Cutting Ferns

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X:1 T:Cutting Ferns M:C| L:1/8 R:Slow Strathspey B:Stewart-Robertson - The Athole Collection (1884) Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:Amin B|A>A a2 g<e g2|e>dB>A G>AB>G|A<A a2 g<e g2|e>dB>g B<A A:| |:g|e>dB>A G>AB>G|e>dB>A B2 B>g|e>dB>A G>AB>d|e>dg>B A2A:||

CUTTING FERNS (Buain na Rainich). AKA - "Bracken Highland Fling (The)," "Cutting Bracken," "Dúlamán," "Faery’s Lament," "Fairies Love Song," "Heavin' Bracken," "Pulling Bracken," "Reaping the Ferns." AKA and see "Dulamaon na Buinne Bui (2)," "Tha me sgìth," "Weary Maid (The)." Scottish (originally), Cape Breton, Ireland; (Slow) Strathspey (whole time) or Slow Air/Lullaby (6/8 time); Ireland, Polka. A Minor (Athole, Cranford/Holland, Kerr, Martin): A Dorian (Perlman). Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB (Kerr): AABB (Athole, Cranford/Holland, Perlman): AABBCCDD (Martin). "Very old," notes James Stewart-Robertson in his Athole Collection. Under the title "DulamaOn na Buinne Bui" it was a highland in Donegal fiddler Mickey Doherty's repertoire, recorded by the Irish Folklore Commission in January, 1949. "Tha me sgìth" is another version of the song, and other variants exist as well. See also similarities with the jig "Drummond Castle." On Cape Breton the tune is rendered as a dance tune.

Ferns were employed for a number of uses in times past. The were used as litter for cattle and as a makeshift pallet for sleeping, they could be a compound for manure or for covering corn stacks. In some places ferns were used in thatching of cottage roofs, and could be burned to render an alkali mixture used in bleaching. Collecting ferns was traditionally women's work (as it fell within the domestic realm), often carried out by young women. It was not an easy task, for once harvested, great bales would then have to be carried home.

The song that accompanies the tune (which can also be sung to "The Broom of Cowden Yowes") tells on one young lass who went out to cut fern or bracken, and fell in love with one of the Sidhe, or fairy folk. He reciprocated, but when her family discovered the fact and fearing the danger in such a liason, they kept her to home. The song is sung by the fairy, who is broken-hearted. The chorus and first verse were collected by Marjorie Kennedy-Fraser in the early 20th century, and additional verses were written by her collaborator, Kenneth MacLeod.

Tha mi sgìth 's mi leam fhìn,
Buain na rainich, buain na rainich
Tha mi sgìth 's mi leam fhìn,
Buain na rainich daonnan

Cùl an tomain, braigh an tomain,
Cùl an tomain, bhòidhich,
Cùl an tomain, braigh an tomain,
'H-uile là a'm' onar

(Chorus) I am tired, and I am alone,
Cutting the Bracken, Cutting the bracken
I am tired, and I am alone,
Cutting the Bracken forever

Behind the knoll, up on the knoll,
Behind the pretty knoll
Behind the knoll, up on the knoll,
All the day alone

Additional notes
Source for notated version : - Eddy Arsenault (b. 1921, St. Chrysostom, East Prince County, Prince Edward Island) [Perlman].

Printed sources : - Cranford (Jerry Holland: The Second Collection), 2000; No. 39, p. 17. Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 1), c. 1880's; Set 29, No. 3, p. 18. Martin (Ceol na Fidhle, vol. 2), 1988; p. 26 (appears as "Cutting Bracken"). Perlman (The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island), 1996; p. 196. Stewart-Robertson (The Athole Collection), 1884; p. 58.

Recorded sources : - Carpe Diem Records, Arianna Savall, Petter U. Johansen & Hirundo Maris - "The Wind Rose" (2017). Fontana Records 6010 067, Alan Stivell - "Alan Stivell ‎– Tha Mi Sgith" (1971). Green Linnet GLCD 1156, Jerry Holland - "The Fiddlesticks Collection." Jerry Holland - "Master Cape Breton Fiddler" (1982).

See also listing at :
Alan Snyder's Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index [1]
Alan Ng's [2]
Hear a puirtt à beul versions collected in the 1950's, sung Annie Arnott and Mairead NicAoidh at Tobar an Dualchais [3] [4]
Hear a puirt à beul version by Belle Stewart (in Gaelic and English) at Tobar an Dualchais [5]

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