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Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs

Jon W. 16 Jul 97 - 12:03 PM
Alison 17 Jul 97 - 01:12 AM
Jon W. 17 Jul 97 - 11:39 AM
LaMarca 17 Jul 97 - 11:44 AM
Wolfgang Hell 18 Jul 97 - 03:56 AM
Martin Ryan 18 Jul 97 - 05:01 AM
Bobby O'Brien 18 Jul 97 - 07:19 AM
dick greenhaus 18 Jul 97 - 11:37 AM
Alex 25 Jul 97 - 10:41 PM
Dale Rose 26 Jul 97 - 01:48 AM
GUEST,max monza 04 Oct 08 - 04:53 PM
Seamus Kennedy 04 Oct 08 - 05:20 PM
akenaton 04 Oct 08 - 05:35 PM
Jack Campin 04 Oct 08 - 06:37 PM
GUEST,TerryA250 10 Nov 09 - 11:23 AM
GUEST,Donal 11 Nov 09 - 04:16 AM
ard mhacha 11 Nov 09 - 04:21 AM
BobKnight 11 Nov 09 - 05:04 AM
GUEST,Paudman 25 Jun 11 - 02:24 PM
GUEST,Barry Dipper 23 Oct 11 - 08:58 AM
MartinRyan 23 Oct 11 - 09:05 AM
GUEST,eoin o'buadhaigh 23 Oct 11 - 09:45 AM
GUEST,Donal 23 Oct 11 - 07:23 PM
medievallassie 17 Sep 18 - 04:07 PM
Gallus Moll 18 Sep 18 - 04:42 PM
Jim McLean 19 Sep 18 - 03:52 AM
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Subject: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: Jon W.
Date: 16 Jul 97 - 12:03 PM

Does anybody know what the words Bleachcream (or bleachgreen) and bleachfield mean?

The first is from the song Roger O'Hehir on Planxty's album The Woman I Loved so Well, found in the DT database. I hear bleachgreen but the database has Bleachcream. It refers to a place Roger was trying to rob.

The second is from a song called "Jock McGraw" or "The Stoutest Man in the Forty Twa." The version on the DT database has a different line, but the version I heard has the captain turning to the sergeant after Jock enlists and saying "why you scamp, you've listed the bleachfield--out and tramp." Apparently it's some large inanimate object (a field?).


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: Alison
Date: 17 Jul 97 - 01:12 AM

HI

I don't know if this will fit in with the context of your songs......... but in years gone by there used to be "bleaching greens" around the cottages. These were large areas of grass where the flax (used to make linen) was left to dry, (and bleach), in the sun after, (or possibly before!) they'd done whatever it is you do to flax.

There are good examples of this in "The Ulster Folk Museum", just outside Belfast. (Sorry, just thought I'd stick in a plug for home.)

Hope this helps.

Slainte

Alison


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: Jon W.
Date: 17 Jul 97 - 11:39 AM

Seems plausible, Alison. The second verse of Roger O'Hehir tells how his father apprenticed Roger to the linen trade, which he didn't like so he turned to crime. Oddly enough, Jock McGraw's father also tried to give him a "decent trade" which Jock didn't like, so he "went and joined the Forty Twa." Other than that these songs seem completely unrelated.

Thanks for your help.

Jon W.


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: LaMarca
Date: 17 Jul 97 - 11:44 AM

Just a caution on lyrics in the DT; many of them are contributed by folks who have listened to a recording of the song, and then written down their best guess of what THEY think the lyrics are. This is subject to the usual amount of human error, especially if the listener isn't a native speaker of the language the song is being sung in. Many of the transcriptions are done by Americans listening to songs sung by Irish, Scottish or English singers, and the transcriber disn't familiar with the accent or the idiomatic expression being used in the song. (See the thread on Mistakes in song lyrics for some funny examples). I wish that one of the fields at the bottom of the song would state whether it's a transcription from a recording or taken from a written source (and which recording or written source was used). So, don't take a DT version as Gospel truth for the lyrics; contributors are doing the best they can, but a lot of the database is, as we would say in my research field, unsubstantiated data!


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: Wolfgang Hell
Date: 18 Jul 97 - 03:56 AM

Andy Irvine's songbook Aiming for the Heart has "Bleachgreen", a single word with capital B. No explanation of that term is given.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: Martin Ryan
Date: 18 Jul 97 - 05:01 AM

Taking up Alison's point: yes there are a lot of simple mistranscriptions in the DT. Without wishing to land Dick and Susan with yet more work - can we do anything to help?

Regards


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: Bobby O'Brien
Date: 18 Jul 97 - 07:19 AM

There's a book out in Ireland, which I actually need a new copy of, called "A Guide to Irish Speak" and it takes these strange little words and phrases and gives definitions of them, and a history of their origin, if known.


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 18 Jul 97 - 11:37 AM

Martin- We appreciate corrections/addendums/attributions. Just send 'em in. The DT is in a constant state of imp[rovement, even if we only update semi-annually.


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: Alex
Date: 25 Jul 97 - 10:41 PM

I asked my mother about the origin of "bleach field" as she had worked many years at The Luncarty bleach works, Perthshire, Scotland. At one time, linen, which is brown when first woven was stretched out over a grass field and was whitened by the action of the sun/or some combination of sun and grass. In 1752 the process was industrialized when the works was established and lime was used as a bleaching agent. Lately more powerful and toxic chemicals were used. The works closed last year after 244 years.


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: Dale Rose
Date: 26 Jul 97 - 01:48 AM

This is a good case for using a multi-search engine. Dogpile came up empty on bleachfield with the first seven engines, Yahoo, Thunderstone, Lycos's A2Z, Excite, WWW Worm, WWW Yellow Pages, and Webcrawler. The eighth one, Lycos, turned up this site http://www.eng.uci.edu/students/mpontius/hartley/177-179_.html which describes the process exactly as Alex learned from his mother, and mentioned as bleach greens by Alison. There were 24 references in all from about 15 search engines, some of which were parts of addresses, and some which seemed completely unrelated.


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: GUEST,max monza
Date: 04 Oct 08 - 04:53 PM

a bleachfield is a huge building on the side of a river where linen and cotton were washes by machines It was on "tramps", large and high poles driven trough the water till the ground on the bottom of the river. For country people used to see one floor houses it was the biggest thing they could imagine to decribe the tall height of jock mcgraw, " a bleachfield oot on tramp" like bleachfield yet very big and notsoever out on the "tramps" the poles


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 04 Oct 08 - 05:20 PM

And the American use of 'bleachers' to describe rows of gradated seats (usually cheap), without dividers, armrests, individual bottoms at sporting events, etc., comes from the bleaching racks used in the linen industry.

ALso, the 'Bleacher Lassie of Kelvin Haugh or Hall' would have worked in this particular branch of the flax/linen industry.

Seamus


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: akenaton
Date: 04 Oct 08 - 05:35 PM

My grandparents had an old saying which they used to describe anybody who lay or lounged about lazily.

They were said to be "streeched oot like a bleachfield dug"..Ake


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: Jack Campin
Date: 04 Oct 08 - 06:37 PM

A bleachfield is a *field*, not a building. Kelvin Haugh was, as you might expect, a haugh (i.e. an area of swampy grassland beside a river), and as such an ideal location for a bleachfield.


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: GUEST,TerryA250
Date: 10 Nov 09 - 11:23 AM

the post from From: GUEST,max monza on 04 Oct 08 - 04:53 PM gives a good summary of what the songs lyrics would mean, especially if you look at the origin and period when this song came from.
The song "The Stoutest Man in the Forty Twa" is about a Jock McGraw, who was in fact Lance-Sergeant Samuel McGaw of The Black Watch who was in battle with this Highland Regiment over on the Gold Coast of Africa against The Ashantees in 1873.
He in fact received the Victoria Cross (highest medal for a soldier) for his for his gallantry at Amoafu, giving rise to more verse ...

The Ashantees, when they saw the shanks of Jock McGaw,
They turned aboot an' ran awa'.
The rain may rain, an' the snaw may snaw,
The wind may blaw, an' the cock may craw,
But ve canna frichten Jock McGaw,
He's the stoutest man in the Forty Twa.

General info to tie in with these lyrics...
A Scottish soldier is also known as A Jock
The Forty Twa is The Black Watch (RHR) or in English: They were originally formed back in the 18th Century as the Forty Second Regiment.
In the 1800`s (when this story took place) The Black Watch used to recruit from Perthshire in Scotland.

There are now various versions (lyrics) to the same song.


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: GUEST,Donal
Date: 11 Nov 09 - 04:16 AM

Bleach Green was a railway station near Whiteabbey in Co. Antrim, I seem to remember seeing lengths of cloth still being bleached there in the early 1950's when I first travelled to Belfast.


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: ard mhacha
Date: 11 Nov 09 - 04:21 AM

Bleach Green, all to do with the Linen trade, more common in the north of Ireland.


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: BobKnight
Date: 11 Nov 09 - 05:04 AM

Getting away from the industrial, ordinary people used to stretch thier linen, i.e. bedclothes, etc, out on the grass in summer to bleach and dry.


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: GUEST,Paudman
Date: 25 Jun 11 - 02:24 PM

A Bleachgreen is from the linen trade; having grown up in a former Linen village in Ulster I grew up with terms like bleachgreen, scutching and beetling. A bleachgreen is where the cut flax was laid out to dry in the sun ie bleach white so the outer covering came off the linen fibres more easily. In the 1800s there were hundreds all over the country.


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: GUEST,Barry Dipper
Date: 23 Oct 11 - 08:58 AM

For years I've puzzled over why stealing from a 'bleechgreen' would've been such a big deal and concluded it was an Englishisation of a Gaelic phrase similar to 'Deoch an Doris' a drink at the door, has become 'Jock and Doris, a parting glass. Not speaking Irish I seek enlightenment - any Irish liguists and folk heritage gurus?


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: MartinRyan
Date: 23 Oct 11 - 09:05 AM

Hi GUESTBarryDipper,

No particularly Gaelic roots in the case of "bleachgreen" - check out the earlier posts in this thread.

Regards


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: GUEST,eoin o'buadhaigh
Date: 23 Oct 11 - 09:45 AM

the flax was cut and 'weighted' down under water bu large stones. This place where the water was held was called a 'lint-hole' something like a man made canal only the water was not flowing, the flax remained there until it was almost rotted (the smell was like something had died) it was removed from the water and spread out on the grass to dry and #bleach' in the sun (the place where it was spread out was commonly known as a 'Bleach Green') from there it was transported to a Scutch Mill.
Very common in the north of Ireland and most villages with a Mill had one or more but all small farms that grew the flax had an area which was known as 'bleach green'
End of history lesson . . . oh! except, the work was back breaking but in the 1940's you would be paid 6d a bunch (a large armful) if you wanted to make real money though, you became a 'scutcher' dirty, smelly work, infact the smell never washed out and like garlic, when you would sweat folk knew what you worked at BUT very good wages for the hard work!
Eoín


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: GUEST,Donal
Date: 23 Oct 11 - 07:23 PM

I'm not sure where a couple of the previous posters got their information from, but in North Antrim where I grew up in the forties and fifties I never heard of a bleach green that had anything to do with the actual lint as opposed to the finished linen. That may have been the usage of the term in other areas but NOT in mine. The ponds where the lint was soaked were called 'dams' as they were usually damming an offshoot of a small stream or 'burn,' the lint in
sheaves 'beats' was left in there for some time to rot the hard outer part of the stalk in a process called retting. After that, in our area at least, the sheaves were taken out and stooked, (a number of sheaves together standing on end) still intact, for a period to let the water drain off. What good spreading it would have done I don't know, the outer layer was still so hard that it had to be torn off by a toothed machine in the scutch mill. Everything to do with the process of reaping, retting and scutching was hard and, yes, often smelly work. The reaping was the part of it that I was most involved with, the lint was pulled from the ground by hand, hard enough in itself, but often made worse by having been wetted by a shower before one started work, so naturally as the stalks were about three feet high, your clothes got very wet and uncomfortable. The pay for such casual work was not very high but it usually was enough for new shoes or something like that for the coming winter.


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: medievallassie
Date: 17 Sep 18 - 04:07 PM

This has turned out to be a wonderful thread for me so thank you for asking the question! I am a fiber artist who has never heard of the Bleachingreen but I have started a collection of songs that relate to the weaving, spinning and fiber industries of Ireland. My Grandfather was the headmaster at one of the mill schools, and his daughter (my great aunt) took over at his retirement until the school closed. I'd love to do a collection CD in their honor. I will add these to my list!


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: Gallus Moll
Date: 18 Sep 18 - 04:42 PM

--- the words in Scottish or Irish songs are not strange to Scottish or Irish people----


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Subject: RE: Strange words in Irish and Scottish songs
From: Jim McLean
Date: 19 Sep 18 - 03:52 AM

The song mentioned in a few posts back TerryA250, is correctly called "JOHN MACRAW THE FATTEST MAN In the FORTY-TWA" written and composed by Harry Linn.
I have a copy of the original music sheet which features on the front cover a rather thin Scottish soldier.
There is no mention of Ashantee and the line in question is verse 3 ".... The enemy a' ran awa' When they saw the legs o' John Macraw".


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