Katty Ní Bhriain

Katty Ní Bhriain

Véarsa 1 Verse 1
Is a Chaitín a stóir, cad é an brón so[1] [tá] timpeall do chroí? O Katty, my love, what is this sorrow that is in your heart?
Is go bhfuil lán do dhá phóca don ór bhuí ag sileadh liom (?)[2] síos. You have both pockets filled with gold which is spilling out.
B’fhearr liom ná an choróin so tá i gcóifrín ghlais ag an Rí Rather than have this crown which the king keeps locked in a chest
Go ndúilteoinn do d’ phóigin, a stóir, cé gur mhilis liom í. I would prefer to refuse your kiss, my darling, though it is sweet to me.
Véarsa 2 Verse 2
Ar maidin dé Máirt is ea fháisceann gol orm fhéin. It is on Tuesday morning that my weeping oppresses me.
Do bhí an gloine ar an gclár is í lán de m’ dheortha[3] go béal. The glass was on the table and was filled to the brim with my tears.
Ní líonta tá an t-áth úd go mbáitear ann mílte is céad The ford in flood at which hundreds and thousands of people are drowned
Ná táimse dod’ ghrá, a bháin chnis, cé ná leigfinn leat é. Is no fuller than I am with love for you, o white-skinned [girl], though I would not reveal this to you.
Véarsa 3 Verse 3
Is do shnámhfainn-se an bhá gan bád, gan coite ina diaidh, I would swim across the bay without boat or skiff, in pursuit of her
Mar is i dtigh an tábhairne ba ghnáthach mo thaisteal is mo thriall. Because it used to be the tavern which was my haunt and destination.
Má tá d’intinn liom sásta, mo lámh dheas leig tharat aniar, If you are satisfied in your mind with me, then allow me to put my right arm around you.
Seo póg duit is fáilte, beidh an t-ádh linn a Chaití Ní Bhriain. Here is a kiss for you and welcome, we will be prosperous o Katty Ní Bhriain.
Véarsa 4 Verse 4
Is a Chaitín a stóir, ná pós an seanduine liath, O Katty my treasure, do not marry the old, grey-haired man
Is ná cuir do dhá láimh le báidh leis thairis aniar.

Mar táimse bog óg is fós níor chruinnigh mo chiall

And do not put your arms around him with affection.

Though I am young and untried and haven’t got much sense yet

Is má mhairimse beó beidh mór-chuid leanbh id’ dhiaidh. Still, if I live I will give you lots of children.


This is another example of amhrán grá an fhir, the love song of a man. In this case, money seems to be coming between the lovers, though exactly how is unclear. The imagery in the second verse is particularly beautiful while verses 3 and 4 share some images with other amhráin and are more conventional and less unusual.

Verse 4, for example, is reminiscent of the final verse of the well-known Buachaill ón Éirne while the image of crossing the water ‘without boat or skiff’ is also found in the west Kerry song Lios Bhaile Dháith or Is Cloíte an Galar an Grá. A beautifully-sung version of this can be found on the CD Searc mo Chléibh by Finola Ó Siochrú. Breandán ‘ac Gearailt’s  anthology An Blas Muimhneach (volume 1) has an identical version which he found in the journal An Lóchrann. As Fionán Mac Coluim was a contributor and editor he is the likely source.

 This version of Is Cloíte collected in Uíbh Ráthach (south Kerry) by Fionán Mac Coluim is to be found in his book Smóilín na Rann and was also published by him in the journal An Claidheamh Soluis, Samhain (November), 1907. It is almost identical to Finola Ó Siochrú’s version but is one verse shorter.

Goodman’s Katty also has one verse in common with a song called A Chailín Deas Óg, collected by Liam de Noraidh from Maidhc Turraoin in Rinn Ó gCuanach in 1940 and de Noraidh, in turn, makes reference to a song in Énrí Ó Muirgheasa’s Céad de Cheoltaibh Uladh, published in 1915, called Buachaill Uí Néill which is a version of Buachaill ón Éirne.

Goodman’s Katty Ní Bhriain was collected before any of the other songs I have mentioned and, while it has some commonalities with them, it also has two verses that seem entirely its own. If, as I believe, a wide geographic distribution of versions of a song is suggestive of its antiquity, then this is quite an old song.

[1] ‘Seo’

[2] I think this is a scribal error and should read ‘leat’ rather than ‘liom.’ In other words, the gold is falling from her pockets rather than his

[3] ‘deora’= tears