Song Profile: Mollaí na gCuach Ní Chuilleanáin

Song Profile: Mollaí na gCuach Ní Chuilleanáin.  

Some songs just grab you straight away. Some songs grow on you over time or when you hear a particular rendition. This song grabbed my attention after I heard the version called Mal Bhán Ní Chuilleanáin, by Lá Lugh, sung by Eithne Ní Ullacháin. Rod (our former flute player) gave me a copy of their recording of the same name and the track jumped out at me. I’d heard the song before and had music and lyrics for it — why hadn’t I realized how great it was? So I went to my copy of Ceolta Gael and started reading the music and words. The words were the same but the music was different. Not hugely — it still fit the lyric snugly but the feel of the song was very different. Whereas the original was an almost bouncy tune complete with chorus, this version had a haunting quality that, to my mind, suited the lyrics so much better. All of a sudden it came alive and the chorus — while rarer in sad songs — made so much more sense.  

Is fada liom uaim í, uaim í  

Is fada liom uaim í ó d’imigh sí  

Is fada liom thíos agus thuas í  

Mollaí na gCuach etc, 

She is far from me, from me 

She is far from me since she left  

She is far away below and above (everywhere)  

Mollaí na gCuach etc.,  

There are meaning on top of meanings here. “Is fada liom uaim í” has the literal meaning given above but it’s also a way of saying “I miss her” or “I long for her”.. “Thíos agus thuas” means literally “below and above” but in common idiom can mean “North and South”, “in every way” or “everywhere”.  

I won´t get drunk anymore 

I will not taste a drop of ale ever again 

Since I lost my little young girl 

That I might put money in my pockets. 

Chorus 

She is far from me, from me 

She is far from me since she left  

She is far away below and above (everywhere)  

Curley-haired Mollaí Ní Chuilleanáin  

I will build a house on the heights 

And I will have four white spotted cows 

And I will allow nobody near them 

Except for lovely fair Mollaí Ní Chuilleanáin 

Chorus 

If I were in Death’s difficulty 

And the people saying I would not recover 

I would never make my will 

Until fair Mollaí would come. 

Chorus 

One day I was in the wood 

I caught a glimpse of a pretty girl 

She would make a corpse live 

Or a fine young lad of an old fellow.  

For  the song I’ve stayed with the spelling Mollaí Ní Chuilleanáin. There are different spellings of the name in Irish — Ní Chuilleannáin is common, as is Ní Chuileanáin. The issue is further complicated when the name is Anglicized, giving us Cullinane, O Cullanayne, Quillinan, Culnane, and Quilnan. It is also sometimes translated as Hollywood, since the Irish word for a holly tree is ‘cuilleann”.  

We recorded this song on the album Trad and it is a favorite of ours to perform. Here’s a link to a video of the song recorded live at a concert in Evergreen, CO a few years ago.

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