"Stiúir óir is dhá sheol airgid"

Part of the Annotated Lyrics Horslips Pages on

Appears On - Source Tune - Recordings of Traditional Tune - General Notes from Albums - Comments from Guestbook and Facebook - Comments

Mhic Iarla na bratach bána (3)
Chona mí to long thar sáile

Chona mí to long thar sáile (3)
Stiúir óir is dhá sheol airgid

Stiúir óir is dhá sheol airgid (3)
Is cupla chon de ór na Spáinne

Cupla chon de ór na Spáinne (3)
Chona mí to long thar sáile


Son of the earl of the White Flag (Bratach Bán = White Flag)
I saw your ship over the sea

I saw your ship over the sea
A rudder of gold and two sails of silver

A rudder of gold and two sails of silver
And couplings of Spanish gold

And couplings of Spanish gold
I saw your ship over the sea

Appears On:

  1. Happy to Meet Sorry to Part

Source Tune:

Traditional Barra waulking song

Recordings (Before Horslips):

  1. Calum Johnston and Flora MacNeill, Mhic Iarla nam bratach nˆna (Son of the Earl of White Banners), recorded by the School of Scottish Studies in the 1950s

Listen to a sample of this recording.

  1. Calum Kennedy, Songs of Scotland and Ireland, Beltona 101

Courtesy of the Dun Ringles of Stornoway Calum Kennedy's Bratach Bana.

General Notes:

Bratach Bán is Scots Gallic, which is very close to Ulster Irish - the Northern Irish colonised Scotland pretty early on, as the kingdom of Dal Riada. Scotland, as I guess you know, meant the land of the Irish. (John Scotus Eriugena meant John the Irishman born in Ireland.)

I first heard it from the singing of (as they say) Seamus Ennis, the great piper and folk music collector and still an unsung hero. He had a lovely nonsense word chorus to it.

There's a clever sample-based funky version by Mouth Music from 10 or 15 years ago.

Jim Lockhart, email to site, 3 May 2006

In his book Race Of Angels, Ireland And The Genesis Of U2 (The Blackstaff Press), John Waters recalls hearing An Bratach Ban for the first time:-"This was not merely a rocked-up version of a traditional tune, but a reinvention of the medium for a different version of history. It was as though we were being given a glimpse of what the radio might have sounded like if the past eight hundred years had happened differently. It was as though the underground stream of Irish music culture - the way it might have been - had suddenly erupted through the ground into the living rooms of early seventies Ireland. Horslips changed the history of Irish popular music, and possibly much more besides....."

Happy to Meet Sorry to Part album page, Official Horslips site

"This is an excerpt from a Barra waulking song. After its publication by John Lorne Campbell of Canna on a record of Roderick Mackinnon's singing in 1950, it became very popular - but in a very different style from his. Calum Johnston and Flora MacNeill's version is more like Roderick Mackinnon's. The late Calum was a brother of Annie's, and both are featured on Greentrax CTRAX 9014. Flora has become one of the most famous and and respected traditional singers in Gaelic."

Sleeve notes of a Green Trax CD, provided by Jim Lockhart, full image here

Waulking songs (or orain-luaidh as they are known in the Gaelic language) were songs that served to accompany the waulking, or fulling, of homemade cloth. Both of these recordings were collected in the 50s and early 70s and contain mostly simulated waulking, as many of the participants were quite elderly and the actual art is almost never practiced anymore. There are several fine examples of waulking songs on the disc Music from the Western Isles. Even when translated to English (in the booklet) the lyrics of many of the songs contain some of the loveliest poetry ever found in song. This disc features a wide variety of vocal traditions sung among the Western Isles, including some arresting male choral cßilidh singing (Murdo MacLeod and John Murray); puirt a beul singing by both men and women; Ossianic folklore sung by Annie Arnott, Mary Morrison and Calum Johnston; pibroch song (by Archie MacDonald); and even an Evangelical hymn sung by Murdina MacDonald.

Review of Scottish Tradition 3 - Waulking Songs From Barra, Dirty Linen,

General Notes from the Official Guestbook:

Back to more musical matters: 'Bim Istigh Ag Ol' is also one of my favorite tracks on HTM. It's one I tend to play for the uninitiated when making my "You gotta know about this band" pitch. But I really like 'Bratach Bán' a LOT. Sometimes falling into that old preteen habit of playing it two or three times in a row when listening to the CD. If there was any background info on that track (a la what has just been shared on 'Bim Istigh Ag Ol') I would be most grateful.

And hello Ferdia's Friend...

S. Pam Templeton, Wednesday 25 August 2004 - 16:52:59 - San Francisco

S.Pam do you know the name of the tune in the middle of An Bratach Ban? The instrumental break in the middle is a different tune entirely (have heard it in a bagpipe medley would you believe!) but I've never been able to find out what it's called.

Dorie Wednesday 25 August 2004 - 19:11:23

Oh dear, naming an instrumental. I'm more in "the one that goes after that one" school of traditional tune nomenclature. It took me a few days and two discussion groups to ID the tune at the end of "South Australia Bound" and even then I'm taking the other guy's word for it that it was most definitely 'Salmon Tails Down the Water' or 'Small Tails Over the Border' or 'Red Haired Mary.' Good to have a final answer on that one.

But I'm up for the challenge. Unless a certain mandolin-plucking, Junior Cert studying, Tralee-rose gardener already knows the answer, I'll look into this. I just need to get home to resources beyond Google.

But here's my chance to share a great link. This is from a blog that hasn't been updated in a while, but the person in question likes to make up names for non-existent traditional tunes.

Later on in the blog, he pulls possible tune names out of works of literature.

S. Pam Templeton Wednesday 25 August 2004 - 21:35:38 - The Maids of Mount Frisco

[LT: This exchange in the Official Horslips Guestbook, August 2004, has been edited to relevent portion. I spent three nights trying to crack the puzzle of the second tune. Still have not identified that part of the song, but that Dorie has also heard it in a bagpipe medly now makes sense to me in light of what I've learned from the research provided by Jim Lockhart in 2006.]

Emails to Site:

In interview with Michael Vickers in High Times in December 1972, Eamon Carr said, "An Bratach Ban is a Scots Gaelic song which we do in a sort of reggae rhythm. We do two other tunes in the middle, actually, one is Rolling In The Long Grass and the other is Kitty Got A Clinker Coming From The Races. They're lovely tunes. They're Irish and we just wove them in."

Email to, Thursday 2 February 2007

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First Posted: 6 May 2006
Last Revised: 24 October 2010