Fear a' Bhata

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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.

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

soraidh slànfond farewell
tèidwill 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:

àrdhigh
cnochill
sealltainnshowing

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

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