The singer of this somewhat cryptic song was Bessie MacEachern from Creignish; it was recorded in her home in 1971 by John Alick MacPherson. There are several variants and additional verses of this song, both in Scotland and Cape Breton. This version is a Canadian one.
The variations make the song even more abstruse. For instance, Verse 4 refers to “Frenchmen making tea”. Other versions have “Frenchmen making peace” and “Frenchmen in the king’s army”. The chorus addresses a man. The verses address a woman. Aside from the mystique it’s a great song; perhaps it’s the mystique that makes it so.
This recording is from a selection of tapes which were broadcast on the BBC and made by John Alick Macpherson (BBC Scotland) and Angus John Smith (Glasgow University) when they were in Cape Breton in 1971. They made their headquarters at Cape Bretoniana, which is now The Beaton Institute.
A’ Fhleasgaich Uasail, 1971. Bessie MacEachern. T-311. Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.
Bessie MacEachern was born October 4, 1911 at Craigmore, Cape Breton. Her parents were Angus D. MacEachern of Craigmore and Katie Anne MacNeil of Iona, Nova Scotia. She married Alex Angus MacEachern of Creignish on July 24, 1934. They had two sons, Lawrence and Joseph.
Bessie sang at concerts and ceilidhs in Creignish, Judique, Port Hawkesbury, Southwest Margaree, Broad Cove, the Highland Village, Glendale, Lake Ainslie, and Antigonish, including the Highland Games. She was a participant in annual St. Andrew’s Day and Robbie Burns’s Day events. Bessie sang at the official opening of the Canso Causeway in Port Hastings on 13 August 1955 and also at the 25th Anniversary in 1980. She often sang with other Gaelic singers, including Fr. Donald Angus Rankin.
Bessie and Alex Angus taught Gaelic classes in Creignish between 1971 and 1973; she taught Gaelic songs while he taught Gaelic conversation and translations.
On July 29, 1972, Bessie participated in the Caidreabh project, singing at the “World’s Biggest Ceilidh” at the Centennial Arena in Sydney, Nova Scotia. She was also a founding member of Coisir an Eilean ,the Gaelic singing group, who performed at the Nova Scotia Tattoo (Halifax, 1983) and at Festival Antigonish’s An Evening With the Cape Breton Gaelic Choirs (1988).
In August 1989, Bessie attended and sang at the re-dedication of the Cille Choirill church in Glen Spean, Brae Lochaber, Scotland and at various places during a cultural trip of Cape Bretoners to Scotland, arranged by Mary Campbell and John S. MacIsaac.
Bessie died on September 10, 1996 and is buried in Creignish at the Stella Maris parish cemetery.
LyricsA Fhleasgaich Uasail
A fhleasgaich uasail ho rì ho rò,
A fhleasgaich uasail ho hù ho hì,
A fhleasgaich uasail an leadain dualaich
Tha mi fo ghruaim bhon là dh’fhàg thu mì.
1. Tha thu nad shìneadh a Mhàiri bhàn,
Tha thu nad shìneadh air leabaidh làir,
‘S truagh a Rìgh nach mì bha sìnte
Ri d’ mhuineal mhìn-gheal ach thu bhith slàn.
2. ‘S iomadh sealg a rinn mi riamh
Mun d’fhuair mi aodach an aon a dh’fhalbh;
Mun d’ rinn mi fhaotainn gun d’ rinn mi caoineadh;
Chuir mi naoinear an aon sloc marbh.
3. ‘S iomadh bùth anns ‘n do chuir mi sgìths
Agus bòrd aig an d’ghabh mi biadh,
Agus bocs’ às ‘n do ghabh mi snaoisean,
Is Beurla aotrom a labhradh rium.
4. ‘S iomadh cuan air an robh mi tìnn
Agus màirds air an robh mi sgìth,
Agus oidhche nam shuidh’ aig shanty
Far ‘n robh na Frangaich a’ dèanamh tì.
5. Thug mi sgrìob bheag a-null don bhàl
Ach cha do rinn mi ann dad de thàmh;
Nuair a sheall mi far mo chùlaibh
Gun d’ chuir an cùram mi dhachaidh tràth.
6. ‘S iomadh gòraich a rinn mi riamh
Agus stòp ris an d’rinn mi miann,
Agus Nollaig a ghabh mi sòlas,
‘S gur e ‘m pòsadh a ghlèidh dhomh ciall.
Noble Young Man
Noble young man ho rì ho rò,
Noble young man ho hù ho hì,
Noble young man with the curly hair,
I am stricken with gloom since you left me.
1. You are lying down fair Mary,
You are lying on a floor mattress,
What a pity that I cannot be
Beside your soft white neck, if you are in good health.
2. I did many a search
Before I found the clothing of the one who departed;
Before I found it I wept;
I buried nine in the same grave.
3. I relaxed in many a shop
And ate at many a table;
And took snuff from many a box;
Much simple English was spoken to me.
4. I was sick on many an ocean,
And tired on many a march;
I spent many nights in a shanty
Where the Frenchmen were making tea.
5. I wandered over to the ball
But did not stay for long;
When I looked over my shoulder
Anxiety made me go home early.
6. I have done many foolish things
And desired much liquor;
I enjoyed many Christmas celebrations;
But it was marriage that preserved my sanity.