Oran-gaoil

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X:1 % T:Oran gaoil, a gallic song translated by a Lady M:3/8 L:1/8 R:Air B:Johnson - Scots Musical Museum, vol. 3 (1790, Song 273) Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:Dmin d2|(c2A2)c2|d2d2e2|f3g f2|(f3e) d2|c2A2f2| {f}e4 d2|c2A2d2|D4 E2|F3G (AB)|c2A2F2| G2A2c2|d3e f2|cA3F2|A3B AG|F3G E2| D4||A2|d3ed2|{d}c4A2|f4f2|{f}e4d2|(c2A2)f2| {f}e4 d2|c2A2d2|D4 E2|F4G (AB)|c2A2F2| G2A2c2|d3e f2|c2A2F2|A4 A G|F3 GE2|D4||



ORAN-GAOIL. Scottish, Air (6/8 time). E Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB. Poet Robert Burns (1759-1796), in a letter to publisher George Thomson (August, 1793), remarked:

They have lately in Ireland, with great pomp, published an Irish air as they say, called 'Caun du delish' ("Ceann dubh dilis" AKA "Black Headed Dearie). The fact is, in a publication of Corri's a great while ago [New and Complete Collection of the most favourite Scots Songs, 1783]], you will the same air called a Highland one, with a Gaelic song set to it. Its name there, I think, is 'Oran Gaoil' and a fine air it is.

Writing to Thomson the next year, he returned to the subject:

The other one in your collection 'Oran gaoil', which you think is Irish, they claim as theirs by the name of 'Caun du delish', but look into your publication of Scottish Songs, and you will find it is a Gaelic Song, with the words in that language, a wretched translation of which original words is set to the tune in the [Scots Musical] Museum. Your worthy Gaelic priest gave me that translation, and at his table I heard both the original and the translation sung by a large party of Highland gentlemen, all of whom had no other idea of the tune than it was a native of their own country.

Stenhouse, in his notes to the tunes in the Museum, strongly intimated that the tune was not a Highland one:

It may be remarked, however, that almost every Highland family of rank and fortune have long been in the habit of sending their children to the low country for their education, in which music has always been one of the principal ornamental branches. There cannot be a doubt, therefore, that the airs peculiar to Tweedside, Ettrick, Leader, Yarrow, Gala, etc., have long been familiar to the Highlanders as to the inhabitants of those Lowland pastoral districts where they had their origin.

Musicologist John Glen, while agreeing to the substance of Stenhouse's observation, believed the air "Oran gaoil" to be a Highland one, "notwithstanding Irish or other claims." Multi-instrumentalist John Rook, of Waverton, Cumbria, entered the tune (as "Oran-gaoil") into his large 1840 music manuscript collection.

Some writers have suggested a musical relationship between "Oran-gaoil" and James Oswald's "Old Jew (The)", but, as Glen points out, the only resemblance is in the first strain.

Additional notes

Source for notated version: -

Printed sources : - Johnson (Scots Musical Museum, vol. 3), 1790; Song 273, p. 282.

Recorded sources: -



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