears a conger(6)
-as long as a mile,
“Winds coming east’ly”
-he says with a smile.
I think what these fishes
are sayin’ is right,
We’ll haul up our gear(7)
now an’ steer for the light.

1) Happisburgh lighthouse (“Hazeboro”) is located in the English county of ​​Norfolk, it was built in 1790 and painted in white and red stripes; It is managed by a foundation that deals with the maintenance of more than one hundred lighthouses throughout Great Britain. 112 are the steps to reach the tower that still works without the help of man. The headlights at the beginning were two but the lower one was dismantled in 1883 due to coastal erosion. The two lighthouses marked a safe passage through the Haagborough Sands
2) In the Nordic countries herrings (fresh or better in brine or smoked) are served in all sauces from breakfast to dinner. “It is a fish that loves cold seas and lives in numerous herds.The herring fishing in the North Seas has been widespread since the Middle Ages.It is clearly facilitated by the quantity of fish and the limited range of their movements. trawlers and start the fishing season on May 1, to close it after two months.In all the countries of North America and Northern Europe this fishing has an almost sacred character, because it has been for years the providence of fishermen and is a real natural wealth In the Netherlands and Sweden, for example, the first day of herring fishing is organized in honor of the queen and is proclaimed a national holiday ” (from here)
3) Thresher shark thresher, thrasher, fox shark, alopius vulpinus.with a characteristic tail with a very elongated upper part (almost as much as the length of the body) that the animal uses as a whip to stun and overwhelm its prey. The name comes from Aristotle who considered this fish very clever, because he was skilled in escaping from the fishermen
4) the mackerel stanza is missing:
then along comes a mackerel with strips on his back
“Time now, old skipper, to shift yout main tack”
5) perhaps refers to halibut or halibut, of considerable size, has an oval and flattened body, similar to that of a large sole, with the eyes on the right side
6) the “conger” is a fish with an elongated body similar to eel but more robust, can reach a length of two or three meters and exceeds ten kilos of weight. It is a fundamental ingredient in the Livorno cacciucco dish!
7) another translation of the sentence could be: we recover our networks

SCOTTISH VERSION, Blaw the Wind Southerly tune

In this version the fish take possession of the ship, it seems the description of the ghost ship of “Davy Jone”, the evil spirit of the waters made so vividly in the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean”. An old Scottish melody accompanies a series of variations of the same song.


Quadriga Consort from Ship Ahoy, 2011 ♪ 

Michiel Schrey, Sean Dagher, Nils Brown from, Assasin’s Creed – Black Flag  titled “Fish in the sea” (stanzas from I to III and VIII)

Come all you young sailor men,
listen to me,
I’ll sing you a song
of the fish in the sea;
And it’s…Windy weather, boys,
stormy weather, boys,
When the wind blows,
we’re all together, boys;
Blow ye winds westerly,
blow ye winds, blow,
Jolly sou’wester, boys,
steady she goes.
Up jumps the eel
with his slippery tail,
Climbs up aloft
and reefs the topsail.
Then up jumps the shark
with his nine rows of teeth,
Saying, “You eat the dough boys,
and I’ll eat the beef!”
Up jumps the lobster
with his heavy claws,
Bites the main boom
right off by the jaws!
Up jumps the halibut,
lies flat on the deck
He says, ‘Mister Captain,
don’t step on my neck!’
Up jumps the herring,
the king of the sea,
Saying, ‘All other fishes,
now you follow me!’
Up jumps the codfish
with his chuckle-head (1),
He runs out up forward
and throws out the lead!
Up jumps the whale
the largest of all,
“If you want any wind,
well, I’ll blow ye a squall(2)!”

1) literally “stupid head” is a common saying among the fishermen that the cod is stupid, because it does not recognize the bait and lets himself hoist docilely on board.
2) the fishermen were / are very superstitious men, in all latitudes, it takes little or nothing to attract misfortune in the sea, it is still a widespread belief that the devil or the evil spirit has power over the sea and storms.


Of the second version, the best-known in America bears the title “The Boston as-all-ye” as collected by Joanna Colcord in her “Songs of American Sailormen” which she writes”There can be little doubt that [this] song, although it was sung throughout the merchant service, began life with the fishing fleet. We have the testimony of Kipling in Captains Courageous that it was a favourite within recent years of the Banks fishermen. It is known as The Fishes and also by its more American title of The Boston Come-All-Ye. The chorus finds its origin in a Scottish fishing song Blaw the Wind Southerly. A curious fact is that Captain Whall, a Scotchman himself, prints this song with an entirely different tune, and one that has no connection with the air of the Tyneside keelmen to which our own Gloucester fishermen sing it. The version given here was sung by Captain Frank Seeley.”

Peggy Seeger from  Whaler Out of New Bedford, 1962

Come all ye young sailormen
listen to me,
I’ll sing you a song
of the fish of the sea.
Then blow ye winds westerly,
westerly blow;
we’re bound to the southward,
so steady she goes
Oh, first came the whale,
he’s the biggest of all,
he clumb up aloft,
and let every sail fall.
Next came the mackerel
with his striped back,
he hauled aft the sheets
and boarded each tack(1).
The porpoise(2) came next
with his little snout,
he grabbed the wheel,
calling “Ready? About!(3”
Then came the smelt(4),
the smallest of all,
he jumped to the poop
and sung out, “Topsail, haul!”
The herring came saying,
“I’m king of the seas!
If you want any wind,
I’ll blow you a breeze.”
Next came the cod
with his chucklehead (5),
he went to the main-chains
to heave to the lead.
Last come the flounder(6)
as flat as the ground,
saying, “Damn your eyes, chucklehead, mind how you sound”!

1) In sailing, tack is a corner of a sail on the lower leading edge. Separately, tack describes which side of a sailing vessel the wind is coming from while under way—port or starboard. Tacking is the maneuver of turning between starboard and port tack by bringing the bow (the forward part of the boat) through the wind. (from Wiki)
2) porpoise is often considered as a small dolphin, has a distinctive rounded snout and has no beak like dolphins
3) it  is the helmsman shouting
4 ) smelt it (osmero) is a small fish that lives in the Channel and in the North Sea; its name derives from the fact that its flesh gives off an unpleasant odor
5) literally “stupid head” is a common saying among the fishermen that the cod is stupid, because it does not recognize the bait and lets himself hoist docilely on board.

Blow the Wind Southerly


Twa Bonnie Maidens, a jacobite song

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“Twa Bonnie Maidens” is a jacobite song published by James Hogg in “Jacobite Relics”, Volume II (1819). It refers to the occasion when Bonnie Prince Charlie sailed with Flora MacDonald from the Outer Hebrides to Skye, dressed as Flora’s maid. The event described here took place during Bonnie Prince Charlie’s months in hiding after his defeat at the Battle of Culloden (April 16, 1746). By late July, the Hannoverians thought they had Charlie pinned down in the outer Hebrides.


The prince had managed to get to the Island of Banbecula of the Outer Hebrides, but the surveillance was very tight and had no way to escape. And here comes Flora MacDonald.
In the anecdotal version of the story, Flora devised a trick to take away Charlie from the island : on the pretext of visiting her mother (who lived in Armadale after remarried), she obtained the safe-conduct for herself and her two servants; under the name and clothes of the Irish maid Betty Burke, however, it was hidden the Bonny Prince!: Il Principe e la Ballerina

Flora MacDonald's Introduction to Bonnie Prince Charlie di Alexander Johnston (1815-1891)
“Flora MacDonald’s Introduction to Bonnie Prince Charlie” di Alexander Johnston (1815-1891)


Hogg took the Gaelic words down from a Mrs. Betty Cameron from Lochaber.
Was copied verbatim from the mouth of Mrs Betty Cameron from Lochaber ; a well-known character over a great part of the Lowlands, especially for her great store of Jacobite songs, and her attachment to Prince Charles, and the chiefs that suffered for him, of whom she never spoke without bursting out a-crying. She said it was from the Gaelic ; but if it is, I think it is likely to have been translated by herself. There is scarcely any song or air that I love better.”
Quadriga Consort from “Ships Ahoy ! – Songs of Wind, Water & Tide” 2011
Marais & Miranda from A European Folk Song Festival 2012 (I, III)
Archie Fisher from “The Man with a Rhyme” 1976

There were twa bonnie maidens,
and three bonnie maidens,
Cam’ ower the Minc (1),
and cam’ ower the main,
Wi’ the wind for their way
and the corrie (2) for their hame,
And they’re dearly welcome
tae Skye again.
Come alang, come alang,
wi’ your boatie and your song,

Tae my hey! bonnie maidens,
my twa bonnie maids!

The nicht, it is dark,
and the redcoat is gane,

And you’re dearly welcome
tae Skye again.

There is Flora (3), my honey,
sae neat and sae bonnie,
And ane that is tall,
and handsome withall.
Put the ane for my Queen
and the ither for my King (4)
And they’re dearly welcome
tae Skye again.
III (5)
There’s a wind on the tree,
and a ship on the sea,
Tae my hey! bonnie maidens,
my twa bonnie maids!
By the sea mullet’s nest (6)
I will watch o’er the main,
And you’re dearly welcome
tae Skye again.
English translation Cattia Salto
There were two pretty maidens,
and three pretty maidens,
Came over the Minch ,
and came over the main,
With the wind for their way
and the mountains for their hame,
And they’re dearly welcome
to Skye again.
Come along, come along,
wi’ your boat and your song,
To my hey! pretty maidens,
my two pretty girls!
The night, it is dark,
and the redcoat is gone,
And you’re dearly welcome
to Skye again.
There is Flora, my honey,
so neat and so pretty,
And one that is tall,
and handsome withall.
Put the one for my Queen
and the other for my King
And they’re dearly welcome
to Skye again.
There’s a wind on the tree,
and a ship on the sea,
To my hey! pretty maidens,
my two pretty girls!
By the sea mullet’s nest
I will watch over the main,
And you’re dearly welcome
to Skye again.

1) Minch=channel between the Outer and Inner Hebrides
2) corry=a hollow space or excavation in a hillside
3) Flora MacDonald
4) Bonnie Prince Charlie
5) the stanza is a synthesis between the III and the IV of the version reported by Hogg
6) The Nest Point is another striking view on the western tip of the Isle of Skye (on the opposite side of Portree), an excellent spot to watch the Minch the stretch of sea that separates the Highlands of the north west and the north of Skye from the Harris Islands and Lewis, told by the ancient Norse “Fjord of Scotland”
At the time of the Jacobite uprising there was still no Lighthouse designed and built by Alan Stevenson in the early 1900s.

TUNE: Planxty George Brabazon or Prince Charlie’s Welcome To The Isle Of Skye?

The Irish harpist Turlough O’Carolan (the last of the great itinerant irish harper-composers) wrote some arias in homage to his guests and patrons, whom he called “planxty”, whose text in Irish Gaelic (not received) praised the nobleman on duty or commemorated an event; the melodies are free and lively with different measures (not necessarily in triplets). With the title of George Brabazon two distinct melodies attributed to Carolan are known.
“George Brabazon” was retitled in Scotland “Prince Charlie’s Welcome to the Island of Skye” in honor of the Pretender as the vehicle for the song “Twa Bonnie Maidens.” It also appears in the Gow’s Complete Repository, Part Second (1802) under the title “Isle of Sky” (sic), set as a Scots Measure and with some melodic differences in the second part. This is significant, for it predates the earliest Irish source (O’Neill) by a century.
Source “The Fiddler’s Companion” (cf. Liens).
J.J. Sheridan
Siobhan Mcdonnell

The Chieftains  in Water From the Well 2000

“Over the Sea to Skye”


Twa Bonnie Maidens

Read the post in English  

“Twa Bonnie Maidens” (in italiano “Due graziose fanciulle”) è una canzone giacobita pubblicata da James Hogg in “Jacobite Relics”, Volume II (1819) che celebra l’arrivo nell’isola di Skye di una barchetta con due belle fanciulle, senonchè l’ancella di Flora Macdonald è il nostro Bel Carletto travestito, nella sua fuga dalla Scozia, dopo la disfatta della rivolta giacobita nella rovinosa battaglia di Culloden (1746).


Il principe era riuscito ad arrivare nell’isola di Banbecula delle Ebridi Esterne, ma la sorveglianza era strettissima e non aveva modo di fuggire. Ed ecco che entra in scena la fanciulla, Flora MacDonald.
Nella versione anedottica della storia, Flora escogitò un trucco per portare via dall’isola Charlie: con il pretesto di andare a trovare la madre (che viveva ad Armadale dopo essersi risposata), ottenne per sè e per i due suoi domestici il salvacondotto; sotto il nome e gli abiti della cameriera irlandese Betty Burke però si celava il Bonny Prince!: Il Principe e la Ballerina

Flora MacDonald's Introduction to Bonnie Prince Charlie di Alexander Johnston (1815-1891)
“Flora MacDonald’s Introduction to Bonnie Prince Charlie” di Alexander Johnston (1815-1891)


Hogg trascrisse il testo dalla testimonianza della signora Betty Cameron di Lochaber, la quale affermava che originariamente la canzone fosse in gaelico scozzese. Così scrive Hogg
È stato copiato letteralmente dalla bocca della signora Betty Cameron di Lochaber; un personaggio ben noto in gran parte delle Lowlands, specialmente per la sua grande quantità di canzoni giacobite, e il suo attaccamento al principe Carlo, e ai capi che soffrirono per lui, dei quali non parlò mai senza scoppiare a piangere. Disse che la canzone era dal gaelico; ma se lo è, penso che probabilmente l’ha tradotta lei stessa. Non c’è quasi nessuna canzone o aria che amo di più”
Quadriga Consort in “Ships Ahoy ! – Songs of Wind, Water & Tide” 2011
Marais & Miranda in A European Folk Song Festival 2012 (strofe I, III)
Archie Fisher in “The Man with a Rhyme” 1976

There were twa bonnie maidens,
and three bonnie maidens,
Cam’ ower the Minc (1),
and cam’ ower the main,
Wi’ the wind for their way
and the corrie (2) for their hame,
And they’re dearly welcome
tae Skye again.
Come alang, come alang,
wi’ your boatie and your song,

Tae my hey! bonnie maidens,
my twa bonnie maids!

The nicht, it is dark,
and the redcoat is gane,

And you’re dearly welcome
tae Skye again.

There is Flora (3), my honey,
sae neat and sae bonnie,
And ane that is tall,
and handsome withall.
Put the ane for my Queen
and the ither for my King (4)
And they’re dearly welcome
tae Skye again.
III (5)
There’s a wind on the tree,
and a ship on the sea,
Tae my hey! bonnie maidens,
my twa bonnie maids!
By the sea mullet’s nest (6)
I will watch o’er the main,
And you’re dearly welcome
tae Skye again.
Traduzione italiana Cattia Salto
C’erano due graziose fanciulle
e tre fanciulle belle
che attraversarono il Minch
oltre il mare
sospinte dal vento a favore
e accolte dalle nostre montagne
sono sinceramente le benvenute
a Skye
Venite, venite
con la vostra barchetta e la vostra canzone, belle fanciulle,
mie due fanciulle belle!
La notte è buia
e le giubbe rosse sono partite,
voi siete sinceramente le benvenute
a Skye.
C’è Flora, la mia diletta;
così forte e bella
e uno che è alto
e anche bello.
Metti l’una come Regina
e l’altro come Re
sono sinceramente le benvenute
a Skye
C’è il vento all’albero
e una barca nel mare
belle fanciulle,
mie due fanciulle belle!
Dal nido di triglie
sorveglierò il mare
voi siete sinceramente le benvenute
a Skye.

1) Minch=canale tra le Ebridi esterne e le Ebridi interne
2) corry=una nicchia o uno scavo nella collina
3) 3) Flora MacDonald
4) Bonnie Prince Charlie
5) la strofa è una sintesi  tra la III e la IV della versione riportata da Hogg
6) i due sbarcarono nel villaggio di Portree. Il Nest Point è invece un altro suggestivo panorama  sulla punta occidentale dell’isola di Skye (sul lato opposto di Portree), ottimo punto per guardare il Minch il tratto di mare che separa le Highlands do nord ovest e il nord di Skye dalle isole Harris e Lewis, detto dagli antichi Norreni “Fiordo della Scozia”
Ai tempi della rivolta giacobita non esisteva ancora il Faro progettato e costruito da Alan Stevenson nei primi anni del 900.

LA MELODIA: Planxty George Brabazon o Prince Charlie’s Welcome To The Isle Of Skye?

L’arpista irlandese Turlough O’Carolan (ricordato come l’ultimo dei bardi-arpisti itineranti) scrisse alcune arie in omaggio ai suoi ospiti e mecenati, che chiamava “planxty”, il cui testo in gaelico irlandese (non pervenuto) elogiava il nobile di turno o ne commemorava un evento; le melodie sono libere e vivaci con tempi diversi (non necessariamente in terzine). Con il titolo di George Brabazon si conoscono due distinte melodie attribuite a Carolan.
“George Brabazon”è stato rititolato in Scozia “Prince Charlie’s Welcome to the Island of Skye” in onore del Pretendente come veicolo per la canzone “Twa Bonnie Maidens”. Appare anche nel Complete Repository di Gow, Parte Seconda (1802) con il titolo “Isle di Sky “(sic), suonato come una Scots Measure e con alcune differenze melodiche nella seconda parte. Questo è significativo, perché precede la prima fonte irlandese (O’Neill) di un secolo.
Fonte “The Fiddler’s Companion” (cf. Liens).

J.J. Sheridan
Siobhan Mcdonnell

The Chieftains  in Water From the Well 2000

“Over the Sea to Skye”


The Saucy Sailor Boy

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The nineteenth-century image of sailor is rather stereotypical: Jack Tar is a drunkard and a womanizer, perhaps a slacker and troublemaker, always ready to fight.
In sea songs from the female point of view sailor is often an unfaithful liar who has a girlfriend in every port even if he has a wife and children at home. Ridiculed and rejected by some, he is instead sought by others who absolutely prefer the love of a sailor (Sailor laddie)!
Sailor is watched more often with distrust by women, as in the sea song entitled “The Saucy Sailor Boy” where a young “saucy” sailor courts a country girl: it’s a “love contrast” that fits in a long popular tradition of bucolic argument, in which a man and a woman duet with amorous skirmishes; generally woman refuses man’s proposals, to preserve her virtue or to better stimulate his desire; man, on the other hand, promises seas and mountains, as well as eternal love, riches and the certainty of a comfortable life, just to conquer the woman’s graces.
In Saucy Sailor, however, she rejects the sailor with ill grace, because his clothes still smell of tar; the music changes when sailor shows his money but it’s too late and sailor doesn’ t want  to marry her anymore!


Clothes of Poor Jack, a British sailor of the late eighteenth century, are anything but poor: he is wearing a popular variant of the knee-length trousers, a sort of very wide trouser skirt. He wears a black tall round hat, and his long hair is loose on his neck, a white shirt with a stiff collar and a red neckcloth; characteristic yellow double-breasted waistcoat with narrow vertical red stripes, and an elegant blue short jacket with a long row of white buttons; light blue socks and black shoes with a beautiful metal buckles.

Poor Jack, Charles Dibdin, 1790-1791, British Museum: he wears slops, wide knee-length pants. The hair worn long until the mid-nineteenth century were kept in order, stopping them behind the back of the neck in a tarred tail, hence the nickname Jack Tar

But sailors like all the workers and men of the people also wore long trousers which became a standard of men’s clothing after the French revolution.


Text is found in many nineteenth-century collections and broadside especially in Great Britain and America, and probably it has eighteenth-century origins (William Alexander Barret in his “English Folksong” published in 1891 believes that this song appeared in print in 1781 and he cites its great popularity among girls who work in Eastern London factories.
The Tarry Sailor from trad archives (Andrew Robbie of Strichen, Aberdeenshire)  
Quadriga consort: early-music version
Harbottle & Jonas (from Cornwall): a swing version

Steeleye Span from Below the Salt, 1972 ( I, and from III to VIII): standard version in the repertoires of singers and folk groups

Wailin Jennys 

“Come, my dearest, come, my fairest,
Come and tell unto me,
Will you pity (fancy) a poor sailor boy,
Who has just come from sea?”
“I can fancy no poor sailor:
No poor sailor for me!
For to cross the wide ocean
Is a terror to me.
You are ragged, love, you are dirty, love,/And your clothes they smell of tar./So begone, you saucy sailor boy,
So begone, you Jack Tar(1)!”
“If I’m ragged, love, if I’m dirty, love,
If my clothes they smell (much) of tar,
I have silver in my pocket, love,
And of gold a bright (great) store.”
V (2)
When she heard those words come from him, On her bended knees she fell./”To be sure, I’ll wed my sailor,
For I love him so well.”
“Do you think that I am foolish?
Do you think that I am mad?
That I’d wed with a poor country girl
Where no fortune’s to be had?
I will cross the briny ocean/Where the meadows they are green (3);
Since you have had the offer, love,
Another shall have the ring.
For I’m young, love, and I’m frolicksome, (4)
I’m good-temper’d, kind and free.
And I don’t care a straw (5), love,
What the world says (thinks)of me.

1) Jack Tar is a common English term originally used to refer to seamen of the Merchant or Royal Navy, particularly during the period of the British Empire. Seamen were known to ‘tar’ their clothes before departing on voyages, in order to make them waterproof, in the eighteenth century they were usually used to tar their long hair in a ponytail to prevent it from getting wet or that the wind ruffled it
2)  Steeleye Span :
And then when she heard him say so
On her bended knees she fell,
“I will marry my dear Henry
For I love a sailor lad so well.”
3) Steeleye Span: I will whistle and sing
4) Steeleye Span :
Oh, I am frolicsome and I am easy,
Good tempered and free,
5) or “I don’t give a single pin”


Stan Hugill in his Shantyman Bible (Shanties from the Seven Seas) tells us that The Tarry Sailor (Saucy Sailor Boy) in addition to being a forebitter song was occasionally sung during the boring hours of pumping water from the bilge when the pumps were operated by hand!  (see sea shanty)

Hulton Clint 

Come on my fair ones,
Come on my fan ones,
Come and listen unto me.
Could you fancy a boldly sailor lad
That has just come home from sea?
Could you fancy a boldly sailor lad
That has just come home from sea?
No, indeed, I’ll wed no sailor
For they smell too much of tar!
You are ruggy, you are sassy,
get you gone Jackie Tar.
I have ship on all the ocean,
I have golden great galore
All my clothes they may be all in rags,
but coin can buy me more
If I am ruggy, if I am sassy
And may by a tarry smell
I had silver in my pockets
For they knew can every tell
When she heard him that distressed
down upon her knees she fell
Saying “Ruggy dirty saylor boy
I love more than you can tell”
Do you think that I’m foolish,
Do you think that I’m mad?
That I’d wed the likes of you, Miss,
When there’s others to be had!”
No indeed I’ll cross the ocean,
And my ships shall spread her wings,
You refused me, ragged, dirty,
Not for you the wedding ring.

Scottish sailors were excellent dancers and part of their training consisted of practicing Sailor’s Hornpipe

second part


Aileen Duinn, Brown-haired Alan

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“Aileen Duinn” is a Scottish Gaelic song from the Hebrides: a widow/sweetheart lament for the sinking of a fishing boat, originally a waulking song in which she invokes her death to share the same seaweed bed with her lover, Alan.
According to the tradition on the island of Lewis Annie Campbell wrote the song in despair over the death of her sweetheart Alan Morrison, a ship captain who in the spring of 1788 left Stornoway to go to Scalpay where he was supposed to marry his Annie, but the ship ran into a storm and the entire crew was shipwrecked and drowned: she too will die a few months later, shocked by grief. His body was found on the beach, near the spot where the sea had returned the body of Ailein Duinn (black-haired Alan).

 The song became famous because inserted into the soundtrack of the film Rob Roy and masterfully interpreted by Karen Matheson (the singer of the Scottish group Capercaillie who appears in the role of a commoner and sings it near the fire)

Here is the soundtrack of the film Rob Roy: Ailein Duinn and Morag’s Lament, (arranged by Capercaillie & Carter Burwelle) in which the second track is the opening verse followed by the chorus


The text is reduced to a minimum, more evocative than explanatory of a tragic event that it was to be known to all the inhabitants of the island. The woman who sings is marked by immense pain, because her black-haired Alain is drowned at the bottom of the sea, and she wants to share his sleep in the abyss by a macabre blood covenant.

Capercaillie from To the Moon – 1995: Keren Matheson, the voice ‘kissed by God’ switches from the whisper to the cry, in the crashing waves blanding into bagpipes lament.

Meav, from Meav 2000 angelic voice, harp and flute

Annwn from Aeon – 2009 German group founded in 2006 of Folk Mystic; their interpretation is very intense even in the rarefaction of the arrangement, with the limpid and warm voice of Sabine Hornung, the melody carried by the harp, a few echoes of the flute and the lament of the violin: magnificent.

Trobar De Morte  the text reduced to only two verses and extrapolated from the context lends itself to be read as the love song of a mermaid in the surf of the sea (see also Mermaid’s croon)

It is the most reproduced textual version with the most different musical styles, roughly after 2000, also as sound-track in many video games (for example Medieval II Total War)

english translation
How sorrowful I am
Early in the morning rising
Ò hì, I would go (1) with thee
Hi\ ri bho\ ho\ ru bhi\,
Hi\ ri bho\ ho\ rionn o ho,

Brown-haired Alan, ò hì,
I would go with thee
If it is thy pillow the sand
If it is thy bed the seaweed
If it is the fish thy candles bright
If it is the seals thy watchmen(2)
I would drink(3), though all would abhor it
Of thy heart’s blood after thy drowning
Scottish Gaelic
Gura mise tha fo éislean,
Moch `s a’ mhadainn is mi `g eirigh,
O\ hi\ shiu\bhlainn leat,
Hi\ ri bho\ ho\ ru bhi\,
Hi\ ri bho\ ho\ rionn o ho,
Ailein duinn, o\ hi\
shiu\bhlainn leat.
Ma `s e cluasag dhut a’ ghainneamh,
Ma `s e leabaidh dhut an fheamainn,
Ma `s e `n t-iasg do choinnlean geala,
Ma `s e na ròin do luchd-faire,
Dh’olainn deoch ge boil   le cach e,
De dh’fhuil do choim `s tu `n   deidh dobhathadh,

1) to die, to follow
2) for the inhabitants of the Hebrides Islands the seals are not simple animals, but magical creatures called selkie, which at night take the form of drowned men and women. Considered a sort of guardians of the Sea or gardeners of the sea bed every night or only on full moon nights, they would abandon their skins to reveal their human form, to sing and dance on the silver cliffs (here)
3) refers to an ancient Celtic ritual, consisting in drinking the blood of a friend as a sign of affection (the covenant of blood), a custom cited by Shakespeare (still practiced by all the friends of the heart who exchange blood with a shallow cut and joining the two cuts; it was also practiced for the handfasting in Scotland: once the handfasting was above all a pact of blood, in which the right wrist of the spouses was engraved with the tip of a dagger until the blood spurts, after which the two wrists were tied in close contact with each other with the “wedlock’s band” (see more.)

by liga-marta tratto da qui


Here is the version of Marjory Kennedy-Fraser (1857-1930) from “Songs of the Hebrides“, see also Alexander Carmichael (1832-1912) in his “Carmina Gadelica”.

Alison Pearce & Susan Drake from “A Harris love lament”  
Quadriga Consort  from “Ships Ahoy !” 2011  

(english translation Kennet Macleod)
I am the one under sorrow
in the early morn and I arising.
Brown-haired Alan

Ò hì, I would go with thee
Hi\ ri bho\ ho\ ru bhi\,
Hi\ ri bho\ ho\ rionn o ho,

Brown-haired Alan,
 I would go with thee
‘Tis not the death of the kine in May-month
but the wetness of thy winding-sheet./Though mine were a fold of cattle, sure, little my care for them today./Ailein duinn, calf of my heart,
art thou adrift on Erin’s shore?
That not my choice of a stranger-land,
but a place where my cry would reach thee.
Ailein duinn, my spell and my laughter,/would, o King, that I were near thee/on what so bank or creek thou art stranded,
on what so beach the tide has left thee.
I would drink a drink, gainsay it who might,
but not of the glowing wine of Spain
The blood of the thy body, o love,
I would rather,/the blood that comes from thy throat-hollow.
O may God bedew thy soul
with what I got of thy sweet caresses,
with what I got of thy secret-speech
with what I got of thy honey-kisses.
My prayer to thee, o King of the Throne
that I go not in earth nor in linen
That I go not in hole-ground nor hidden-place
but in the tangle where lies my Allan
(scottish gaelic)
Gura mise tha fo éislean,
Moch `s a’ mhadainn is mi `g eirigh
Ailein duinn,

O\ hi\ shiu\bhlainn leat,
Hi\ ri bho\ ho\ ru bhi\,
Hi\ ri bho\ ho\ rionn o ho,
Ailein duinn,
o\ hi\ shiu\bhlainn leat

Cha’n e bàs a’ chruidh ‘s a’ chéitein
Ach a fhichead ‘s tha do leine.
Ged bu leam-sa buaile spréidhe
‘s ann an diugh bu bheag mo spéis dith.
Ailein duinn a laoigh mo chéille
an deach thu air tir an Eirinn?
Cha b’e sid mo rogha céin-thir
ach an t-àit’ an ruigeadh m’ éigh thu.
Ailein duinn mo ghis ‘s mo ghàire
‘s truagh, a Righ, nach mi bha làmh riut.
Ge b’e eilb no òb an tràigh thu
ge b’e tiurr am fàg an làn thu.
Dh’ òlainn deoch ge b’ oil le càch e,
cha b’ ann a dh’ fhion dearg na Spàinne.
Fuil do chuim, a ghraidh, a b’ fhearr leam,
an fhuil tha nuas o lag do bhràghad.
O gu’n drùchdadh Dia air t’ anam
na fhuair mi de d’ bhrìodal tairis.
Na fhuair mi de d’ chòmhradh falaich,
na fhuair mi de d’ phògan meala.
M’ achan-sa, a Righ na Cathrach,
gun mi dhol an ùir no ‘n anart
an talamh-toll no ‘n àite-falaich
ach ‘s an roc an deachaidh Ailean

Another translation in English with the title “Annie Campbell’s Lament”
Estrange Waters from Songs of the Water, 2016

Dark Alan my love,
oh I would follow you

Far beneath the great sea,
deep into the abyss

Dark Alan, oh I would follow you
Today my heart swells with sorrow
My lover’s ship sank deep in the ocean
I would follow you..
I ache to think of your features
Your white limbs
and shirt ripped and torn asunder
I would follow you..
I wish I could be beside you
On whichever rock or shore where you’re sleeping
I would follow you..
Seaweed shall be as our blanket
And we’ll lay our heads on soft beds made of sand
I would follow you..


The most suggestive and dramatic version is that reported by Flora MacNeil who she has learned  from her mother. Born in 1928 on the Isle of Barra, she is a Scottish singer who owns hundreds of songs in Scottish Gaelic. “Traditional songs tended to run in families and I was fortunate that my mother and her family had a great love for the poetry and the music of the old songs. It was natural for them to sing, whatever they were doing at the time or whatever mood they were in. My aunt Mary, in particular, was always ready, at any time I called on her, to drop whatever she was doing, to discuss a song with me, and perhaps, in this way, long forgotten verses would be recollected. So I learned a great many songs at an early age without any conscious effort. As is to be expected on a small island, so many songs deal with the sea, but, of course, many of them may not originally be Barra songs”

A different story from Flora MacNeil’s family: the woman is married to Alain MacLeann who dies in the shipwreck with all the other men of her family: her father and brothers; the woman turns to the seagull that flies high over the sea and sees everything, as a witness of the misfortune; the last verse traces poetic images of a funeral of the sea, with the bed of seaweed, the stars like candles, the murmur of the waves for the music and the seals as guardians.

Flora MacNeil from  a historical record of 1951.

English translation
O na hi hoireann o ho
Hi na hi i ri u hu o
Endless grief the price it cost me
‘Twas neither sheep or cattle
But the load the ship took with her
My father and my three brothers
As if this wasn’t all my burden
The one to whom I gave my hand
MacLean of the fair skin
Who took me from the church on Tuesday(1)
“Little seagull, seagull of the ocean
Where did you leave the fair men?”
“I left them in the island of the sea
Back to back, no longer breathing”
Scottish Gaelic
O na hi hoireann o ho
Hi na hi i ri u hu o
S’ goirt ‘s gur daor a phaigh mi mal dhut
Cha chrodh laoigh ‘s cha chaoraich bhana
Ach an luchd a thaom am bata
Bha m’athair oirre ‘s mo thriuir bhraithrean
Chan e sin gu leir a chraidh mi
Ach am fear a ghlac air laimh mi
Leathanach a’ bhroillich bhainghil
A thug o ‘n chlachan Di-mairt mi
Fhaoileag bheag thu, fhaoileag mhar’ thu
Cait a d’fhag thu na fir gheala
Dh’fhag mi iad ‘san eilean mhara
Cul ri cul is iad gun anail

(1) Tuesday is still the day on which traditionally marriages are celebrated on the Island of Barra


Still a version set just like a waulking song and yet a different text, this time the ship is a whaler and Allen is shipwrecked near the Isle of Man.

Mac-Talla, from Gaol Is Ceol 1994, only the female voices and the notes of a harp, but what immediacy …

English translation
I am tormented/I have no thought for merriment tonight
Brown-haired Allen o hi, I would go with thee.
I have no thought for merriment tonight/But for the sound of the elements and the strength of the gales
Brown-haired Allen o hi,
I would go with thee.

Hi riri riri ri hu o, horan o o, o hi le bho
Duinn o hi, I would go with thee
But for the sound of the elements and the strength of the gales
Which would drive the men from the harbor
Brown-haired Allen, my darling sweetheart
I heard you had gone across the sea
On the slender, black boat of oak
And that you have gone ashore on the Isle of Man
That was not the harbor I would have chosen
Brown-haired Allen, darling of my heart
I was young when I fell in love with you
Tonight my tale is wretched
It’s not a tale of the death of cattle in the bog
But of the wetness of your shirt
And of how you are being torn by whales
Brown-haired Allen, my dear beloved
I heard you had been drowned
Alas, oh God, that I was not beside you
Whatever tide-mark the flood will leave you
I would take a drink, in spite of everyone
Of your heart’s blood,
after you had been drowned
Scottish Gaelic
S gura mise th’air mo sgaradh
Chan eil sugradh nochd air m’aire
Ailein Duinn o hi shiubhlainn leat
Chaneil sugradh nochd air m’air’
Ach fuaim nan siantan ‘s miad na gaillinn
Ailein Duinn o hi shiubhlainn leat
Hi riri riri ri hu o, horan o o, o hi le bho
Ailein Duinn o hi shiubhlainn leat~Ailein.
Ach fuaim nan siantan ‘s miad na gaillinn
Dh’fhuadaicheadh na fir bho’n chaladh
Ailein Duinn o hi shiubhlainn leat
Ailein Duinn a luaidh nan leannan
Chuala mi gun deach thu thairis
Ailein Duinn o hi shiubhlainn leat
Chuala mi gun deach thu thairis
Air a’ bhata chaol dhubh dharaich
Ailein Duinn o hi shiubhlainn leat
‘S gun deach thu air tir am Manainn
Cha b’e siod mo rogha caladh
Ailein Duinn o hi shiubhlainn leat
Ailein Duinn a luaidh mo cheile
Gura h-og a thug mi speis dhut
Ailein Duinn o hi shiubhlainn leat
‘S ann a nochd as truagh mo sgeula
‘S cha n-e bas a’ chruidh ‘san fheithe
Ailein Duinn o hi shiubhlainn leat
Ach cho fliuch ‘s a tha do leine
Muca mara bhith ‘gad reubach
Ailein Duinn o hi shiubhlainn leat
Ailein Duinn a chiall ‘s a naire
Chuala mi gun deach do bhathadh
Ailein Duinn o hi shiubhlainn leat
‘S truagh a Righ nach mi bha laimh riut
Ge be tiurr an dh’fhag an lan thu
Ailein Duinn o hi shiubhlainn leat
Dh’olainn deoch, ge b’oil le cach e
A dh’fhuil do chuim ‘s tu ‘n deidh do bhathadh
Ailein Duinn o hi shiubhlainn leat


The Cliff of Dooneen or Avalon?

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“The Cliff of Dooneen” (Doneen, Dooneen, Duneen) is an Irish ballad from the 1930s (or late 19th century), made famous by Planxty; it spread to Great Britain after the post-war migration, Christy Moore heard a version in 1965 by various singers (Andy Rynne, Ann Mulqueen and Mick McGuane) and made it popular in folk scene of the 70s.

Like Avalon, the Dooneen cliffs are not found in a specific place, but in the mists of myth and nostalgia. Two counties contend this location: Clare near the mouth of the Shannon and Kerry near Beal. However, it is suspected that the confusion between the counties is an attempt to advertise the cliffs of Moher, that is one of the most charming places in Ireland.
It’s an emigration song, those who leave for distant lands regret their home and want to be buried in the places loved in their youth.

(Photo: Philippe Gosseau)


According to Beal’s people (Kerry Co.) the poem was penned by Jack McAuliffe of Lixnaw who wrote the original version during a visit to his sister. Nichols Carolan from the ITMA in Dublin attests: “Dooneen Point is on the Kerry Coast, between Ballylongford and Ballybunnion at the Mouth of the River Shannon, giving excellent views of the South West of Clare, though it should be said that it is not possible to see Kilrush and Kilkee from this point as stated in verse two [Christy Moore lyrics]. This has been explained by suggesting that the song was originally located in Moveen, a few miles south west of Kilkee in Clare. The song was first recorded in Dublin in the 1960s sung by Siney Crotty who came from Kilbaha, which is on the Clare side of the Shannon. Since it’s first appearance it has gained enormous popularity. The Irish Traditional Music Archive has around one hundred and ninety commercial recordings of it.

Jack McAuliffe poem
I have traveled afar from my own native home.
Away o’er the billows, away o’er the foam I have seen many sights but no equal I’ve seen
To the old rocky slopes by the cliffs of Dooneen
I have seen many sights of Columbus fair land,
Africa and Asia so delightful and grand,
But dig me a grave were the grass it grows green
On the old rocky slopes by the cliffs of Dooneen.
How pleasant to walk on a fine summers day.
And to view the sweet cherries that will never decay,
Where the sea grass(1) and seaweed and the old carrageen(2)
All grow from the rocks by the cliffs of Dooneen.
The Sand hills of Beal (3) are glorious and grand,
And the old castle ruins looking out on the strand,
Where the hares and the rabbits are there to be seen
Making holes for their homes by the cliffs of Dooneen.
I have tracked my love’s footsteps to the boathouse of old
And the dance  (4) on the hillside where love stories are told,
Its there you will see both the lad and the colleen
Moving round by the shore of the cliffs of Dooneen
Take a view across the Shannon some sites you will see there
High rocky mountains on the south coast of Clare
The towns of Kilrush and Kilkee ever green
But theres none to compare with the cliffs of Dooneen
Farewell Dooneen, Farewell for a while, And to those kind-Hearted neighbours that I left in the isle,
May my soul never rest till it’s laid on the green
Near the old rocky slopes by the Cliffs of Dooneen

1) these sea floor plants often grow in large “meadows” that resemble grazing
2) There are various types of red algae found along the coasts of Ireland – Great Britain: the alga dulse (Palmaria palmata) and the irish moss (Chondrus crispus also called Carragheen) which, when spread out and dried in the sun, turns to white in a characteristic “blonde” color!
3) the Dingle Peninsula in the south-west of Ireland has a very indented coastline characterized by rock headlands and pristine green meadows
4) a Feile Lughnasa, a Celtic summer festival still celebrated in July


However the most accredited version of the song is the one that identifies the cliffs with the “Cliffs of Moveen” in County Clare.


Christy Moore tells in his web pageIt is a very simple piece of writing yet the combination of its lyric and music have people around the world. I have heard it sung in very different styles too. Margo recorded a “Country and Irish” version whilst Andy Rynne used to sing it in the Sean-Nós style

 Christy Moore

Quadriga Consort

Christy Moore lyrics
You may travel far from your own native  home
Far away o’er the mountains, far away o’er the foam
But of all the fine places that I’ve ever seen
there’s none to compare with the Cliffs of Dooneen
Take a view o’er the mountains, fine sights you’ll see there
You’ll see the high rocky mountains o’er the West coast of Clare
Oh the towns of Kilkee and Kilrush can be seen
From the high rocky slopes of the cliffs of Dooneen
It’s a nice place to be on a fine summer’s day
Watching all the wild flowers that ne’er do decay
Oh the hares and the loft pheasants are plain to be seen
Making homes for their young round the cliffs of Dooneen
Fare thee well to Dooneen, fare thee well for awhile
And to all the kind people I’m leaving behind
To the streams and the meadows where late I have been
And the high rocky slopes of the cliffs of Dooneen

Who knows why on the Web many write that the text is by Jack McAuliffe but then they sing the Christy Moore version !!


La Huron Carol scritta in wendat da un missionario gesuita a metà del Seicento con il titolo “Jesous Ahatonhia” (“Gesù è nato”) è stata tradotta nei secoli successivi in francese per diventare  un classico canto di Natale canadese, ma la versificazione in inglese è più recente e quella che va per la maggiore, è di Jesse Edgard Middleton (1926). La “traduzione” non rispecchia però il testo urone originario quanto piuttosto ne fa un adattamento con un gusto “vittoriano”: a specchio poi dalla versificazione inglese la comunità urone in Canada ha riscritto il testo in wendat. (continua prima parte)

ASCOLTA Chanticleer – Huron Carol

ASCOLTA Quadriga Consort (per la versione integrale bisogna andare su Spotify)

‘Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars
grew dim and wondering hunters heard the hymn,
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria
Within a lodge of broken bark
the tender babe was found;
A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped his beauty round
But as the hunter braves drew nigh the angel song rang loud and high
The earliest moon of wintertime
is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on the helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before him knelt with gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
O children of the forest free,
O seed of Manitou
The holy Child of earth and heaven is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant boy who brings you beauty peace and joy.
Traduzione di Cattia Salto
E’ stato nella luna d’inverno (1)
quando tutti gli uccelli erano migrati
che il potente Gran Manitù (2)
mandò gli angeli in schiera
davanti alla loro luce le stelle si offuscarono e i cacciatori
udirono l’inno
Gesù il nostro Re è nato,
Gesù è nato, 
nella gloria dei cieli
In una capanna di legno
il tenero bambinello fu trovato
in una pelliccia stracciata di coniglio
la sua beltà era avviluppata
e non appena la compagnia di cacciatori si avvicinò, il canto degli angeli si innalzò forte e alto
La prima luna d’inverno
non è così piena e luminosa
come fu il coro angelico in soccorso dell’infante là.
I capi da lontano davanti a lui si inginocchiarono con doni di pellicce di volpe e di castoro.
O figli della foresta,
o semi di Manitù
il Santo Bambino del Cielo e della Terra
è nato oggi per voi.
Venite a inginocchiarvi davanti al bimbo luminoso che vi porta bellezza, pace e gioia.

1) il tempo per i nativi americani era scandito dalla luna, così l’anno era diviso in 13 lune con ogni luna lunga 28 giorni. Sebbene alcuni tipi di calendario differiscano da tribù a tribù, quasi tutti i calendari tribali iniziano in primavera. Ogni tre anni, una luna viene aggiunta per rimettere in pari il ciclo lunare con quello solare.
2) il Grande Spirito, il Manitù algonchino con cui si identifica a spanna l’equivalente divinità del Cielo. Gli Uroni convertiti furono relativamente pochi e la presenza dei missionari gesuiti fu motivo di discordie e malattie. Il mito degli Uroni che spiega la nascita della Terra è singolare e inizia con una Fanciulla del Cielo di nome Ataentsic
“Al tempo della creazione, nel mondo celeste dove non si conosceva il dolore, una piccola fanciulla, Ataentsic, nacque poco dopo la morte di suo padre. Questa morte fu la prima avvenuta tra gli abitanti del Cielo. Il corpo del padre venne posto su un giaciglio regale e la figlia prese l’abitudine di visitarlo e di parlare con lui. Quando ella crebbe, il padre le disse di intraprendere un viaggio attraverso le terre del ‘Capo che possiede la Terra’, con cui avrebbe dovuto sposarsi. La ragazza partì, attraversò un fiume sul tronco di un acero e, dopo aver scampato vari pericoli, giunse alla capanna del capo, che era posta accanto al ‘grande albero del cielo’. Lì, dopo aver superato diverse prove, ella divenne la moglie del capo. Quando questi si accorse che ella aspettava un bimbo, divenne ingiustamente e ferocemente geloso del Drago di Fuoco. Ataentsic partorì una figlia, Soffio di Vento. I rappresentanti di tutte le cose e gli esseri della creazione visitarono quindi il capo e tennero consiglio. Le Luci del Nord indovinarono che il marito di Ataentsic era geloso, e gli consigliarono di sradicare ‘l’albero della vita’; egli lo fece immediatamente, provocando un abisso in cui gettò la moglie e la figlia. Così Ataentsic cadde dal cielo, e mentre attraversava l’aria notò una specie di luce blu. Guardò bene e pensò che stava cadendo verso un grande lago, ma non vide alcuna terra. Nel frattempo, le creature che vivevano nel lago, vedendo che ella stava cadendo dal cielo, decisero di cercare la terra in fondo al lago. Sia la lontra sia la tartaruga fallirono nell’impresa, e solo il topo muschiato riuscì a mettere la terra che aveva trovato sulla schiena della tartaruga. In quel momento il carapace crebbe enormemente e divenne la solida Terra. Ataentsic, sorretta dalle ali degli uccelli, posò il piede al suolo. Sua figlia, Soffio di Vento, crebbe, ed una notte ricevette la visita del Padrone dei Venti, e concepì due gemelli: Ioskeha e Tawiscara. I gemelli si odiavano, e combatterono tra loro prima ancora di nascere, causando la morte della madre. Dal suo corpo, Ataentsic fece il sole e la luna, ma non li mise in cielo. Tawiscara persuase sua nonna che era stato solo Ioskeha a causare la morte della loro madre; questi venne quindi scacciato da Ataentsic. Ioskeha raggiunse suo padre, il Padrone dei Venti, il quale gli diede un arco, delle frecce e il mais, rendendolo padrone degli animali e del cibo vegetale. Ioskeha creò quindi diverse specie di animali. Sconfisse poi il nano Hadui, che causa tutte le malattie, e gli strappò il segreto della medicina e dell’uso rituale del tabacco. Rubò il sole e la luna ad Ataentsic e a Tawiscara, e lasciò che prendessero il loro corso nel cielo. Infine Ioskeha creò l’uomo. Tawiscara provò ad imitarlo, ma riuscì solo a produrre dei mostri, ed infine suo fratello lo mandò in esilio.” (tratto da qui)

continua a domani


seashantyL’immagine ottocentesca del marinaio è piuttosto stereotipata: è Jack Tar, un ubriacone e donnaiolo, forse lavativo.
Nelle canzoni del mare dal punto di vista femminile il marinaio è spesso un bugiardo infedele che ha una ragazza in ogni porto anche se  tiene moglie e figli a casa. Ridicolizzato e respinto da alcune (vedi Saucy sailor boy), è invece ricercato da altre che preferiscono in assoluto l’amore di un marinaio!


Come in questa  sea song  dal titolo “The sailor laddie” che era cantata già nella seconda metà del 1700 dalle ragazze di Gosport, una cittadina portuale dell’Hampshire (Inghilterra) sulla Manica: è il marinaio l’uomo che le donne vogliono!!

ASCOLTA Eliza Carthy in Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys, ANTI- 2006.

Don’t you see the ships a-coming?
Don’t you see them in full sail?
Don’t you see the ships a-coming
With the prizes at their tail?
Oh my little rolling sailor,
Oh my little rolling he;
How I love my rolling sailor
When he’s on a rolling sea
Sailors they get all the money,
Soldiers they get none but brass.
How I love my rolling sailor,
Soldiers they can kiss my arse
How can I be blithe and merry
With my true love far from me?
All those pretty little sailors,
They’ve been pressed and taken to sea.
How I wish the press were over
And the wars were at an end.
Then every sailor laddie
Would be happy with his friend.
Some delight in jolly farmers,
Some delight in soldiers free;
But my delight’s in a sailor laddie,
Blithe and merry may he be.
When the wars they are all over
Peace and plenty come again;
Every bonny sailor laddie
Will come sailing on the main.
Oh, the wars will soon be over
And the sailors once come home;
Every lass will get a lad,
She won’t have to sleep alone.
traduzione italiano di Cattia Salto
Non vedi arrivare le navi?
Non le vedi con tutte le vele al vento?
Non vedi arrivare le navi
con le prede a rimorchio (1)?
Oh mio piccolo marinaio dal passo dondolante(2), come amo il mio marinaio con il passo dondolante
quando è in mare in tempesta
I marinai prendono tutti il soldo
i soldati solo delle monetine di rame,
come amo il mio marinaio dal passo dondolante, soldati potete baciarmi il culo (3)
Come posso essere felice e contenta
con il mio vero amore lontano da me?
Tutti quei bei giovani marinai
che sono stati arruolati e che hanno preso il mare.
Vorrei che la ferma fosse terminata
e che le guerre fossero alla fine
allora tutti i marinai
sarebbero felici con la loro ragazza
Alcune preferiscono i contadini allegri
alcune preferiscono i soldati
ma a me piace che il giovane marinaio
che possa essere felice e contento
Quando le guerre saranno tutte finite
pace e abbondanza verranno di nuovo
ogni bel giovane marinaio
verrà a navigare nella Manica
Oh presto le guerre saranno finite
e i marinai allora ritorneranno a casa
ogni ragazza avrà un ragazzo
e non dovrà dormire da sola.

1) at their tail/di poppa
2) il termine ha un duplice significato: in genere è sinonimo di“sailing” ma può anche derivare da “rollikins” un vecchio temine inglese per “ubriaco”; oppure come suggerisce Italo Ottonello è proprio in senso letterale “dondolante” dalla tipica andatura dei lupi di mare
3)una donnina proprio fine!

L’altra versione è quella registrata da Frankie Armstrong nel 1973 in “The Valiant Sailor – Songs & Ballads of Nelson’s Navy” Nelle note di copertina si commenta “Our text comes from John Aston’s Real Sailor Songs (1891) and the tune from Stokoe and Reay, who give it in their Songs and Ballads of Northern England, under the title of  O the Bonny Fisher Lad.

Quindi la versione del folk revival è la più recente variante abbinata alla melodia di “The bonny fisher lad” (una canzone che tratta di un argomento simile, solo che i preferiti dalle donne sono i pescatori)



Oh, me bonny sailor laddie,
oh, me bonny sailor he,
Oh, me bonny sailor laddie,
blythe and merry may he be,
Sailor lads have gold and silver,
fisher lads have nought but brass;
Well I love my sailor laddie
because I am a sailor’s lass.
Some delight in jolly farmers,
some delight in soldiers free;
My delight’s in a sailor laddie,
blythe and merry may he be.
How I wish the press was over
and all wars were at an end,
Then every bonny sailor laddie
would be merry with his friends;
How can I be blythe and merry
with my love so far from me,
When so many pretty sailors
they are pressed and ta’en to sea?
Oh, I wish the wars were over,
peace and plenty come again,
Then every bonny sailor laddie
would come sailing o’er the main
Don’t you see his ship a-coming,
don’t you see she’s in full sail?
Don’t you see the Britannia
coming with the prizes at her tail?
traduzione italiano di Cattia Salto

Oh mio bel giovane marinaio
lui è il mio bel marinaio,
Oh mio bel giovane marinaio
che possa essere felice e contento
I marinai hanno monete d’oro e argento
i pescatori solo monetine di rame
io amo il mio giovane marinaio
perchè sono una ragazza da marinaio.
Alcune preferiscono i contadini allegri
alcune preferiscono i soldati
ma a me piace il giovane marinaio, che possa essere felice e contento
Come vorrei che la ferma fosse terminata
e tutte le guerre fossero alla fine
allora tutti i bei giovani marinai
sarebbero felici con la loro ragazze;
come posso essere felice e contenta
con il mio vero amore così lontano da me?
Quando così tanti bei giovani marinai
sono stati arruolati e hanno preso il mare?
Oh vorrei che le guerre fossero finite
pace e abbondanza verranno di nuovo
allora ogni bel giovane marinaio
verrà a navigare nella Manica
Non vedi arrivare la sua nave?
non vedi che è a vele spiegate?
Non vedi la Britannia
arrivare con  le prede a rimorchio?


sailor-picLa versione della canzone originaria di Dundee, Scozia richiama un’altrettanto popolare canzone “The Hieland laddie“. In quella chi canta chiede “Sei mai stato …” (la prima strofa dice: Was you ever in Quebec?) e in questa la ragazza risponde “Sono stata a Dundee”

Nigel Gatherer, editor of Songs and Ballads of Dundee, says that the first of these, consisting of two verses with a refrain, was collected by Aberdeenshire folksong collector Gavin Greig (1856 –1914) from the Rev. John Calder and that it is “related to a family of folksongs which include ‘The Ploughboy Laddie’, ‘The Collier Laddie’ and ‘the Gypsy Laddies’. The tune is somewhat reminiscent of ‘A Man’s a Man for A’ That’.” (tratto da qui)

Su Spotify la versione di Christine Kydd

I’ve been East and I’ve been West
And I’ve been in Dundee
But the bonniest lad that ever I saw
He ploughs the raging sea
Awa’ with the sailor laddie,
awa’ with him I’ll go
Awa’ with the sailor laddie,
awa’ with him I’ll go
I’ve been east and I’ve been west
And I’ve been in Montrose
But the bonniest lad that e’er I saw
He wears the tarry clothes
He skips upon the plainsteens
And he sails upon the sea
And he’s the bonny sailor lad
The lad that I gang wi’
His jacket’s o’ the bonny blue
His jersey’s of the white
And he’s a curly kep(4) with a tinsel(5) band
That sailor’s my delight
I saw me lad, he gang aboot
I saw me lad set sail
I saw him turn his ship aboot
Awa’ to catch the whale
He bade me, aye, keep up me heart
He bade me may be dull
He bade me, aye, keep up me heart
Till he tak me tae himself
traduzione italiano di Cattia Salto
Sono stata ad Est sono stata ad Ovest
e sono stata a Dundee
ma il più bel ragazzo che io abbia mai visto naviga sul mare mosso
Via con il giovane marinaio
via con lui andò
via con il giovane marinaio
via con lui andrò
Sono stata ad Est e sono stata ad Ovest e sono stata a Montrose (1)
ma il più bel ragazzo che abbia mai visto, indossa i vestiti da marinaio (2)
Con un balzo da terra (3)
s’imbarca per il mare
ed è il bel giovane marinaio
il ragazzo con cui io andrò
La giacchetta di un bel blu
e i pantaloni bianchi
ha un berretto sui riccioli con una fascia metallica
quel marinaio è la mia delizia
Ho visto il mio ragazzo salire bordo
ho visto il mio ragazzo salpare
l’ho visto far virare la nave
per andare a caccia di balena
Mi disse di farmi forza
mi disse di non essere noiosa
mi disse di farmi forza
fino a quando mi avrebbe presa con sè

1) Montrose è una cittadina costiera della Scozia, ad una sessantina di kilometri di Dundee, un importante centro commerciale con il suo porto naturale
2) Tarry clothes: sono i vestiti di tela cerata, impermeabilizzata ‘Tarpaulin’ era sinonimo nel Seicento di marinaio e il diminutivo era “tar” (catrame) ; ‘tar’ era anche il cappello da marinaio
3) Plainsteens: flat stones used for paving; paved area surrounding the mercat cross. Non è molto chiaro il senso della frase letteralmente si traduce con “saltella sul selciato”
4) Kep: cap
5) Tinsel: interwoven with metallic thread


Una melodia da danza riportata nel Settecento in alcune collezioni scozzesi di musica  “John Glen (1891) finds the earliest appearance of the tune in print in Neil Stewart’s 1761 collection (pg. 15). Stewart’s collection, printed in Edinburgh and entitled Collection of the Newest and Best Reels and Country Dances, is dated to 1775 by the Kellers et al. The jig next appears in James Aird’s Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. II, published in Glasgow in 1785 (Aird prints different “Sailor Laddie’s” in his vol. 3). Scottish fiddler John Fife included “Sailor Laddie” in his manuscript collection begun in 1780 in Perthshire, and probably continued at sea. It is one of the “missing tunes” from William Vickers’ 1770 Northumbrian dance tune manuscript” (tratto da qui)

VIDEO nella serie televisiva “The Tudors” con la versione dei Toronto Consort da 3:07 la melodia viene fatta risalire al rinascimento inglese ovvero all’epoca Tudor.

ASCOLTA Quadriga Consort


“Sailor laddie” è una country dance  descritta nel manoscritto di Thomas Straight “24 Favourite Dances for the Year” 1783,