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

Tá ‘na Lá


(see A Hidden Ulster 328-31 for detailed references and information)

The song is based on the longing to prolong the joys and delights of a late drinking session and the regrets of having neglected life’s duties, as dawn is breaking. The síbín or hostelry in this song is ruled by the iron fist of a diligent landlady, who only pours on payment. It is one of the most popular drinking songs found throughout the Irish speaking districts of Ireland and is often the last song of the night or early morning at singing sessions throughout the country.

There are many versions of the song, with various airs from Coolea in County Cork to Rannafast in County Donegal, which may have its origin in an older song type. This version of the air is unique to the Oriel tradition.  Its title alternates between Tá ’na Lá and Níl ’na Lá. Another verse found in the locality suggests that the hero of the song had more on his mind than just late-night drinking.

‘Buailim síos is buailim suas
Buailim cuairt ar bhean a’ leanna,
Is má ghlacann sí mo chleasaíocht uaim,
Sínim suas leí go maidin’.

I pay up and I pay down
and I’ll pay a visit to the landlady.
If she accepts my trickery with her
I’ll lie until the morning.

This was the last known song to have been heard, sung by one of the last native speakers of south Armagh Irish. In 1942 a census was being made of the last Irish speakers in 1942 (published in An tUltach 20 April 1943) by Pádraig Mac Con Midhe of Carrickasticken  ( AHU p377) and Eamonn Devlin of Cullyhanna. They were joined by Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin’s mother, Eithne Devlin from Cullyhanna, who remembered hearing an old Irish speaker called Máire Mhíchil Tharlaigh Ní Chuilleannáin (Mary Michil Tarry Hollywood), sitting on the ditch outside her home on a summer’s evening, on the Carrive side of Glendesha near Mullaghban. When Mary was asked whether she spoke Irish, she replied: ‘Ceolfaidh mé’ (‘I’ll sing’) and launched into Níl ’na Lá. Though the spoken language had virtually died out, songs were still retained in memory. The oral tradition of song in Irish has outlived Irish as a community language in southeast.

Glendesha is also the same road where the collector Tomás Mac Cuilleannáin, Tommy Hollywood   (AHU pp. 365-6) was born and where he learned his Irish from his grandmother Biddy McConville. Mary Michil Tarry Hollywood, was also a relative of his. Mac Cuilleanáin’s birthplace is marked with an inscribed stone in Irish above a ruined fire hearth carved by a local farmer called Michael McGuigan, who was keen to honour his neighbour Tommy Hollywood , the last speaker of Mullaghban Irish, who was from Carrive townland.

The Hollywoods still live in the vicinity. They are remembered in the song Mal Bhán Ní Chuilleannáin  (Fair Molly Hollywood) which was set to a very popular tune composed by singer Eithne Ní Uallacháin.

© Oriel Arts 2020

Tommy Hollywood, Frank McNeice, Peadar Ó Dubhda and Thomas Traynor

Tommy Hollywood, Frank McNeice, Peadar Ó Dubhda and Thomas Traynor – collectors of Oriel folkore. Copyright A Hidden Ulster 2017.


The lyrics in the above video version were edited from three sources including, Mrs Citi Sheáin Dobbins of Omeath (AHU pp 403-4) and also Mrs Goodman Donaghmoyne, County Monaghan, and Brigid Hearty/Mc Keown of Lough Ross, near Crossmaglen (AHU 392-3)

Cití Sheáin Dobbins

Cití Sheáin Dobbins, a prize spinner, singer and storyteller from the Omeath Gaeltacht, d. 1922. Copyright A Hidden Ulster 2017.


The air was transcribed by musician Séamus Ennis (AHU pp. 368-70) from a wax cylinder recording made by collector Luke Donnellan c.1900 (AHUpp. 361-3)

Traditional singer Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, sourced and reconnected both lyrics and music, and first recorded it on Gael Linn CD, An Dealg Óir 2003.  She recorded it also on Ceoltaí Oirialla – Songs of Oriel CD 2017 and it is now popular again with local traditional singers and farther afield.

In summer 2020, during the Covid 19 lockdown, Nuala Kennedy received Arts Council Irleland funding to record some of the restored songs of Oriel by Padraigín Ni Uallacháin.
She contacted Pádraigín who suggested the local version of the song Tá ‘na Lá from the Ceoltaí Oirialla CD album.
The video performance of Nuala Kennedy singing the song (song, flute) with Tara Breen (fiddle), Tony Byrne, giotar) and Siobhán Butler (dance) viewed above, was filmed in 2020.

© Oriel Arts 2017

Pádraigín Ní Uallacháín


Tá ‘na Lá

Tá ’na Lá: Luke Donnellan, Box 1, 3/2.

Chan Fheil sé an Lá: Lorcán Ó Muirí MSS (27-8) in Ó hUallacháin papers from Mrs Dobbin, Omeath.

Níl sé ’n Lá: Seán Ó hAnnáin MSS, Ó Fiaich Library, Armagh from Brigid Hearty, Lough Ross, 1897. Níl sé ’n Lá: Dundalk Democrat, 24 Oct. 1903, from Mrs Goodman, Donaghmoyne.

Éirigh suas, a bhean a’ tí,
Is ná cuir gruaim in do mhalaí;
Líontar dúinn an canna dí,
Agus gheobhaidh tú díolaíocht ar maidin.

Chan fheil sé ’n lá, ’mhíle grá,
Chan fheil sé ’n lá, ná baol ar maidin,
Chan fheil sé ’n lá, ’mhíle grá,
Anois ar ball a d’éirigh an ghealach.

Seo na mugaí, seo na jugaí,
Seo an áit a bhfuil an leann ann,
Mur’ bhfuil airgead in do phócaibh,
Buail a’ bóthar is ná fan ann.

Chuir mé féin mo lámh in mo phóca
Agus tharraing mé orm coróin gharbh,
Bhuail mise buille ar an bhord,
D’iarr mé ar son a phionta leanna.

Nuair a chonaic sí an t-airgead bán
Ghlac sí lúcháir mhór is aigint,
Suigh siar ar a’ bhord, a dhuine chóir,
Féadfaidh ’bheith ag ól anseo go maidin.

Tá na gabhair ar ard a’ tsléibhe,
Tá na géannaí leis na sionnaigh,
Tá na caoirigh leis na maoraigh,
Tá mé féin i dtigh a’ leanna.

Tá na buaibh ar mhalaí shléibhe,
Tá na gamhna ’g iarraidh bainne,
Tá na páistí ’gol ’s a’ gáire,
Agus níl a máthair insa bhaile.

Nach mise féin an fear gan chéill,
D’fhág mé mo chíos in mo scornach,
D’fhág mé léan orm féin,
Is d’fhág mé séan ar dhaoine eile.

Tá ’na lá, a mhíle grá,
Tá ’na lá is seal ’na mhaidin,
Tá ’na lá, a mhíle grá,
Is tráth domhsa bheith ’gabháil abhaile.

Day Is Come

O, Landlady, will you rise up now,
And let your eyebrows not be frowning,
Fill for us the can of drink,
And you’ll get paid when it is morning.

Day is not come my darling one,
Day is not come nor even morning,
Day is not come my darling one,
The moon is only after rising.

Here are jugs and here are mugs,
And here is where the ale is flowing,
If there’s no money in your pocket,
Be off with you and stay no longer.

I put my hand into my pocket,
And I drew out one old bent crown,
I rapped my fist upon the counter,
And asked her for a pint of porter.

When she saw the silver coin,
She was full of joy and very hearty,
Sit you down there, my fine man,
You’ll surely drink in here ’till morning.

The goats are high up in the hills,
The geese are out among the foxes,
The sheep are all with the shepherds,
And I myself am in the alehouse.

The cows are on the mountain side,
The calves are due their feed of milk,
The children cry when once they laughed,
And their mother isn’t in the house.

I’m the silly senseless man,
Who let the rent pour down my thrapple,
I brought great hardship on myself,
While bringing joy to other people.

Day is come my darling one,
Day is come and it is dawning,
Day is come my darling one,
It’s time that I was heading home now.

Translation: P. Ní Uallacháin

© Oriel Arts 2017


Tá na Lá

Tá ’na Lá: Luke Donnellan, Box 1 3/2. It is transcribed in the handwriting of musician Séamus Ennis. National Folklore Collection by kind permission.

© Oriel Arts 2017