A old video clip shot in 1929 showing a young girl singing a sean-nós song while feeding ducklings is going viral after being colourised and posted by to Twitter by Old Ireland in Colour.
The girl is singing Sail Óg Rua, a song widely heard in Conemara, though the copy notes say the footage was shot in Macroom. Iconic sean-nós singer Seosamh Ó hEanaí held that the song had come from Munster, and the young girl’s masterful command of the complex air suggests a deep familiarity with the song and with the long tradition of unaccompanied singing.
“Magic to brighten your day” the Old Ireland in Colour account tweeted and plenty agreed.
20 seconds of magic from 1929 to brighten up your day
A young girl singing in Irish while feeding ducklings
(Probably Cork as other views include Shandon)
— Old Ireland in Colour (@irelandincolour) October 6, 2021
She is singing a lament called Sail Óg Rua.
“Ag oiliúint mo linbh ar bhacán mo lámha,
’S gan fiú an braon bhainne agam a bhearfainn dó.”
“Nursing my child in the crook of my arm
And not even a drop of milk to give him.”
The song is attributed to the poet Seán Mac Aoidh from Islandeady in Co Mayo, whose wife, Sail Óg Rua Ni Mhaille, died early in their marriage some 200 years ago. It was said that Sail’s relatives suspected him of killing her and approached his house under darkness intending to take revenge.
When they heard his lament however, they realised his innocence. So the story goes.
Songs such as Sail Óg Rua often traversed the country being carried by the spailpíns, or wandering labourers. It might, therefore, have been once well known in Macroom as well as Conemara.
It’s sung below by Josie Sheáin Jeaic Mac Donncha and also by Caitríona Ní Cheannabháin – both families with a long and rich tradition of powerful sean-nós singing.
’S nach mé an trua Mhuire ag dul Carraigín an Fhásaigh,
Ag gol is ag gárthaíl is ag déanamh bróin,
Ag oiliúint mo linbh ar bhacán mo láimhe,
’S gan fiú an braon bainne agam a thabharfainn dó;
Níl mé ach go tréithlag níl maith dhá shéanadh,
Níl mé ar aon nós ach mar an gceo,
Tá fuil mo chroí istigh dhá sú ina braonta,
’S, a Dhia, cén t-ionadh ’ndiaidh mo Shail óg rua.
Mo ghrá do bhéilín nár chum na bréaga,
Agus do mhéin dheas nach raibh ag bean le fáil,
Do dhá chíoch ghléigeal’ le do leanbh bán a bhréagadh,
A stór ní féidir liom tú a thabhairt ón mbás;
B’fhearr liom, ó, mór mór i mo dhiaidh sa ród í,
Ag bleán na bó dhom nó i mbun an tí,
Ná saibhreas Sheoirse is é fháil le stróinse,
’S gur faoi na fóid a chuir mé stór mo chroí.
In Oileán Éadaigh a fuair mé fhéin í,
An bhean ar léi a lig mé mo rún ’s mé óg,
Tá triúr ar aon chéill ag gol i do dhiaidhse,
’S bean mo bhréagtha mo léan faoin bhfód;
In aois a sé déag sea fuair mé fhéin í,
’S nár dheas an féirín í ag fear le fáil,
Ach, a stór mo chléibh, is tú d’fhág liom féin mé,
Is chuaigh tú i gcré uaim is tú i do chailín óg.