Thame sgths mi leam fhin (in Scottish Gaelic , “I’m tired and I’m alone”), is an old Gaelic song.

The melody is also known by the following names 1 :

  • The bracken Highland fling (“Highland fling ferns”: Highland fling is a traditional Highland dance )
  • Buain na Rainich , Buinn renniagh y , Cutting bracken , Cutting ferns , Heavins’ bracken , Pulling bracken , Pulling the bracken ( “cut or harvest ferns”)
  • Dulaman , Dúlamán (in Irish , “Algae”: in Ireland, seaweed was harvested for various purposes, including food)
  • Faery’s lament , (“the fairy’s lament”)
  • The weary maid (“the tired girl”)

The melody also has similarities to the jig Drummond Castle , which appears in the collection of ballroom dances for use by the Duke of Perth .

According to Alan Stivell , Tha mi sgìth is “a very old song of the old Hebrides” 2 .



“Tha mi sgìth’s mi leam fhìn  is sometimes translated as “I’m tired of being in the holy hills every day,” but word-for-word means “I’m tired and I’m with myself “(all alone).

There are many variations of the story related to this song, but its main version tells the story of a girl party picking ferns on a hill and meeting a fairy. They fall in love with each other. Discovering the relationship maintained by the girl and fearing that such a link is dangerous, his family orders home and forbids him to return cut ferns. The song is supposed to be sung by the broken-hearted fairy. It is mainly sung, including men, to be entertained during chores 3 .

On the contrary, according to the explanations of Learngaelic 4 (financed by the Bòrd na Gàidhlig ) and Beag air bheag 5 (BBC), Scottish sites devoted to the learning of Scottish Gaelic, the fairy in question is a be male, although the words of these two sources provide do not, they either, nor to establish the sex of the fairy or even magical nature 6 .

Tobar an dulchais has two recordings, some of which are different from those given on the Learngaelic and Beag air bheag sites. In the first case, it would be a “song of love sung by a man: he is tired every day, to harvest the ferns, and would like his fiancée to join him ” 7 . In the second case, it would be “a song about the story of a girl who had a leannan-sìth [literally a fairy-lover]. He helped him to harvest the ferns. Her brothers took her away and hid her. The leannan-sìth was left alone to work ” 8 .

A third record, less interesting from the point of view of the narrative, presents a phonetic approximation of the Gaelic lyrics of the chorus, followed by its scots version 9 .


The ferns were used in summer as bedding for cattle or as makeshift pallet to sleep. In some places ferns, mixed with manure or corn, were used in the making of house roofs. When burned, the ferns also consumed an alkaline mixture used in bleaching. The collection of ferns, fallen into the domestic sphere, was traditionally a work reserved for women and often carried out by young women. They did not have the easy task. Always bent to cut them, it was then necessary to harvest the cuts to make large bullets, heavy and bulky, which had to be brought home.

Musical Characteristics

Tha mi sgìth is part of Scottish music with its pentatonic scale of five notes without thirds or sixths. It is a reel often played on the fiddle (Irish violin) in the Highlands . Similarities can be found with the jig Drummond Castle (included in the collection of ballroom dances for use by the Duke of Perth). The song associated with the melody is from the Hebrides. The melody of this song is very old and is traditionally used as a lullaby to go with the meaning of the text. However, it is often ” sung in yoghurt ” ( in: Puirt à beul or òran -luaidh) in Cape Breton , Nova Scotia 10 . This style is a little more optimistic because it is more rhythmic and is used to accompany the dancers in the absence of instruments available. In Brittany, it is accelerated to make almost a dance, which is close to the An-dro . It can be sung on the air of “Ca ‘the Yowes to the Knowes” 11 .

Alan Stivell has made his version of his arrangements, including the counteract “dragging” and so particular Gabriel Yacoub in the 1970s . He popularized the song in Brittany after his success at l’Olympia . Sìneag MacIntyre plays the famous traditional version.

Notes and references

  1. ↑ ( in ) ” Tha Mi Sgith (Strathspey) ”  [ archive ] on The Session
  2. ↑ ” Tha mi sgìth, live 1972, Excerpt from the show Tours de Chant, broadcast in October 1972 on the ORTF.  »  [ Archive ] , on Youtube
  3. ↑ Presentation, extract and partition  [ archive ]
  4. ↑ ” LearnGaelic – Beginners – Little by Little – Learn a Gaelic song – Tha mi sgìth ”  [ archive ] , on (accessed September 12, 2016 )
  5. ↑ ” BBC – Beag Air Bhaeag – Learn a Gaelic Song ”  [ archive ] (accessedSeptember 12, 2016 )
  6. ↑ ” Tha mi sgìth, a song as old as the world ”  [ archive ] , on The Goldfinch, (accessed September 12, 2016 )
  7. ↑ ( g ) ” Tha mi sgìth’s mid leam fhìn, sung by Annie Arnott ”  [ archive ] , on Tobar an Dualchais
  8. ↑ ( g ) ” Tha mi sgìth’s mid leam fhìn by Mairead NicAoidh ”  [ archive ] , on Tobar an Dualchais
  9. ↑ ( in ) ” Pu’in Brackens by Belle Stewart ”  [ archive ] , on Tobar an Dualchais
  10. ↑ ( in )  [ archive ] , video of Sìneag MacIntyre
  11. ↑ ( in ) Celticartscenter  [ archive ] , words