MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada
An Gille Donn
(The Brown-haired Lad)
Alex MacKinnon CB 1 Tape 4 Track 3
Lake Ainslie Audio:
Milling Song


Ach na faicinn thu tighinn
'S mi gu ruitheadh 'nad choimhail.

O horo 'ille dhuinn
Ille dhuinn bhòidhich
O horo 'ille dhuinn.

'S mi gun rachadh nad' choinneanh
Air mo bhonnan gun bhrògan.

'S mi gun dannsadh ceòl fìdhle
'Dol do rìdhle Clann Dòmhnaill

'S mi gun dannsadh ceòl fìdhle
'Dol do rìdhle Clann Dòmhnaill.

'S mi gun dannsadh air mo bhonnaibh
Gus an tollain mo bhrògan.

' S mi gun dannsadh...

'S ann air feasgar Disathuirn
Chuir sinn 'm bàtul bha brònach.

'S iomadh fear a bha na shìneadh
Nach innseadh a dhòrain.

'S iomadh piuthar bha gun bhràthair
Agus màthair gun òigear.

'S fhuair sinn òrdugh a bhi màrteadh
Gu sràid ard nan ceum còmhnard.

Gu sràid ard nan ceum sòcair
Far nach cosgadh ar brògan

Luchd nan còtaichean ruadha
Rachadh suas an deadh òrdugh.

Fhuair sinn pìob is druma
Gus ar cumail an òrdugh

'S 'dol air "voyage" 's a mhaduinn
Tilleadh dhachaidh mas beò mi.


And if I saw you coming
I would run with haste to see you.

O ri o ro brown-haired lad,
Handsome brown haired lad
O ri o ro, brown haired lad.

I would go, to meet you
Bare-footed without shoes

I would dance to the music of the fiddle
In the reel of Clan Donald.

I would dance to the music of the fiddle
In the reel of Clan Donald.

I would dance on my feet
'Till there were holes in my shoes.

I would dance...

It was on Saturday evening
We were in a fearful battle.

Many a man who had fallen
Could not speak of his anguish.

Many a sister had lost a brother
And mother a son.

We were ordered to march
To the level high street.

To the easy walk of the high street
Where our boots would not wear out.

The men of the red coats
Would go off well trained.

We were given pipes and a drum
To keep us in order.

And going on a voyage in the morning
Returning home if I live.


This is a very old milling song originally composed in Scotland. The first five verses of the song belong to another well-known Cape Breton milling song, Cha Bhith Mi Buan ‘s Tu Bhith Bhuam (which Leach collected from Malcolm Angus MacLeod), although the tune and chorus are clearly that of An Gille Donn. It was common for themes and verses from various songs to combined in one performance, but it is also quite possible that the singer recognized the fact that he was performing another song and corrected himself halfway through. This would seem to be evidenced by the pause and change of theme after the performance of the fifth verse.

The song is sung from the perspective of a young man who has gone to battle on the mainland of Europe during the Napoleonic wars. Several Gaelic song collections attribute the composition to a soldier from the island of Mull. Scholars have also cited a verse which makes mention of troops being sent to Holland under the orders of King George, and suggest that these are references to a 1799 expedition to the Netherlands in which the Gordon Highlanders took part.

Several versions of this tune exist today in Cape Breton. Printed versions exist in An Duanaire, An t-Òranaiche, Mac-Talla nan Tùr, Gaelic Songs in Nova Scotia, Brigh an Orain and Hebridean Folksongs Vol. III.

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