Also known as
The Books’ Song, Cuan Bhéil Inse, Cuen Bheil Inse, The Drowning Of The Books, Lament For The Books, Lament For The Lost Books, The Song For The Books, The Song For The Lost Books, Song Of The Books, Story Of The Books, Valentia Harbour.
I found this nice slow air in a collection of Irish whistle tunes.
Does anyone know what the English name for it would be?
Amhran means song and leabhair means long or supple. The Long Song? Not likely.
As near as I can tell (with my rusty Irish), the title means something like “Reading The Books” or maybe “The Reading Of The Books”.
Can anyone correct me on this one? Mairtin?
The sheet music for this doesn’t seem to be working.
Amhran na Leabhar
This tune is contained in Matt Cranith’s The Irish Fiddle Book. The English name is given as The song of the Books. It is in Cranitch’s book as an air in 4/4 time, and sounds really nice when he plays it on his demo CD. Mr. Cranitch gives a history of the air which he says was written by Tomas Rua O’ Suilleabhain, the Iveragh poet and musician, after he lost all of his treasured books when the boat they were on going from Derrynane to Goleen hit a rock and sank.
This version is out of Geraldine Cotter’s Traditional Irish Tin Whistle Tutor (Ossian Publication). IMHO the best whistle Tutor ever. My book had two plastic singles included with examples and Geraldine explaining what she’s doing. Some frines of mine thought it’s a great crash course for english with an irish accent…
“’Amhrán na Leabhar” / “Cuan Bhéil Inse” ~ an old favourite
From the above valued link, and knowing such links can change or disappear:
WORDS: Tomás Rua Ó Súilleabháin (1785-1848)
“Tomás Rua, schoolteacher and poet had been transferred from Derrynane to Portmagee. He placed his huge and valuable library of books - both printed and in manuscript form, all leather bound - and his clothes on a boat which was travelling from Derrynane Bay to Valentia Harbour. He himself travelled by road. Unfortunately the boat overturned near Carraig Eibhlín Ní Rathaille just outside Derrynane Bay and his priceless library was lost. ‘Amhrán na Leabhar’ also known as ‘Cuan Bhéil Inse’ was his poetic response and is probably his best known song which is also very popular with pipers as a slow air.”
I empathize, having had similar experiences…
Call me crazy, but this air sounds amazing on the trumpet. Even better than it does on the fiddle. I just recently learnt this tune on the fiddle, and when I picked up my trumpet today after weeks of neglect, I decided on a whim to try this. It sounds incredible. I will never again knock the trumpet as a suitable instrument for ITM.
There’s a lovely version of this by the Kells at the following link
Conal O’Grada plays this tune on his Cnoc Bui album as Cuan Bheil Inse. Beautifully done, great solo flute.
For the life of me I can’t figure out how to have the record of his recording linked to the recordings list for the tune on this site. I submitted the recording to find it was already listed but the link from the track listing to the tune isn’t active.
Sounds lovely on a Bb flute.
“Amrhan Na Leabhar” ~ Eilis Kennedy
Yuck! Sorry, but the Kells take on it butchers a beautiful air, however capable they may be on the whistle.
While excessive tiled bathroom reverb, or bottom of the well causes me to wince ~ I much prefer the guidance a voice gives to this air, including following that similarly when it is played as an instrumental piece. Here’s a bit of it on the tongue. Try to ignore the awful reverb ~
On my quickly expressed opinion that begins above with “Yuck!” I love a well conceived, well made and baked treacle tart, but would never consider ruining it by smothering it in a thick sweet syrup - honey, golden syrup, more treacle… That’s how that whistle rendition strikes me, as being poured on too thick, ruining a favourite air…
Sean Potts (the piper) does a great version of this followed by Splendid Isolation on his self titled album.
He called it ‘Valencia Harbour’ - a mistranslation probably.
This tune also appears under this title on other albums; including a version by Seamus Ennis on The Drones and the Chanters (the first volume)
(incidently I’ve only realised today that the word focail/bhfocail sounds like ‘vocal’: never thought of that before! Perhaps it’s an other pointer at the strong oral nature of Gaelic litterature…)
Go Cuan Bhéil Inse casadh mé
Cois Góilín aoibhinn Dairbhre
Mar a seoltar flít na farraige
Thar sáile i gcéin.
I Portmagee do stadas seal,
Faoi thuairim intinn maitheasa
D’fhonn bheith sealad eatarthu
Mar mháistir léinn.
Moladh le Rí an nAingeal ngeal,
Mo shláinte arís a chasadh orm,
Is an Fhoireann úd ón anaithe
Gan bá ’theacht saor!
The song to this air was written by Tomás Rua Ó Súilleabháin (1785-1848), a poet and musician from Iveragh (Uibh Ráitheach) or Derrynane, County Kerry. Ó Suilleabhain had been acting-schoolmaster at Caherdaniel and was forced to transfer to Portmagee when another schoolmaster was appointed to the permanent position. As he was leaving he placed his treasured and huge (for the times!) library of leather-bound books for transport on a boat going from Derrynane to Goleen (Goilin, Valentia Harbor), while he himself travelled by road. The boat struck a rock and was lost, tragically along with the priceless collection of books, prompting Ó Súlleabháin to seek solace in song. The air is known in modern times as a slow tempo piper’s tune. Tomas Ó Canainn’s translation begins:
By Valentia harbour I happened once
Near sweet Goleen Dairbhre
To be the master in Portmagee
Where ships set sail for the ocean deep.
Soon all had the sorrowful story then
Of the sturdy craft, lost at Owen Finn,
Sad was my heart for the ship that failed;
Better this land had it survived the gale.
The melody is very popular as a slow air with pipers, though is usually known by the titles “Valentia Lament” or “Cuan Bhéal Inse.”
Print Sources: Cranitch (The Irish Fiddle Book), 1996; pg. 102. Ó Canainn (Traditional Slow Airs), 1995; No. 31, pg. 31 (appears as “Cuan Bhéal Inse”).
Recorded Sources: GN1, Joe Thoma - “Up the Track: Traditional Music from Kenmare” (appears as “Valentia Lament”). Ossian OSS CD 130, Sliabh Notes - “Along Blackwater’s Banks” (2002). Sceilig Records SRCD 002 Tim Dennehy - “Farewell to Miltown Malbay.”
Great version, maybe not for purists but I think it captures something special of the song
Re: Amhrán Na Leabhar
I’ve learned this as The Boat of Books. A lovely lament.
Re: Amhrán Na Leabhar
translates into English as Song of the Books.
Sounds great on a piano!
This tune actually works very well on a piano - and the bigger the better. A fiddler friend pays it really well and likes me to add an E-bass drone on the accordion at our weekly music sessions down the pub. Very taken by the tune, I tried it at home on the box - whilst OK it didn’t quite cut it. So I tried it on the piano, using its soundboard to get the drone by holding down two bass E’s and letting the melody set up sympathetic resonances in the bass strings. Very effective, and even more so by adding a few chords with the right hand (Open E, D/Ebass, A/Ebass) whilst reinforcing the drone by occasionally playing/holding the basses and using the sustain pedal. Covid lockdown has put an end to the pub session, but like many others it has gone virtual via Zoom. Since there is now no need to lug half a ton of Bechstein to the pub, I’m using it during our sessions - gratifyingly getting favourable comments! The piano’s soundboard is what makes it - so a big grand will sound best. Sorry to disappoint if you only have an electronic piano - even the best don’t have soundboards….
Re: Amhrán Na Leabhar
Found this lovely version of the song with translation. Apologies if this has already been put up, but I couldn’t see it in the links above http://youtu.be/RQgXY07sz8Q