Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafesj

User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Amy_Florence_Nthants Origins: Fhir a Bhata / Fear a Bhata / The boatman (19) RE: Origins: FHIR A BHATA/ Fhir a Bhata/The boatman/ 07 Jun 09

The Boatman
A report on its origins
(The) Lonesome boatman
Fear a Bhata
Fear a' Bháta
The boatman
Fhir a Bhata
Fhir a Bhata
Also said to be the Scottish version of: Dónal Óg
Ceol Nam Feis Published Aug 1996 by Feisean nan Gaidheal edited by Valerie Bryan a music teacher states that:
"Composed in the late 1700s by Jane Finlayson of Tong, Lewis, for a young Uig fisherman, Donald MacRae, whom she later married. Donald used to fish out of Loch Roag."
I have sent an e-mail request to Feisean nan Gaidheal to see if they could provide any sources for this information.
Wikipedia last edited 15th February 2009 states:
"Scots Gaelic song from the late 1800s, written by Sìne NicFhionnlaigh of Tong, Lewis who was courting a young fisherman from Uig, Dòmhnall MacRath. The song captures the emotions that she endured during their courtship. The part of the story that is rarely told is that they were married not long after she composed the song."
Which appears to mirror the above information changing the date, the name of the women and the man, it gives a link to which states that:
"The song "Fear a' bhàta" mentioned in this text and usually given as "traditional" was composed in the late 18th Century by Jane Finlayson of Tong, Lewis for a young Uig fisherman, Donald MacRae. The part of this story which is rarely told is that they married each other sometime after she wrote the song.

The song appears in The Scottish Gael by James Logan, first published 1876. See also Derick Thompson's "An introduction to Gaelic poetry", P62-63"

The Scottish Gael:
"The Scottish Gael", or, "Celtic manners as preserved among the highlanders : being an historical and descriptive account of the inhabitants, antiquities, and national peculiarities of Scotland" by James Logan ; edited with memoir and notes, by Alex Stewart"
Printed 1876 James Logan 1794?-1872
A version of the Scottish Gael by James Logan dates from 1831
"Celtic Manners as preserved among the Highlanders: Being an historical and descriptive account of the inhabitants, antiquities, and national preculiarities of Scotland; more particularly of the northern, or gaelic parts of the country, where the singular habits if the aboriginal Celts are most tenaciously retained."
So 1876 version appears to be a later re-print of this book which can be found on
ONLINE VERSION chapter XIII refers to poetry and music
The song title is listed:


It says that the music for this is annexed, so perhaps the book, does have a notated version book! However this is not online and i can't really get over to the version in Sydney atm...
It is also mentioned under NOTATION OF MUSIC. 409

Trl singing during a social meeting, the company reach their plaids or
handkerchiefs from one to another, and swaying them gently in their
hands, from side to side, take part in the chorus as above. A large
company thus connected, and see-sawing in regular time, has a curious
effect; sometimes the bonnet is mutually grasped over the table. The
Low Country manner is, to cross arms and shake each other's hands to
the air of " auld lang syne" or any other popular and commemorative
melody. Fhir a bhata, or the boatmen, the music of which is annexed,
is sung in the above manner, by the Highlanders with much effect. It
is the song of a girl whose lover is at sea, whose safety she prays for,
and whose return she anxiously expects. The greater proportion of
Gaelic songs, whether sung in the person of males or females, celebrate
the valor and heroism, or other manly qualifications, of the clans.

"Céad de Cheoltaibh Uladh" By Éinrí Ó Muirgheasa published in 1915
"was written down from Mrs. James Glass of Rathlin was written down from Mrs. James Glass of Rathlin. It has, I think, been published already in the Irish Independent by Aoidhmhin Mac Greagóir, who has made a very particular study of the Rathlin dialect"
There is no online reference to the Irish Independent.

1888 The Music of the Waters by Laura Alexandrine Smith under the name FEAR A BHATA
1929-1939 Sam Henry Collection 'Songs of the People' originally published in the 'Northern Constitution' newspaper between 1923 and 1939 The ballads and songs in "Songs of the people" were collected within twenty miles of Coleraine and reflect the history of the region. A large number are Irish songs of English or Scottish origin brought to North Ulster by the Jacobean settlements.

Suggested extension of report (I.e not google)
•        County records: Jane Finlayson/ Sìne NicFhionnlaigh of Tong
a.        Did she exist
b.        What time period
c.        Did she get married to Donald MacRae/ Dòmhnall MacRath from Uig
d.        If there are no records for Jane/Sine are there any for a fisherman?

•        Examination of the archives for the Irish Independent reference to articles by Aoidhmhin Mac Greagóir pre 1915
•        Examination of the "The Scottish Gael" and the "Annexation" of Fhir a Bhata. There is at least one copy in Australia
•        Possible Linguistic studies and dating of Gaelic words (Sorry not sure if this is possible or not, I don't speak a word)
•        Waiting for the Feisean nan Gaidheal to see if they can send me any sources which they used in their publication of Ceol Nam Feis
Other Notes in Publications about Fear a Bhata
Folk songs and Ballads popular in Ireland book 4 John Loesberg 1989:
The song meant "the man with the stick" and was a song from Northern Ireland which probably wafted across from Scotland where it is translated as "the Boatman".

Peacock's Songs of the Newfoundland Outports vol. 3 1965 pgs 786-87

First written publication 1831 Scotland
First Irish written reference from 1915
"Folk Myths " around the song date it from Tong, Lewis but their appears to be (As of yet and from the internet alone) no evidence for this and two conflicting views around time and names of composer.
My opinion: Author's name and story probably fictional designed to add a bit of background information to collections when actually little information exists. Must be reasonably older that 1831 to account for it to be able to travel to Ireland for 1915...I read somewhere that the Irish version was collected of Scottish immigrants, but for the life of me I cannot find the link now, and of course I have no factual information whatsoever to back up that assertion.

I'm 17 and wasted 3 hours of my life on a slow Sunday afternoon doing this because I got frustrated with the random bits of information and wanted to consolidate information. Yes it does look very much like a piece of coursework, but i enjoyed doing it  Soooo I cannot be held responsible for the authentication of this work, even though i tried my upmost to make it plausible, sorry truthful. I unashamedly copied and pasted websites and mudcat posts, so thank you very much everyone that left information everywhere, and to conclude...wikipedia is really annoying and won't let me edit their article because i'm not a flippin member.

Post to this Thread -

Back to the Main Forum Page

By clicking on the User Name, you will requery the forum for that user. You will see everything that he or she has posted with that Mudcat name.

By clicking on the Thread Name, you will be sent to the Forum on that thread as if you selected it from the main Mudcat Forum page.

By clicking on the Subject, you will also go to the thread as if you selected it from the original Forum page, but also go directly to that particular message.

By clicking on the Date (Posted), you will dig out every message posted that day.

Try it all, you will see.