Tàladh Dhòmhnaill Ghuirm

This information is taken from a Facebook post from the Calum MacLean page.  

Raasay-born Calum Maclean (1915-1960) was one of the foremost Scottish folklorists and ethnologists.

Whether this anonymous song was composed for either Dòmhnall Gorm Mòr (d. 1617) or his nephew, and successor of the Sleat MacDonalds, Dòmhnall Gorm Òg (d. 1643) remains unclear. Given its title, the presumption is that the song was composed when the subject was still a child but this is by no means certain. Framed as an iorram or boat-song, the imagery is at times rather startling and perhaps even surreal. As with many other versions of a lullaby, the subject is extolled and the composer wishes every benefit to the young infant to succeed when he reaches maturity. Many different versions of this song have been collected from the mid-nineteenth century onwards and the following was recorded by Donald Archie MacDonald at some point in 1967 then by Alan Bruford in the summer of 1965 and, yet again, by Ian Paterson in the spring of 1976.


Tàladh Dhòmhnaill Ghuirm

[Translation below]

Ar leam gur h-ì

Ho nàil ì bhò hì, a’ ghrian tha ag èirigh

Ho nail ì bhò ho,

’S i a’ cur smal

Air na reultaibh

Mac mo rìgh-sa

Dol na èideadh

Gun robh gach dùilean

Mar mi fhèin da

Dè ma a bhios

Cha tachair beud da.

Nàil ì bhò hì,

Nàil ì bhò hì,

Nàil ì bhò hì,

Nuair thèid mac mo

Rìgh-sa a dh’Alba

Ge b’ e cala

Tàmh no àite

Gum bi mire

Cluichd is gàire,

Bualadh bhròg is

Leòis air deàrnaibh.

Siud is iomairt

Air an tàileasg

’S air na cairtean

Breacan bàna

’S air na dìsnean


Nàil ì bhò hì,

Nàil ì bhò hì.


Donald Gorm’s Lullaby


I think that

Ho nàil ì bhò hì, the sun is rising

Ho nail ì bhò ho,

That is casting a haze over the stars.

When the son of my king

Is in armour

May every being

Be as I am to him

What if it is?

No harm will befall him.

Nàil ì bhò hì,

Nàil ì bhò hì,

Nàil ì bhò hì,

When my king’s son

Reaches Scotland

Whatever the port

Of call or lodging

Merriment there will be.

Sport and laughter,

Beatings with slippers

And palms with blisters,

That and playing

At back-gammon,

Gambling at cards

Patterned and gleaming

And throwing of dice

Of white ivory.

Nàil ì bhò hì,

Nàil ì bhò hì,

Nàil ì bhò hì.


Recorded by Donald Archie MacDonald in 1967, Alan Bruford on 5 August 1965 and then by Ian Paterson (from which the above has been transcribed) on 17 March 1976 from the Rev. William Matheson (1910–1995) who was born in Malaclete and raised in Sollas, North Uist. He became a Reader in Celtic at the University of Edinburgh. The original tape recordings are catalogued as SA1967/60/A14; SA1976/97/B3 which are available to listen to on Tobar an Dualchais:

https://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/track/108864?l=en; http://tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/14820?l=en; and http://tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/101572?l=en;

see further Anon., ‘Tàladh Dhòmhnaill Ghuirm (Òran), Gairm, no. 7 (An t-Earrach, 1954), pp. 239–41; John L. Campbell and Francis Collinson (eds.), Hebridean Folksongs, 3 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969–81), i, pp. 128–31, 238–39, 325–26; K. C. Craig (ed.), Orain Luaidh Màiri nighean Alasdair (Glasgow: Matheson, 1949), pp. 11–12; Peter Davidson and Jane Stevenson (eds.), Early Modern Women (1520–1700): An Anthology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 285–88; Marjory Kennedy-Fraser and Kenneth MacDonald (eds.), Songs of the Hebrides, 2 vols. (London: Boosey and Co., 1917), ii, pp. 28–30; Catherine Kerrigan, An Anthology of Scottish Women Poets (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univesity Press, 1991), pp. 18–23, 336; Rev. Angus MacDonald and Rev. Archibald MacDonald (eds.), The MacDonald Collection of Gaelic Poetry (Inverness: Northern Counties Publishing Co., 1911), pp. 35–39; Keith Norman MacDonald (ed.), The Gesto Collection of Highland Music (Leipzig: Privately printed, 1895), app., p. 20; Alasdair MacGilleMhìcheil, ‘Donull Gorm’, An Gaidheal, vol. 5, no. 51 (1876), pp. 68–70; Cairistìona Mhàrtainn (ed)., Òran an Eilein: Gaelic Songs of Skye (An t-Eilean Sgitheanach: Taigh na Teud, 2001), p. 78; Colm Ó Baoill and Meg Bateman (eds.), Gàir nan Clàrsach / The Harps’ Cry: An Anthology of 17th Century Gaelic Poetry (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 1994), pp. 66–69; Francis Tolmie, A. G. Gilchrist and Lucy E. Broadwood, ‘Songs of Labour’, Journal of the Folk-Song Society, vol. 4, no. 16 (1911), pp. 238–39; William J. Watson (ed.), Bàrdachd Ghàidhlig: Specimens of Gaelic Poetry, 1550–1900 (Stirling: A. Learmonth & Son for An Comunn Gaidhealach), pp. 246–49.

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