The Gaelic Tradition: Dhè Bhetel
Tommy Peigi MacDonald. Photograph by Ronald Caplan. Cape Breton's Magazine, Issue 21: 42. © 1972/2010 Ronald Caplan.
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About this Song

This is a fine example of traditional Gaelic psalm singing, known as "precenting" or "putting out the line." Each line is sung by an individual precentor and repeated with ornamentation by the congregation. In Scotland it was, and still is, almost exclusively metrical psalms that were sung in this way. This one is different: it is a translation of the hymn O God of Bethel composed in English in 1737 by Philip Dodridge of London; it is sung to the tune Dundee which first appeared in the 1615 Scottish Psalter.

The precentor is Tommy MacDonald, Tomaidh Peigi Thòmais, from the North Shore of Cape Breton. This recording was engineered by Allister MacGillivray at the Bethel United Church, Skir Dhu, in March, 1978.


Dhè Bhetel le d' làimh thoirbheartaich,
'S tu bheathaich d' Israel fhèin
'S a threòraich feadh an turais sgìth
Ar sinnseara gu lèir.

Ar bòid 's ar n-ùrnaigh nis a tà
Aig lathair do chathair gràis;
Bi leinn o Dhia ar n-aithrichean
'S na dìobair sinn gu bràth.


O God of Bethel

O God of Bethel by whose hand
Thy people still are fed,
Who through this weary pilgrimage
Has all our fathers led.

Our vows, our prayers, we now present
Before thy throne of grace.
God of our fathers be the God
Of their succeeding race.