2 Gaelic Rhyme Schemes

Raghnaid NicGaraidh

Activity Summary Statement

In this activity, students learn about how rhyming works in Gaelic songs and poetry through case studies of Gaelic songs chosen by themselves and the teacher. They may contrast with English or other language songs and poems, and may try their own hand at composing some verses with the rhyme schemes at the end.

Learning Outcomes

Students will:

  • Understand what rhymes in Gaelic;
  • Understand how Gaelic ideas of rhyming differ from English ideas;
  • Understand that rhyming and other poetic devices are culturally dependent;
  • Become familiar with common rhyme scheme patterns in Gaelic song;
  • Appreciate how different dialectal pronunciations might affect rhymes;
  • Develop the skills to compose a short verse or couplet in Gaelic using a traditional rhyme scheme.

Gaelic Level

This lesson can be suitable for Gaelic learners and speakers of all levels, from complete beginners to fluent speakers. Many fluent and native speakers have only been educated in English-language literary conventions and benefit from a clearer explanation of Gaelic rhyme schemes.

Lesson Preparation

  1. Choose the songs you will use as examples. Have a range of waulking songs (two-line verses) and more complex four- and eight-line verse songs. Ensure you are comfortable with the rhyme schemes and can explain how they work. It’s best to choose songs whose rhyme schemes are consistent.
  2. Prepare the songs in written form: as hand-outs or as a screen-share.
  3. You might like to ask students to bring along their own favourite songs to look at. Make sure you ask them to bring them in written form!

Resources Required

Required resources:

  • Written hand-outs of the songs you will use;
  • Whiteboard and whiteboard marker.

Optional resources:

  • Replace both of these with the mark-up option in screen-share on Zoom.

Other resources:

Lesson Structure (1.5 – 2hrs)

Total time listed is 1.5-2 hours, but you could take a whole day over this if you wish as there is plenty to discuss and many possible examples to look at for each step.

Lyrics for the following songs available below:

“Good” English rhyming examples:

“Not-so-good” English rhyming examples:

“Really weird” English rhyming examples (good segue into Gaelic):

Time Activity Resources
10-15 min

Opening activity:

Brainstorm different ideas about rhyming, with reference to any languages or previous knowledge had by the students (e.g., whole syllables vs. vowels; where rhyme happens in a poetic text).

White board to note the ideas down
10-15 min

Discuss English rhyming in particular, with references to a few examples of “good” and “not-so-good” rhyming in English. Discuss why it’s considered “not-so-good” (e.g. rhyme limited to vowels, doesn’t occur at end of the line, etc.) and how this is a culturally-based judgment.

English rhyming:

  • vowels
  • consonants
  • occurs at ends of lines
5 min

Now introduce Gaelic concepts of rhyming:

  • vowels only
  • rhyme falls on consistent beat, regardless of number of syllables at the end of the line

Discuss how different cultures value different things in their poetry. Old Irish and Ancient Greek, for example, both preferred to count syllables and stresses, and paid attention to assonance and alliteration (words starting with the same letter or having similar sounds).

10-15 minutes

Look at your two-line verse Gaelic examples. Talk about internal rhyming (last beat on one line rhyming with an earlier beat in the next) and inter-verse rhyming (last beat on the last line rhymes across multiple or all verses).

If needed, clap or beat the rhythm to feel where the beats fall. Milling songs are great for this because students will be used to doing that anyway! Have a blanket or sheet on hand to help with this.

Two-line verse examples:

  • Hé mo leannan
  • O ho ro ‘Ille Dhuinn
  • Maraiche (Niteworks’ version)
10-20 min

Look at the four-line verse Gaelic examples. Find the internal rhymes on the last beat of lines 1-3 and the earlier beat in line 4.

See if you can find a reverse internal rhyme (earlier beat of lines 1-3) in some of the songs!

Four-line verse examples:

  • Dùthaich Mhic Aoidh
5 mins

Summary of what you’ve learnt:

  • English = vowel, consonant, syllable count
  • Gaelic = vowel only, beat or stress
  • English = end-rhymes
  • Gaelic = internal rhymes
30 mins

If you have strong speakers, encourage them to compose a few two-line verses of their own! Using a popular waulking song as a base from which to copy the rhyme scheme is a good idea. Have the class agree on a topic (it doesn’t have to be serious!) so you can put the verses together afterwards into a new song. For intermediate learners, you could brainstorm words as a group to create a list of words that share the same vowel, or work on the new verses together as a group.

At one workshop, groups rewrote Hé mo leannan to be about Gaelic settlement of Mars!


For any of the steps in the lesson plan — English verses, two-line verses, four-line verses — you might look through one song as a group, and then split off into pairs to work through another song.

You might take a moment to “brainstorm” how spotting the rhyme scheme can be a useful tool for other things, such as learning to pronounce new-to-you words, or helping you to remember lyrics when trying to memorise a song.

Preparing for Challenges

Some students, and especially beginners, may have difficulty identifying the rhyme structure. This can be a good opportunity to review some language foundations such as the sounds of Gaelic, spelling (if working with texts), word stress, and long and short vowels.

Rhyme Examples

English poems

This list is not exhaustive and you may choose your own, or have students bring their favourites. Any part of the lesson can be repeated with different poems and songs if you want to reinforce it at a later date.

I love a sunburnt country” Dorothea Mackellar

The love of field and coppice, of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens, is running in your veins,
Strong love of grey-blue distance, brown streams and soft dim skies,
I know but cannot share it, my love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains,
Or ragged mountain ranges, of drought and flooding rains,
I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror – this wide brown land for me!

The triantiwontigongalope” C J Dennis

There is a funny insect that you do not often spy,
And it isn’t quite a spider, and it isn’t quite a fly,
It is something like a beetle, and a little like a bee,
But nothing like a woolly grub that climbs upon a tree,
Its name is quite a hard one, but you’ll learn it soon, I hope,
So try: Tri-, Tri-anti-wonti-, Triantiwontigongalope.

It lives on weeds and wattle-gum, and has a funny face,
Its appetite is heart, and its manners a disgrace.
When first you come upon it, it will give you quite a scare,
But when you look for it again, you find it isn’t there.
And unless you call it softly, it will stay away and mope,
So try: Tri-, Tri-anti-wonti-, Triantiwontigongalope.

Andy’s gone with the cattle now” Henry Lawson

Our Andy’s gone to battle now
Against Drought, the red marauder,
Our Andy’s gone with cattle now
Across the Queensland border.

He’s left us in dejection now
Our hearts with him are roving
It’s dull on this selection now
Since Andy went a-droving.

Auld Lang Syne” Robert Burns

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and days of old lang syne?
We twa have run about the braes, and pulled the gowans fine
But we’ve wandered mony a weary fit since days of old lang syne
We twa have paddled in the burn frae morning sun til dine
But seas between us braid have roared since days of old lang syne.

Loch Lomond

It was there that we parted in yon shady glen
On the steep, steep side of Ben Lomond
Where in the purple hue the Highland hills we view
And the moon coming out in the gloaming

Clancy of the Overflow” Andrew “Banjo” Paterson

I sent to him a letter, which I had for want of better knowledge, sent to where I met him by the Lachlan, years ago,
He was sheering when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just on spec, addressed as follows: Clancy of the Overflow.

No man’s land/ Willie Macbride” Eric Bogle

Did they beat the drum slowly?
Did they sound the fife lowly?

Did the rifles fire o’er ye
As they lowered you down?

Gaelic Verses

This list is not exhaustive and you may choose your own, or have students bring their favourites. Any part of the lesson can be repeated with different poems and songs if you want to reinforce it at a later date.

Hé mo leannan

’S e mo leannan, am fear donn
A thogadh fonn anns an taigh-chiùil

S e mo leannan, saor an t-sàbhaidh
Leagadh lobhta làir gu dlùth

S e mo leannan am fear bàn
A dheidheadh an àird air bhàrr an t-siùil

S e mo leannan am fear laghach
S tu mo roghainn, thaghainn thu

S tric a chaidh mi leat dha n bhàthaich
Sneachd’ na b’ àirde na mo ghlùin

My sweetheart is the brown-haired man
Who would raise a tune in the music house

My sweetheart is the carpenter of the saw
Who would lay down flooring tightly

My sweetheart is the fair-haired man
Who would go to the top of the sail

My sweetheart is the nice man
You’re my choice, I’d choose you

Often I went with you to the byre
Snow higher than my knee


O s mairg tha n diugh feadh garbhlaich
S ri falbhan am measg fraoich

Us gathan grèin gu h-òrbhuidh
A’ rtadh air gach taobh

Gum b’ fheàrr a bhi air bàrr nan tonn
Air long nan cranna caol

S a’ faicinn nan seòl ùra
Ri sùgradh anns a’ ghaoith

O, pitiful is the day through rugged country
and wandering amongst the heather

And the sun’s rays goldenly
rushing forth on each side

That it would be better to be on top of the waves
on the ship of the slender masts

And seeing the new sails
making merry in the wind

Dùthaich Mhic Aoidh

Mo mhallachd aig na caoraich mhòr,
Càit’ bheil clann nan daoine còir?
Dhealaich rium ’n uair a bha mi òg
mus robh Dùthaich ’ic Aoidh ’na fàsach.

Tha trì fichead bliadhna ’s a trì
Bho ’n a dh’fhàg sinn Dùthaich Mhic Aoidh
Càit’ bheil gillean òg mo chrìdh’
’s na nìgheanagan cho bòidheachd?

My curse upon the great sheep,
Where now are the children of the kindly folk?
Who parted from me when I was young
Before Sutherland became a desert?

It has been sixty-three years
Since I left Sutherland
Where are all my beloved young men
And all the girls that were so pretty?

About the Author

Raghnaid NicGaraidh is born and raised in South Australia, with roots in Scotland through her father. She grew up around Gaelic-speakers in Adelaide and has been intentionally speaking the language since she was a teenager. While studying for a degree in linguistics and ethnomusicology in Melbourne, she was the conductor and music director of Coisir Ghàidhlig Bhioctòiria (the Scottish Gaelic Choir of Victoria) from 2017-2020, and she has been teaching Gaelic language classes since 2016.


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

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