5 O, Siud an Taobh a Ghabhainn

Hannah Krebs

Activity Summary

This lesson shall serve as a tool to help students review and apply the future tense and to better understand Gaelic. This song also provides examples of Gaelic worldview and history, which can be used to help students make connections with the bard’s life and experience of emigration. This activity could be done online or in person.


O, Siud an Taobh a Ghabhainn is an emigration song composed by Anna NicGilleÌosa (Nancy McGillis) of Mòrar (Morar) who settled in Glengarry County, Ontario. This song illustrates bards using song as a record of what their community was experiencing and how they may have felt about it, and demonstrates the interconnectedness of Gaelic communities and kinship groups in Canada, despite physical distance. This song remained in the oral tradition in Cape Breton despite McGillis settling in Ontario. From a grammar perspective, this song provides several examples of common verbs in future and conditional tenses.



Learning Outcomes

Students will:

  • Gain confidence singing a song they already have learned;
  • Learn about the composer and context of the song;
  • Become more familiar with the future tense;
  • Identify verbs in the song in future tense;
  • Learn and review question, positive, and negative forms of various future tense verbs;
  • Practice using the verbs in conversation, asking and answering questions.


Gaelic Level

Intermediate-advanced. Learners should be familiar with common verbs and have been introduced to the future tense of at least one verb. This lesson could be led entirely in Gaelic in an immersion setting or in English. Best suited for older youth or adults.


Lesson Preparation

  1. Students should already have been introduced to the song in a previous lesson.
  2. Be familiar with the information on the Anna NicGilleÌosa.
  3. Students should have some basic knowledge of the future tense (or, could use this song as the introduction — see Variations below).
  4. Identify target verbs in the song based on prior knowledge of the group (could focus on working with just one or two, or many).
  5. Prepare at least one example scenario to demonstrate and practice each verb in conversation. Assemble any additional props required to aid with this.

Resources Required

Required Resources:

  • White board or flipchart and marker
  • Lyrics of song (projected or handouts)

Optional Resources:

  • Recording of song
  • Maps of relevant areas in Scotland and Canada
     (strongly recommended — could just use Google maps on the computer)
  • Writing utensils and paper for students
  • Additional props for verb activities
  • Flashcards or Google images showing feelings, actions, etc., portrayed in the song

Lesson Structure (1hr – 2hrs)

Estimated total time is 1 hr 5 minutes to 2 hrs 10 minutes, depending on how in-depth the topics are discussed. It would be ideal to include a break about halfway through if teaching a longer lesson.





Introduce lesson and review “O, Siud an Taobh a Ghabhainn”

  • Already knowing the song, students can sing along to the verses and chorus depending on comfort level
  • Briefly talk about what will be covered in the lesson
  • Encourage students to record all or part of the lesson for reinforcement
Sound recording, or teacher singing:



  • Talk about bana-bhàrd Anna NicGilleÌosa
  • Emigrated from Knoydart in 1786
    • Show on map
  • Settled in Glengarry County, Ontario
  • There is a family story in NS that maintains that relations of hers settled in Antigonish County, NS
  • Song known and collected in Cape Breton

Maps of Scotland and Canada


Review with group keys for identifying future tense verbs (e.g. “-idh” endings, irregulars). Give a few examples of root forms and see if students can come up with the future positive (e.g., cuir -> cuiridh).

Have the students work in pairs and go through the song to try and identify all the future tense verbs they can.

Come back to the big group and go through the song to make sure all the future tense verbs got identified.

White board or flip chart

Lyrics of song projected or written out

Paper with lyrics or scrap paper for students


Work on practicing the future tense and learning new future verbs using the verb(s) from the song you picked for your group:

  • Go over question, positive and negative forms
  • Use the verb with one of the example questions you prepared, and have students take turns asking and answering using the target verb
  • Use additional examples to illustrate meaning if necessary
  • If students are comfortable, get them to try making their own questions using the verbs:
    • e.g., Gabh (an gabh thu tì? — have cups and a teapot as props)
      • An gabh?
      • + Gabhaidh
      • – Cha ghabh
    • e.g., Falbh (am falbh thu an-dràsta? — have student go out the door briefly or remain seated)
      • Am falbh?
      • + Falbhaidh
      • – Chan fhalbh

Repeat with as many verbs as desired. Ideally, movement and props can be incorporated in the example questions to make them more engaging.



Discuss the meaning of the song:

  • What is happening?
  • Get students to explain some of the verses in their own words, draw pictures, etc., as best they can with their speaking level.
  • Could also talk about:
    • When is it happening?
    • What is going on in Scotland, Nova Scotia, or Canada?
    • How do you think the bàrd feels?

Whiteboard or flip chart


  • Writing utensils, paper for students
  • Map
  • Flashcards, Google images, etc. to show feelings, and actions


Sùil air ais | Review:

Ask the students questions about what happened in the lesson, and review the verbs you worked on. For example:

  • Cò rinn an t-òran seo?
  • Cò às a bha Anna NicGilleÌosa?
  • Dé na gnìomhairean air an robh sinn ag obair?

Go over question, positive and negative forms again for all verbs worked on in the lesson.

  • Questions from students



Sing song again



  • If the students haven’t learned the future tense already, have students look at the words, and try to identify verbs before the future tense is taught — see if they can identify the new tense and spot future tense patterns and endings within the song, and then review what they found and go over specific verbs;
  • Spend some extra time talking about emigration patterns, geography, and place names
    • Places in Scotland mentioned in the song, other Gaelic areas;
    • Places Gaels settled in North America;
  • Look at the rhyme scheme of the song;
  • When discussing the meaning of the song, you could dive deeper into some of the symbolism;
  • If using a recording sung by Margaret MacLean (Mairead bean Ruairidh), share more information about her, her people, dialect, etc.;
  • For a more advanced group:
    • Look for and practice verbs in the conditional or relative future as well;
    • Compose another verse of the song; or
    • Make a game to change the song to past tense.

Preparing for Challenges

Some challenges which may arise in the above activities:

  • Students may have a hard time identifying verbs in the text, especially if they haven’t done much reading and writing before. If this might be a struggle for your group, you could conduct the activity as a group, or have the group look at just one verse at a time where the target verb is.
  • Discussion about the song and the bàrd might be difficult for students to understand and participate in through the medium of Gaelic if this lesson is conducted in an immersion setting, depending on their level. Information about Anna could be provided in English along with the lyrics while discussion points could be geared to the level of comprehension of the students, or more time might be spent on describing and illustrating the meaning of the song with actions, pictures, etc.  


O, Siud an Taobh a Ghabhainn

by  Anna NicGilleÌosa, from Margaret MacDonell’s “The Emigrant Experience,” pg 132-135. A slightly different version of the lyrics are published in Newton’s “Seanchaidh na Coille,” p 130-131, as they appeared in “The Casket” (Antigonish), April 27, 1893.

O, siud an taobh a ghabhainn,
E, siud an taobh a ghabhainn, 
’S gach aon taobh am biodh an rathad, 
Ghabhainn e gu h-eòlach. 

That is the road I would take,
That is the road I would take,
And wherever the road lay
I would take it for I know it well.

Gabhaidh sinn ar cead de Mhòrair, 
Arasaig ’s Mùideart nam mòr-bheann,
Eige ’s Canaidh gheal nan ròiseal, 
’S Uibhist bhòidheach ghreannmhor.

We’ll take leave of Morar,
Arisaig, and mountainous Moidart,
Eigg, and fair, surf-swept Canna,
And beautiful, lovely Uist.

Cnòideart fuar ’us Gleann a Garaidh
Far am bheil na fiùran gheala, 
’S Uisge Ruadh o’n Bhràighe thairis
Gu Srath Inbhir Lòchaidh.

Knoydart and Glengarry,
Where there are white saplings,
And the Red Stream from the Brae
Over to the glen of Inverlochy.

Tha na càirdean gasda, lìonmhor,
Thall ’s a bhos air feadh nan crìochan;
’S ma dh’fhàgas mi h-aon dhiubh ’n dìochuimhn’
’S aobhar mìothlachd dhòmhs’ e. 

Gallant, numerous are the kinsmen,
Here and there throughout these areas;
If I forget any of them
It will be a cause of deep regret to me.

Dòmhnullaich ’us gu’m bu dual dhaibh
Seasamh dìreach ri achd cruadail, 
A bhi diann a’ ruith na ruaige
Dìleas, cruaidh gu dòruinn. 

The MacDonalds were always wont
To stand boldly in the face of hardship,
Eagerly putting opponents to rout,
Faithful, intrepid in adversity.

Long ’s leòmhann, craobh ’us caisteal, 
Bhiodh ’nan sròiltean àrd ri ’m faicinn;
Fìreun, ’us làmh dhearg ’us bradan, 
’Us fraoch ’na bhadain còmh’ riuth’. 

Ship and lion, tree and castle,
Visible on their raised standards,
The eagle, the red hand, the salmon,
The sprigs of heather.

Chì mi ’n cabrach air an fhuaran, 
A ghréidh fhéin nan treud mu’n cuairt dha.
A h-uile té ’s a sròn ’s an fhuaradh
Mu’n tig gnùis luchd-tòrachd. 

I see the stag at the spring,
His herd like warriors around him;
Each one with its nose in the wind
Lest a huntsman appear.

Leam bu bhinn a’ chaismeachd mhaidne, 
An déidh dùsgadh as mo chadal, 
Coileach dubh air bhàrr a’ mheangain, 
’S fiadh ’s a’ bhad ri crònan. 

Sweet to me was the morning music
When I awoke from sleep;
A black cock in the treetops
And the deer bellowing in the thickets.

Falbhaidh sinn o thìr nan uachdran;
Ruigidh sinn an dùthaich shuaimhneach, 
Far am bi crodh laoigh air bhuailtean, 
Air na fuarain bhòidheach. 

We shall leave the land of the lairds;
We’ll go to the land of contentment,
Where there will be cattle in the folds
And around the fine pools.

Falbhaidh sinn, ’s cha dèan sinn fuireach;
Fàgaidh sinn slàn agaibh uile. 
Seòlaidh sinn air bhàrr na tuinne;
Dia chur turus oirnne.

We shall leave and not delay;
We’ll bid you all farewell
We’ll sail over the billows.
God speed us.

Further Reading

MacDonell, Margaret. 1982. The Emigrant Experience: Songs of Highland Emigrants in North America. Toronto: University Press. Especially pages 131-135.

Newton, Michael Steven. 2015. Seanchaidh Na Coille | Memory-Keeper of the Forest: Anthology Of Scottish-Gaelic Literature of Canada. Sydney, Nova Scotia: Cape Breton University Press. Especially pages 129-132.

MacPherson, Chelsey. 2021. “A’ Tarraing Gàidheil Ghlinne Garraidh Bho Thobair Mhic-Talla.” BA thesis, St. Francis Xavier University.

Dunn, Charles. 1953. Highland Settler. Toronto: University Press.

About the Author

Hannah Krebs works as a Gaelic Cultural Animator at Baile nan Gàidheal | Highland Village Museum and teaches Gaelic classes in a number of communities in Cape Breton. Born and raised in Ontario, she began learning Gaelic when she moved to Nova Scotia, and holds a degree in Celtic Studies from St. F.X. University.  She loves dancing, riding horses, and getting to know this beautiful part of the world better. 


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Cànan tro Òrain by Hannah Krebs is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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