10 Gura Mise fo Éislein

Shannon MacMullin

Activity Summary

Participants will learn a Gàidhlig song in an immersive environment using Gàidhlig aig Baile (i.e., by ear, without the written lyrics). Engaging in communal song is a wonderful way to build group trust, individual confidence, and connect to the Gaelic arts.  Participants will enhance memory of language acquisition through music and song.


This milling song has a beautiful melody.  It tells of lovers parted and the young man laments his situation.  It is sung by John (Seògan) Shaw and was recorded by John Shaw for the Cape Breton Gaelic Folklore Collection.  While the verses are short, they offer a look at several interesting and important constructions in the language.  The rhyme scheme is also easy to understand, acts as a memory aid, and offers a jumping-off point to discuss long and short vowels and pronunciation.

Learning Outcomes

Students will:

  • Improve their aural comprehension of Gàidhlig;
  • Improve their spoken Gàidhlig;
  • Enhance memory skills;
  • Recognize a rhyme scheme in a Gaelic song;
  • Learn about Gàidhlig songs, their creators, their singers, their themes, an their source communities and related kinship groups.

Gaelic Level

This activity is well-suited to learners at various levels:

  • Beginners will learn the chorus and become familiar with the sounds and phrases and song information. They will also build comprehension skills.
  • Intermediate learners will learn the chorus and a few verses. They will increase their comprehension and production of Gàidhlig. They will learn associated song information.
  • Advanced learners will learn the complete song. They will increase their confidence singing by memory. They will learn associated song information.
  • Native speakers can easily engage in this lesson in a variety of ways: learning the song, sharing memories of the song and singers in the area, or sharing a variation of the song.

Lesson Preparation

  1. Source lyrics to the song you want to teach. This lesson plan is organized around the song, “Gura Mise fo Éislein,” but the basic outline will work for many songs.
  2. Gather props to help illustrate the song, and support the language lesson. If props are not available, pictures can be drawn or sourced on Google Images, such as:
    1. doll family
    2. action figure
    3. map of NS and Scotland
    4. clock
    5. calendar
    6. toy stag or hind
  3. Provide the audio recording of the song to students in advance, when possible.
  4. Instruct students to listen to the recordings at least ten times before the session. They needn’t decode the song or learn the words; students should simply listen to the song all the way through.
  5. Prepare the “Lyrics Pictures” representation of the lyrics. Students will not be provided with written lyrics. Here is an example. Feel free to create your own prior to class. Or create one collectively if leading an intermediate or advanced class.

Resources Required

Required resources:

  • GaB methodology experience or training;
  • Digital recording of the song;
  • Speaker with which to share audio;
  • Lyrics and “Lyrics in Pictures” image;
  • Students wishing to record the lesson will need a device on which to do so;
  • Information and photos about the song maker, singer, kinship group, theme, etc.;
  • Flip chart paper, easel, markers, and masking tape (“Lyrics in Pictures” are likely to be longer than one page).
  • Digital copy of the lyrics for screen sharing and printing. At beginner and intermediate levels, working aurally and visually without the written word is recommended.

Optional resources:

  • Laptop, TV, and HDMI cable to screen share photos and audio;
  • High-quality speakers (computer audio is often not loud enough for a group);
  • Email addresses to share resources with participants after the session.

Lesson Structure (2.5-3 hour class) 

Time Activity Resources
5-20 mins


Provide GAB orientation to class as required. Fàilte — offer a huge, warm welcome to all present.  Introduce any native speakers present. Provide group introductions and greetings if desired at the beginning of a session. Make a very warm invitation for ALL to sing. Explain the aesthetic for Gàidhlig singing differs from the mainstream aesthetic we may be more familiar with — favours pitch, quality, and tone.

A good voice was appreciated, but it was secondary to the Gaels. In the words of Lachlann Dhòmhnaill Nìll:

Ged nach biodh an duine cho fìor cheòlmhor idir, ma bha e cho math gus a’ rann a leantail agus ma bha na faclan aige mar bu chòir dhaibh agus freagarrach, sin a’ rud a bha dhìth ormas. (Though the singer might not be that musical, if he was good at following the verses and if he knew the words properly, that’s what I desired.) (MacLellan 2000, 23)

Co-dhiubh bhiodh tu na b’ fheàrr na duine eile, cha e sin idir e.  Nan gabhadh e na h-òrain s nam biohd e toileach òran a ghabhail, s e duine math a bh’ ann a bhith mun cuairt. (Whether you were better than somebody else was not the point.  If someone could sing the songs and knew a good one and was happy to sing, that was the kind of person who was good to have around.) (MacLellan 2000, 27)

Narratives of these types are common.  Singing is a birthright, good for the soul, and a beautiful way to remember and honour ancestors, and to connect to each other.

GAB Tutors’ Guide

Brìgh an Òrain p23 and p27

Gaelic Beginners’ Primer

Additional Reading:

Boost Memory and Learning with Music

5 min Grounding:

Airson toiseach tòisichidh, carson nach gabh sinn uile anail còmhla?

Tarraing làn-anail

Leig d’ anail

Repeat x3. Invite volunteer to lead for 4th breath. Invite a second volunteer to lead 5th breath.

An do tharraing a h-uile duine anail?

Tharraing! Tharraing a h-uile duine anail.

An do leig a h-uile duine anail?

Leig! Leig a h-uile duine anail. Ach Mario. Cha do leig Mario anail idir.

If you are not familiar with leading a grounding, practice with this video.  Then, add the Gàidhlig and make it your own. Video will not be necessary during the lesson; the instructor will be the aural and visual guide.

Additional Reading:

Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response

This piece is optional.  Instructors could also consider using movement or stretching as the grounding activity.

10 min

Gura mise fo Éislein

Song Information:

S e òran luaidh a th’ ann. S ann mu dheidhinn cridhe briste a tha e.

  • Có rinn an t-òran?
    • Chan eil fhios againn có a rinn e. S e òran gun urra a th’ ann.
  • Dé seòrsa do dh’òran a th’ ann?
    •  Òran luaidh.
  • Có mu dheidhinn a tha e?
    • S ann mu dheidhinn cridhe briste a tha e.
  • Có ás a tha thu?
    • Tha mi á Mira Mhór Uachdrach.
    • Tha mi á Suidnidh.
  • Có ás a tha _______?
    • Tha i/e á/ás _____.
  • Có ás a bha Seògan?
    • Bha e á Beinn Smogaidh.

Photo and bio of Seogan

Information about Milling Frolics

5 min Listening:

Éistidh sinn ri Seògan Màiri Dhanaidh. Agus gabhaidh sinn fhìn òran cuideachd.

Listen through one time together.

Listen a second time, invite everyone to join in on the chorus.

30 min Learning:

Break each verse down and teach that language through GAB.

Use the GAB method to offer much repetition and manipulation of these phrases.  Offer each participant a chance to ask/answer each prompt.  Convey meaning with props, drawings, and body language.

Have participants ask you the questions to model the answers.

Use hand actions.

Point out the long vowel sounds.

Make note of the rhyme scheme.

Gura mise fo éislein

  • Có thusa?
    • ‘S mise Sionainn.
  • Dé thuirt thu?
    • Thuirt mi gura mise Sionainn.
  • Ciamar a tha thu?
    • gu math
    • fo éislein
  • Dé thuirt thu?
    • Thuirt mi gura mise fo éislein.

Sing this verse in call and answer style 3x.

Together, sing this verse and chorus 3x.

Anns a’ mhadainn ‘s mi ‘g éirigh

  • Cuin a dhùisg thu?
    • anns a’ mhadainn
  • Cuin a ghabh thu do bhracaist?
    • anns a’ mhadainn
  • Cuin a thàinig thu a’ seo?
    • anns a’ mhadainn
  • A Mhàiri, éirich?
    • A Thòmais, éirich!
  • An do dh’éirch thu?
    • Dh’eirich/Cha do dh’éirich.
  • An do dh’éirich a h-uile duine?
    • Dh’éirich. Dh’éirich a h-uile duine ach Mario.
  • Carson a dh’éirich thu?
    • gus Gàidhlig a thogail
  • Cuin a dh’éirich thu?
    • o chionn tacain
  • Có a dh’éirich?
    • Dh’éirich Màiri is Tòmas.
    • Dh’éirich a h-uile duine.
    • A Dhòmhnaill, éirich!
  • Dé tha thu ris?
    • Tha mi g éirigh.
  • Am bidh thu g éirigh tràth a h-uile madainn?
    • Bidh/Cha bhi.

Sing each verse in call and answer style 3x.

Leader sings the first line, the participants sing it back to the leader.

Begin slowly.  Increase speed as confidence increases.

Together, sing these two verses and chorus 3x.

“Lyrics in Pictures”

Spoken Lyrics


15 mins

Tàmh — Cumaibh còmhradh s a’ Ghàidhlig.  Dèanaibh agus gabhaibh tì còmhla.

30 mins

Chì mi ‘n eilid ‘s a céile

  • Dé th’ ann?
    • Damh/eilid.
  • An e damh a th’ ann?
    • Chan e.  S e eilid a th’ ann.
  • Dé chì thu air a’ rathad dhachaigh?
    • Chì mi Iriving.
    • Chì mi an eaglais.
    • Chì mi craobhan.
  • A’ faic thu losgann?
    • Chan faic.
    • Ma dh’fhaoidte gu’ faic.
  • Their sùil air an uinneig.  A’ faic thu eun/a’ ghrian/uisge/cù?
    • Chì/Chan fhaic.

Sing this verse in call and answer style 3x.

Leader sings the first line, the participants sing it back to the leader.

Begin slowly. Increase speed as confidence increases.

Together, sing this verse & chorus 3 times. Then add in all the learned verses with the chorus and sing through once.

‘S ‘ad a’ mire ri chéile

a’ mire = spòrs

Seall dealbh dhaibh:

a’ mire ri cat

  • Dé tha ‘ad ris?
    • Tha ‘ad a’ mire ri cat.

a’ mire ri cù

  • Dé tha ‘ad ris?
    • Tha ‘ad a’ mire ri cù.

a’ mire ri chéile

  • Có th’ ann?
    • ‘S e damh agus eilid a th’ ann.
  • Dé tha ‘ad ris?
    • Tha ‘ad a’ mire ri chéile.

Sing this verse in call and answer style 3x.

Leader sings the first line, the participants sing it back to the leader.

Begin slowly.  Increase speed as confidence increases.

Together, sing this verse & chorus 3x.

Then sing verses three and four with the chorus a few times.

(as above for the first two verses)

(as above for the first two verses)

5 mins


Sing the song together. Repeat each verse 2x.

Consider recording the singing to share with the group.


There are many ways to vary this activity. For example:

  • For advanced learners, you could play with looking at the words and testing memory; look at rhyme scheme; compose new verses.
  • Focus on the language and use the song as reinforcement.
  • Use the language to assist comprehension and focus on learning the song as the session outcome.
  • Have a milling frolic. Using a blanket, sheet or towel, gather around the table as one person leads the song. All join in on the chorus.
    • Each participant learns one verse and leads the song collectively while milling.
    • If a table or blanket is not available, participants can swing hands in time to the music as was traditionally done.
  • Compare and contrast various versions of the melody, verses, regional dialects, etc.
  • Add actions to the song for each verse.


This style of teaching songs is based on workshops designed by Mary Jane Lamond.

Preparing for Challenges

You may wish to prepare for any of the following potential challenges:

  • Technical issues — be prepared to sing the song without listening to the recording.
  • Student frustration if remembering verses is challenging.
  • Student hesitancy to sing.
  • Running out of time?  Cut back on the verses you share in this session rather than rushing through to the end.

Further Reading

MacLellan, Lauchie. Brìgh an Òrain. Edited by John Shaw. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000.


Gura Mise fo Éislein– for printing and screen sharing

Séist (Chorus):

O ro hù hó gù

Hì ri hiùraibh ó eileadh

O ro hù hó gù

Gura mise fo éislein

I’m tormented with sorrow

Anns a’ mhadainn s mi g éirigh

As I rise in the morning

Chì mi n eilid s a céile

I see the hind and her mate

S ad a’ mire ri chéile

As they frolic together

Chan ionnan s mar a dh’éirich

It didn’t happen thus

S ann dhomhsa s dha m chéile

With myself and my first love

Chuir ad sinne fad o chéile

They’ve put us far from each other

Is’ a Shasainn s mis’ a dh’Éirinn

Her to England and me to Ireland


*Another version is sung by Lachlann Dhòmhnaill Nìll and can be found in Brìgh an Òrain, p. 210, and heard on Gaelstream here.

About the Author

Shannon is a Gàidhlig aig Baile instructor and the Cultural Experiences Coordinator at Baile nan Gàidheal | Highland Village Museum. She is also active in community development and the Gaels Jam.  She is passionate about connecting folks to Gàidhlig language and culture modelling o ghlùin gu glùin | from knee to knee transmission and creating spaces for Gaels to gather..  She loves time with the family and remembering how to play with the little grandboys keeps her feeling young. She is a maker, a learner, and a connecter.


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

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