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Updated 02/04/2020

 


Son of the Earl of the White Banners

This tune is from the Highland song of the same name, Mhic Iarla nam bratach bna. Bratach Bna is the title of a traditional, mouth music, waulking (working, fulling) song written in Gaelic thought to originate from the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland.

Literally, Bratach Bna means "of white flags" or "of white banners". The words are taken from the song's first line "A mhic Iarla nam bratach bna" which means "O son of the Earl of the white banners".

Waulking songs are Scottish folk songs, traditionally sung in the Gaelic language by women while waulking cloth. This practice involved a group of people beating newly woven tweed rhythmically against a table or similar surface to soften it. Simple, beat-driven songs were used to accompany the work. A waulking session often begins with slow-paced songs, with the tempo increasing as the cloth becomes softer. As the singers work the cloth, they gradually shift it to the left so as to work it thoroughly. A tradition holds that moving the cloth anticlockwise is unlucky.

Typically one person sings the verse, while the others join in the chorus. As with many folk music forms, the lyrics of waulking songs are not always strictly adhered to. Singers might add or leave out verses depending on the particular length and size of tweed being waulked. Verses from one song might appear in another, and at times the lead singer might improvise to include events or people known locally.

The chorus to many waulking songs consists of meaningless vocables, serving a function similar to 'tra la la' or 'hey hey hey' in other song forms.

 

Lyrics
 
Gaelic Version EnglishTranslation
   
'Ic iarla nam bratach bna O son of the earl of the white banners
'Ic iarla nam bratach bna O son of the earl of the white banners
'Ic iarla nam bratach bna O son of the earl of the white banners
Chunna' mi do long air sile I saw your longship on the sea
   
Sist Chorus
     Hi 'illean beag h ill ro,      Hi 'illean beag h ill ro,
     Hi 'illean beag h ill ro,      Hi 'illean beag h ill ro,
     Hi 'illean beag h ill ro,      Hi 'illean beag h ill ro,
     Hu hoireann hu ileadh      Hu hoireann hu ileadh
   
Chunna' mi do long air sile I saw your longship on the sea
Chunna' mi do long air sile I saw your longship on the sea
Chunna' mi do long air sile I saw your longship on the sea
Bha stiir ir oirr' 's d chrann airgid There was a helm of gold on her, and two masts of silver
   
Sist Chorus
   
Bha stiir ir oirr' 's d chrann airgid There was a helm of gold on her, and two masts of silver
Bha stiir ir oirr' 's d chrann airgid There was a helm of gold on her, and two masts of silver
Bha stiir ir oirr' 's d chrann airgid There was a helm of gold on her, and two masts of silver
'S cupaill de shoda na Gaillmhinn And shrouds of silk from Galway
   
Sist Chorus
   
'S cupaill de shoda na Gaillmhinn And shrouds of silk from Galway
'S cupaill de shoda na Gaillmhinn And shrouds of silk from Galway
'S cupaill de shoda na Gaillmhinn And shrouds of silk from Galway
Soda reamhar ruadh na Spinne Rich red silk from Spain
   
Sist Chorus
   
Soda reamhar ruadh na Spinne Rich red silk from Spain
Soda reamhar ruadh na Spinne Rich red silk from Spain
Soda reamhar ruadh na Spinne Rich red silk from Spain
Cha b'ann an Glaschu a bha e It was not in Glasgow that it was seen
   
Sist Chorus
   
Cha b'ann an Glaschu a bha e It was not in Glasgow that it was seen
Cha b'ann an Glaschu a bha e It was not in Glasgow that it was seen
Cha b'ann an Glaschu a bha e It was not in Glasgow that it was seen
No 'n Dn-Bheagain, 's beag o'n lr e Nor in Dunvegan, small and lowly
   
Sist Chorus
   
No 'n Dn-Bheagain, 's beag o'n lr e Nor in Dunvegan, small and lowly
No 'n Dn-Bheagain, 's beag o'n lr e Nor in Dunvegan, small and lowly
No 'n Dn-Bheagain, 's beag o'n lr e Nor in Dunvegan, small and lowly
No 'n Dn-Tuilm nam bratach bna Nor in Duntulm of the white banners