‘A Hidden Ulster – people, songs and traditions of Oriel’ – Order Here

Is Fada an Lá


 Video above by kind permission Meon Eile (c) 2017

(see A Hidden Ulster pp. 159-163 for detailed references and information)

One of the most admired laments in the Irish song tradition – intense and raw in its expression of sorrow and abandonment. It is the plea of a young woman to her lover not to abandon her and her child for a loveless marriage to a woman of means. The life ahead of her, as an unmarried mother, would be bleak and she would most likely have been shunned by her family. The song is related to the celebrated song Dónal Óg which is found throughout the country. (AHU pp.159-63) and may have been written before 1600.

Máire Ní Annluain spinning in Omeath c. 1912. Copyright A Hidden Ulster

In the song the girl that she is waiting for her lover while spinning at the draughty doorway. Work such as spinning was often done in the light of the doorway as windows were small due to heavy taxes on larger windows.

The daughter of the Mullaghban scribe , Art Bennett, 1793-1849. It was said that he had two sons and two daughters, when in fact he had for daughters. One who died of hunger during the Great Famine and one who emigrated to America in 1842 because she was pregnant and not married. Banishment both physically and in the memory of her community was often the destiny for an unmarried mother in Ireland at that time and for another one hundred and fifty years later.

Oriel Arts © 2019


The air and lyrics were reconnected and interpreted from the above manuscripts by traditional singer Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin and first recorded by her, with accompaniment, on An Dealg Óir (Gael Linn 2003). It is now in the repertoire of other singers including musician Ríoghnach Connolly of County Armagh who learned it from An Dealg Óir recording.

It can be heard with and without accompaniment on Ceoltaí Oirialla CD 2017

Oriel Arts © Ceoltaí Éireann 2018



  • Lyrics were written down from the McKeown and Hearty (AHU pp.392-3) family of Lough Ross near Crossmaglen in County Armagh by collector Luke Donnellan (AHU pp.361-3) at the turn of the 20th century.
  • Also written in a phoenetic key system by collector Seán Ó hAnnáin (AHU pp.360-1) of Crossmaglen.
  • Nach Fada an Lá written in O Growney phoenetic system by Seán Ó hAnnáín Crossmaglen. (AHU p.360-1)


Nach Fada an Lá

Nach fada an lá ó mhaidin go hoíche,
Mé a’ s(h)níomh mo roithneáil aige doras na gaoithe;
Féachaint a’ bhfeicfinn a’ teacht thú, a chúl trom dílis,
A’ gabháil(t) a’ bhealaigh nó a’ déanamh scíste.

A rún is a théagar, nach fada ’muigh thú,
Shíl mé f(h)éin gurb í an fharraige a shlog thú;
Óch, chan í, ach bean eile thiob thú,
Ó tá mé cloíte i ndiaidh ar ghoil mé.

Cúradh ar an ghrá, nach mairg a mbíonn sé air,
Is geal ó thús é, is dubh aríst é,
’s iomaí cailín beag óg a chloígh sé,
A ceann ar a glúin is a súile a’ síorghol.

Cúradh ar an ghrá, nach mairg a thug é,
D’aon fhear martha ariamh ’ár oil é;
An croí ’mo lár ó d’fhág sé dubh é,
Nuair nach bhfeicinn ar an tsráid é nó a’n áit inniu é.

A rún is a théagar, ná tréig do leanbh,
Ná pós bean ghránna mar gheall ar eallach;
Is beag an áit údaí a bhfaighfí bearach,
Ó tá muinn óg agus téanfa’ muinn soláthar.

Na’r thrua leat cailín beag ar mhala s(h)léibhe
Is í a’ cealgadh a linbh is iad a’ gol le chéile;
Ar bheagán bí is ar ghannchuid éadaigh?
Na’ trua an chinniúin(t) a gheall Mac Dé di.

The Day Is Long

Isn’t the day long from morning till eve’,
Threading my wheel at the draughty door;
Looking to see you come, my beautiful faithful one,
Going the road or taking a rest.

My love and my darling, you’ve been out this long while,
I thought myself that the sea had swallowed you;
No, not it, but another woman has prevented you,
I am tortured after all this lamenting.

A curse on love, woe betide who feels it,
It is bright at first but then it darkens,
Many’s a young girl it has defeated,
Her head on her knees and her eyes full weeping.

A curse on love, woe betide who gave it,
To any living man who cultivated it;
The heart within was left blackened by it
When I don’t see him on the street or anywhere today.

My love and my darling, don’t abandon your child,
Don’t marry an ugly woman just for cattle;
Yonder is but a small place to get a heifer;
We are young and we will make a living;

Do you not pity a girl out on the mountain,
Soothing her child and them both crying
With little food and want of clothing?
How bitter the destiny God’s son promised her.

(Translation: Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin)

Oriel Arts © Ceoltaí Éireann 2018


Seamus Ennis transcriber of Donnellan recordings

The music manuscript in staff notation was transcribed in the 1940s by piper Séamus Ennis (AHU 368-79) from a cylinder recording of one of the McKeown singers from Crossmaglen (AHU 392-3). It is in ABCA form and is a recitative type air found in older song types.

The lyrics in the following manuscript were transcribed by Séamus Ennis as he heard them. They are not an accurate source of the lyrics.

Oriel Arts © Ceoltaí Éireann 2018

Is Fada an Lá

‘Is Fada ’n Lá’; Luke Donnellan, Box 1 2/1, in  Cnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann / The National Folklore Collection in the National University of Ireland UCD, also titled Is ó na ndeó nach mo chroí atá briste.