Annotation: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. "Cutting Ferns" is an adaptation of the puirt a beul Gaelic song called "Buain na raideach" (Harvesting of the Ferns). "Tha me sgìth" is another version of the song, and other variants exist as well.

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.

"Gathering Ferns" (Helen Allingham) from The Illustrated London News, July 1871.

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

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.

In Ireland the melody was a highland in Donegal fiddler Mickey Doherty's repertoire under the title "Dulama on na buinne bui", recorded by the Irish Folklore Commission in January, 1949. Influential Sliabh Luachra fiddler and accordion player Dáithín Davey Lenihan (1889-1973), a founder of the Mountcollins Pipe Band in 1927 who adapted many Scottish tunes for local playing, paired a polka setting of the tune with "Britches Full of Stitches (The)." See also similarities with the earlier Scottish jigs "Drummond Castle" and "Matthew Briggs." On Cape Breton the tune is played as a dance tune.

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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