About ‘Imeall’

I came back to live in County Donegal five years ago to spend some time with my ailing Father and to raise my daughter, Nia, here amongst my family on the edge of the Atlantic. It is here, back home, on these remote shores of the Rosses and Gaoth Dobhair that I was compelled to compose new pieces of music and song and to record them on this new recording, which I call ‘Imeall’.

Imeall means edge, rim, threshold – in Gaelic. Imeall is a place which sums up my life at the moment, and I want to embrace the next stage! I was fortunate that my neighbour and friend Manus Lunny has a recording studio nearby and I was able to work at my own pace and record the pieces when I was ready to do so.

There is a fantastic view of Gola from Manus’ studio, and often while playing some of these pieces I was totally lost in the scene, hence the fairy boats in Nia’s song ‘Mo Ní­on Ó’. This recording process was effortless and hugely enjoyable and creative for me.

Thanks to Manus, Yvonne, Croí­se and Tuathal for opening their home to myself, Nia and Blondie (the pup!) while we were recording. I am extremely thankful to all the musicians and friends who gave their time and talent so generously and rallied around me over the last few years – I will be forever grateful.

A big thanks to Jim Higgins, Tim Edey, Annbjørg Lien, Trí­ona Ní­ Dhomhnaill, Graham Henderson, Donal Lunny, and Micheal McGoldrick for their talented musical contribution on this recording.

The Songs

  1. A Óganaigh Óig

    Recorded by: Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh
    Written by: Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh

    Is beag amhrán grá ó phár mná scrí­obhta i dtradisiúin na hÉireann. Sampla iontach amháin nó Dónal Óg ceann de amhráin mhóra na Gaeilge. Is ón amhrán seo a ghoid mé an chead lí­ne ‘Is tú pór na bhfear óg’!

    We don't seem to have many love songs, from a woman's perspective in the gaelic tradition here in Ireland. An exception is the wonderful Dónal Óg, which is also found in the Scots Gaelic tradition. I have borrowed the first line from that beautiful song ‘You are the seed of the young men’!

    • Mairéad — Vocals / Fiddle
    • Manus — Bouzouki / Programming / Backing Vocals
    • Jim Higgins — Percussion
    • Graham Henderson — Keyboards
    • Translated to English — Tristan Rosenstock


    My youthful young man

    You're the choice of young men I met along the way,
    And you melted the ice that covered my heart away,
    You enchanted my mind with your sweet words and mouth
    And I gave you affection my youthful young man.

    You lit up my day with the brightness of your eyes
    And you pierced my heart with pangs of desire
    Where are you at night?
    Where are you by day?
    Will I ever know my pleasant young man?

    Here's light and good health to you my youthful young man,
    Long life and wealth to you my youthful young man,
    I wish you everything, O I wish you each wish
    I wish you prosperity
    From the centre of my heart.

  2. Gardaí ‘n Rí

    Recorded by: Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh
    Written by: Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh

    Amhrán a d'fhoghlaim mé ó m'athair ar scoil. Tá an fear óg croí­ bhriste cionas go bhfuil a ghrá geal le fear eile a phósadh agus ba mhaith leis í­ a thógailt ar shiúil le cuidiú gardaí­ ‘n rí­.

    ‘The King’s Guards’ - a local song which I learned from my father at school. I have changed the rhythm slightly. It tells the story of a heart broken young man whose love is promised to someone else and wishes to kidnap her with the help of the King's soldiers.

    • Mairéad — Vocals / Fiddle
    • Manus — Bouzouki / Guitar / Backing Vocals
    • Jim Higgins — Percussion
    • Michael McGoldrick — Uilleann pipes
    • Graham Henderson — Keyboards
    • Translated to English — Tristan Rosenstock


    Rachaidh mise suas le gardaí­ an Rí
    Agus bhéarfaidh mise anuas ar lámh liom í­.
    Nach mise a chuirfeadh cluain ar a bánchneas mí­n
    Agus bhéarfaidh mé go Tuaifí­n í­ grá chroí­.

    I will go up with the King's Guards
    And I'll take her by the hand down with me.
    It is me who'd seduce her gentle fair skin
    And I'll take her to Tuaifí­n, the love of my heart.

    Tógaigí­ suas ar ghruaimhí­n an iomaire í
    lasadh ina grua agus bua gach duine léi.
    A ghiolla, atá gan ghruaim a chuirfeadh cluain ar an iomataí­
    nach é mo scéal truaí­ mar luaí­odh mise leat?

    Take her up to the edge of the ridge
    Her cheeks flushed and she able to win anyone over.
    The lad who is without dejection who seduces too many
    ‘Tis my sad tale that I wasn’t promised to you.

    Ní­l mise tinn agus ní­l mé slán.
    Is ró-mhór m'osna is ní­ fhéadaim a rá,
    nuair a smaoiní­m ar an tráth úd a bhí­ mé is tú, a ghrá,
    guala ar ghualainn agus lámh ar lámh.

    I am not ill and I am not hale.
    'Tis too great my sigh I cannot describe,
    When I think of the time when you and I were in love,
    Shoulder to shoulder and hand in hand.

    Galar cloí­te choí­che an grá.
    Is mairg ar a mbí­onn d'oí­che nó lá.
    Cé gur crua an rud an snaidhm is nach scaoiltear é go bráth
    Ó ‘s a chomrádaí­ dí­lis, go dtéigh tú slán.

    A sorry everlasting disease is love.
    Woe to him who suffers from it by night or by day.
    Though the tie is strong and never is released
    O my dear comrade may you go safely.

  3. Mazurkas

    Recorded by: Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh
    Written by: Trad. Arr. Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh / Annbjørg Lien

    Dhá mhazurka a fuair mé ó m'athair, Francie. Deirtear go dtáinig an damhsa seo ón Phólainn o thús agus go raibh siad mar rinncí­ coitianta i Londain ag tús an 19ú céad. Tháinig siad go h-Éireann le arm na Breataine.

    Two local mazurkas which I learned from my father, Francie. The Mazurka originated in Poland but became a very popular dance in London in the 19th century and travelled to Ireland through the English soldiers.

    • Mairéad — Hardanger fiddle
    • Annbjørg Lien — Hardanger fiddle
  4. Is Fada Ó Bhaile

    Recorded by: Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh
    Written by: Trad. Arr. Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh / Annbjørg Lien

    Amhrán a fuair mé ó Annie agus Cití­ Eoghain Éamainn ó Dhobhar, Gaoth Dobhair. Is iad san a choinigh na h-amhráin beo sa taobh seo tí­re agus a mbuí­ochas sin daoife.

    A song of unrequieted love, where the young man's message to his loved one to meet at a secret location, is intervened and concealed by her parents – heartbreaking stuff. My friend Annbjørg Lien, from Norway accompanies me with her hardanger fiddle on this track which gives it a melachonic atmosphere.

    • Mairéad — Vocals
    • Annbjørg Lien — Hardanger fiddle
  5. An Fidleoir

    Recorded by: Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh
    Written by: Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh

    Seo pí­osa ceoil a chum mé i gcuimhne m'athair.

    A piece of music which I composed in memory of my father.

    • Mairéad — Vocals
    • Tim Edey — Guitar
  6. Highlands / The Red Crow

    Recorded by: Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh
    Written by: Highlands - Trad. Arr. Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh / Red Crow - Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh

    Chuala mé an chead dhá highland ó sean taifeadadh de chuid Micky Doherty. Chum me an rí­l The Red Crow do mo chuid cairde agus comh cheoltóirí­ sa banna Altan.

    I heard these lovely highlands from an archive recording of the late Micky Doherty of the famous Donegal fiddling clan. The reel I composed many years ago for my band members in Altan. It was Tim Edey's idea to put the reel with these highlands – thanks to Tim and Jim for the brilliant session in Budapest and for coming to record with me in Donegal!

    • Mairéad — Vocals
    • Jim Higgins — Percussion
    • Tim Edey — Guitar
  7. Mo Níon Ó

    Recorded by: Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh
    Written by: Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh

    Seo amhrán a chum mé do mo ní­on Nia – suantraí­ le comhairle do girseach bheag ghálanta!.

    A lullaby which I composed for my daughter Nia.

    • Mairéad — Vocals
    • Manus Lunny — Bouzouki / Guitar / Programming / Backing Vocals
    • Jim Higgins – Percussion
    • Tristan Rosenstock — translation into English.


    Come walk with me, my daughter O
    Over the sand dunes of Tráigh Bhán*
    And make castles of gold, my daughter O
    From the smooth sand and bright shells.

    May your journey be easy, my daughter O,
    Through this life that lies ahead of you
    And follow your desire, my daughter O,
    For protection will be there for you.

    My daughter O, óró X 3
    May you go safely each night and day.

    O set your sail, my daughter O,
    Out to Gola on a magical boat
    On the crest of waves, my daughter O,
    Until the moon shines over you.

    O go to sleep, my daughter O,
    On a warm bed of white silk,
    Lie down peacefully, my daughter O,
    And listen to the sweet songs of the birds.

    May you go safely, my daughter O,
    Without worry or gloom each day and night,
    And remember your mark, my daughter O,
    On the smooth sand of Tráigh Bhán.

    * Tráigh Bhán – White Strand

  8. Dobbin's Flowery Vale

    Recorded by: Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh
    Written by: Trad. Arr. Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh / Trí­ona Ní­ Dhomhnaill

    Seo amhrán a chum mé do mo ní­on Nia – suantraí­ le comhairle do girseach bheag ghálanta!.

    This is Robert Cinnamond, late of Glenavy Co. Antrim, version of this big Ulster love song. The Dobbin in question, was a Leonard Dobbin, a man of influence in Armagh city at the beginning of the 19th Century.

    • Mairéad — Vocals
    • Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill — piano
  9. Girseachaí an Phointe / Port Chití Rua

    Recorded by: Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh
    Written by: Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh

    Dhá phort a chum me ar m'fhideal hardanger. Is do Nia agus a cuid cairde Gráinne agus Róise Ní­ Dhomhnaill a chum mé an chead phort mar go raibh fonn damhsa orthu agus mé a chumadh. Is do mo mháthair, Cití­ Rua a chum mé an dara ceann – bean an damhsa!

    Two tunes which I composed on the hardanger fiddle. The first tune is for my daughter Nia and her wee friends and neighbours Gráinne and Róise Ní­ Dhomhnaill, as they insisted on dancing while I composed it. The second jig is for my mother Kitty – where we learned all the dances!

    • Mairéad — hardanger fiddle
    • Manus Lunny — bouzkouki
    • Dónal Lunny — bodhrán
  10. Méillte Cheann Dubhráin / The Twenty One Highland / The Four Mile Stone

    Recorded by: Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh
    Written by: Trad. Arr. Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh / Jim Higgins

    Sean ainm ar Rann na Feirste, Meillte Cheann Dubhráin a chum an file Séamas Mac Grianna. Is fonn The Blue Hills of Antrim atá leis. Is ó Chon Ó Casaide, fidleoir Theileann a fuair mé an Highland. D'fhoghlaim mé an rí­l ó shean taifeadadh de chuid Larry Redigan.

    The slow air Meillte Cheann Dubhráin, is derived from another Ulster song; The Blue Hills of Antrim, Teileann fiddler, the late Con Cassidy is the source of the second highland and I got the last reel The Four Mile Stone from an old recording of the New York based Larry Redigan.

    • Mairéad — hardanger fiddle
    • Jim Higgins — bodhrán
  11. Néillí Bhán

    Recorded by: Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh
    Written by: Trad. Arr. Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh / Manus Lunny

    Seo amhrán a d'fhoghlaim mé ó Chéad de Cheoltaibh Uladh. Ní­or chuala mé aon nduine a rá ariamh!

    This is a song which I got in Cead de Cheoltaibh Uladh which I never heard anyone sing!

    • Mairéad — hardanger fiddle
    • Mánus Lunny — bouzouki, gutar, backing vocals
    • Jim Higgins — percussion
    • Tristan Rosenstock – translation into English


    Oh Fair Nelly my darling, and Fair Neillí­ my dear,
    If you would come with me to the pleasant wood of nuts
    I'd give you the pleasures of the big town which would lift your heart
    And riding in carriages through the roads of Ballyboy.

    'Tis a pity I'm not in Monaghan and me a cloth merchant,
    With my Fair Neillí­ by my side, I long for that day,
    If she paid the bar bill I'd hit the counter myself
    And I'd spend the tab on my fair curly-haired one.

    I'll go over to Flanders and abandon my family,
    Over to the East Indies and my love will cease
    You won't see me anymore oh gentle, handsone girl,
    And other men will be kissing my fair-haired flower

    I'll cut a rod of rowan with a turn on top of it
    And I'll tie my Fair Neillí­ tighly to its centre
    There is not a knot that I'd tie that would ever be released
    And my gentle comrade I bid you farewell

    I'm a long time in this town, a year and three days
    The likes of my Neillí­ I could not hope to find
    When I'd call for a strong drink, Neillí­ would pay the bill
    And I'd swim Loch Erne with my fair, gentle handsome girl

    Oh dear woman of the house my heart is dying with thirst
    Oh landlady, my darling, bring a fine filled quart to me
    Here's a golden guinea on the counter for you to pay for the damage
    While I drink to the health of my sweet lass and her fair hair.

    One Sunday afternoon a disaster befell me.
    My young girl was married before I could get there
    All the doctors of Ireland would not cure my case
    You, most sweet, have betrayed me, oh pearl of the fair hair.

    If I had a long white pipe 'tis tobaco I'd put in it
    A bottle of whiskey and a barrel full of ale
    If I had toe-bits on my heels or soles on the bottom
    I'd be each Sunday evening in the place where she'd be found

  12. Aige Bruach Dhún Réimhe

    Recorded by: Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh
    Written by: Trad. Arr. Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh / Manus Lunny

    Caoineadh é seo, cionas go bhfuil an ceannceathrú a bhí­ ag Clann Ui Néill i gCaislán na Glasdromainne i gCoille Dhúin Réimhe in oir-dheiscirt Ard Mhacha tréighte agus scriosta san 18ú Céad. Comhrá idir and file Art Mac Cumhaidh agus smaolach atá san amhrán seo ag cuir sí­os mar atá Clann Uí­ Néill sa Spáinn in diaidh Teitheadh na n-Iarlaí­.

    The poet Art Mac Cumhaidh is lamenting the fact that the famous Ulster chieftains the O'Neill's are all in Spain, after the Flight of the Earls, 1607.

    • Mairéad — vocals
    • Manus Lunny — Bouzouki / Guitar / Programming
    • Michael Mc Goldrick — Flute
    • Graham Henderson — Keyboards
    • Tristan Rosenstock — translation into English.


    By the banks of Dunreavey in da's solitude
    Lovely were her flower-white limbs
    I heard the roaring of the waves of Ireland,
    And sounds up high in the sky,
    The elements in pain and their backs together
    And the face of the sun concealed,
    And the choicest of birds proclaiming the news
    With sorrow that the Jackdaws had died.

    Once the bird heard me mentioning the seed of Niall
    With sorrow he flew away
    His wings were spread down to the grass
    And he hit his sides in despair
    Saying that my story is sorrowful and foolish
    Since they were put under secure headstones
    And if I looked myself under that same tomb,
    Id only find clay and bones.

    Eoghan Rua, my woe for you to be in the earth,
    You who would put the foreign mercenary to flight,
    And noble, gifted Feidhlim was taken away by force
    To Leinster where he would die.
    Lord Iveagh and the noble Irish,
    Death has powdered their bones,
    And where will their likes be found again to serve
    Since they were laid out in earth and in coffins.

    O dear thrush, you see yourself
    That the Gaels of this place have been overthrown,
    Try to leap and loop in the air
    And get a better standing abroad,
    If you dont get a branch of the O'Neill family
    In the powerful lands of Spain,
    And tell the one who survives death
    That the fated white-castle has been captured.

  13. The Pigeon On The Gate / The Convenience / The Highlandman Who Kissed His Granny

    Recorded by: Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh
    Written by: Trad. Arr. Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh / Manus Lunny

    Is ó James Byrne, sean chara agus sár fhidleoir a fuair me an leagan neamhghnáth den chead rí­l. Ar an droch uair cailleadh James roimh domh an taifeadadh seo a chrí­ochnú agus bá mhaith liom é a chuimhniú anseo.

    Is ó fidleoirí­ Bheal Feirste Dermot Diamond agus Andy Dixon a d'fhoghlaim me an dara rí­l agus fuair me an rí­ deireanach ó Oliver Browne, fidleoir ar dóigh ó Bhaile í tha Claith ach atá ag cuir faoi anois I bPittsburgh, PA i Meiriceá.

    I learned this unusual version of The Pigeon on the gate from my late friend and fiddle James Byrne from Glencolmkill, whom I'd like to remember here.

    The second tune was learned from Belfast fiddlers Dermot Diamaond and Andy Dixon on their trips to Gaoth Dobhair and the last reel in this selection I got from Dublin born fiddler Oliver Browne, now living in Pittsburgh, PA.

    • Mairéad — hardanger fiddle
    • Manus Lunny — bouzouki
    • Jim Higgins — bodhrán
    • Tim Edey — guitar
  14. An Dro / Imeall

    Recorded by: Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh
    Written by: Trad. Arr. Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh / Manus Lunny / Imeall written by Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh

    Seo ceol damhsa ón Bhriotáin a d'fhoghlaim me ó mó chairde Pierre Crepillon agus Patrick Molard. Seo amhrán beag a tháinig liom lá, a théann lei – Imeall.

    This is a Breton tune which I learned many years ago from my good friends Pierre Crepillon and Patrick Molard. I wrote the Imeall verse over it!

    • Mairéad — hardanger fiddle
    • Manus Lunny — bouzouki, guitar
    • Jim Higgins — percussion
    • Michael McGoldrick — flute
    • Graham Henderson — keyboards
    • Tristan Rosenstock — translation into English.

Recorded in Stiúdeo na Mara, An Bhráid, Tí­r Chonaill
Engineered by Manus Lunny
Mixed / Mastered by Tim Martin
at Windmill Land Studios, Dublin
Produced by Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh & Manus Lunny

Additional Engineering by:
Trond Engebresten, Kongshavn Studios, Norway (tracks 3 & 4)
Ian McNulty, Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin

Sleeve Design by Édaí­n O’Donnell
Photography by Édaí­n O’Donnell & Colm Hogan
Nia photo by Anna Lethert
Francie drawing by Mairéad

Mairéad Ní­ Mhaonaigh — vocals, Irish fiddle, Hardanger fiddle
Manus Lunny — Bouzouki, programming, vocals, guitar
Trí­ona Ní­ Dhomhnaill — piano
Dónal Lunny — bodhrán
Michael McGoldrick — flute, Uilleann pipes
Jim Higgins — percussion, bodhrán
Graham Henderson — keyboards
Annbjørg Lien — Hardanger fiddle
Tim Edey — guitar