MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
Eilidh Chuain
(Helen of the Sea/of Cuan)
an unidentified male CB 1 Tape 10 Track 7
Inverness County Audio:
Milling Song


Eilidh chuain 's i bha luath
Buidhe 's uaine 'na brataich
Eilidh chuain 's i bha luath

'S e ni asdar air gun mheang
Dìreadh bheann le sìndeag fhada
Air na suaircean 's air na sèoil
Ho ro gàire mu tòiseach

Eilidh chuain 'si bha luath

Chì mi 'm bàta roimh'n a ghaoith
Gaoth is goirsinn 'si aig asdar
Co bha sin ach Eilidh dhonn
Sgoltadh thonn 's gan cur seachad.

Eilidh Chuan 's i bha luath.

Chì mi bàta mòr an rìgh
Bha mi'n dìth air a seachnadh
Thog iad rithe na siùil àrd
Chluinte gàir aig a h-aisnean.

Eilidh Chuan 's i bha luath.

'S bha cuid ghobhlagan gun mheang
Maise eachdail chàrn is shlatan
Darach nach teirigeadh a chaoidh
Aig an druim 'n fhairge 'seinn

Eilidh Chuan 's i bha luath.

Nam biodh sian air éirigh àrd
Ge be seoladh na fosgailt
'S ged a bhiodh a luchd air bòrd
Gheibheadh an comhlan seo mach i.


Helen of the sea swift was she
Yellow and green are her banners
Helen of the sea swift was she.

She is faultless as she speeds
Topping the waves with long leaps
With her flags and her sails
The sea croons around her bows

Helen of the sea swift was she.

I see the boat sailing with the wind
Wind or storm she is speeding
That could only be brown Helen
Cutting through the waves as she leaves them behind.

Helen of the sea swift was she.

I see the king's long-ship
I was hoping to avoid her
They unfurled her high sails
Her rite could be heard creaking

Helen of the sea swift is she.

Her fittings were without a fault
Much beauty in her curves and sailyards
Oak that will last forever
At her keel the ocean sings.

Helen of the sea swift was she.

If the seas were raging high
Whether sailing or open
And though many were on board
This crew would still launch her.


This is a sailing song which has been collected from singers in Scotland and Inverness County, Cape Breton. Eilidh, or Helen is the name of the ship which is praised in the song for her swiftness at sea. While Cuan (the genitive of which is Chuain) would appear to mean “sea”, it has also been suggested that it may refer to Cuan, a place on the island of Luing, and is also the much older word for “harbour.”

The theme and tune of this song is very similar to Màili Dhonn Bhòidheach Dhonn (See Tape 10, unidentified female singer.). The song may also be found in print.

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