This is a traditional Irish sean-nós song. A woman by the name of Máire Ní Chlochartaigh wrote this song while she was on her death bed. She was married to Taimín Bán Ó Conghaile of Leitir Calaidh but she wanted to be buried in her own place, Muighinis (near Carna, Co Galway). But the weather was so bad for three days after her death that it wasn’t possible to make the boat trip to Muighinis and she was buried in Leitir Calaidh instead.
“Sarah recorded this song and its English translation – on one of the cassett tapes that accompanied my book “Blas Meala/A Sip from the Honey-Pot” (Irish Academic Press, 1985). It is the same recording that is included on the present tape. The version is a composite one, incorporating details from several different sources. – The only piece of information I have to add to what I wrote about the song in “Blas Meala” concerns the flag which Máire Ní Chlochartaigh wished to have flown on the boat which was to bring her body to Muighinis; according to Séamus Ó Dúbháin (from Ard Mór, Cill Chiaráin) the flag was one which he used to wave at boats passing by her home in Leitir Calaidh.”
Amhrán Mhuighinse was written by a woman on her death bed. The woman had been born and raised in Mhuighinse, near Carna in County Galway. When she married, she moved to a place six miles away to where her husband was from. She leaves us in no doubt of her loyalty to her husband and children, but as death approached, she asked the family to bury her in Mhuighinse where she was from, she specified how she wanted to be laid out, and made arrangements for her coffin to be brought there by boat.
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I’m currently writing an essay on this song (Irish folklore, song and storytelling is one of my fields of study), and came across some info I thought you might appreciate.
Unusually for this type of song, the composer is known, her maiden name was Mairín Ní Chlochartaigh, her married name Máirín Uí Chonghaile (as she married Taimín Bán Ó Conghaile – so the Taimín Bán mentioned in the song doesnt translate as ‘fair Taimín’ but as his actual name.
It is said she composed it on her deathbed, as she wished to be buried on Mweenish Island instead of Leitir Caladh, the townland into which she married 6 miles away. Allegedly her cousin promised her that he would see her wish fulfilled, and that she would be brought home to be buried however there was a vicious storm at sea for 3 days after her death, and seeing as we bury our dead quickly in Ireland, she was interred in Leitir Caladh.
If you can read Irish or know someone who can you’ll find this info in Leabhar Mór na nAmhrán published by Cló Iar Chonnacht.
If I were three leagues out at sea
Or in the mountains far from the land
Is no living thing to accompany me there
But fern green and heather,
The snow being blown down on me
Is the wind clearing it off me,
I am having a conversation with my fair Taimín
And the night would not feel so long.
Oh faithful Mary what will I do?
The cold winter is coming,
Dear Mary, what will
The house and all who dwell there?
It is if you yourself that is leaving me
And I to stay alive,
And will forever never think remember
That you could ever be replaced.
And if my family is with me in my house
The night that I would die,
They would wake me so handsomely ,
Three nights and three days,
There be would Long clay pipes
And the kegs would be full
And three young women from the mountains I
To lament me over my coffin board
And cut out my coffin for me
From the best and brightest timbers /boards
And if John Hynes in Maínis,
Let it be made by his hand,
Let my cap and my ribbon be inside
Are nicely placed to my head,
And Paddy Mor will bring me to Maínis
Or it will be a very rough day.
And as I am going west to Inse Ghainimh
Have a flag on the mast,
Do not bring me to Letter Callow
That is not where my people are;
But bring me west to Maínis,
Where I will be loudly mourned ,
There will be lights on the sandhills
And I will not be lonely there.