Friday, 6 November 2015

Oran Buaile – Teiris a bhò

You may have noticed I have a bit of a thing about cows...

Part of the reason I chose "Tairis" as a name for my website is that I found a definition given in Macbain's Dictionary that described its meaning as:
tairis! int. The dairymaid's cry to calm an unruly cow at milking. 
Ordinarily, however, it means:
tairis -e, a. Kind, sincere, loving. 2 Compassionate, tender-hearted, soft, tender, kindly, urbane. 3 Confidential. 4** Trusty, faithful, loyal. 5** Acceptable. Cha tairis leam ur fàilte, your invitation is not acceptable to me; guth tairis nam bàrd, the mild voice of the bards.
And while the latter definition seems apt in itself, the former meaning tickled me enough for it to stick in my head. When the time came to buy a domain name I couldn't think of anything else so that's what I went with.

One thing I always wondered, though, was that in all of the milking songs I'd seen (in places like the Carmina Gadelica), the term was always absent. I figured maybe it was either a very localised term that Carmichael never came across, or else perhaps Macbain himself had kind of... made it up? Misheard it? Today, though, I came across the following song thanks to Google, and things make a bit more sense now. The song itself was recorded by the folklorist "Nether Lochaber," the pen name of Rev. Alexander Stewart, who lived in the area he took his pseudonym from. In the song we have teiris, not tairis, though Dwelly gives Macbain's spelling and lists teiris! as a local variant of the same word, recorded in Poolewe – which is in the Nether Lochaber area. As a plain old verbal adjective, however, the word teiris is listed as meaning:
teiris ** va & n. Tame, quiet, as unruly cattle. 2 Stop. 3 Be at peace.
So it all makes a bit more sense to me now.

Gaelic milking songs were kind of legendary – folklorists of the nineteenth century often liked to note that Highland cattle were some of the best milkers in the world, and it was said that a cow of the Highlands wouldn't give milk unless the dairy maid sang to it a soothing song. Since I can't find the song recorded by Rev. Stewart published anywhere else, I thought I'd transcribe it here (the site I found it on has a poorly done OCR transcription).

As this piece notes, the song was originally published in the Inverness Courier, though no date's given for that. In the copy I found, though, the date given is Saturday 23 March 1895, and it's interesting that this is from an Australian newspaper, the Northern Star from New South Wales. Anyway, here it is, with the newspaper's own write up. I've transcribed it as best I can, though some of it was difficult to read. I'll note that some of the words have the accents in the wrong place, as far as I can tell, but I've kept it all as-is and I haven't updated any spellings either. The translation is as given in the paper, though it's not completely literal – there's an extra line added in (and hopefully the table comes out OK; Blogger can be finicky with tables so if the formatting's off, apologies):
The following Oran Buaile or Shieling song, as sung in the Highlands of Scotland, was taken down from the words of a woman still living in Adnamurchan, and sent to “Nether Lochaber,” who gave it a place in the INVERNESS COURIER. It will be interesting to Highland readers, many of whom have perhaps heard it sung:


Teiris a bhò
Teiris an t’ aghan beag
Teiris a bhò
Teiris a Chaòmhag;
Bleoghnaidh mi bhò
Le lamh bhog nach goirtich i,
Mo dhearn mar an sìde,
Bleoghnaidh mi ‘Chaòmhag.

Gently my cow.
Gently my little heifer, gently!
Gently my cow,
Be gently and quiet, my darling:
I will milk the cow
With soft hand that will not hurt her;
With the palm of my hand soft and smooth as silk,
I will milk my darling.

Bi laghach, a bhò,
Bi laghach, bi ceanalta,
Bi siòbhalta, ceanalta,
Laghach, a runag;
Gheibh i bad feoir,
Is leaba de’n rainnich ‘nam,
Gheibh i min air burn lainnir,
’S am bainne cha diult i.

Be nice, now, my cow.
Be nice and be gentle,
Be quiet and gentle, [And all you should be now –]
Of all pets the dearest!
She will get a nice wisp of hay,
And a soft bed of ferns from me,
With (a drink) of meal on crystal-clear water,
And (meantime) she will not refuse me her milk.

Bheir i am bainne dhomh,
’S i bheir am bainne dhomh,
Criosalt no buarach
Cha luaidh mi ri m’ eudail,
Cha thog i eas idir,
’S cha teann i ri crosdachd,
Mar a ni an crodh mosach nach tuig ach a bhéurla!

She will give me her milk,
Ay, her milk she will freely give me;
Foreleg fetter or handset shackles
Shall not be so much as mentioned in connection with my darling;
She will not lift a leg,
Nor will she show any ill-temper,
Such as is only shown by the nasty cows
That understand only the English language!

Tha’n t’sine bhog, bhlàth
Aig martan an aigh,
Tha ‘bainne bog, blàth,
‘Se fo bharr a ta cùraidh;
Mo ghaol is mo chíali
Air an aghan bheag, lurach,
Fhuair mise do ghealladh,
Am bainne orm nach diult thu.

Soft and warm is the teat
Of my charming little cow;
Soft and warm, too, is her milk
Under its froth of delightfullest odour.
My dear and delight
Is the beautiful little heifer;
She has given me her promise
That she will not refuse me her milk.

Mach thu ’n an ionaltraidh,
Mach thu ’n an ionaltraidh,
Mach thu ’n an ionaltraidh,
Moch maduinn a màireach,
Bi’dh ‘m féur thu’n na glùn dhuit
‘An Doire-na-Giubhsaich,
Bheir thu dhachaidh làn ùth,
’S cinnt’ nach diult thu dhomh pàirt deth!

Out to the grazing ground,
Out to the grazing ground,
Out to the grazing ground,
To-morrow morning early!
The grass will reach well up to thy knee
In Doire-na-Giubhsaich (the Fir Tree Woodlands);
She will thence carry home a full udder,
And sure I am that she will not there-of refuse me a fair, full share.
There is considerable humour in the song, as in the way the heifer’s character is exalted at the expense of the Ayrshire cattle of the township, who are spoken of with contempt as only understanding English, while her own heifer (a genuine West Highlander, we warrant her!) is so thoroughly up in Gaelic that she understands its every word! TEIRIS is a term of conciliation and kindness used in soliciting the friendship and good behaviour of cattle in stall – something like the “Gently, now,” of a good-natured groom when astride a steed disposed to be skittish. To be of effect it has always to be uttered in a conciliatory, or in what may be called a wheedling tone of voice. It is never addressed to horses; only to the bovine race, in their every stage of growth from clashed to extremest old age.