Henry's Songbook

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Mingulay Boat Song

  • (Trad / Hugh S. Roberton)

    Heel yo ho, boys, let her go, boys
    Swing her head round and all together
    Heel yo ho, boys, let her go, boys
    Sailing homeward to Mingulay

    What care we though white the minch is
    What care we for wind or weather
    Swing her head round, every inch is
    Sailing homeward to Mingulay

    Wives are waiting by the quayside
    They've been waiting since break of day-o
    Swing her head round, every inch is
    Sailing homeward to Mingulay

    When the wind is wild with shouting
    And the waves mount ever higher
    Anxious eyes turn ever seaward
    To see us home, boys, to Mingulay

    (as sung by The Corries)

    Tune: Creag Guanach

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1968:] Here is a sea shanty made for stormy weather that has become gentle in the hands of the McPeakes. Norman Kennedy states that the song was originally about the supernatural powers of an owl, but when the singers of the Hebrides became embarrassed by such ideas, they ceased to sing those words. (Ethel Raim / Josh Dunson, A Folksinger's Guide to Grassroots Harmony)

  • [1986:] Traditional Gaelic tune, probably Lochaber. (Conway, 100 Songs 1)

  • [1995:] A large number of the place names in the Barra isles are of Norse origin (or are compound Norse-Gaelic), as are the names of the islands themselves. The name Mingulay is thought to derive from the Old Norse 'mikil', meaning big, and 'ay', meaning island. In Gaelic i is 'Miughalaigh', pronounced something like 'me-ul-eye', or 'Miùghalaigh', which accounts for the form 'Mewla' given in a 17th century source. [anon 1620 in J L Campbell, ed, "The Book of Barra", 1936, p 44] Monro's version of 1549 - Megaly - is the earliest known; Martin Martin, 1695, gives 'Micklay'. The current spelling and pronuciation in English has drifted further from the Gaelic than in other cases, possibly because of the various forms used by early writers and map makers. [...] Mingulay's most famous song - outside Barra and Vatersay that is - is "The Mingulay Boat Song'. But neither the words nor the melody originate anywhere near Mingulay; it is a romantic invention of the 20th century. It was devised in 1938 by Glasgow-born Sir Hugh Roberton, who was very fond of the melody of 'Creag Ghuanach', a song from Lochaber, which celebrates a crag near Loch Treig. He needed a sea shanty, and so he adapted the music, chose the romantic name Mingulay, and composed the words. It was to be sung in F, slowly and rhythmically. [Roberton Publications, personal information; Derek Cooper, "The Road to Mingulay: a View of he Western Isles", London, 1985] (Buxton, Mingulay: an Island and Its People, pp 33, 47f., )

  • [1996:] Sir Hugh Roberton (1874-1952) was conductor of the famous Orpheus Choir of Glasgow for which he made many choral arrangements of Scots songs. He also published 'Songs of the Isles' (1950), a collection of traditional tunes for which he invented English words. 'Mairi's Wedding' (Lewis Bridal Song), 'Westering Home' and the 'Mingulay Boat Song' were all popularized by Roberton and they remain perennial favourites.

    The remote, barren island of Mingulay lies to the south of Barra in the Western Isles. Sometimes referred to as 'the nearer St Kilda', it was a crofting and fishing community of about 160 people until 1912. Isolation, infertile land, lack of a proper landing place and the absentee landlord problems familiar to the Western Isles and Highlands, resulted in a gradual disintegration of Mingulay's culture. The process of voluntary evacuation began in 1907 with land raids by the impoverished crofters to the neighbouring island of Vatersay, and Mingulay is now completely deserted. But summer visitors to Barra regularly brave the two-hour journey in exposed seas from Castlebay to Mingulay, inspired by Roberton's evocative but sentimental song, which has no connection with either the island or its people. (Paterson / Gray, Songs of Scotland, p. ?)


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aktualisiert am 28.05.2002