Uair Bheag Roimh a' Lá

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UAIR BEG/BHEAG ROIMH A’ LÁ (A Little Hour Before Day). Irish, Air (4/4 time). E Minor (O’Sullivan/Bunting): F Minor (Petrie): D Minor (Goodman). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Goodman, Petrie): ABB (O’Sullivan/Bunting). The tune was originally published in John and William Neale's 1787 collection. The words to the tune give advice for childbirth: O’Sullivan (1983) translates, “Doctor dear, give me advice, a little hour before day, What is the best way to bear a child, A little hour before day?” “Draw your knees together and clench your fists, And walk nine times round the hearth, Go hiher and thither through the house—that’s the advice, A little hour before day.” O’Neill (1910) asserts the tune is “unquestionably a version of ‘Seán Ó Duibir an Gleanna’/‘John O'Dwyer of the Glen (1)’.” Stanford-Petrie prints two tunes by this title (Nos. 1079 & 1080), according to O’Sullivan (1983) “more or less related to Bunting’s,” along with a third (No. 1472) called “A dhochtúir dhílis.” A variant in Roche goes by the title “Uair roimh breachadh an lea” (Farewell to Ardmore).

Source for notated version: noted from harper Charles Byrne in 1806 [Bunting].

Printed sources: Bunting (Ancient Music of Ireland), 1840; No. 66, p. 48. O’Sullivan/Bunting (Bunting's Ancient Music of Ireland), 1983; No. 66, pp. 101–103. Stanford/Petrie (Complete Collection), 1905; Nos. 1079 & 1080, pp. 273-274. Surenne (Songs of Ireland without Words), 1854; pp. 60-61.

Recorded sources:

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