Gàidhlig / English
A' Chorra-sgreuch

A' Chorra-sgreuch

Posted by Calum on 8th February, 2024
In Glasgow city I often go on a walk past the river Kelvin. It’s tremendously lovely for the entirety of the year for its nature and the creatures that come to visit the river. It’s the “Corra-sgreuch”, the Heron, that I see often on the river (I wonder if it’s the same one each time though?) and that oft makes me think about the folklore behind this beautiful bird. With the coming of Spring before us I would like to share with you in this blog what I have learned and found.
There are many names for the “corra-sgreuch” in Scottish Gaelic: In the “The Gaelic Otherworld”, by the Rev. John Gregorson Campbell, the names “Corra-Liogain; corra-léigein; corra-lòigein” can be found and “Corra-ghlas” is found in “Words and Phrases of Wester Ross” by Roy Wentworth, on top of “Bonnan-buidhe” and “Bunnan-buidhe” in Dwelly’s Dictionary.
Although we have so many names for the heron in Scotland there is much more in Ireland. Many of them are similar to names we have in Scotland – such as “Corra-réisc”, “corr-mhónadh” and “Corr-sgéachóg” – they have personal names in Ireland for some of them:
  • Máire fhada,
  • Siobhán fhada,
  • Siobhán na gcosaí fada,
  • Ceataí fhada,
  • Sile an ragaidh,
  • Joanie an Scrogaill,
  • Nóra an ragaidh,
  • Sile na bportaithe, m.s.a.a.
Some say that there’s nothing much to the name but that it’s a “corra” (meaning anything stork or heron-like) and that it makes a “sgreuch” (“a screech”). Apparantly the heron doesn’t have “còrr” (“an amount, remainder”) to say in comparison to other birds! If you have an interest in the speaking or calls of the birds why wont you have a look at the blogs  “Cainnt nan Eun: Pàirt 1” and “Pàirt 2” that we have.
There are a good number of proverbs and sayings about the heron too:
  • “Aon eun aig a’ chòrr is e gu doitheamh, doirbh; dà eun deug aig an dreòlan is iad gu soitheamh, soirbh,” [– the heron has one chick and it is cross and churlish; the wren has twelve and they are docile and good-tempered].
The proverb illustrates the heron’s chick’s nature in comparison to that of the wren. It works for families who have only one child (sometimes though!) Perhaps that is “fàth mun goir a’ chorr” (“the reason the heron cries,”).

There is counsel give to hunters advising them on what they should fell while they are hunting:
  • “Cha shealgair thu gus an leag thu corra-ghritheach, fitheach agus fiadh,” (“You’re not a marksman until you shoot a heron, a raven and a deer.”)
  • “Is sealgair thu nuair a mharbhas tu gèadh, is corr is crotach” “You are a sportsman when you kill a goose, heron, and curlew,”).
This following proverb is said of a greedy man (that can be found in “Gaelic Proverbs” by Alexander Nicolson):
  • “Mhealladh e an t-ugh bhon chorra-ghlais, ged bhiodh a dhà shùil a’ coimhead air”, (“He would deceive the egg from the heron, even though her two eyes would be watching over it.”)
But if that is of no surprise to you you could say the following:  
There is an exceptional (and controvertial) idiom if one wishes to get rid of someone; it is said through a key-hole to someone of whom you would wish death:
  • “An dig thu no an tèid thu, No an d’ ith thu feòil churra-(ghritheach)?” (“Will you come or will you go, Or did you eat the heron’s flesh?”)
It is understood of its meaning that the heron’s flesh was not a sustainable nor nourishing meal. Despite the joy that comes from spotting the heron it is an unlucky bird, from this reason that’s why we have the idiom above. The sight of a heron is so unlucky that its name for making a laughing-stock of someone.
For a fierce argument, with threats on top of threats, between two people the following is said:
  • “Aithris an darna curra air a’ churra eile,” (“The report of the second heron to the other heron,”).
There we have it for names and folklore about the heron. Did you know any of the information or folklore we have here? Do you have another name for it? Let us know on facebooktwitter and our website!
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