Let’s learn the chorus and first two verses of the famous Irish song Mo Ghile Mear. The modern form of the song was composed in the early 1970s by Dónal Ó Liatháin using a traditional air collected in Cúil Aodha, County Cork, and lyrics selected from Irish language poems of the 18th century Cork poet Seán “Clárach” Mac Domhnaill. The pronunciation I use in this video is based on Iarla Ó Lionáird’s rendition. Iarla Ó Lionáird is a Cúil Aodha native.
This song has a fascinating history. The tune was collected by the influential Irish composer Seán Ó Riada from an elderly Cúil Aodha man. The song was written by Dónal Ó Liatháin a year or so after Ó Riada’s death using this tune upon the suggestion of his son Peadar Ó Riada, now a well-known composer, musician and broadcaster.
Some of the lyrics are partially based on Bímse Buan ar Buairt Gach Ló (c. 1746), a lament of the failure of the Jacobite rising of 1745. In the original poem, the voice is a personification of Ireland lamenting the exile of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Mo ghile mear was a term used to refer to him in numerous Jacobite songs of the time.
Another part of the lyrics is based on an earlier Jacobite poem by Mac Domhnaill called Seal do bhíos im mhaighdin shéimh. This was written during the Jacobite rising of 1715, so here the exiled hero is Bonnie Prince Charlie’s father, James Francis Edward Stuart.
Lyrics, phonetics and a translation
Seal dá rabhas i m’ mhaighdean shéimh,
/Shal daw row-uss im vy-jen hayv/
Once I was a gentle maiden,
‘S anois i m’ bhaintreach chaite thréith,
/sa-nish im vyn-trukh khotcha hray/
but now I’m a spent, worn-out widow,
Mo chéile ag treabhadh na dtonn go tréan
/Muh khay-la egg trow-a na down guh train/
my spouse strongly ploughing the waves,
De bharr na gcnoc san imigéin
/Deh vawr nah gnuk san im-ee-gain/
over the hills and far away.
Curfá | Chorus
’Sé mo laoch mo ghile mear,
/Shay muh laykh muh ghil-eh mar/
My gallant darling is my hero,
’Sé mo Chaesar, ghile mear,
/Shay muh Khay-sur, ghil-eh mar/
He’s my Caesar, gallant darling,
Suan ná séan ní bhfuaireas féin,
/Soo-un naw shayn nee voo-russ hayn/
I found neither sleep nor happiness
Ó chuaigh i gcéin mo ghile mear.
/Oh hoo-ig e gain muh ghil-eh mar/
since my gallant darling went far away
Bímse buan ar buairt gach ló,
/Beem-sha boo-un ar boort gokh low/
Every day I’m constantly enduring grief,
Ag caoi go crua is ag tuar na ndeor
/Eh kuee guh kroo-a iss eh toor na no-or/
weeping bitterly and shedding tears,
Ó scaoileadh uaim an buachaill beo
/Oh squee-lug wem on boo-khel byo/
because my lively lad has gone away from me
Is ná ríomhtar tuairisc uaidh, mo bhrón.
/Iss naw reev-tur too-rishk weg, muh vrohn/
and no news is heard from him, alas.
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1 thought on “How to say Mo Ghile Mear in Irish”
Go raibh míle, míle maith agat, a Shiobhán. Tá sé sin go hiontach. Is cinnte go bhfoghlaimeoidh mé é a chanadh!