An Bhean Dubh

The Black-haired Woman

Véarsa 1 Verse 1
Nuair bhímse ar mo dhícheall, While I am doing my level best
Ag díbirt na ngabhar ón dtigh, To try and remove the goats from the house,
Bíonn mo bhean dubh sa díog My black-haired wife [woman] can be found in the ditch
Ag an bpíobaire ‘s í ag foghlaim poirt. With the piper, learning a tune.
Curfá Chorus
A bhean dubh, a gheal dubh, O black-haired woman, o bright dark-haired one.
Is a bhean dubh aro cá bhfuil tú? O black-haired woman, where are you?
Is a bhean dubh aro ró-dhubh O black-haired woman, very black,
Cá bhfuileann tú? Táimse anso Where are you? I am here.
Véarsa 2 Verse 2
Dá mbeinnse in Uíbh Ráthach If I were in Uíbh Ráthach[1]
Is úr chána glas daraí ‘gam And I had a freshly-cut cane of green oak
Do sciúrsálfainn bom-báille I would whip the bumbailiff[2]
Chuin úsáid mo chailín duibh. For abusing my dark-haired girl.
Curfá Chorus
Véarsa 3 Verse 3
Trí chúpla d’íbh úra, Three pairs of fresh eggs
Ím iontu ‘s geal-chíste With butter in them, and white bread
Don fhíor-bhrútach, d’fhíor scrúille To the brutish, worthless old man
Bheadh a’ síor-bhrú mo chailín duibh. Who was always encroaching on my dark-haired girl.
Curfá Chorus
Verse 4 Verse 4
A bhean dubh na n-árann, ‘O dark woman of my heart,
Cár fhágais an bhanúlacht? Where did you leave your modesty?’
D’fhágas i gCill Áirne í ‘I left it after me in Killarney,
 ‘g imirt báire far garsúnaibh. Playing hurling with the lads!’
Curfá x 2 Chorus x 2


This a lively, light-hearted song which I have not found anywhere else. The narrator seems far more concerned by his wife’s behaviour than she is!

[1] Uíbh Ráthach or Iveragh is the peninsula on which the famous ‘Ring of Kerry’ is located.

[2] A ‘bumbailiff’ was a bailiff or underbailiff employed in serving writs, making arrests etc. This peculiar word appears to have come into use in the period 1595-1605 and alludes to the bumbailiff following close behind debtors and other offenders. Its use here is clearly meant to be derogatory.