Betty Sally Deain

19 February 2024

A song by Seumas Ward researched and sung by Mirren Ward


I’ll go out to the Camas Beag
In the hope of procuring
Small or large cuddies, if they are to be got
When I return again to the house for a bite to eat
She will abuse me and her big belly.

O my goodness and my thousand misfortunes
How did it rise up in my heart
To set up a relationship with Beitidh Saili Deain
For not a day has passed since the knot was tied
Between myself and gentle Beitidh
That grief and anguish wasn’t my fate.

When I go down to the shore
To gather seaweed and tangle
I return dirty, shattered and tired from the day’s work
When I come in to the house looking for a bite to eat
She leaves maize gruel and sowans out for me.

O many a rough wave
Has broken over bird and oar
And you didn’t falter with your fearless heart
And you would rise up stoutly with the seagull on the waves
And come to shore with a load of cuddies at Poll an Lín

Bàrr an Phointe and am Bolg Mhòr
Sruth Phort Deilge and the Camas Mòr,
Beul Phort Chala going north from Druim a’ Bhogha
Always going from side to side
Always moving by degrees
And you never turned your back on Oitir Mhòr

But now you’re old and degenerating
With marks of hardship on your head.
You have lost the bloom of youth that you had in your early days,
But you are still the love of my heart
I would never leave you
Until I am laid in the graveyard beside you.

Mac John Eòin will carefully make
A cross with a small oar unburdened
And a coracle will make an eternal protective coffin
And Beitidh will place by my side flour sacks as a winding shirt
And a scarf will be as my death shroud in the grave.

How I chose the Song

Going into this project I was looking for a song that had a connection between Scotland and Ireland- in particular a connection between Glasgow and Donegal. I came across a webpage on Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s website that wrote about just that Glasgow-Donegal connection that I was looking for. Whilst looking at the connections from Donegal, I was shocked to see my great-grandfathers name written.
The webpage spoke of a song which Seumas had written- ‘Beitidh Saili Deain’. This intrigued me, so I decided to ask around to my family and was delighted to chat to a cousin of my fathers, Ita Ward, who is extremely knowledgeable in our family’s history. I found a copy of the lyrics online, and I asked Pòl Geddes, and another cousin of my fathers, Kevin Ward for help in translating the song from Irish Gaelic to Scottish Gaelic. The process of translation itself was very interesting, and it was made clear after looking into the origin of words in both languages how the languages were once the same.

The Author

Seumas Ward was reared on Tory Island (a little island off the north-west coast of county Donegal, Ireland) with both Irish and English being languages he leaned simultaneously from birth. Seumas wrote many a songs, poems, short stories and novels in Irish.
As well as his status as the Prince, and then as King of Tory Island, Seumas worked as a lighthouse keeper on Tory Island and then for ‘Lands and Fisheries’ in Downings (on mainland Donegal), he was also very much involved in protecting the Irish language, music and culture at a time when Ireland was in a very similar position to Scotland, under British rule and the decline on the Irish national language was doing so very quickly.
Conradh na Gaelige was founded in 1893 with their primary aim being to promote and keep the language, traditional dance and music of Ireland alive and thriving. After the success of Conradh na Gaelige on mainland Ireland, Conradh na Gaelige was then established in Glasgow in 1895 for the Irish population who were forced to move away from home as a result of the Great Famine of the 1840s, and then on Tory island in 1899- with help from other branches of the Chonradh, Glasgow in the midst.
Seumas was asked to display his Irish step-dancing talents at the Glasgow exbhibition of 1900, and was asked to take on the role of ‘timire’ (organiser) for the Gaelic league in Donegal in the years 1902-3. Seumas received another invitation to visit Glasgow in 1904 and 1905, where there was opportunity to partake in a traditional session, showcasing the talents and the songs, poems and story’s that were to be told- and I’m sure Beitidh Saili Deain must have been performed once or twice!

The Song

Beitidh Sailì Deain is almost a love song that Seumas has written about his boat, in a very light and humorous manner. Throughout the song, we hear of the journeys Beitidh and Seumas take together around Tory island and how Beitidh never ever gave up on Seumas or caused him any trouble. Despite this song having a very light and humorous tone to it, it touches on very sensitive and serious topics such as the Great Famine, where Seumas writes of the hunger he felt coming home from a long day’s work out a sea with Beitidh and he comes home to a dinner that was in no way appetising, and actually made a lot of people very sick.

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