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Mo Mh​à​thair

by Mary Beth Carty



Mo Mhàthair (My Mother, pronounced “Mo Vaaaaair”) is a Scottish Gaelic song written in the 1920s by Neil MacLean, also known as the Govan Bard. This timely release marks both Gaelic Awareness Month in Nova Scotia as well as Mother’s Day. Mo Mhathair is the first single on my upcoming album, Crossing the Causeway.

The cover art that accompanies this single was inspired by a photograph taken circa 1920 of my great-grandmother, Sarah MacDonald. Born in Fairmont, Antigonish County, Nova Scotia, Scottish Gaelic was her first language. She was known as a healer, and I hope to channel a bit of her healing energy in my recording of this song.

The melody is a popular slow air among musicians in Cape Breton and was included on The Cape Breton Festival of Fiddlers Glendale ‘77 Live LP.

I learned to sing this song by listening to Callum Kennedy on repeat. I am grateful for the language tutoring offered by retired Gaelic professor and friend Catriona Parsons. She was my next door neighbor in the early ‘90s as well as my first gaelic language and song teacher.

Neil MacLean, aka. Niall MacIllEathain, aka. Bàrd Bhaile Ghobhainn, grew up in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull in Scotland, then immigrated to Govan, a suburb of Glasgow, where he lived most of his days. Orain is Dain is a book of songs and poems composed in his native Scottish Gaelic and includes sheet music and lyrics for Mo Mhàthair. The book does not include a publishing date. I was happy to stumble upon a copy in the Celtic archives at St. F. X. University.

Mo Mhathair starts off with the line, “Send my greetings across the seas.” As I sing Mo Mhathair, I think of my own immigrant ancestors, immigrants in my community today, and the world as a history of migration. Part of what gives me hope about this recording is that it shows that we can and have maintained cultural traditions, even halfway around the world, through centuries of time, in spite of it all.

I would like to dedicate this song to all mothers as well as all those who have lost, live far away from, or have a complicated relationship with their mothers. I hope you enjoy!

Mo Mhathair
Neil MacLean aka The Govan Bard (1895 - 1962)

Thoir mo shoraidh nunn thar chuantan
Gu mo mhàthair, 's fhada bhuam i
Cha chùm astar mòr a' chuain a gaol o m' chridh'
'S i rinn m' altram 's mi nam phàiste
'S ann na gràdh a fhuair mi m' àrach
O, chan fhàillinnich gu bràth mo spèis-sa dhi

Ged a tha mi seo air faondradh
Ann an tìr taobh thall an t-saoghail
'S ged tha cuantan sgaoilte eadar mise 's i
'S e mo dhùrachd a dhol dhachaigh
Gu mo mhàthair anns a' chlachan
'S a bhith 'g àileis bhith nam chailiag bheag a-rì

Tha mo smuaintean oirr' nam dhùsgadh
Na mo chadal tha i dlùth dhomh
Tha i daonnan air mo chùram anns gach nì
'S tha a pearsa aoigheil shunndach
Na mo shùilean fad na h-ùin;
'S e bhith faighinn null d' a h-ionnsaigh rùn mo chridh'

Voici un traduction des paroles en français :

Mo Mhathair - Ma Mère

Apportez mes salutations à travers les mers
À ma mère, elle est loin de moi
La grande distance de l'océan ne gardera pas son amour de mon cœur
Elle m'a soigné quand j'étais enfant
J'ai été élevé dans l'amour
Oh, mon respect pour elle ne faillira jamais

Bien que j'aie erré ici
Dans un pays à l'autre bout du monde
Et bien que les océans soient répartis entre elle et moi
C'est mon souhait de rentrer à la maison
Chez ma mère dans le village
Et trop envie d'être à nouveau dans ma jeunesse

Je pense à elle lorsque je me réveillent
Dans mon sommeil, elle est près de moi
Elle se soucie toujours de moi dans tout
Et sa personnalité hospitalière est joyeuse
Dans mes yeux tout le temps
Le but de mon cœur est de l'atteindre


Mo Mhathair - My Mother - English Translation

Bring my greetings across the seas
To my mother, far away from me
The great distance of the ocean will not keep her love from my heart
She nurtured me when I was a child
I was brought up in love
Oh, my respect for her will never fail

Although I have wandered here
In a land on the other side of the world
And though oceans are spread between her and me
It is my wish to go home
To my mother in the village
Oh I long to be in my youth again

I think of her when I wake up
In my sleep she is close to me
She always cares about me in everything
And her hospitable personality is cheerful
In my eyes, all the time
The aim of my heart is to return home to her


released May 7, 2021
Mary Beth Carty - Vocals, Accordion, Guitar
Colin Grant - Violin
Mac Morin - Piano
Robyn Carrigan - Harmony Vocals
John Pellerin - Violin
Anna Ludlow - Violin
Chrissy Crowley - Violin
Joe MacMaster - Violin
Bradley Murphy - Violin

Piano recorded at Lakewind Sound Studios by Mike Shepherd
Recorded, mixed, & mastered at Soundpark Studios by Jaime Foulds
Additional recording by Mary Beth Carty, Robyn Carrigan, and Colin Grant in home studios
Cover art by Mary Beth Carty
Gaelic language coaching by Catriona Parsons

This project is supported by funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency through the Cape Breton Music Industry


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Mary Beth Carty Nova Scotia

Humain créative de l'Acadie de la Nouvelle-Écosse.

Creative human from Nova Scotia.

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