Is iascaire & saineolaí farraige as Inis Bó Finne é Micí Whiting.


Micí Whiting Mac Aoidh, a fisherman from Inis Bó Finne, off Donegal.

His lore is collected in 'Seanchas & Nathanna Cainte Mhicí Whiting by Éamonn Ó Dochartaigh.



Airneál – the period of early evening, especially after a nice summer day. (It is said that Ireland may have one of the finest airneál’s (bright period in it after the sun sets).

Aithleá  – a nice gentle wind blowing.  Lower than a normal wind.  You get it on a cool pleasant, fine day.

beochán gaoithe – light breeze.

Feothan – gust of wind, breeze, puff of a pipe, sip of drink

Análach -a fine, pleasant day as you’d get in Spring. The air and sky is clear, with a cool wind blowing.

Spútaí - heavy shower of rain, or a strúpán that you see from a kettle or a tea pot. Also, a piss.

Teine ghealracháin - a kind of phosphorescent light, like the Jack o' Lantern (Don.).

Teine mhadaidh ruaidh - a kind of phosphorescent light; a contemptuous word for a small fire



Briota- small, insignificant waves.  These little waves come in often and hit the strand with a light pale foam. It’s a sign that the good weather will last for a while. Níl briota san fharraige, the sea is calm.

Buacán –waves and the spray that engines of big boats create in the ocean. Also, high point, top, crest.

Druga  –small wave, but  yet with breaking froth. A bit bigger than normal, but no cause for concern.

Gealachán – the ocean is super calm, without big  white cresting waves breaking.

Onfais – large waves in the sea, rolling water, act of plunging, diving.

Rásaí -  bigger waves moving quickly during a wind

Roisteacha- rough, surging seas, waves breaking heavily with white foam.

Sabhsa – a strong, back current,  pulling away from the shore. Very dangerous.  Will sweep people out to sea. Also used to refer to when the tide is going out and the wind is from the west. It was said ‘tá an ghaoth ag gabháil ar an tsruth’.

Tarrantacha – when the tide is retreating after a full spring tide. There’s a loud noise and a strong current/flow. These can be very dangerous. The stones that are rolled around in the surf are also sometimes called tarrantacha. You’d hear them banging against each other if you were near the shore.



Áithe – a large circular area of stones where kelp is made, 7 ft wide. 5 tons of seaweed was slowly burnt down to make one tonne of kelp. It was divided into 300lb bricks before it was fully dry and had set hard as stone, a blue-black colour.

Cúlraic – the tool for mixing and prodding the seaweed to keep it lit.

Carnán – mounds of stones on which to dry out bodógaí (sea rods) on the shore. Ricks of kelp were put on top of these mounds too. Built up a foot and half off the ground using stones. Gorse branches were placed between the stones to make sure the seaweed didn’t fall to the ground. They lay leathach (sea-wrack) across as a sort of roof too.

Cannabhar (or canthúr or cainniúir) – small shreds of seaweed thrown on the strand in spring after winter gales. Great fertiliser.

Cannabhaire – the man leading the horse or cattle while the women were collecting seaweed. He’d make sure that the mound of seaweed was tied properly.

Cannabhaireacht – the work of women gathering seaweed on the shore and loading it on the cattle to bring home.

Carraigín – it grows out further than the duileasc or the creathnach, and you get it at a really low tide (neep tide). It’s pale yellow, short and thick. On Inis Boffin they spread it on the ground or the roof for the rain to wash it. It turns as pale as snow. Also called béardaí.

Duileasc – 3 types duileasc dubh, duileasc  bán and creathnach. Duileasc dubh is always under water where the sun can’t get it, so is delicious.  Creathach is great to eat too. The white isn’t good as the sun dries it. Duileasc is wider and longer than creathnach and has no shells on it. Creathnach is also darker than duileasc and much better for you. Never eat it raw, but boil it, then drink the liquid and eat the seaweed.

Sleabhac –seaweed that look like long black hair on a woman, but thicker. Far, far longer than creathnach or duileasc, and a lot blacker too. About 2 feet long.  5 types: sleabhac dubh, sleabhac sleamhain, slabhac gainimh, slabhac catach and slabhac sliogánach. You get Sleabhach Sleamhain where there is sand. Used to be cut with a scissors, but very hard to remove all the sand from it. Slabhach catach is very clean, grows on granite. That’s the best Sleabhac. Delicious. You get it in Spring, and you see long straps of it on the strand on nice sunny days. People used to eat it especially around Mí na bhFaoilleach (the bad weather time at end of Jan and early Feb.) as it would give them new zest after the winter. For the same reason they would drink the juice of the báchrán (bog bean) in March, and eat faochóga dubha (black periwinkles in April. They’d drink the juice of Cál Faiche (nettles in May. They’d take these as it increased energy and cleaned the blood.

Sláthach – rotten seaweed covered in sand. Often you don’t know it’s there until you’ve stood in it. Oozy mud. Slime.

Slodán - a heap of rotten seaweed captured in a cove and that has turned blue, with fermented liquid running out the bottom of it. Also used to refer to a normal water hole in parts of Donegal. Also, stagnant pool.

Mulchán leathaigh (mullóg leathaigh)  – heaps of seaweed, up to 5 feet high brought in on the tide. It is full of insects as it rots. Starlings and seagulls feed on the grubs. MAKE AUDIO



Crom’ubhán  (crom’bhuán)-  a long stick with a hook on it used to lure the crabs out of their underwater rock holes at very low tide. The stick had to be pulled very swiftly towards you. You could get the odd lobster this way too.

Garr  – offal found inside the crab. It’s a very light, pale  lining and a little bit tough. Great for bait. Also means pith, pulp, ordure, garbage.

Cran scadán – old measurement for herring. A willow basket held 7 stones of herring. There were 4 baskets in a cran.  The big net could catch 20 or 40 cran of herring.

Dromán – the hazel sticks on the top of the lobster pot.  Three sets of bent wood in a circle are laid out to make the pot and then three rods are put across, these are the dromán.

Ceann craigirlín –benny,  small fish with many spines. Childen hunts them in rock pools as the tide retreats.

Boilgeadán  (Bolgadán) – a young coal fish, about 5 inches long.

Bróg síogaí, (also, sparán na caillí mairbhe) mermaid’s purse,  little shoes found on the beach from the dallóg (lesser spotted dogfish). There’s an egg yoke inside, just like in a hen’s egg.

Liúdar – a type of glasán (coal-fish), but bigger. Has a bright streak from its head to the top of the tail. Táid chomh fairsing le liúdar I dToraigh – as common as coal in Newcastle.

Luiseag – the back of the fish hook that you grab to take it out of a fish’s mouth. Also called cos an duáin. Also shank, tang, fang, thin leg.

Mada donáinín – a small brown sea fish with 5 whiskers that is a bit longer than a saíán (young coal-fish), with the look of young rockling. Found in rock pools beneath seaweed covered rocks at spring tide. Very slippery, best caught with a sea rod.

Snámhthóg – female crab. She swims slowly on the bottom of the ocean, which is where the name comes from. When all the spawn is gone from her she is empty and full of water until she replenishes herself again.

Cam uisc – a type of fish oil lamp, used in lighthouses long ago. Cam means a cresset (a metal cup or basket, mounted to or suspended from a pole, containing oil, pitch, a rope steeped in rosin or something flammable). They are burned as a light or beacon.

Léamhadóir -  man who watched for signs to work out where the herring were.  When the herrings rose to the surface he would light a piece of paper and throw it on the water, then the team would make a ring around it with the nets.

Líbín – libín báite – dripping wet object, wet to the skin.  Libín is also a minnow and a form of bait that Tory Islanders cut out of the belly of the glasán mhóir (coal-fish). It was a particular skill to cut this out properly. He’d cut it into a shape that resembled a live fish, with little fins and a head. Excellent bait.

Linn – the liquid that seeps out of fish when salted and left to dry. Also pool, pond, lake.

Duibhéan – cormorants, eaten on Inis Bó Finne, especially delicious were the ones with a bit of purple on their heads,  and a bit of red too. Very black meat. You’d hang them for 3 or 4 days, and put an onion inside to lessen the the taste and saltiness of the sea. They’d then boil and roast them.

Sleann, slinn – the shield in the mouth of the periwinkle; Keeps the seawater out.

Fian-iar, fianna (pl. fiannaí) – a type of giant limpet five times the size of a normal one found at the extreme low tides around  spring and autumn equinoxes. Large, wide circular things, quite yellow, with plenty of iron in them.  MAKE AUDIO



Camas – a small bay, or the corner of a small bay. A bend in the river. Also a man-made fishing grounds, created by dumping  limpets, potatoes and other food there at night so that garbhán (sea-bream) glasáin (coal fish) and liúdair (coalfish) would frequent it.

Caolas – narrow strait or passage of water where boats can pass between two headlands or islands.

Clochán – stepping stones,  such as the wide stony track beneath the sea between Inis Bó Finne and the beach at Machaire Rabhartaigh.  The ocean would have started it, and then people made it into a path by adding more stones. It was only walkable a few times a year when there’s extremely low tides. Islanders would come out for the big spring tide at St Patrick’s Day. They’d bring 15 cattle out with them to fatten on the mainland, with a rider on each.

Gaothannaí (gúthannaí) – streams or channels of water on the strand when the tide is out and the rest of the beach has dried. Can be deep enough that you need to take your shoes and socks off to wade through. Can also mean gaineamh beo, sinking sand; places where large rivers are feeding into the sea when the tide is going out. They can be dangerous: you sink to your knees and aren’t able to get out.

Lag trá, (lom trá)-  low tide when there’s a big wide beach visible. Known as scilteacha trá on Toraí.

Líonán – the rocky bottom of the sea in shallow waters. You’d only see the líonán in advance in a very low tide. That’s why ships hit it. Boilgeacha are similar, except they can be seen above the sea at times.

Scairbheach – the small stones or rough gravel on the stoney shore.  Shingly place, rough place to walk on.

Scaineagán - Coarse sand or gravel; shingle.



Greadóg – a small load of fish or turf. A half-laden boat

Béalfadh (béalbhach) the front gunnel of a boat. Little metal piece you put in a bull/cow’s mouth to bind him. The Rim of a basket.  Bridle-bit. The beginning.


Éadálacha – wood or oil barrels that comes in on the tide. Spoil, salvage, finds.  Rafta - a big collection of sea plunder gathered together.

Gad- a rope made of strips of willow bark plaited together. The strips are made by cutting the bark at the base of the tree and ripping it upwards. Very tough, durable rope. Gad was also used for anything very strong and hard to break, and used as a compliment to someone. The heavy duty, long rope for tying up to 12 lobster pots together was also a gad. Samh is another name for this rope.

Méaróg – a thin, flat stone for skimming. Also a word for the little rings that radiate out in the water when you throw a stone in, or a fish jumps.

Boisleac – rough, flat stone on the  side of a well or river for rubbing clothes against while washing them.  powder. You’d see women at Bun Bheag in Gaoth Dobhair washing clothes under the bridge at Abhainn na Claidí. Boslach also means a handful. Boislichín, a small  handful.

Rois – a super strong fart, a volloy, a blast

Saighdiúirí – a load of little sparks rising in the fire, all red. Hundreds rise up when the fire is poked. They don’t rise outwards like normal drithleacha (sparks).  A sign that very frosty weather is coming.

Tá a lán focail eile ó Micí Whiting le fáil ag bun an leathanaigh. Agus na céadta breise sa leabhar, "Seanchas agus Nathanna Cainte Mhicí Whiting", curtha in eagar ag Eamonn Ó Dochartaigh.

Many more words from Micí Whiting are listed here below, and hundreds more in the book, 'Seanchas & Nathanna Cainte Mhicí Whiting' by Éamonn Ó Dochartaigh (Guildhall Press, 2018).

Focail Farraige & Sea Terms -  Machaire Rabhartaigh, Tír Chonaill (Magheraroarty, Co Donegal)