Annotation:Port na bPúcaí

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X:1 T:Port na bPúcaí R:slow air Z:Henrik Norbeck <henrik.norbeck@MAILBOX.SWIPNET.SE> M:3/2 L:1/4 Q:1/2=60 K:D | d>c A3 B | A{BA}G/E/ F2 G2 \ | A>B =c3{dc}B | A3/2{BA}G/ {AB}A4 | | d>c {AB}A3 B | A{BA}G/E/ {A}F2 {A}G2 \ | A{BA}G/F/ G4- | G{AG}F G4 :| |: A>B c2 d2 | e f/g/ {fg}f2 g2 \ | {b}a{ba}g/f/ g2 e>f | {ef}e{fe}d/B/ c4 | | [1 {AB}A>B c2 d2 | {ef}e f/g/ {fg}f2 g2 \ | {b}a{ba}g/f/ g2 e>f | e{fe}d/c/ d4 :| | [2 d>c {AB}A3 B | {c}A{BA}G/E/ F2 G2 \ | A{BA}G/F/ G4- | G{AG}F G4 ||

PORT NA bPÚCAÍ (The Fairy Lament). AKA - "Caoineadh na hInise." AKA and see “Port na hinise.” Irish, Air (6/8 or 3/4 time). Ireland, West Kerry. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB'. The air "Port na bPúcaí" has been credited variously to Kerry musician Muiris Ó Dálaigh (1910-1990, brother of Tom Ó Dálaigh) and Seán Ó Riada. The tonality shifts between A Mixolydian/Dorian and G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AAB (Mac Amhlaoibh): AA’B (Ó Canainn). A pouca, or in Irish púca, usually refers to a magical being--a "water sprite,” or "mischievous fairy”--a word adapted by Shakespeare for his character Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream. Tony McMahon says the air is about the death of one such spirit. There is a story that this tune was heard by travelers or fisherman who stayed overnight on Inis Mhic Fhaolain in the Blasket Islands (off the coast of County Kerry) and heard this tune coming from the mists.

Is bean on slua si me do tainig tar toinn;
Is do toidead san oice me tamall tar lear;
Is Go bFuilim sa rioct so fe geasa mna si,
Is ni bead ar an saol so go nGlaofaid an coileac.

Sometimes the tune is described as the sound of the wind blowing across the islands. Irish guitarist and researcher Paul de Grae shared cogent remarks about the tune and its origins on the Ir-trad list-serve:

What may be regarded as the definitive recording of "Port na bPúcaí" is that on "Beauty an Oileáin: Music and Song of the Blasket Islands" (Claddagh CC56CD, published 1992). It is played on fiddle by Seán Cheaist Ó Catháin, who was born on the Great Blasket, and learned most of his music there. He died in 1972. This recording was made by Muiris Mac Conghail in 1968, a date which effectively rules out the influence of Ó Riada. Seán Cheaist’s setting is not exactly as it’s usually played today, stranger and less shaped, but very beautiful—perhaps Ó Riada polished it up a bit to produce the "modern" setting. Seán Cheaist prefaces his playing of the tune by a few words on its origin. The excellent booklet accompanying the CD gives this translation from the Irish:

"There were people from the Great Blasket who were living in Inis Mhic Uibhleáin [a.k.a. Inishvickilaune, one of the smaller Blaskets, later bought by Charlie Haughey] many years ago, about eighty years ago, and they were herdsmen looking after stock for a landlord who was living in Dingle, and they went to stay on the island every year. Then one winter’s night they were in bed, asleep, and the old woman was the first to hear the sound and she thought it was the sound of birds or something like that, that the sound … the sound was coming nearer all the time until at last she realised that it was music and she woke the old man beside her and both of them listened to the sound for a long time until they were able to remember it and it has been on the Blasket ever since, ‘The Fairies’ Lament’. That has been on the Blasket ever since that time."

Additional notes

Source for notated version: - Tom Daly/O Dalaig (1907-1989) [Mac Amhlaoibh & Durham].

Printed sources : - Mac Amhlaoibh & Durham (An Pota Stóir: Ceol Seite Corca Duibne/The Set Dance Music of West Kerry), No. 93, p. 53. Ó Canainn (Traditional Slow Airs of Ireland), 1995; No. 68, p. 60.

Recorded sources: -CCE CL13, Tommy Peoples (1978). Claddagh Records, Sean ‘Cheist’ Ó Cathain - “Beauty an oilean” (Ó Cathain was a resident of Blasket Island until it was cleared in the 1950's). Compass Records 7 4407 2, Ciaran Tourish – “Down the Line” (2005). Compass Records 7 4446 2,Oisíin McAuley – “From the Hills of Donegal” (2007). Gael-linn CEFCD 114, Tony MacMahon & Noel Hill - “ "I gCnoc na Graí” (1985). Nowhere Town Records, Damanta - "The Drunken Priest and The Ghostly Hymns of Autumn" (2008). Ronan Browne - “Drones and Chanters, vol. 2.” Ovation, Tommy Peoples – “Master Irish Fiddle Player.” Shanachie 79033, Paddy Moloney & Sean Potts – “Tin Whistles” (1974).

See also listings at:
Jane Keefer’s Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Alan Ng’s [2]
Hear versions on [3] [4]
Hear the tune played by Seán Cheaist Ó Catháin on a 1968 field recording at [5]

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