Friday, 25 March 2016

25‭ ‬March‭ ‬1738:‭ ‬The death of the Harpist Turlough O'Carolan/‭ ‬Toirdhealbhach Ó Cearbhalláin‭ ‬on this day.‭ ‬He was the most famous Irish musician and player of his day who plied his trade throughout Ireland.‭ ‬He was born in‭ ‬1670‭ ‬at Nobber,‭ ‬Co Meath and from an early age trained to become a player of the harp.‭ ‬However at the age of‭ ‬18‭ ‬he caught the smallpox and was left Blind.‭ ‬Nevertheless he continued his love of the instrument and mastered his disability.‭ ‬Due to the generosity of a patron,‭ ‬Mrs.‭ ‬MacDermott,‭ ‬he was able to equip himself for the road with a harp,‭ ‬a horse,‭ ‬a guide,‭ ‬and the money to launch a career as an itinerant harper,‭ ‬playing for patrons throughout the Irish countryside.

Various sources say that he was cheerful and gregarious,‭ ‬enjoyed ludicrous stories,‭ ‬practical jokes and he was an excellent backgammon player.‭ ‬As with many harpers of the time,‭ ‬he also drank a great deal,‭ ‬and he had a temper to be avoided.‭ ‬He developed his natural musical talent and talent and turned his hand to composition,‭ ‬penning over‭ ‬220‭ ‬works of Irish music many of which are still recorded and played today.‭ ‬In his travels around the Country he stayed at the Houses of various Patrons,‭ ‬both native and planter and his influences were drawn not just from Ireland but also further afield.

He eventually married a woman called Mary Maguire,‭ ‬they lived on a farm near Mohill,‭ ‬Co.‭ ‬Leitrim and had seven children.‭ ‬Mary died in‭ ‬1733‭ ‬and just five years later,‭ ‬feeling ill,‭ ‬Carolan returned to the home of his original Patron Mrs.‭ ‬MacDermott Roe.‭ ‬After several days,‭ ‬he called for a drink and repeated these lines to his first patron:‭

Mary Fitzgerald,‭ ‬dear heart,‭
‬Love of my breast and my friend,‭
‬Alas that I am parting from you,‭
‬O lady who succoured me at every stage.‭

‬His final composition was to the butler,‭ ‬Flinn,‭ ‬who brought him his last drink.‭ ‬And,‭ ‬in a final fitting salute,‭ ‬his wake lasted four days.

When he died his passing was recalled a famous man of letters of the time:

Saturday,‭ ‬the‭ ‬25th day of March‭ ‬1738.‭ ‬Turlough O'Carolan,‭ ‬the wise master and chief musician of the whole of Ireland,‭ ‬died today and was buried in the O'Duignan's church of Kilronan,‭ ‬in the sixty-eighth year of his age.‭ ‬May his soul find mercy,‭ ‬for he was a moral and religious man.

Charles O'Conor

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