Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary

Bratach Bàna

Scottish Traditional Song

Bratach Bàna is the title of a traditional, mouth music, waulking (working, fulling) song written in Gaelic thought to originate from the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland.

Literally, Bratach Bàna means "of white flags" or "of white banners". The words are taken from the song's first line "A mhic Iarla nam bratach bàna" which means "O son of the Earl of the white banners".

Waulking songs are Scottish folk songs, traditionally sung in the Gaelic language by women while waulking cloth. This practice involved a group of people beating newly woven tweed rhythmically against a table or similar surface to soften it. Simple, beat-driven songs were used to accompany the work.

A waulking session often begins with slow-paced songs, with the tempo increasing as the cloth becomes softer. As the singers work the cloth, they gradually shift it to the left so as to work it thoroughly. A tradition holds that moving the cloth anticlockwise is unlucky.

Typically one person sings the verse, while the others join in the chorus. As with many folk music forms, the lyrics of waulking songs are not always strictly adhered to. Singers might add or leave out verses depending on the particular length and size of tweed being waulked. Verses from one song might appear in another, and at times the lead singer might improvise to include events or people known locally.

The chorus to many waulking songs consists of meaningless vocables, serving a function similar to 'tra la la' or 'hey hey hey' in other song forms.


Related Scottish Country Dances

Bratach Bàna

Bratach Bàna Traditional Gaelic Song, With English Translation

Gaelic VersionEnglishTranslation
'Ic iarla nam bratach bànaO son of the earl of the white banners
'Ic iarla nam bratach bànaO son of the earl of the white banners
'Ic iarla nam bratach bànaO son of the earl of the white banners
Chunna' mi do long air sàileI saw your longship on the sea

SéistChorus
     Hi 'illean beag hó ill ó ro,     Hi 'illean beag hó ill ó ro,
     Hi 'illean beag hó ill ó ro,     Hi 'illean beag hó ill ó ro,
     Hi 'illean beag hó ill ó ro,     Hi 'illean beag hó ill ó ro,
     Hu hoireann ó hu ó éileadh     Hu hoireann ó hu ó éileadh

Chunna' mi do long air sàileI saw your longship on the sea
Chunna' mi do long air sàileI saw your longship on the sea
Chunna' mi do long air sàileI saw your longship on the sea
Bha stiùir òir oirr' 's dà chrann airgidThere was a helm of gold on her, and two masts of silver

SéistChorus

Bha stiùir òir oirr' 's dà chrann airgidThere was a helm of gold on her, and two masts of silver
Bha stiùir òir oirr' 's dà chrann airgidThere was a helm of gold on her, and two masts of silver
Bha stiùir òir oirr' 's dà chrann airgidThere was a helm of gold on her, and two masts of silver
'S cupaill de shìoda na GaillmhinnAnd shrouds of silk from Galway

SéistChorus

'S cupaill de shìoda na GaillmhinnAnd shrouds of silk from Galway
'S cupaill de shìoda na GaillmhinnAnd shrouds of silk from Galway
'S cupaill de shìoda na GaillmhinnAnd shrouds of silk from Galway
Sìoda reamhar ruadh na SpàinneRich red silk from Spain

SéistChorus

Sìoda reamhar ruadh na SpàinneRich red silk from Spain
Sìoda reamhar ruadh na SpàinneRich red silk from Spain
Sìoda reamhar ruadh na SpàinneRich red silk from Spain
Cha b'ann an Glaschu a bha eIt was not in Glasgow that it was seen

SéistChorus

Cha b'ann an Glaschu a bha eIt was not in Glasgow that it was seen
Cha b'ann an Glaschu a bha eIt was not in Glasgow that it was seen
Cha b'ann an Glaschu a bha eIt was not in Glasgow that it was seen
No 'n Dùn-Bheagain, 's beag o'n làr eNor in Dunvegan, small and lowly

SéistChorus

No 'n Dùn-Bheagain, 's beag o'n làr eNor in Dunvegan, small and lowly
No 'n Dùn-Bheagain, 's beag o'n làr eNor in Dunvegan, small and lowly
No 'n Dùn-Bheagain, 's beag o'n làr eNor in Dunvegan, small and lowly
No 'n Dùn-Tuilm nam bratach bànaNor in Duntulm of the white banners


Bratach Bàna Song Video

Bratach Bàna Song - Information Video
Bratach Bàna Of Scotswomen Waulking Cloth Image
Detail Of An 18th Century Engraving Of Scotswomen Waulking (Fulling) Cloth, And Singing, c. 1770


LearnGaelic - Dictionary Translate Gaelic To English
Dance Information licensed under this Creative Commons Licence.
Text from this original Waulking songs article on Wikipedia.
Text from this original Waulking, Fulling article on Wikipedia.
Image Copyright www.marariley.net/celtic/scotland.htm [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Back to the top of this Scottish Country Dancing Instructions 'Bratach Bàna Song' page