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Meaning of 'The Coolin'

10 Mar 02 - 12:18 AM (#666076)
Subject: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Escamillo

A friend wants to know the exact meaning of "The Coolin" which is the title of the third of the Barber's "Reincarnations" with lyrics from an Irish poet. A search on Digitrad brought several references to a traditional Irish song but not of any Barber song.

In the context of the lyrics, it seems to be the name given to a moment of the day, when everything is calm.

Thanks for any information. Un Abrazo - Andrés (in the hot Buenos Aires)

10 Mar 02 - 12:39 AM (#666083)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: masato sakurai

'"The Coolin" is based on a favorite Irish love song. The word "coolin" refers to the little curl grown by young women at the neck line. Thus, "little curl" or "coolin", came to mean one's sweetheart. A lifted, lilting compound triple-meter helps to create a pastoral scene while gentle harmonic and chromatic inflections and tone painting create a sonic image of two lovers tenderly speaking.' (From HERE)


10 Mar 02 - 01:24 AM (#666095)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Escamillo

Thanks a lot, Masato. I've just sent your reply and all the references to my friend and to the group of musicians at for everybody's information. Another responsive and friendly help from the Mudcat people.

Un abrazo, which means "a hug" - Andrés

10 Mar 02 - 05:33 AM (#666151)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Fiolar

The word "coolin" is a form of the Irish word "Cuilfionn" which strictly means a "fair haired one" and in the song is referring to a "handsome maiden."

10 Mar 02 - 06:05 AM (#666162)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Escamillo

Thanks to you too, Fiolar. Please ask me when you have any doubt about Spanish language or songs.

Un abrazo - Andrés

10 Mar 02 - 10:53 AM (#666265)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: George Seto -

Also, depending on where you are. It could refer to the mountains on the Isle of Rum in the Hebrides. One of the songs of the region refers to "the far Coolins"

10 Mar 02 - 12:17 PM (#666315)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: greg stephens

The Coolins are on Skye ,but they look wonderful from neighbouring Rhum. nothing to do with the tune though (as far as i know)

11 Mar 02 - 07:18 AM (#666809)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,Ard Mhacha.

An Chuilfhoinn,[The Fair-haired Maiden], "In Balnagar is the Cooolun,.>Like the berry on the bough her cheek,> Bright beauty dwells for ever,> on her fair neck and ringlets sleek. A verse of An Chuilfhoinn translated from the Irish by Samuel Ferguson. One of the oldest and loveliest of Irish airs. Ard Mhacha.

11 Mar 02 - 08:14 AM (#666828)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Wolfgang

'The Cuillins of Rhum' are not meant, but for what it is worth, that's a song from Gordon Bok.


11 Mar 02 - 11:55 AM (#666992)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Mickey191

In the 60's My Mom had a 33rpm record of a song called The Last Glimpse of Erin. (With Sorrow I See) It was a collection of Songs performed by a male chorus. That is the melody I recall as The Coolin.Has anyone any knowledge of this song? The melody is lovely and mournful in a way. Also the movie, True Confessions had as background music this same melody. I tried the IMDB site but nothing about the background music there. I would like to know if those two selections are The Coolin. I can't get the melody with my webtv. Anybody??

11 Mar 02 - 02:55 PM (#667102)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,Ard Mhacha.

Mickey,The Last Glimpse of Erin, one of Thomas Moores Melodies. Moore used the air of The Coolin. Ard Mhacha

11 Mar 02 - 03:09 PM (#667111)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'

Ard Mhacha, don't take that 'translated from the Irish' on Samuel Ferguson's songs too seriously. Where the original Gaelic can be found the songs are much different from Ferguson's. His "Coolun" is on the internet, as is his "Fair Hills of Ireland". Compare the latter with the earlier Gaelic one in Donal O'Sullivan's 'Songs of the Irish'. His "Drimion Dubh Deelish" is quite different from that also given by O'Sullivan.

11 Mar 02 - 04:36 PM (#667177)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'

Guest, I would not argue the point, and I am sure that O`Sullivan`s Irish was superior to Ferguson`s, but have you ever seen two translations of Irish songs word for word the same?. Ard Mhacha.

11 Mar 02 - 05:39 PM (#667227)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,chrisj

Word for word' translations from one language to another rarely if ever work because each language contains its own culture and thought processes evolved over time. Since languages developed to convey the thoughts, wishes, needs, etc of each unique community the way each language conveys these differs. So you'd expect to find quite significant changes in the various translations of Irish songs depending on how familiar the translator was with the original language.

In speaking of translations I wonder if Masato Sakurai, who often posts on threads dealing with Irish language matters, is the 'entry from Japan' in the last Raidió na Gaeltachta song contest. It was mentioned on the RnaG web site? Wonder how a Japanese person came to learn Irish?

11 Mar 02 - 06:08 PM (#667254)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Mickey191

Thank you Ard Mhacha for solving an old mystery for me. Is the English translation of your name a secret?

Guest Chris, I too, am curious about Masato's vast knowledge of Irish music. If I ask nicely-do you think he will clue us in. Nosey Mickey says Slainte.

11 Mar 02 - 08:22 PM (#667352)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: masato sakurai

Chris and Mickey, I've been wondering how, too. However (I have to come clean), I don't know the Irish language; I've never been to Ireland; and most of my limited knowledge has been built up through records & books, and recently through the internet.


11 Mar 02 - 09:53 PM (#667405)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Mickey191

Masato, Thanks for sharing. I was telling my cousin about your vast knowledge of Irish music. He is into all things Asian and wondered if you were the gentleman who started a bag pipe band in Japan. He said it became so popular there was a second band formed, and they were deemed good enough to march In The St. Patrick's Day parade in N.Y. You probably would have mentioned that. My accupunturist is Chinese, you ought to hear him sing Danny Boy. God Bless the Irish, their influence is everywhere.Slainte Maithe

12 Mar 02 - 01:56 AM (#667499)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Escamillo

No surprise that Japanese people seem to be able to study deeply, comprehend and enjoy the products of other cultures. There are TANGO orchestras in Japan which are very respectful of the spirit of our traditional Argentinean tango (not the American or European rose-in-teeth military march called tango), who are real lovers of this music, and who are very frequently better musicians than ourselves. Here in Buenos Aires there are many classical, tango and jazz musicians of Japanese origin, but they don't count because they have been born or grown up in Argentina. What is amazing is the quality and soul of those musicians in Japan who have never been in our country.

Un abrazo - Andrés

12 Mar 02 - 04:31 AM (#667513)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Paddy Plastique

Masato, are you distantly related to Lafcadio Hearn, by any chance, that Greco-Irish-American who loved Japan ?
A recent Occitan 'Summer School' around here (SW France) had a Japanese participant...amazing
Mickey191, 'Ard Mhacha' is the Irish for the county of Armagh - maybe AM himself will give
the literal meaning - or any secret meaning he might have himself.
Regarding 'An Chuilfionn' (sic), I have a bit of a scam tape of Behan at home, recorded
at a sitting, I think. He tells anecdotes and attempts to sing a few songs - though he never completes any.
He does 'An Chuilfionn' in a fragmentary fashion - bluffing half of the words - even to my untrained ear.
Maybe I should transcribe his wee preamble - as he talks of the 'young girl'/'hairstyle' sense..some day
Even with a drunken, spoofing Behan, the beauty of it shines through, though.

12 Mar 02 - 04:35 AM (#667518)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,Martin Ryan

Masato the engineer?


12 Mar 02 - 06:40 AM (#667547)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: masato sakurai

This is the "Meaning of 'The Coolin'" thread. PM me please, if you want to know about me.

12 Mar 02 - 07:45 AM (#667573)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'

Mickey I live in Ard Mhacha = Armagh, and I love it here , I spent many years in England and as the years roll on I, like many another returning exile can relax and enjoy the banter with old friends. Masato you are a wonder, it amazes me that you are so informed on all things Irish. I remember our local Gaelic League receiving a letter from a lady in Japan in beautiful hand written Irish, can you imagine anyone from Britain or Ireland writing to an organisation in Japan in Japanese. Ard Mhacha.

12 Mar 02 - 09:00 AM (#667606)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Fiolar

Why are folks so amazed at the fact that a Japanese loves Irish music and song. The biggest fan of John McCormack I ever met was a doctor from Sri Lanka. He have practically every recording the singer ever made.

21 Jan 03 - 06:44 PM (#871796)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Felipa

Yes I have met two Japanese people who spoke Irish. One spent some time on the Aran Islands learning the language.
I've seen e-mails in well-written Scots Gaelic from another Japanese person - who lives in Japan
and I've danced sets at a céilí with a woman from Tokyo who was at the Willy Clancy summer school for the second year in a row

22 Jan 03 - 12:41 AM (#871999)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,sorefingers

Greetings to Escamillo and Masato, since both are so far away from where I live.

The 'Coolin' is in one of the many Books I collected, it is written out in it's entirety, many variations and set for Violin, but I cannot play it on my Harmonica... except I cheat   .. grin.

About Japanese Cultural interests in Ireland, it is fascinating to read that there are Irish Traditional Pipers in Japan and they are very good as well.

Also could not help but notice the house of one Japanese Piper was thatched, perhaps that is the connection since the music sounds so good in Irish thatched cottages.

Escamillo I have many relatives in your part of the world and I am seriously - even at my advanced age - trying to learn eSpanol so I can speak to them, however my teachers here tend to be mostly from near countries or US States such as Texas, California and New Mexico.

Funny thing one of my cousins, writing in Spanish, expressed great concern at comming to the USA since he could not speak
English, sheesh where I now live, if you don't know Spanish you can't surive, since everyone here is a native speaker; btw it sounds very beautiful, I cant wait to get so I too can speak it.

as they say here
hasta manyana

22 Jan 03 - 10:34 AM (#872232)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Jimmy C

Ard Macha = Armagh as in the county.

In the book of Armagh, is translated as Altidudo Macha ( Macha's height).

From Queen Macha of the golden hair, who founded the palace of Emania, 300 years B.C.
(From Joyce's Irish Place Names Explained)

22 Jan 03 - 11:10 AM (#872268)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Strupag

I'd just thought that I'd add to this thread to say that from my office window, I am looking out to the Cuillin mountains, often mistakenly reffered to as the Coolins, here on the island of Skye and they are beautiful as always. Today they have a wee bit of snow on the higher peaks. See them at I'd appreciate it if someone can pm me and show me how to do a clicky)
Any as to the meaning; no one seems to know here but it has been suggested that they might come from the word "culabh" which means behind but is ofter refers to a place that you can shelter behind.
I've got the feeling that this time it's got no relation to the Irish Coolin.
We are soon going to start up a community radio station here broadcasting lots of celtic music and guess what! It will be called Cuillin FM.


22 Jan 03 - 12:44 PM (#872307)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: An Pluiméir Ceolmhar

My recollection from schooldays is that the cúilfhionn is a love poem about a man, and the term refers to a hairstyle popular in Ireland in the 17th/18th century which is now known as.............the mullet!

22 Jan 03 - 09:35 PM (#872526)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Sandy Mc Lean

....perhaps because they form the backbone of Skye , Strupag.
They also rise from the sea of the coast of Skye to form Rum.(my ancestrial home )
The only other word that I know sounding like that (in my very limited Gaelic) would be a small dog or puppy.

23 Jan 03 - 04:34 AM (#872653)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: daithi

I was at the Irish language summer school in Gleann Cholm Cille in the Donegal Gaeltacht last year and there was a Japanese guy on the course too. He'd fallen in love with the music and met some irish nursing staff in Tokyo - as a result of which he had booked onto the course and flown half way around the world just to do it! If you've never heard Irish spoken with a Japanese accent it's a riot, I can tell you - but fair play to the man!
Slán - Dáithí

23 Jan 03 - 11:13 AM (#872880)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Jimmy C

Daithi, If you ever go back there let me know, I will put you in touch with some relatives who live year round just outside Church Hill, on the shores of Gartan Lake. They both attend Irish Language courses from time to time, it is possible you may have already met them ?. PM me if you prefer.



29 Jan 03 - 03:10 PM (#877835)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Felipa

re message from "An Pluiméir Ceolmhar"
Cúl, cúl-fhionn, cúilín can refer to women's hair as well.

There are two versions, with translation, of An Chúilfhionn / The Coolin in Douglas Hyde, "Love Songs of Connacht", first published 1893, facsimile edition Shannon: Irish University Press, 1968. From that book, I offer a couple of lines from other songs: 1) "Is Truagh Gan Mise i Sasana": "[when I am sick] Ní'l mo leigheas ag an méad sin, Ach ag Máire an chúil bháin / My curing is not with all that number, but with Mary of the fair cool"
2)Úna Bhán (another song which has a Mudcat thread devoted to it)"Cúilín fáinneach air an fhás suas an t-ór leagtha/ Ringleted cooleen upon which grew up the melted gold"

29 Jan 03 - 03:58 PM (#877867)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Felipa

Annraoi, Ir-Trad-L 22 March 2002
'One of the meanings of "Cúilfhionn" is "fair hair" whence, "beautiful young girl". Another is supposed to refer to a peculiarly Irish way of wearing the hair. In support of this I heard the following lines quoted many years ago:- "The King has forbidden the men of O'Neill With the "coolin" adorned to cross over the Pale".
I have never been able to trace the song / poem from which these lines were taken.'

you can see further discussion on other messages around 22-23 March 2002 archived at Ir-trad-L . Also see Lachlan's Ir-Trad L message of 7 Feb 1996 "Re: Coolins" and the prohibition of the traditional men's hairstyle
but the lyrics of the song do seem to be about a woman with lovely hair

29 Jan 03 - 05:52 PM (#877949)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: BIG AL

Brendan Behan was very fond of this song and sung it in several of his broadcasts. I seem to remember from one of his books that he thought the coolin was to do with the supression of the Irish language. I'm afraid this is only a hazy recollection of a book i read maybe five years ago - I rather think it was one of those books that he recited to a scribe in his later years.

I hope I have not muddied the waters, as my contribution seems not to concur with the rest, nevertheless I thought it might be worth mentioning


29 Jan 03 - 08:29 PM (#878074)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Malcolm Douglas

It was worth mentioning; but Brendan had quite the political agenda and wasn't a reliable authority on anything very much; even Grattan Flood (the man who claimed that the British national anthem was an Irish tune) didn't try that one on. What Flood did say was that it referred to a statute of c.1296, which forbade English people resident in Ireland from adopting the then-fashionable Irish hairstyle.

Grattan Flood was no historian, and everything he says is suspect; but he was, for all his academic failings, a genuine patriot; so if there had been any question at all of the song referring to an attempted suppression of the Irish language, you can be sure that he would have said so.

29 Jan 03 - 08:39 PM (#878086)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: BIG AL

I think it was Wilde who said ignorance is a delicate flower, the merest touch of enlightenment and it's gone. I am touched Malcolm. Many thanks

08 Feb 03 - 05:20 AM (#885385)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Felipa

re my message of 21 Jan., Japanese Irish-speakers. I've just come across a website of an Irishman in Japan, with pages in Japanese about sean-nós singing, including translations of some songs from Irish to Japanese. Michael's website

08 Feb 03 - 07:18 AM (#885412)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'

Two Irish words: 'cúl' = back, and 'fionn' = fair, combined in 'cúilfhionn' = fair(hair hanging down) back. Gradually came to mean a pretty maid. The word is common in many Irish songs ("cé gheobhair lem' ais ach an cúilfhionn deas, le fáinne geal an lae").

08 Feb 03 - 03:07 PM (#885657)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Sandy Mc Lean

Cailin, caile ,and caileag are all Gaelic words for girl or maiden. All from a common Old Irish root.
It comes into English as Colleen.

13 Apr 03 - 05:00 PM (#932581)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Felipa

From Padraic Colum (1881–1972). Anthology of Irish Verse. 1922."It is well, perhaps, to distinguish between "Coolun" and "Colleen." [colleen, cailín = girl] Coolun (Cuil-Fhionn) means one with long flowing hair. Applied to a man the designation would have suggested that he was a champion of Gaeldom who wore his hair in the ancient fashion forbidden by English statutes. Perhaps it was this that gave the designation its romantic association. The famous song that is given here is about a girl."

Ard Mhacha, I will add Ferguson's verses in another message

13 Apr 03 - 05:02 PM (#932584)
Subject: Lyr add: AN CHUILFHIONN
From: Felipa

Although people still play this slow air, which dates back to the 1700s, it doesn't seem to be sung much nowadays.
According to messages on the internet, the song has been recorded by Brendan Behan, Seán Ó Se and, more recently, by Treasa Ní Chathain; I don't know what versions they sing

There are two versions, with translation, of An Chúilfhionn / The Coolin in Douglas Hyde, "Love Songs of Connacht", first published 1893, facsimile edition Shannon: Irish University Press, 1968. But I don't have the book to hand.

The following lyrics (which were published with the air) are from a revamped edition of Edward Bunting's collection published in 1840, Donal O'Sullivan & Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, ed., Bunting's Ancient Music of Ireland. Cork: Cork University Press, 1963.

Bunting noted the "far-famed melody" from the playing of County Derry harpist Hempson in 1796, and he noted "variations by Lyons in 1700" (I copied a note from somewhere that " It seems that Lyons attributed this most famous tune to one of the Connellan brothers. ...") Bunting got the words from a "Mrs Conner" He gives "Lady of the Desert" as an alternative title.


Da bh[f]aicfeá-sa an chúilfionn,
Is í siúl ar na bóithribh
Dul bealach na cúl-choill'
'S an drúcht lena brógaibh.

Mo bhrón 'sí mó brún í,
Is níl [tnúth?] aici le óige
'S go dtug sí barr múinte
Ar chúigibh na Fódla.

Is lonrach 's is péarlach
An mhaighdean chiúin tséimh í,
Is ró-dheise len fhéachaint
'Na sceimh an ghréinéirí (?).

Samhail de Dheirdre
A méin is a breáthacht
Mar shoilse lae ag éirí
Nó réalta oíche Márta.

If you were to see the fair lady, As she walked the roads Going by the way of the back woosd And the dew on her shoes

Alas, she is my loved one And she pities not my youth She excels the five provinces of Erin In high accomplishments.

She is radiant and beautiful. This mild gentle maiden . It is a great loveliness to see In her beauty, the rising sun.

She is an image of Venus in her disposition and splendour As the morning light arising Or as the stars on a March sky.

O'Sullivan and Ó Súilleabháins notes give reference to many publications of the tune, mostly in the 19th century, including Hardiman*, Joyce and Stanford's edition of Petrie's Mss.
The National Library of Ireland sheet-music collection has a number of arrangements of "The Coolin", or "Coolun" for pianoforte and other instruments from the late 18th c.
(* " 'An chúilfhionn/The coolun', Thomas Furlong's 6-stanza version in Hardiman, Hardiman attributing it to Carolan ... " authors/h/Hardiman,J(b1790)/life.htm)

13 Apr 03 - 05:06 PM (#932588)
From: Felipa

sorry, 'brún' in the 2nd verse above should be 'brón'

from :


An bhfaca tú an Chúileann 's í ag siúl ar na bóithre?
Maidin gheal drúchta 's gan smúit ar a bróga?
Is iomaí ógánach súilghlas ag trúth lena pósadh,
Ach ní bhfaighidh siad mo rúnsa ar an gcuntas is dóigh leo.

An bhfaca tú mo bhábán lá breá 's í 'na haonar,
A cúl dualach drisleanach go slinneân síos léithe,
Mil ar an ógbhean, 's rós breá 'na héadan,
'S is dóigh le gach spriosán gur leannán leis féin í.

An bhfaca tú mo spéirbhean 's í taobh leis an toinn,
Fáinní óir ar a méaraibh 's í a' réiteach a cinn.
Is é dúirt an Paorach 'bhí 'na mhaor ar an loing
Go mb'fhearr leis aige féin í ná Éire gan roinn.

From P. Colum's Anthology of Irish Verse on line at
and from Kathleen Hoagland, 1000 Years of Irish Poetry

Maurice O'Dugan [?**] (c 1641), trans. by Samuel Ferguson

O had you see the Coolun,
Walking down the cuckoo's street,
With the dew of the meadow shining
On her milk-white twinkling feet!
My love she is, and my coleen oge,
And she dwells in Bal'nagar;
And she bears the palm of beauty bright,
From the fairest that in Erin are.

In Bal'nagar is the Coolun
Like the berry on the bough her cheek;
Bright beauty dwells for ever
On her fair neck and ringlets sleek;
Oh, sweeter is her mouth's soft music
Than the lark or thrush at dawn,
Or the blackbird in the greenwood singing
Farewell to the setting sun.

Rise up, my boy! make ready
My horse, for I forth would ride,
To follow the modest damsel,
Where since our youth were we plighted,
In faith, troth, and wedlock true -
She is sweeter to me nine times over,
Than organ or cuckoo!

For, ever since my childhood
I loved the fair and darling child;
But our people came between us,
And with lucre out pure love defiled;
Ah, my woe is is, and my bitter pain,
And I weep it night and day,
That the coleen bawn of my early love,
Is torn from my heart away.

Sweetheart and faithful treasure,
Be constant still and true;
Now for want of hers and houses
Leave one who would ne'er leave you,
I'll plege you the blessed Bible,
Without and eke within,
That the faithful God will provide for us,
Without thanks to kith or kin.

Oh, love, do you remember
When we lay all night alone,
Beneath the ash in the winter storm
When the oak wood round did groan?
No shelter then from the blast had we,
The bitter blast or sleet,
But your gown to wrap about our heads,
And my coat around our feet.

Barry T at Mudcat: , 15 Jan 01

"In his book Love Songs of the Irish, Mercier Press 1977, James Healy gives this overview...
The original song has been attributed to a priest, Oliver O'Hanley (c1700-1750), written in praise of a County Limerick beauty named Nelly O'Grady, but the tune may be much older than his song. Some attribute it to a seventeenth century bard from Benburb named **Muiris Ua Duagain, but in the absence of documentary evidence anything we know about this beautiful song is speculation."

I haven't got an Irish version with any mention of Ballinagar. There are many Irish songs containing the line "An cuimhin leat an oíche úd?", do you remember that night, similar to Ferguson's last verse.

James Stephens poem ,The Coolun, is very different:
"Come with me, under my coat,
And we will drink our fill
Of the milk of the white goat,
Or wine if it be thy will ;
And we will talk until
Talk is a trouble, too,
see the rest at

Of course, there are other songs which speak of a lovely cúilfhionn, but don't go to the famous air. For instance, according to Dónal O'Sullivan and Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, "Ar a' mBaile Seo Tá an Chúilfhionn" ("Erigh Maully Shaugh Coolin" in Bunting) and Cúilfhionn Brócach are versions of Eamann Mhágáine. (I don't see the resemblance myself, but probably I don't know the version fo Eamann Mhágáine they refer to)

13 Apr 03 - 05:34 PM (#932609)
Subject: RE: 'The Coolin'
From: Felipa

for Dominic Behan and Al O'Donnell lyrics similar to Ferguson's, about the cúilfhionn of Baile na nGur (?spelling?) see
yet another thread

14 Apr 03 - 03:17 PM (#933354)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Felipa

the thread I mentioned above has been missed in the list of links at the top of the page, though maybe the omission will have been rectified by the time you see this message. I was wrong in my attempt to remember how Ballinagar was spelled in the thread title. But that has inspired me to find out the towns name. There are Ballinagars in Counties Leitrim (I think), Roscommon and Offaly. In Roscommon and Offaly at least, they are officially called "Béal Átha na gCarr".
mouth of the ford of the (river) Carr, I suppose

There's a Ballygar called Béal Átha Ghártha and in Dublin there's a Baile na gCorr

18 Apr 03 - 02:35 AM (#935817)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Felipa

firinne says at another thread "I have a version of The Coulin by Carroll Malone. The one that contains the verse; ''The king had forbidden the men of O' Neill, With the coulin adorned, to come o'er the pale; But Norah was Irish, and said, in her pride, If he wears not his coulin, I'll ne'er be his bride.''

Firinne was to put the poem here, but I don't see it. That's the verse Annraoi was curious about (see my message 29 Jan 03). It is different from the other verses given; in this case the coolin/coulin (cúilfhionn) does refer to a man's hairstyle, rather than to a beautiful (long-haired) maiden.

19 Apr 03 - 08:18 AM (#936408)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,Philippa

regarding ""Béal Átha na gCarr", Douglas Hyde wrote in his notes to "Love Songs of Connacht":
"The song of the the Coolun is generally associated with Belanagare, in Roscommon, from the first verse, which usually runs "I mBeul-Áth-na-gCarr atá an stáidbhean bhreágh mhodhamhail", but my enquiries on the spot have elicited nothing to throw light upon it, nor does the song seem well known in the vicinity, so I fancy it must have originated in some other place of the same name."

19 Apr 03 - 05:13 PM (#936657)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: MartinRyan

Carroll Malone's (J T Campion) poem was "The Coolin Forbidden". It's in D F Mc Carthy's "The Book of Irish Ballads" (1869 - not sure if it's in the original 1846 version). Ferguson's six verses are also there.

These Coolin threads are getting very confused. Methinks we need an edited thread to pull things together.


ps. Mangan has a three verse version. His notes refer to Furlongs translation as given in Hardiman.

19 Apr 03 - 05:33 PM (#936661)
From: Felipa

it would be hard to pull all the threads together, but most of the information is in this thread. Maybe messages about particular sets of lyrics could be grouped together in an edited thread (Hyde lyrics/Ferguson lyrics/Ballinagar lyrics/Carroll Malone lyrics/word meanings, etc!)? Much work!

There are two versions, with translation, of An Chúilfhionn / The Coolin in Douglas Hyde, Love Songs of Connacht, first published 1893; facsimile edition (therefore retains older spelling) Shannon: Irish University Press, 1968.


Ceó meala lá seaca, ar choilltibh dubha baraighe
A's grádh gan cheilt atá agam duit a bháin-chnis na ngeal-chíoch
Do chom sreang, do bheul tana, a's do chúilín bhí cas mín,
A's a chéad-searc ná tréig mé, a's gur mhéaduigh tú ar m'aicid

A's cia chidhfeadh mo ghrádh-sa ar cheart-lár an aonaigh,
'S gur marbhadh na mílte óganach le pósaibh a h-eudain,
A gruaidh mar an g-cocan, 's í budh bhreághta ar domhan sgéimhe
A's gur dóigh le gach spriosán gur ab áilleán dó féin í.

An té chidhfeadh an Chúilfhionn 's í ag siúbhal ar na bántaibh
Ar maidin laé samhraidh 's an drúcht ar a brógaibh
'S a liacht ógánach súil-ghlas bhíos ag tnúth le na pósadh
Acht ní bhfághaidh siad mo rún-sa ag an g-cúntas is dóigh leó

A Neilidh, mo ghrádh-sa, an dtiocfá liom faoi shléibhtibh,
Ag ól fíona a's bolcáin, a's báinne an ghabhair ghlé-gil,
Ceól fada a's imirt do thabharfainn le d'raé dhuit,
A's cead dul a' codladh i mbrollach mo léine.

"This translation is nearly in the metre of the original" wrote Hyde:


A honey mist on a day of frost, in a dark oak wood,
And love for thee in my heart in mer, thou bright, white, and good;
Thy slender form, soft and warm, they red lips apart,
Thou hast found me, and hast bound me, and put grief in my heart.

In fair-green and market, men mark thee, bright, young and merry,
Though thou hurt them like foes with the rose of thy blush of the berry;
Her cheeks are a poppy, her eye it is Cupid's helper,
But each foolish man dreams that its beams for himself are.

Whoe're saw the Cooleen in a cool dewy meadow
On a morning in summer in sunshine and shadow;
All the young men go wild for her, my childeen, my treasure,
But now let them go mope, they've no hope to possess her.

Let us roam, O my darling, afar through the mountains,
Drink milk of the goat, wine and bulcaun in fountains;
With music and play every day from my lyre,
And leave to come rest on my breast when you tire.

more literal translation
Mist of honey on day of frost over dark woods of oak, And love without concealment I fave for thee, O fair skin[or form] of the white breasts. Thy form slender, thy mouth thin, and thy 'cooleen' twisted, smooth. And, O first love, forsake me not, and sure thou hast increased my disease.

And who would see my love upon the middle of the fair, And sure the thousands of youths were slain with the roses of her face. Her cheeks like the poppy [or rosebud], and she was the finest in beauty of the world, And sure every fopling thinks that she is his own darling.

He ho would see the Cooleen and she walking on the meadows Of a morning on a day in summer, and the dew on her shoes. And all the grey-eyed youths who are envious to marry her. But they shall not get my darling as easily as they think (Literally, on the account that is hope with them).

O Nelly, my love, woulds thou come with me beneath the mountain, Drinking wine and bulcaun [a dram of whiskey or spirits? ] and the milk of the white goat. Long-drawn music and play I would give thee during thy lilfe; And leave to go sleep in the bosom of my shirt.

[I see no reason not to use "you" and "your" instead of "thee" and "thy", but I quote Hyde who presumably used the poetic form of his time]

"Here is now the fourth copy of the same renowned song, which is altogether different from the other three. I leave out the second and third stanzas of it, for they are in the version which Hardiman gave; those are the stanzas beginning Gibé chífeadh an Chúilfhionn, 'whoever would see the Coolin', and An cuimhin leat an lá úd, 'Do you remember the day.' "

AN CHÚILFHIONN (cóip eile)   

A's éirigh do shuidhe a bhuachaill a's gleus dam mo ghearrán
Go rachaidh mé go luath ag cur tuairisg mo dhian-ghrádh,
A's tá sí d'a luadh liom ó bhí sí 'na leanabán
'S gur budh bhinne liom naoi n-uaire í ná cuach a's ná orgáin*

[*changed, for comprehensibility, from "na narragain" in ms]

An cuimhin leat an oidhche úd do bhíomar ag an bhfuinneóig
Ann a rug tú ar láimh orm 's gur fhasg tú orm barróg.
Do shín mé le do thaobh, 's ann mo chroidhe ní raibh urchoid,
A's do bhí mé ann do chomhluadar no g-cuala mé an fhuisóg.

'Sí mo rún í, 'sí mo ghrádh í, is í mo dhalta,
'Sí grianán na bhfear óg í gach aon lá 'san tseachtmhain,
Tá a gruaidh mar an rós a's a píob mar an eala.
'Sé mo chumha gan mé i gcomhnuidhe mar a g-coraigheann sí a leabaidh.

Ní'l airgead ní'l ór agam, ní'l cóta, ní'l léine,
Ní'l pighin ann mo phóca 's go bhfóiridh Mac Dé orm
Do gheall mé faoi dhó dhuit, sul a phóg mé do béilín
A mhaighre an chúil ómraigh nach bpósfainn le m'raé thú.

A mhuirnín a's a annsacht bí dileas a's bí daingeann,
A's ná tréig-se rún do chroidhe-stigh mar gheal ar [a] bheith dealbh.
Do bhearfainn an Bíobla* a's nidh ar bith ar talamh
Go dtiúbhraidh Mac Dé cuid na h-oidche dhúinn le catabh.

[* "an Bíobla seoch" in ms., meaning of "seoch" in this context not known - enduring?]

A mhuirnín a's a annsacht, do* mheall tú mé i dtús m'óige
Le do chluainigheacht mhín mhanla gur gheall tú mé phósadh
Má thug mo chroidhe gean duit dar liom-sa is leór sin,
A's gur fhag tú i leanndubh mé ag teacht an trathnóna.

[* "le nar meall tu" in manuscript]

THE COOLUN (another version, translated)

And rise up lad, and get ready for me my nag,
Until I go quickly to enquire for my desperately-loved,
and she is betrothed to me since the time she was a little child,
And, sure, I thought her nine times more melodious than cuckoo or organ.

Do you remember that night that we were at the window,
When you caught my hand and pressed an embrace upon me.
I stretched myself at thy side, and in my heart there was no harm,
And I was in thy company until I heard the lark.

She is my sister, she is my intended, she is my love, she is my dear*
She is the greenawn (sunny chamber) of the young men every day in the week;
Her countenance is like the rose, and her neck like the swan,
'Tis my sorrow I am not always where she dresses her couch [makes/prepares her bed]

I have no silver, I have no gold, have no coat, have no shirt;
Have no penny in my pocket - and may the Son of God relieve me,
I promised thee twice before I kissed thy little mouth,
O maiden of the amber 'cool' [locks], that I would not marry thee during my life.

My sweetheart, my affection, be faithful and be firm,
And do not forsake the secret love of your inner heart on account of him being poor*
I would take the Bible (as oath) or any (other) thing on earth,
That the Son of God will give us ouor nights' portion to eat.

My sweetheart, my affection, you deceived me in the beginning of my youth,
With your soft pleasant roguishness, sure, you promised ot marry me,
If my heart gave you love, I think myself that that is enough,
And, sure, you left me in melancholy on the coming of evening,

[* I changed this line; Hyde has "She is my sister, she is my secret, she is my love, she is my betrothed (?)" and he does explain that "rún" , as well as meaning 'secret' is used in speaking of a loved one. And I changed "on account of him to be poor" to what I think is better English.
For the second line of verse 2, I have used the corrected words given in Hyde's notes, rather than a questionable line in the main text. Hyde was quite open about saying at times that he wasn't sure of the meaning of certain words.]

21 Apr 03 - 08:32 PM (#937438)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,Firínne


The last time she looked in the face of her dear,
She breathed not a sigh, and shed not a tear,
But she took up his harp, and she kissed his cold cheek;
"'Tis the first, and the last, for thy Norah to seek!"

For beauty and bravery, Cathan was known,
And the long-flowing coulin he wore in Tyrone;
The sweetest of singers and harpers was he,
All over the North, from the Bann to the sea.

O'er the marshes of Dublin, he often would rove,
To the glens of O'Toole, where he met with his love;
And at parting they pledged that, next midsummer's day,
He would come for the last time, and bear her away.

The king had forbidden the men of O'Neal,
With the coulin adorned, to come o'er the pale;
But Norah was Irish, and said, in her pride,
"If he wears not his coulin, I'll ne'er be his bride."

The bride has grown pale as the robe that she wears,
For the Lammas is come, and no bridegroom appears;
And she hearkens and gazes, when all are at rest,
For the sound of his harp and the sheen of his vest.

Her palfrey is pillioned and she has gone forth
On the long rugged road that leads to the North -
Where Eblana's strong castle frowns darkly and drear,
Is the head of her Cathan upraised on a spear.

The Lords of the Castle had murdered him there,
And all for the wearing that poor lock of hair;
For the word she had spoken in mirth or in pride,
Her lover, too fond and too faithful, had died.

'Twas then that she looked in the face of her dear,
She breathed not a sigh, and shed not a tear,
She took up his harp, and she kissed his cold cheek;
"Farewell, 'tis the first for thy Norah to seek."

And afterwards, oft would the wilderness ring,
As, at night, in sad strains, to the harp would she sing
Her heartbreaking tones - we remember them well -
But the words of her wailing no mortal can tell.

                                 - Carroll Malone

21 Apr 03 - 08:44 PM (#937443)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,Firínne

I had already sent the above song in on the 17th April, but for some reason it didn't appear. And at the same time I had also sent in some information I had on The Coulin to this thread, but it appears on another thread!

22 Apr 03 - 05:40 AM (#937640)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,Martin Ryan


As mentioned earlier, Carroll Malone's poem was called "The Coolin Forbidden" and has no direct connection with the original. I've never heard it sung - not sure if it was intended to be.

Campion wrote for Thomas Davis' paper The Nation . The style is pretty distinct!

22 Apr 03 - 07:28 PM (#938101)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,Firínne

I don't know much about Carroll Malone, apart from the fact that he wrote 'The Croppy Boy',   the version which starts 'Good men and true in this house who dwell, etc.'.

I have never heard of him being confused with John T. Campion before,   but I HAVE heard that his real name was William McBurney, and that version of 'The Croppy Boy' first appeared in 'The Nation'.

As far as I'm aware,   his version of 'The Coulin' is translated from the Gaelic, he didn't write it.

Maybe Campion DID write a poem called 'The Coolin Forbidden,   but Malone's 'Coulin' was always spelt Coulin, NOT Coolin.

23 Apr 03 - 04:06 AM (#938309)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,Martin Ryan


Let me check the sources and get back. I have copies of a number of the main 19C. texts and tend to rely on them.

You may well be right about the Campion/Malone/McBurney confusion - I'd lost track of what his real name was - and believed the first source I found!


23 Apr 03 - 05:30 AM (#938323)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,Martin Ryan


You're right about "coulin" - my mistake. There's a reference to Carroll Malone's poem "The Coulin Forbidden" in an incomplete online copy of the McCarthy book I referred to HERE .

I remain convinced it is a typically romanitic, Spirit of the Nation response to the earlier translations. Have you seen any reference to a Gaelic original?


p.s. Curiously enough, I see some suggestion that the pseudonym Carroll Malone was used to cover several authors. I may get a chance to check on this next week.

23 Apr 03 - 08:49 AM (#938397)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,Martin Ryan

OK What happened was this: I found Ferguson's version of The Coolin and Carroll Malone's version of The Coulin Forbidden in McCarthy's 1869 book. Having forgotten who Carroll Malone was, I looked up the oldest source I could find - Sparlings Irish Minstrelsy 1898 Edn. Under "Carroll Malone" he simply says "See Campion, J.T". Under Campion, J.T. he makes the connection to The Nation and mentions that he wrote under the pen-name The Kilkennyman ! I assumed he did both! In fact, of course, McBurney (not mentioned by Sparling) is usually taken to be O'Carroll.

McCarthy, incidentally, has TRANSLATED FROM THE IRISH under Ferguson's words - but nothing under Malone's. This tallies with my belief that its not a translation.


23 Apr 03 - 08:54 AM (#938402)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,Martin Ryan

Ah Jaysus, lads! "...usually taken to be Carroll Malone...."


23 Apr 03 - 07:35 PM (#938869)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,Firínne

Martin - you said above that Carroll Malone's 'Coulin' has no direct connection with the original.

How would you know?   Seeing that nobody apparently knows the original in the first place.

It's a matter of conjecture as to whether it was about a beautiful woman or a lock of hair.   Indeed it's a matter of conjecture as to whether there was even words to it at all originally!

As I said in one of the other threads, the tune was claimed to have been composed in 1295, which was when the act was passed by the English government forbidding the English settlers to wear the Coulin.
The only existing Gaelic words date back to 1641, credited to Maurice O'Dugan, a bard from Tyrone.
It was translated by Thomas Furlong, [and I doubt very much if his first language was Irish, as he was a Wexfordman] as follows:

Had you seen my sweet Coulin at the days early dawn,
When she moves through the Wildwood or wide dewy lawn?
There is joy, there is bliss in her soul-cheering smile,
She's the fairest of flowers in our green bosomed isle.

In Balanagar dwells the bright blooming maid,
Retired, like the primrose that blows in the shade;
Still dear to the eye that fair primrose may be,
But dearer and sweeter is my Coulin to me.

Oh, Dearest! thy love from thy childhood, was mine,
Oh, Sweetest! this heart from life's op'ning was thine;
And though coldness by kindred or friends may be shown,
Still, still my sweet Coulin, that heart is thine own.

Thou light of all beauty, be true still to me,
Forsake not thy swain, love though poor he may be;
For rich in affection, in constancy tried,
We may look down on wealth in its pomp and its pride.

I'm not sure if there's more of this, but this is all I have, and quite frankly, it's enough!!   Personally I much prefer Malone's Coulin!

24 Apr 03 - 07:21 AM (#939109)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: MartinRyan


I'm not concerned, here, with the tune - just trying to disentangle the sets of words.

Can I ask where you saw McBurney's set? The only reference I can find to it is in McCarthy's book - and he makes no comment on its origin, as I mentioned. I'll make some enquiries in the Traditional Music Archive in Dublin, next week, with luck.


p.s. Mind you, I'd love to see a Gaelic equivalent of "Her palfrey was pillioned"!

24 Apr 03 - 08:50 PM (#939627)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,Firínne

The Carroll Malone [McBurney] version comes from a song page in the 'Irelands Own', dated March 9th, 1963.

The Furlong version comes from an article about 'The Coulin', [which I mentioned in one of the other threads], in an issue of the 'Irelands Own', dated September 14th, 1963.

25 Apr 03 - 05:00 AM (#939779)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,Martin Ryan


Thanks for that. Does the article refer to it specifically as "The Coulin" i.e. without the "Forbidden" tag?


25 Apr 03 - 05:09 AM (#939782)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: Folkiedave

Pete Seeger told Joe Heaney it was the nicest air he ever heard in Ireland. That was Joe's version of course.


25 Apr 03 - 06:47 PM (#940308)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,Firínne


Yes - it does. The article was written by a Josephine P. Smith, who appeared to be something of an authority on Irish traditional songs and airs. I always found her articles both interesting and informative anyway!

I have to say that I have never heard of the 'Forbidden' tag either, up to now!

28 Apr 03 - 05:24 PM (#942199)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: MartinRyan


just back from a visit to Dublin - including the Traditional Music Archive. The earliest trace of the Carroll Malone poem I could find was in Mac Carthy's book, where it appears under the "Coulin Forbidden" title. A later American edition has it simply as "The Coulin", as do several other 19 C. collections. It looks like the "forbidden" got dropped fairly soon. Mind you, I think McBurney had left Ireland and most likely knew nothing about it!

Rooting through the old books it is clear that apart from what we might call the mainline song collected by Hardiman, both the tune and the story about the hairstyle caught the imagination of a number of the patriotic writers for The Nation and Young Ireland - Martin McDermott, for example, wrote one.

Furlong, incidentally, did have Irish, as far as I can make out. He was one of several translators/versifiers used by Hardiman the collector - who was a native speaker.


29 Apr 03 - 06:13 AM (#942588)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,Martin Ryan

I also asked Frank Harte about this one. He was aware of the story of the banning - but had never heard/heard of either a song or a poem about it.


06 May 03 - 06:05 PM (#947302)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,liz

a message for Martin Ryan, Firinnes computer is off line at the moment and she will get back to you as soom as possible

07 May 03 - 11:27 AM (#947863)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: MartinRyan

Thanks, liz


29 Jun 08 - 03:37 PM (#2376835)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'

CHÚILFHIONN was a hairstyle worn by Irish men dating before the 1400's an outlawed as all things Irish were at the time as the "Plantation" of Ireland was underway and thus began the 800 years of rule.

Irish men were required by law to shave their long flowing tresses know as the CHÚILFHIONN or... Coolin.

Thomas moore wrote words to the Air in around 1800,s that originated in around this time but no one really knows when and became known as "The FAIR haired One"

The music or tune is a piece of genuine genius from a time that no one can remember.

This is fact. This is the origin. This is the Coolin.

27 Jul 14 - 01:36 PM (#3645712)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'

Bredan Behan's version .....

27 Jul 14 - 01:54 PM (#3645721)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'

Bredan Behan's version ... here

27 Jul 14 - 06:32 PM (#3645788)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'

Whether this is a translation, a reinterpretation or a travesty, I've felt for a woman like this (sadly it doesn't fit the tune as I play it- that was nicked from Leo Rowsome):

Have you seen my fair-haired girl walking the roads
A bright dewy morning without a smudge on her shoes?
There is many a young man envious and longing to marry her
But they won't get my treasure matter what they think.

Have you seen my beautiful woman, a fine day and she is alone
Her hair curling and twining, hanging down about her shoulders?
Sweet young woman with the rosy blush on her brow
And every worthless man hopes she will be his lover.

Have you seen my maid beside the sea
Gold rings on her fingers she is making up her mind?
Mr. Power, who is the master of a ship, said
He would prefer to have her than the whole of Ireland.

Nicked from here

28 Jul 14 - 08:52 AM (#3645907)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: GUEST,Desi C

The song you may be referring to is one of my favourites, it's The Spinning Wheel, where in one verse The Grandmother says to the heartstruck girl
'what makes you be shoving and moving your stoool on, and singing all wrong, that old song of the Coolin'

25 Nov 15 - 06:39 PM (#3753581)
Subject: RE: Meaning of 'The Coolin'
From: keberoxu

This is the English version by James Clarence Mangan. As Martin Ryan remarked in an earlier message on this thread, this version is a short one at only three verses. There is formal rhythm and rhyme in Mangan's version. Thus it is likely not to be all that accurate a translation from the Gaelic. I cannot answer the inevitable question, whether or not Mangan's English is intended to fit any tune, if it is singable to a melody associated with the original. After data-entry of Mangan's English versions, I will conclude this post with bibliography source; it is from the Collected Works of James Clarence Mangan, which has only been around since the 1990's.

T H E    C O O L U N    An Cul Fionn: "The maiden of the fair flowing locks"

Have you e'er seen the Coolun when daylight's declining,
With sweet fairy features, and shoes brightly shining?
Though many's the youth her blue eyes have left pining,
She slights them, for all their soft sighing and whining.

Have you e'er on a summer's day, wandering over
The hills, O, young man, met my beautiful rover?
Sun-bright is the neck that her golden locks cover --
Yet each paltry creature thinks she is his lover!

Have you e'er seen my Fair, on the strand, in her bower,
With gold-ringed hands, culling flower after flower?
O! nobly he said it, brave Admiral Power,
That her hand was worth more than all Erin for dower.

pp. 169 - 170, Volume 4, The Collected Works of James Clarence Mangan: Poems
(Volume 4 covers 1848 - 1912 publications, mostly posthumous)
Author: James Clarence Mangan
Editors: Jacques Chuto, Tadhg O Dushlaine, Peter Van de Kamp
Publisher: Dublin, and Portland OR: Irish Academic Press, 1999

Endnote: "Admiral Power": this character has not been identified.