Hi, welcome to String Revolution. I'm Léan, I live in Dublin with my husband and two little boys, and I am a dangerous stringy subversive.
My job is to radiate my creative truth, and to help you radiate yours. I create, without exception, every day. I write here when I have something to say.

(learn more about me).

String Songs: Tuirne Mháire

I’ve been wanting to try out audio here at String Revolution for a while. Recently, I had a flash of what may be inspiration – and may equally be idiocy – and decided to combine two of my Grand Passions.

String (obviously). And singing.

Songs featuring the stringy arts.

About as obscure a little niche as you could hope to meet.

Of course, it turns out that I know, like, two songs that centrally feature textiles. And maybe, when I’ve sung those, I’ll stop. But maybe … maybe … you’ll help me discover more! That would be marvellous.

Here we go

Anyway, I’ve recorded the first song. To compound the nichiness, it’s in Irish: it’s a sean nós song called Tuirne Mháire (“Mary’s spinning wheel”).

This is the version I remember learning from my teacher in third class, Iníon Ní Dhonnchadha, when I was eight. The text doesn’t perfectly match the version I found online, which means either that I misremember it or that Iníon Ní Dhonnchadha’s version was slightly different.

Now, I’m not a native Irish speaker, and my sean nós was learned at school, not from a traditional practitioner. Then again, this is folk music, and I’ve been singing this song for some 28 years (not continuously – that would be weird), so it’s definitely part of my tradition.

It’s a good one for calming babies, I’ve found, perhaps because of its lovely, bouncy rhythm.

The Revolutionary Horde: Enough of this lily-livered prevarication! Let us face the music!
Léan: Right, so.

Tuirne Mháire

Text and Translation

Verse 1

A Mháire chiúin, tá ‘n olann ar tiús anois le cúnamh an Ard-Rí,
Cuir do thuirne arís i dtiún, is trí chos úr ón Spáinn faoi.
Mol as Londain, ceap as Luimneach, ‘s coigeal as Laighean Uí Eadhra,
Sreang den tsíoda is fearr sa tír, is beidh do thuirne sásta.

[Quiet Mary, the wool is thickening now with the help of the High-King,1
Tune up your spinning wheel again, and put three fresh feet from Spain under it.
A pivot from London, a base from Limerick, and a distaff from Leinster of the O’Haras,2
A thread of the finest silk in the land, and your spinning wheel will be satisfied.]

Fal-la-la, fal-la-la, fal-la-la, fa-léirí,
Fal-la-la, fal-la-la, fa-lú fa-la, fa-léirí.

Verse 2

‘S é tuirne Mháire an tuirne sásta: shiúil sé roinnt mhaith d’Éireann,
Níl cnoc ná gleann dá ndeachaigh sé ann nár fhág sé roinnt dá thréithe.
Chaith sé lá ar bhruach Cionn tSáil’, i lúb ins na gleanntáin sléibhe;
Na síóga mná ‘bhí ar thaobh Chnoic Meá, do shníomh leis ábhar léine.

[Mary’s spinning wheel is a contented spinning wheel: it has walked over much of Ireland,
There isn’t a hill or a valley that it’s gone into where it didn’t leave some of its accomplishments.
It spent a day on the shores of Kinsale, in a bend in the mountain glens;
The fairy women on the side of Cnoc Meá3 spun with it enough material to make a shirt.]

Fal-la-la, fal-la-la, fal-la-la, fa-léirí,
Fal-la-la, fal-la-la, fa-lú fa-la, fa-léirí.

1. The High-King is probably a reference to god.
2. I don’t know if “Leinster of the O’Haras” is a particular part of Leinster or just an idiom.
3. The internet suggests that Cnoc Meá is Castle Hacket in east Galway, for what it’s worth.

Phew! Did it!

Did you listen? Did you like it?

More to the point, do you know any other string-related folk songs? Please tell me about them, and I’ll see if any of them grab me as songs to learn and sing.

Go string! Up the revolution!

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