Mo ghille guanach

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MO GHILLE GUANACH (My thoughtless lad). Scottish, Air (4/4 time). G Mixolydian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABC. The lyric, from Elizabeth Jane Ross's (1789-1875) manuscript [1] of songs collected on the island of Raasay around 1812, begins:

Chorus:
Mo ghille guanach hug ìri òro
Mo ghille guanach ho ró bha hì,
Fhleasgaich uasail an leadain dualaich
Tha mi fo ghruaim bhon a dh'fhàg thu 'n tìr.

'S ann Didòmhnaich a' dol don chlachan
A ghabh mi beachd ort am measg nan ceud,
Ge b'e gòraich e na faoineas,
'N sin cheangail gaol sinn an snaim nach gèill.

Donald Campbell, in his article "The Music, Poetry and Traditions of the Highlands," printed in Tait's Edinburgh Magazine of May, 1849, records the following story:

The original verses to the following air were written by a young lady of exquisite beauty. They are very much admired for their naivette, and their unaffected elegance of language and expression. But the devotion of Gillie Guanach, who was the subject of them, to the fair sex, was formed on a scale by far too liberal to exclude all excepting the young and the beautiful from his admiration. He married a lady 'air le maise', as the Highlanders politely designate a lady having only one eye. As this lady happened to be a "tochered lass," censorious persons did not give Gillie Guanach credit for disinterestedness in his desertion of the accomplished beauty. But it may be mentioned that the preferred lady had all, excepting beauty, calculated to recommend her to the heart of a worthy country gentleman--good sense, good temper, and a virtuous disposition. The sensitive and haughty poetess could not, however, be expected to appreciated the Gille Guanach's preference of worth and prudence over youth and beauty. Having shortly afterwards become also a "tochered lass," and met him, while driving through the country in hir splendid equipage, accompanied by a fair friend, she determined to exhibit the power of female fascination over his heart, to appease her hurt pride and amuse her friend. Ordering her carriage to be stopped on his approach, she extended to him her small, white hand, radiant with jewels, and, looking for a moment passionately in his face, with eyes that outshone the diamonds which glittered in her raven hair, leaned forward, as if overcome with emotion, until her lips almost touched his. Thrown into the most admired disorder by the apparently overwhelming gush of tenderness, our hero felt a thrill of ecstacy rushing through his frame, and, in the maddening impulse of the moment, extended his arms to embrace her. The wily poetess instantly drew back, and, casting at him a glance of scorn, exclaimed, sarcastically, "What! is the honeymoon already over, James? Poor man! Return to your old, crooked, one-eyed wife at home; and--say your prayers!"

It is said the the above interview was not auspicious to the after-peace and happiness of either party. It probably showed them, for the first time, the real strength of attachment to one another. I quote a verse of the original...

'Núair a theid u do Dhuneidein,
Fear do cheuin tha 'n fhalbh an tráid,
Bidh na bain teanran uille an deigh ort--
'S bidh me fhein mar the do chach.

Mo Ghille Guanach, ho iri ovo,
Mo Ghille Guancah, ho ro vo hi
Fleasgach usal an leadain dualich,
Tha mi fo ghruaim bho na d'fhàg u mi!

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Morison (Highland Airs and Quicksteps, vol. 2), c. 1882; No. 8, p. 4.

Recorded sources:




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