Sir Neil and Glengyle

from by Norah Rendell

  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    Comes with 16-page booklet including lyrics, liner notes written by Brian Miller, photos by Natalie Champa-Jennings and images of yarn from Suzy Brown, woolwench. Designed by Colleen Cody.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Spinning Yarns via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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      $15 USD or more 


  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

      $1 USD  or more



Robert Langille was 86 years old and living
a fairly isolated life in a house with his two
sisters outside of Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia,
when he sang “Sir Neil and Glengyle” for
collector W. Roy MacKenzie. The year was
1909, and tragic, Old World story-songs like this had already fallen out of fashion in many Nova Scotia communities. Still, the singing of
grim tales about Scottish knights and ladies was still a chief source of entertainment for the Langille siblings and MacKenzie wrote that “Old Bob” sang them with “unabated energy” despite his age.

Norah alternates Langille’s melody with another melody for this song collected from Captain Charles Cates (see “The Carrion Crow”) by Helen Creighton. The result is similar to the air “The Boyne Water” as
printed in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland. Langille’s version had 29 verses but Norah sings a much shorter text taken mainly from the singing of Stanley Finnemore of Bridgewater, Maine, as recorded by Doris Stackpole.


On yon dark isle, beyond rock isle,
Where flocks and herds were plenty,
There lived a squire and his sister Anne,
Was the pride of all that country.
’Twas young Glengyle who courted her,
Intending for to marry,
But a Highland lad she did prefer,
He was handsome, brisk and merry.

When tidings came to young Advan,
How Neil had boasted proudly,
Of favours gained by Lady Anne,
Which made him swear thus rudely:
“By all the friends that I possess,
If I live to see the morning,
This youth or I shall breathe our last,
I’ll stand no more such scorning.”

On yon seashore where the proud waves roar,
He challenged Neil to fight him,
These two men met before the sun,
Not a living creature nigh them.
“What’s ill, what’s ill, my friend?” Neil cried,
“That you should want to destroy me?”
“I will not flattered be, Sir Neil,
Unsheath your sword and fight me.”

“Sheath up your sword, Advan” Neil said,
“Don’t you resume to fight me,
For well you know in Scotland there’s none,
That can wave the broadsword like me.”
“I know your boasting courage, Neil,
But why should you despise me?
And if you do refuse to fight,
Like a dog I will chastise thee.”

It was many the savage and deadly thrust,
This generous man he warded,
For to take the life of such a dear friend,
Himself he only guarded.
But being vexed and sore abused,
His angry passion started,
And through the heart of young Advan,
His sword he quickly darted.

“Curse on my skill, what have I done?
Rash man that thou would have this!
For to take the life of such a dear friend,
When I would have spilled blood to save it!
To some far isle I will exile,
To fly I know not whither,
How can I face my lady Anne,
Since I have slain her brother?”

Then turning himself thus round about,
To see if there was anyone nigh him,
Who should he see but young Glengyle,
Like a bird thus he came flying.
“I come, I come to stop the strife,
But since you’ve been victorious,
I’ll have revenge or lose my life,
My honour bids me do this.”

“Sheath up your sword, Glengyle,” Neil says,
“Where is this quarrel grounded?
Three times I could have pierced your breast,
Three times I’d have you wounded.”
Then saying this he quit his guard,
And young Glengyle advanced,
And through the heart of brave Sir Neil,
The sword behind him glanced.

Then falling down Neil cried, “I’m slain!
Adieu, to all things earthly,
Adieu, Glengyle, you have won the day,
But you have won it basely.”
When tidings came to Lady Anne,
Time after time she fainted,
She ran and kissed their clay cold lips,
And o’er their fate lamented.

Melody Source: Robert Langille of Tatamagouche,
Nova Scotia and Captain Charles Cates of North Vancouver, British Columbia
Text Source: Stanley Finnemore of Bridgewater, Maine, USA


from Spinning Yarns, released March 17, 2015
Norah Rendell on vocals and harmonium, Brian Miller on guitar.



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Norah Rendell Saint Paul, Minnesota

Originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, Norah Rendell is a consummate musician that specializes in the traditional folk songs and dance music of Ireland and Canada. Norah was named "Best Vocalist of the Year" by the Live Ireland Awards in 2011 and 2012 and was nominated for "Best Traditional Singer of the Year" by the Canadian Folk Music Awards in 2009. ... more

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