Turlough O'Carolan

Information Page 3




The music playing on this page is Planxty Irwin
Sequenced by Barry Taylor




Separation of Body and Soul

Lament for Owen (Roe) O'Neill

  • Midi File (Single Line Melody)
    Lesley Nelson-Burns
  • Midi File
    Barry Taylor
  • Music in GIF Format

  • Owen Roe O'Neill was an Irish general. He learned is craft on the continent and went to Donegal in 1642. In 1646 he won the victory at Benburg. He died on November 6, 1949 - a national tragedy. He was a tactical genius and his death left a void of leadership that could not be filled. This fact led to the Cromwellian Settlement. Carolan is supposed to have composed the tune at the request of Charles O'Conor of Belanagare.

The Two William Davises

  • Midi File (Single Line Melody)
    Lesley Nelson-Burns
  • Music in GIF Format

  • There is debate as to whether the tune was composed by Carolan. It may have been composed by Thomas Connellan. Connellan was a predecessor of Carolan. He was a native of County Sligo who went to Scotland. Another tune attributed to Connellan is Farewell to Lochaber. The words are attributed to Carolan (but are in Gaelic so are not included here). The tune may be a variant of the folk tune Killikrankie or it may have been composed before Killikrankie.

  • The Two William Davises is not a Planxty - in that it was not written for patrons. The words tell of two William Davises from County Sligo - father and son. The father is a skinflint and son is generous.

Lament for Owen O'Rourke

  • Midi File (Single Line Melody)
    Lesley Nelson-Burns
  • Midi File
    Harold "Kipp" Doolan

  • There are words ascribed to the tune (in Gaelic so they are not here), lamenting the death of Owen O'Rourke, Prince of Breffni, who died in 1728. There are two sets of lyrics for the tune, one set attributed to Carolan. However, Donal O'Sullivan feels that based on the notebook of James Cody (who collaborated with Bunting), the words more appropriate to the tune were by the poet Ullan Ruadh MacParlan who was a poet from Lough Allen, County Leitrim.

O'Flinn

  • Midi File (Single Line Melody)
    Lesley Nelson-Burns
  • Midi File (Full Arrangement)
    Barry Taylor

  • According to O'Sullivan, there were no O'Flinns in the gentry in the districts Carolan frequented, and therefore, the subject is probably William Flynn, the MacDermott Roe family butler who is reported to have brought Carolan his last drink on his death-bed. After quenching his thirst Carolan is reported to have said:

    I duly traveled round through Conn's territory
    And I found (marasaigh?) mighty and vigorous there.
    By my baptism, for dispensing [drink] I never found
    One who quenched by thirst aright but William Flynn.

The Dark, Plaintive Youth

  • Midi File (Single Line Melody)
    Lesley Nelson-Burns

  • The tune may not have been composed by Carolan. A manuscript in the Royal Irish Academy has words to the tune that are a Jacobite song. It is three stanzas and begins: "Though long I am in solitude, troubled is my mind." These words are not attributed to Carolan. O'Sullivan feels that given the certainty the words were not written by Carolan the tune may not have been either.

Captain O'Kane

  • Midi File (Single Line Melody)
    Lesley Nelson-Burns
  • Midi File
    Barry Taylor
  • Music in GIF Format (The Wounded Hussar)

  • The tune was composed for Captain O'Kane or O'Cahan. He was of Antrim and was also known as "Slasher O'Kane". (There is no note as to why...) Thomas Campbell's The Wounded Hussar was sung to the tune.

Thomas Burke

  • Midi File (Single Line Melody)
    Lesley Nelson-Burns

  • Carolan composed tunes for two Burke families. Ulick Burke's (Baronet of Glinsk)family was from County Galway. Family members for whom Carolan wrote tunes were Sir Ulick Burke, Sir Festus Burke, Lady Laetitia Burke and the Honourable Thomas Burke.

  • Thomas (and Isabella and Planxty Burke) were written for a different family. According to O'Sullivan the Burkes were a "respected family" living near Castlebar. Thomas Bourk, Esq. is listed in the Members of King James' Parliament of 1689 as the representative of the Borough of Castlebar.

  • The first sixteen bars were set to words by Edward Walsh for his wife Bridget Sullivan. They appear in Moffat's Minstrelsy of Ireland (page 86):

      I am a wandering minstrel man,
      And Love my only theme;
      I've strayed beside the pleasant Bann,
      And eke the Shannon stream;
      I've piped and played to wife and maid
      By Barrow, Suir and Nore,
      But never met a maiden yet
      Like Bridden ban mo store.

Isabella Burke

  • Midi File (Single Line Melody)
    Lesley Nelson-Burns

  • Isabella was possible the daughter of the above Thomas Burke as the name Isabella does not occur in the records for the other Burke family for whom Carolan wrote.

Mabel Kelly

  • Midi File (Single Line Melody)
    Lesley Nelson-Burns
  • Music in GIF Format

  • Carolan composed the tune on a visit to Castle Kelly. According to one source Mabel Kelly was one of the three daughters of "Kelly of Cargins". Donal O'Sullivan finds no genealogical evidence to support this and feels the subject was the daughter of Laughlin Kelly of Lismoyle County Roscommon. She died a spinster on December 22, 1745. There is a translation of Carolan's Gaelic lyrics in George Sigerson's Bards of the Gael and Gall which was published in 1907.

Miss Fetherston (Carolan's Devotion)

  • Midi File (Single Line Melody)
  • Midi File (Full Arrangement)
    From Ancient and Modern Songs of Ireland for Piano
    See bibliography for full information.
    Lesley Nelson-Burns

  • Charles O'Connor related the circumstances of the meeting between Miss Fetherston and Carolan. It probably took place some time in either 1720 or 1721 (though Bunting claims earlier, O'Sullivan believes these dates are correct). Miss Fetherston was probably the sister of Thomas Fetherston of Ardagh, County Longford.

  • On his way to attend Mass at Granard, Carolan met Miss Fetherston of County Longford. Not knowing Irish, she introduced herself in English to Carolan who replied he had heard to be a "young lady of great beauty and much wit." She complimented his music and invited him to her home, and evidently bid him say a prayer for her at Mass. Instead of completing his devotions and saying the prayer, he composed the tune and words. He composed the words in English as an "act of gallantry".

  • Although there are two separate copies of the words (one in the British Museum), O'Sullivan is certain these are the correct words although they do not fit the tune very well.

      On a fair Sunday morning devoted to be
      Attentive to a sermon that was ordered for me,
      I met a fresh rose on the road by decree,
      And though Mass was my notion, my devotion was she.
        Welcome, fair lily, white and red,
        Welcome was every word we said;
      Welcome bright angel of noble degree,
      I wish you would love, and that I were with thee.
      I pray don't frown at me with mouth or with eye-
      So I told the fair maiden, with heart full of glee,
      Though Mass was my notion, my devotion was she.

Sir Charles Coote

  • Midi File (Single Line Melody)
    Lesley Nelson-Burns
  • Midi File (Full Arrangement)
    Lesley Nelson-Burns
    From Ancient and Modern Songs of Ireland for Piano
    See bibliography for full information.

  • The 1st Baronet, Sir Charles Coote, (circa 1621) served in the wars against O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone and was at the siege of Kinsale in 1601. His seat was at Castle Cuffe and he was M.P. for Queen's County from 1639 to 1642. He was, according to O'Sullivan, among the worst of the "murderous mauraders" of the period and among the first to use the term "nits will become lice" in excusing the murder of children (in Wicklow).

    In Carolan's time the family owned Coote Hall, though it was later bought by Maruice O'Connor. Both the 4th and 5th Baronet were Charles and either could have been the subject of the tune. The 4th Baronet was born c. 1635 and died in 1709. In 1675 he married to the daughter of the Earl of Carnarvon. His son was born c. 1680 and died September 14, 1715.

Tobias Peyton

  • Midi File (Single Line Melody)
    Lesley Nelson-Burns
  • Midi File
    Lesley Nelson-Burns
    From Ancient and Modern Songs of Ireland for Piano
    See bibliography for full information.

  • Tobias (Toby) Peyton lived in County Leitrim, at Laheen House. H married Miss Yeadon, daughter of John Yeadon of County Roscommon. His daughter married Captain Lewis Jones and his son was High Sheriff of Leatrim in 1751. He died in August 1768 and is buried in Fenagh Churchyard, according to Arthur O'Neill at the age of 104 (though this is disputed).

    Apparently Squire Peyton met Carolan on the road and remarked that he rode "crooked". Carolan, sensitive about his appearance replied that he would "pay him for that with a crooked tune." Although the current version of the tune does not appear crooked, it has evidently been altered slightly from Bunting's version.

    Carolan visited Squire Peyton at other times. Passing through Laheen one day Carolan stopped at Peyton's for a drink. He was given a large mug of ale that had gone tart. Carolan was evidently so thirsty he did not notice after the first mug. After the second, however, Carolan remarked, "This is ale indeed ye keep, Peyton!" Not aware of the nature of the remark Peyton responded that his father and grandfather both had kept good ale in their cellars." Carolan replied that he didn't doubt it, because the ale he was drinking had to be some of it!

Mrs. Crofton

  • Midi File (Single Line Melody)
    Lesley Nelson-Burns
  • Midi File (Full Arrangement)
    Lesley Nelson-Burns
    From Ancient and Modern Songs of Ireland for Piano
    See bibliography for full information.

  • The Mrs. Crofton referred to is Elizabeth Robinson Crofton, who married James Crofton. This tune was composed around the time of their marriage, circa 1732.

    James was the third son of Edward Crofton, a Justice of the Peace in Sligo. He fell in love with Elizabeth, the daughter of Captain Edward Robinson. She, however, was Protestant, and his father opposed the match. When James decided to become a Protestant in order to marry her, his father threatened to disinherit him. James replied that he would turn informer and claim a forfeiture of the family estate. His father would not give into the threat. James was "conformed February 20, 1731/2 and filed a Bill in Chancery against his father. James, thereby obtained the family estate. James' two elder brothers left for France. One became an Archbishop and the other Governor of La Hogue.

    James Crofton died in 1755.

Hugh Kelly

  • Midi File
    Lesley Nelson-Burns
    From Songs of Ireland
    The Royal Edition
    J. L. Hatton and J. L. Molloy
    Boosey & Co., London and New York, circa 1879
    (Fourth Edition)

  • This tune was composed for Hugh Kelly of Ballyforan. There are so many Kelly's in Ireland as to make it difficult to determine exactly which Kelly it was composed for. O'Sullivan believes this Hugh Kelly was the son of Hugh Kelly of Ballyforan (1656-1689).

  • Minstrelsy of Ireland suggests this tune was used by Shield in his opera Robin Hood (1784). But only the first four bars are similar to this air.

  • Thomas Moore (1779-1852) set the tune to the lyrics Fly Not Yet which are as follows:

      Fly not yet; 'its just the hour
      When pleasure, like the midnight flow'r
      That scorns the eye of vulgar light,
      Beings to bloom for sons of night
      And maids who love the moon...
      'Twas but to bless these hours of shade
      That beauty and the moon was made:
      'Tis then their soft attractions glowing,
      Set the tides and goblets flowing
      Oh! stay! Joy so seldom weaves a chain
      Like this tonight, that oh! 'tis pain
      To break its links so soon...
      Oh stay! Oh, stay! Joy so seldom weaves a chain,
      Like this tonight, that oh! 'tis pain
      To break its links so soon.

      Fly not yet; the fount that play'd
      In times of old thro' Ammon's shade,
      Tho' icy cold by day it ran,
      Yet still, like souls of mirth, began
      to burn when night was near...
      And thus should woman's hearts and looks
      At noon be cold as winter brooks,
      Nor kindle till the night, returning,
      Brings their genial hour for burning.
      Oh! stay! Oh, stay!When did morning ever break,
      And find such beaming eyes awake
      As those that sparkle here?...
      Oh, stay! Oh, stay! When did morning ever break,
      And find such beaming eyes awake
      As those that sparkle here?

James Betagh

  • Midi File (Single Track Melody)
    George Speller
  • Midi File (Full Arrangement)
    George Speller

  • James Betagh of Drimhill was from an Irish family that was forced from Leinster to Connacht under Cromwell. The subject of the tune was married to Fanny Dillon (subject to another tune). According to O'Sullivan he succeeded to Mannin (in the barony of Costello just north-west of Ballyhaunis) upon the death of her brother, April 22, 1731.

The Honourable Thomas Burke

  • Midi File (Single Track Melody)
    George Speller
  • Midi File (Full Arrangement)
    George Speller

  • The Honourable Thomas Burke was the son of the 9th Earl of Clanricard. They lived in Portumna Castle on the shore of Lough Derg in County Galway. His father was taken prisoner at the battle of Aghrim. He was transported to England where he was outlawed and attained. His estates were forfeited. However, his children claimed several remainders before they sold the forfeitures and were able to keep some property. He became a protestant in 1699 and Queen Anne, by act of Parliament, declared Richard, Earl of Clanricarde acquited of treason and restored him and his children to their estate. The 9th Earl died in 1722. He had eleven sons and six daughters. Several of the family are subject of Carolan tunes.

    The Honourable Thomas Burke died in July of 1763. Thomas evidently remained Catholic. In 1717 he gave a chalice to the parish of Killcooly and Kilriken in 1717.

John O'Reilly, Second Air (John O'Reilly the Active)*

  • Midi File (Single Track Melody)
    Lesley Nelson-Burns
  • Midi File (Full Arrangement)
    Lesley Nelson-Burns

  • This is listed in Bunting as John O'Reilly the Active. According to one source it is a tune composed by Carolan for a member of the Cavan family of O'Reilly. However, Bunting does not list it as a Carolan tune and Donal O'Sullivan feels it is more likely a folk tune.

    Thomas Moore wrote lyrics to the tune, Oh! I Think Not My Sprits are Always as Light.



The information on the tunes is from
Carolan: The Life and Times of an Irish Harper
Donal O'Sullivan
Published by Celtic Music
Louth, Lincolnshire, England
1991, (First published in 1958)



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