Turlough O'Carolan (1670–1738) was a blind 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 Donnchadh Ó
Hámsaigh, showed up at the Belfast Harp Festival, but
there is no proof of any of these being composers. Ó
Hámsaigh did play some of Carolan's music but disliked
it for being too modern. Some of O'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".
Eoghan Ruadh Ó Néill (1590–1649) was a
seventeenth-century soldier and one of the most famous
of the O'Neill dynasty of Ulster in Ireland. On one
morning, the 15th June, 1646, "the whole army having
confessed, and the red-haired General, with the other
officers, having received the Holy Communion, made a
profession of faith, and the chaplain , after a brief
exhortation, gave them his blessing," And the great
General Owen Roe O'Neil then addressed his troops
before going to the battle of Benburb"
The Irishmen had the advantage of position, and won a
great victory. General Monroe fled without hat or cloak
leaving more than 3,000 of his men dead on the field,
and arms, stores, colours **, and provisions fell into
O'Neill's hands. No other Irish victory had ever
resulted in so complete an annihilation. The news of
the victory of Benburb caused great national rejoicing.
The Papal Nuncio, John Baptist Cardinal Rinuccini who
was then at Limerick, celebrated a solemn Te Deum in
Thanksgiving. Owen Roe O'Neill sent to Pope Innocent X
the banners captured at Benburb.
On the day of Owen Roe's death, Ireland lost the last
and the greatest of her warriors. He died in
Cloughoughter, in Cavan. Under cover of night he was
buried in the Franciscan Abbey in Cavan town.
Conspiracy theorists at the time said that he was
poisoned by a toxic substance put into his boots before
going to a ball.
The country was cast into deep mourning. Now that
Charles I of England was dead the threat of Cromwell
and his Roundheads hung over the country and Owen Roe
was their sole protector against him. As a poet
succinctly put it: "Like sheep without a shepherd -
When the snow falls from the sky - Why did you leave us
Owen - Why did you have to die?"
"At the critical moment when O'Neill's services would
have been invaluable against Cromwell he took suddenly
ill and fell dead. The story that he was poisoned may
be dismissed, for there is no evidence to sustain
Although this work was originally written for Folk
Instruments, I created this arrangement for Concert