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.
Dear Mary, what shall I do,
This winter is getting cold,
Dear Mary, what will this house do
And those who are in it?
Were you not young, my dear,
When you went away during the good times,
In the times when the cuckoo sang its song
And all the green foliage was growing.
If my children are in my home
The night when I die
They will hold my wake lovingly
For three nights and three days;
There'll be lovely clay pipes for me,
And well-filled kegs,
There'll be three young women from the mountains
To keen for me on the boards.
And cut my coffin out for me
From top-notch bright boards,
If Seán Ó hEidhin is in Muighinis
Have it made by his hand;
Let my cap with my ribbon in it
Be in there placed prettily on my head,
Have Paidín Mór bring me to Muighinis
Or the day will go wrong.
As I'm going west past Sandy Isle
Let the flag be on the mast,
Don't put me in Letir Caladh
As my people are not there
But carry me west to Muighinis
Where they'll mourn me loudly,
There'll be light on the sandhills
I'll not suffer lonliness there.