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A2 - Beginners : Learn a Gaelic song - Fear a’ bhàta

Fear a’ bhàta

Legend has it that this is a very traditional Gaelic song. It is a song of unrequited love for a young fisherman. There are many variations of the story relating to this song, but one version says that it was written at the end of the 18th century by Sìne NicFhionnlaigh from Tong, Isle of Lewis for Donald MacRae of Uig, Isle of Lewis. Further versions state that although this is a song full of despair, the couple ended up marrying a year after the song was penned. This performance is by Sineag MacIntyre, let’s listen to the whole song to get a feel for it.

Let’s now start learning it, the chorus first.

soraidh slàn

fond farewell

tèid

will go

The first two lines are:

Fhir a’ bhàta sna hò ro èile,
Fhir a’ bhàta sna hò ro èile

Boatman na hò ro èile,
Boatman na hò ro èile

The chorus continues:

Fhir a’ bhàta sna hò ro èile,
Mo shoraidh slàn leat 's gach àit' an tèid thu

Boatman na hò ro èile,
A fond farewell wherever you go

Let’s put the four lines of the chorus together:

Fhir a’ bhàta sna hò ro èile,
Fhir a’ bhàta sna hò ro èile,
Fhir a’ bhàta sna hò ro èile,
Mo shoraidh slàn leat 's gach àit' an tèid thu

Boatman na hò ro èile,
Boatman na hò ro èile,
Boatman na hò ro èile,
A fond farewell wherever you go

Sing along to the chorus. Let’s now become familiar with the first verse. The key vocabulary follows:

àrd

high

cnoc

hill

sealltainn

showing

The first two lines of this verse are:

'S tric mi sealltainn on chnoc as àirde',
Dh'fheuch am faic mi fear a' bhàta

I often look from the highest hill',
To try and see the boatman

The second two lines continue:

An tig thu 'n diugh no 'n tig thu màireach?
'S mur tig thu idir gur truagh a tha mi

Will you come today or tomorrow?
If you don't come at all I will be down-hearted

Let’s put the four lines together to create the first verse.

'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

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 down-hearted

Fear a’ bhàta - the second verse

How did you get on? Now let’s learn the second verse, vocabulary first:

briste

broken

brùite

bruised

cridhe

heart

dùil

hope

tùrsach

miserable

osna

sigh

OK, let’s try the first two lines:

Tha mo chridhe-sa briste, brùite
'S tric na deòir a' ruith o m' shùilean

My heart is broken and bruised
With tears often flowing from my eyes

The verse continues:

An tig thu 'n nochd no 'm bi mo dhùil riut?
No 'n dùin mi 'n doras le osna thùrsaich?

Will you come tonight or will I expect you?
Or will I close the door with a sad sigh?

The verse in full is:

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?

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?

Fear a’ bhàta - Let's sing!

Now you know the song let’s put it together:

Fhir a’ bhàta sna hò ro èile,
Fhir a’ bhàta sna hò ro èile,
Fhir a’ bhàta na hò ro èile,
Mo shoraidh slàn leat 's gach àit' an tèid thu

Boatman na ho ro eile,
Boatman na ho ro eile,
Boatman a ho ro eile,
A fond farewell wherever you go

'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

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 down-hearted

Fhir a’ bhàta sna hò ro èile,
Fhir a’ bhàta sna hò ro èile,
Fhir a’ bhàta na hò ro èile,
Mo shoraidh slàn leat 's gach àit' an tèid thu

Boatman na ho ro eile,
Boatman na ho ro eile,
Boatman a ho ro eile,
A fond farewell wherever you go

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?

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?

Fhir a’ bhàta sna hò ro èile,
Fhir a’ bhàta sna hò ro èile,
Fhir a’ bhàta na hò ro èile,
Mo shoraidh slàn leat 's gach àit' an tèid thu

Boatman na ho ro eile,
Boatman na ho ro eile,
Boatman a ho ro eile,
A fond farewell wherever you go