Turlough Carolan (Irish name Toirdhealbhach Ó Cearbhalláin, 1670 - March 25, 1738) was a blind, itinerant early Irish harper, composer and singer whose great fame is due to his gift for melodic composition. He was the last great Irish harper-composer and is considered by many to be Ireland's national composer. Harpers in the old Irish tradition were still living as late as 1792, as ten, including Arthur O'Neill, Patrick Quin and Denis O'Hampsey, showed up at the Belfast Harp Festival, but there is no proof of any of these being composers. Some of Carolan's own compositions show influence from the style of continental classical music, whereas others such as Carolan's Farewell to Music reflect a much older style of 'Gaelic Harping'. Carolan was born near Nobber, County Meath, and moved with his family, probably when he was a teenager, to Ballyfarnan, County Roscommon, where his father took a job with the MacDermott Roe family. Mrs. MacDermott Roe gave him an education, and he showed talent in poetry. After being blinded by smallpox, perhaps at the age of eighteen, Carolan was taught the harp for three years. Then, being given a horse and a guide, he set out to travel Ireland and compose songs for patrons. For almost fifty years, Carolan journeyed from one end of the country to the other, composing and performing his tunes.
Carolan is buried in the village of Keadue, County Roscommon, where the annual O'Carolan Harp Festival and Summer School commemorates his life and work.
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