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

Thugamar Féin an Samhradh Linn


Images in the video above are from the film ‘Oirialla – Atlantis na hÉireann.’ Directed by Moira Sweeney. Kind permission Independent Pictures (©) 2006
 see A Hidden Ulster pp.121-30 for detailed references and information.

This is a summer song associated with the calendar customs of Bealtaine or May day. It is a partner song of Amhrán na Craoibhe (The Garland Song) in this collection. It was collected by Enrí Ó Muiríosa (AHU pp. 363-65) from Owen Byrne (AHU p 414) and Thomas Corrigan (AHU p.416) of County Monaghan. The above video, filmed in Oriel by Moira Sweeney is the Oriel version of the well known song, and sung here by Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin.

The air was collected by Luke Donnellan (AHU pp.361-3) in Lough Ross, Crossmaglen from the McKeown/Hearty (AHU 392-3) family of singers.

Near the Armagh/Louth border, at Kilcurry, is a small mound and on it are the ruins of an old church. With the loss of Irish as the vernacular of the people at the turn of the twentieth century, the old name of this place has been forgotten. A recently discovered handwritten map, dated 1902 has revealed some of the ancient sites in the locality. On it is the placename Beulteine,  undoubtedly a site where once the old May celebrations were held.

1902 local map of Kilcurry drawn by Eugene O’Gorman showing forgotten Beulteine placename now Tinley’s Church.

1902 local map of Kilcurry drawn by Eugene O’Gorman showing forgotten ‘Beulteine’ placename now Tinley’s Church. copyright A Hidden Ulster 2017

Bealtaine, pronounced Beultuine, which is the name for the month of May in Irish, originally may have meant ‘bright fire’. Tradition has it that great fires were lit by the communities, often on a hilltop, ‘no doubt anciently derived from a desire to encourage the sun’.

This song was locally called Babóg na Bealtaine (The May Baby/Dolly) and Thugamar Féin an Samhradh Linn (We brought the Summer/Garland with us). The refrain was also sung as ‘Is bheirimid fhéin a’ samhradh linn.’ All versions were collected within twenty miles of each other. According to one singer, young men and women sang it on May eve while they carried around the ‘May Baby’ from house to house.This song is a celebration of nature and the blossoming fertile summer. Samhradh, in the context of this song, means Garland or Branch signifying the carrying of the summer branch. The branch was usually the May tree or hawthorn, though the blackthorn and holly tree were used as well. One other Ulster version mentions carrying the branch from the woods and the inclusion of a number of trees which blossom and bear fruit:

Thugamar linn é ón choill chraobhaigh, Samhradh buidhe ó luighe na gréine, Cuileann is coll as trom as cárthain, As fuinseoig ghléigeal bhéal an átha.’

(We brought it with us from the branchy woods Golden summer from the setting sun, Holly and hazel and alder and rowan and the bright ash from the mouth of the ford)

Though the babóg or baibín is translated as ‘baby’ or ‘dolly’, this may not be an accurate description as the term can also signify a young girl. The ‘May Baby’ was made in the form of a female ‘fixed upon a short pole and dressed in a fantastic manner with flowers ribbons etc. This figure they call the May Baby.’ The figure was carried by ‘young girls who usually sung the old Irish pastoral Thugamar féin an Samhra Linn (We have brought the Summer with us), when the procession reached any dwelling house the attendants used to exclaim to the persons inside,’ Seo chugaibh an samhra – deanaidhe umhlacht don t-samhra! ‘(Here cometh summer, salute the summer!),

Blossom played a central role in the festivities of summer and flowers were thrown in the wells early in the morning, regarded locally as a ‘pagan superstition’. Flowers were also collected from the rivers and lakes to decorate the craobh or garland and also the May Bush which stood outside the house and outhouses to protect those who lived there. The tradition of collecting and scattering flowers continued in the locality in Camlough village as recent as the 1960s, where May Day was celebrated by bands of young girls, their clothes and hair decorated with flowers, and carrying baskets of early summer blossom to scatter along the road and on the roofs of houses.  (Extended descriptions of May customs and references are in A Hidden Ulsterpeople songs and traditions of Oriel pp. 96-134)

Oriel Arts © 2019



It was a popular song in the southeast Ulster region with versions noted by Luke Donnellan from the McKeowns of Loughross, (AHU pp392-3),  Mrs Harvessy of Clonalig,( AHU pp. 391-2),  Alice Cunningham of Monaguilla, and Mrs Morgan (Sarah Mc Donald AHU p. 402) of Dromintee, all from County Armagh.  Enrí Ó Muiríosa collected two versions in County Monaghan.

Traditional singer Pádraigin Ní Uallacháin sourced it from Enrí Ó Muiríosa’s 1915 published version and also Luke Donnellan’s version of the air collected from the McKeown Hearty singers of Crossmaglen, a version of the air which is unique to the Oriel tradition. Ní Uallacháin first recorded it on the Gael Linn CD An Dealg Óir 2003. It is recorded on Ceoltaí Oirialla – Songs of Oriel CD 2017.

Verses of this Oriel version of the summer song are being sung widely now, most notably by Iarla Ó Lionáird and The Gloaming, to the following more popular air collected by Edward Bunting in Ulster, and brought to a wider audience by Seán Ó Riada, is sung here below by Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, and was filmed in the National Library in Dublin 2016.

 Video above by kind permission Michael Fortune (c) 2016

Before the original Oriel version of the air was discovered, Oriel singer, Eithne Ní Uallacháin set the lyrics to her own traditional composition which has since become a very popular version in the singing community.

The video below is a clip of her singing, by kind permission Máirín Seoighe and copyright Dobhar Productions.

Oriel Arts © Ceoltaí Éireann 2018


Edited from:

  • Babóg na Bealtaine: Céad de Cheoltaibh Uladh 1915, 132, 339 from Owen Byrne and Thomas Corrigan, Farney.
  • Thugamar Féin an Samhradh Linn: Donnellan Box 2,26/4 from Mick McKeown, Lough Ross.

Thugamar Féin an Samhradh Linn

Samhradh buí ’na luí ins na léanaí,
thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn;
Samhradh buí, earrach is geimhreadh
is thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn.

Cailíní óga, mómhar sciamhach,
thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn;
Buachaillí glice, teann is lúfar,
is thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn.

Bábóg na Bealtaine, maighdean a’ tsamhraidh,
suas gach cnoc is síos gach gleann,
Cailíní maiseacha, bángheala gléasta,
is thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn.

Tá an fhuiseog a’ seinm is ag luascadh sna spéiribh,
beacha is cuileóga(í) is bláth ar na crainn,
Tá an chuach is na héanlaith’ a’ seinm le pléisiúr,
is thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn.

Tá nead ag an ghiorria ar imeall na haille
is nead ag an chorréisc i ngéagaibh a’ chrainn,
Tá mil ar na cuiseóga(í) is fuiseoga(í) a’ léimnigh,
is thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn.

Samhradh buí ’na luí ins a’ léana,
thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn;
Ó bhaile go baile is go Lios Dúnáin a’ phléisiúir,
is thugamar féin a’ samhradh linn.

We Brought the Summer with Us

Golden summer, lying in the meadows,
we brought the summer with us;
Golden summer, spring and winter,
and we brought the summer with us.

Young maidens, gentle and lovely,
we brought the summer with us;
Lads who are clever, sturdy and agile,
and we brought the summer with us.

The May Doll, the summer virgin,
up each hill and down the glen,
Beautiful maidens dressed in white clothes,
and we brought the summer with us.

The lark is singing and swooping in the skies,
bees and flies and blossom on trees,
The cuckoo and birds are singing with pleasure,
and we brought the summer with us.

The hare has a nest at the edge of the cliff,
the heron is nesting in the branches of a tree,
There is honey on grasses and larks leaping,
and we brought the summer with us.

Golden summer, lying in the meadow,
we brought the summer with us;
From home to home and to Lisdoonan of pleasure,
and we brought the summer with us.

Translation: P. Ní Uallacháin

Oriel Arts © Ceoltaí Éireann 2018


Thugamar féin an Samhradh Linn: Luke Donnellan Box 2, 26/4 from Mick McKeown Lough Ross, transcribed by Séamus EnnisThugamar féin an Samhradh Linn: Luke Donnellan Box 2, 26/4 from Mick McKeown Lough Ross, transcribed by Séamus Ennis

This song’s metrical form is A+C, one line and one line of refrain suggesting a summer carole that may have also been danced while singing. Additional verses may have been added through time changing some of the form to 3A+C.

Edward Bunting


It is sung throughout Ireland to an alternative air noted by Edward Bunting (AHU pp. 372-3) in Ulster and made popular by Seán Ó Riada.

The song belongs to one of the oldest song types in the Irish song tradition.  The air sung in the opening video here is unique to the Oriel tradition and was transcribed from the source wax cylinder recording by Séamus Ennis.

Oriel Arts © Ceoltaí Éireann 2018