World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Waulking song

Article Id: WHEBN0005465877
Reproduction Date:

Title: Waulking song  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Fulling, Scottish folk music, Highland Fling, Puirt à beul, Scottish sword dances
Collection: Scottish Culture, Scottish Folk Songs, Scottish Gaelic Language, Work Music
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Waulking song

Engraving of Scotswomen singing while waulking cloth, c. 1770

Waulking songs (Scots Gaelic: Òrain Luaidh) are Scottish folk songs, traditionally sung in the Gaelic language by women while waulking cloth. This practice involved a group of people beating newly woven tweed rhythmically against a table or similar surface to soften it. Simple, beat-driven songs were used to accompany the work.

A waulking session often begins with slow-paced songs, with the tempo increasing as the cloth becomes softer. As the singers work the cloth, they gradually shift it to the left so as to work it thoroughly. A tradition holds that moving the cloth anticlockwise is unlucky.

Typically one person sings the verse, while the others join in the chorus. As with many folk music forms, the lyrics of waulking songs are not always strictly adhered to. Singers might add or leave out verses depending on the particular length and size of tweed being waulked. Verses from one song might appear in another, and at times the lead singer might improvise to include events or people known locally.

The chorus to many waulking songs consists of meaningless vocables, serving a function similar to 'tra la la' or 'hey hey hey' in other song forms.

Some waulking songs have a strict verse-and-chorus structure. In other songs, the vocables are sung at the end of each line of a verse. In a song like 'S Fliuch an Oidhche ('Wet is the Night'), also known as Coisich a Rùin ('Come on, My Love'), the last two lines of one verse become the first two lines of the following one.

A tradition holds that it's bad luck to repeat a song during a waulking session, which may explain in part both the many verses of some songs and the large number of songs.

While waulking is a common practice across the world, it is only in Scotland that music became so strongly associated with it as to become an important cultural feature.

Waulking is rare in Scotland today, mostly confined to the Outer Hebrides where it is carried out as a celebration of heritage. The last true waulking (for the purpose of making cloth) is believed to have occurred during the 1950s.

During the Highland clearances, traditional methods of waulking spread with the Scottish diaspora. In Nova Scotia, and in particular on Cape Breton Island, waulking is known as milling. Although in Scotland women waulked cloth, in Nova Scotia both men and women took part in milling frolics. The practice continues as a cultural celebration today.

See also

External links

  • "Waulking song example - Alasdair Mhic Colla Ghasda " on YouTube
  • An Cliath Clis.Information about waulking and milling from the Halifax, Nova Scotia Gaelic milling group
  • MacEdward Leach and the Songs of Atlantic Canada.Lyrics and recordings of a large number of milling songs, at
  • information on waulking songs at
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.