O' Carolan, (1670 -1738) the blind Harper and composer, often referred
to as the last of the Irish bards or minstrels, is buried in the vault
of the Mc Dermott-Roe family in Kilronan cemetery just outside Keadue.
Although he was born in Co. Meath, O'Carolan's family moved to North Roscommon
area when he was a young boy and he came under the tutelage of the Mc
Dermott -Roe family of Alderford House located two miles from Keadue.
Mc Dermott Roe educated the young O'Carolan with her own children.
He learned both English and Irish, and it was during this period that
he acquired his proficiency in the harp. Whilst in his teens, O'Carolan
contracted small pox disease and became blind.
Undeterred, when he was 21 years old, he set off on a horse and guide
thus his life as a travelling harper and composer began............
life of a bard was taken up with travelling among the aristocracy
and the big houses
and families, composing songs and tunes in honour of their hosts
and entertaining them.
O' Carolan was welcomed by many and by all accounts, he was not
found wanting when
itcame to composing melodies and entertaining his patrons. It has
been said that O'Carolan's songs are like a list of the remaining
stately homes of the 18th century, paticularly those in the western
and northern parts of the country. Uniquely, O'Carolan also came
into contact with mainstream European classical music, probably
figures such Geminiani, through his circulation in Dublin music
circles. Many of his tunes reflect the influences of both the Irish
music and the modern continental music/ Italian baroque prevalent
at that time.
One of his more famous compositions
"Carolan's Concerto" is reputed to have been composed
when O'Carolan was staying in the same house as an Italian composer.
( maybe even Geminiani ) O'Carolan, in reply to the piece of music
played and improvised by the Italian, not only performed a similiar
piece himself but also then composed and played an entirely new
piece of music, which we now know as Carolan's Concerto. O'Carolan's
popularity and fame was considerable in his lifetime. Fortunately,
over two hundred of his compositions have survived, which is unusual
given that only a small number of harper tunes composed
before O'Carolan have survived.
the 1960's there has been a resurgence of interest in the music
of O'Carolan, one of the more well known exponents being the traditional
Irish music group, the Chieftans. Here in Keadue in 1978, the first
O'Carolan Harp and Traditional Music Festival was held to commemorate
the works of O'Carolan and the harp and the tradirional music of
the 1990's a harp school was established and to day there is a new
generation of harpers in Keadue who continue to enjoy and play O'Carolan's
The International appeal of O'Carolan and his music soon became
apparent from the
significant numbers of overseas visitors who attended the Harp Festival
and the number the enquiries received throughout the year.
Further evidence of his influence
and impact in
modern times is that during four and half years as a hostage in
Beirut, Brian Keenan was inspired
by the presence of Turlough O'Carolan.
imagined he had visitors in his desperate isolation, but the one imaginary
visitor whom he felt he would not let go was Turlough O'Carolan. To
repay the debt, in 2000, some years after his release, he wrote a
novel called "Turlough". Here in Keadue, we too feel indebted
and grateful to O'Carolan for the inspirational person he was as a
blind harper and composer and for his wonderful legacy of music and