Fhir a’ bhata

Written at the end of the 18th century by Sìne NicFhionnlaigh from Tong,  Isle of Lewis for Donald MacRae of Uig, Isle of Lewis, Fhir a’ bhata is a Scots-Gaelic song expressing a woman’s woe at the absence of the man she loves.

The sleeve notes of the album Canterbury Fair says;

“This beautiful lament of a rejected girl is from Scottish tradition, though it is also now found in Ireland. They version we use here is a composite of both Irish and Scots translations. It can be found in M. Macleans “The literature of the Highlands” (2nd edition, London 1925), and in “A Celtic Miscellany” (Penguin Classics). The girls wish to make due apologies for their pronunciation of the Gaelic chorus. “Fhir a’ bhata” means “O my boatman”, and “na horo eile” is a call.”

The lyrics to this version by Canterbury Fair are as follows;
 
Fhir a bhata, na horo eile
Fhir a bhata, na horo eile
Fhir a bhata, na horo eile
O fare thee well, love, where’er thou be
How often hunting the highest hilltop
I scan the ocean, thy sail to see
Will come tonight, love, will come tomorrow
Or ever come, love, to comfort me
They call thee fickle, they call thee false one
And seek to change me but all in vain
Thou art my dream yet throughout the dark night
And every morn yet, I watch the main
 
There’s not a hamlet, too well I know it,
Where you go wandering or stay awhile
But all its old folk you win with talking
And charm its maidens with song and smile
 
Dost thou remember the promise made me,
The tartan plaid, the silken gown
The ring of gold with thy hair and portrait
That gown and ring I will never own
 

The Gaelic version can be found here;  http://www.bbc.co.uk/alba/foghlam/beag_air_bheag/songs/song_03/index.shtml

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