'Illean Bithibh Sunndach

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This is a rousing song though some of the lyrics are sad and relate to an emotive subject. Emigration occurred at various times from Scotland to places in North America, Australia and New Zealand. The destination in this song is Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, Canada. This was at one time a popular destination for Gaels, and Cape Breton still has strong ties to Gaelic culture. The author of the song is looking forward to a new life in the new world but there’s also a hint of sadness about leaving the homeland. This performance is by Sineag MacIntyre, let’s listen to the whole song to get a feel for it.

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Chorus first, so let’s familiarise ourselves with the vocabulary:

'illeanShortened version of gillean, boys
gilleanboys
bòidsevoyage

The first three lines are:

'Illean bithibh sunndach,
A-null air a' bhòidse,
Fàgail ar dùthcha
Boys, be happy,
Going on the voyage,
Leaving our country

The next three lines are:

Gun dùil ri thighinn beò ann,
'Illean bithibh sunndach,
A-null air a' bhòidse
Without hope of doing well there,
Boys, be happy,
Going over the ocean

Once you are comfortable, let’s put the six lines together to create the whole chorus:

'Illean bithibh sunndach,
A-null air a' bhoidse,
Fàgail ar dùthcha,
Gun dùil ri thighinn beò ann,
'Illean bithibh sunndach,
A-null air a' bhoidse
Boys, be happy,
Going on the voyage,
Leaving our country,
Without hope of doing well there,
Boys, be happy,
Going on the voyage

How did you get on? Let’s gets started learning the first verse. As before, let’s crack on with the vocabulary:

cridheilhearty
aodachclothes, in this context it refers to the cloth, or sails.
gaolachloving
seòladhsailing

The first two lines of the first verse are quite hearty and urge the men to get on their way:

'Illean cridheil gaolach,
Togaibh rithe h-aodach
Hearty, loving boys,
Hoist the sails

The verse continues in the happy boisterous manner:

Tha buidheann mo ghaoil-sa,
Dihaoine dol a sheòladh
A group of my dear folk,
Are setting sail on Friday

Let’s put the two lines together:

'Illean cridheil gaolach,
Togaibh rithe h-aodach,
Tha buidheann mo ghaoil-sa,
Dihaoine dol a sheòladh
Hearty, loving boys,
Hoist the sails,
A group of my dear folk,
Are setting sail on Friday

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