Cupán Uí Eaghra

I was hoping to make a video demonstration of the Carolan song air Cupán Uí Eaghra (O’Hara’s Cup), but in the end I don’t feel that I understand it enough, based on the transcription manuscript. It is an interesting and slightly unexpected aspect of this Old Irish Harp Transcriptions Project that there are tunes which are clearly notated live from the playing of a harper informant, but which it is very hard to convincingly reconstruct the harp performance behind the transcription.

The harp version of Cupán Uí Eaghra (DOSC 131) is written as a live transcription in QUB MS4.29 page 82/78/087/f38v, with a neat copy of the second half of the tune on the facing page 83/79/088/f39r. Bunting’s title here is “Campany ara”; he adds “or O Haras” on the neat copy.

Bunting made a piano arrangement in 1798, based on this live transcription. His piano arrangement is in QUB MS4.33.3 page 34-35, where it is tune no.25. The title is given as “Copan iu Ara or O’Hara’s Cup by Carolan”, and at the bottom of p.34 he has written “From Hugh Higgins County Mayo”. It looks like “Mayo” has been written over “Leitrim”.

This tag, in combination with the attributions of the tunes on neighbouring pages in MS4.29, means that we can be fairly certain that this live transcription was made in the summer of 1792, from the old Irish harper Hugh Higgins. For more about Higgins, see my post on Tá mé mo chodladh.

The harp bass

On page 37 of the piano manuscript, after the end of the next tune (Doctor Hart), Bunting has written “These 2 last tunes are very middling hard to set basses too”. Doctor Hart is also tagged “Hugh Higgins County Mayo” and was notated live on p.90-91 of MS4.29.

In the transcription of Cupán Uí Eaghra on p.82 Bunting has written “B” below notes in the transcription in 6 different places. These look like they might represent bass notes played by Higgins. Are these the only bass notes that Higgins played? Does this reflect Keane FitzGerald’s testimony that “Carolan’s tunes had no bass to them originally”? Does Bunting’s difficulty in harmonising these tunes with classical piano basses reflect the tunes being originally composed, and subsequently passed down in the tradition, as single melody lines?

Usually, the “B” in the transcription clearly indicates which note is to be dropped an octave and/or played with the right hand. One thing I notice in this particular transcription is that this is not always clear, as if Bunting himself was not sure. I am thinking that this transcription, made in his first year of collecting, is difficult precisely because he was unfamiliar with the old Irish harp style and idiom, and was not “up to speed” with notating the details of a live performance.

The song of Cupán Uí Eaghra

Bunting made a live transcription from a singer on his collecting trip to Westport in July 1802. Bunting had gone to Westport to meet up with the song collector Patrick Lynch, and Lynch seems to have taken Bunting to meet the singers whose song words he had already collected, for Bunting to notate the song airs. Lynch records in his Journal (QUB MS4.24 p.45) that he got the words of “Cupan i Ara” from Mr Bartley in Killargy, county Leitrim.

Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections, MS4.33.1 p.25.

Bunting titles the tune “Capan ni Ara or Ohara’s Cup”. In the top left corner he writes “in A.M.” which is his shorthand in this notebook for the key signature – this tune is in A major and so should have three sharps. After the tune he writes “This set sings to the words / another set in Old Book No. 25”. At the bottom of the page he writes “Mrs. Conner Mrs Conner” but I don’t know if that is connected to this notation.

Did this tune also come from Mr Bartley? That seems unlikely, since Killargy is about two thirds of the way from Belfast to Westport, and yet the implication from Lynch’s journal p.19 is that Bunting was only collecting tunes from the singers in and around Westport (Lewisborough is mentioned). So perhaps it was one of the Westport singers that gave Bunting this version of the tune. Pages 22-31 of Bunting’s Westport 1802 notebook (QUB MS4.33.1) contains tunes numbered 1 through to 15, and our tune on p.25, is no.8. Page 22 is headed “Redmond Staunton the blind man” and p.24 is headed “Redmond Staunton” – is he the source of this song air? More work is needed to untangle all this.

The note about another version must refer to the 1798 piano arrangement of the Higgins harp set, which is no.25 in QUB MS4.33.3, and confirms that Bunting considered the two (DOSC 130 and DOSC 131) to be versions of the same tune.

Song words

A neat copy of the words written by Lynch in one of his presentation manuscripts is in QUB MS4.7 p.023, no.7. The words are titled “Cupan i ára” and are as follows:

Da mbein Shiar a ndarainn
no a ccáirlinn na séad
mur ngluaision gach sár long
le clárit sle méid

bfeair liom gan amhras
mar shasadh dhom pfein
cupan i ara
bhei lamh le mo bheail

Nuair bhion-sa lán ann
don tsar lionn is treain
chuireadh beadhas an mo gháire
agus rasa ann mheair

Gud e fath dhomh chup a cceill
is a liacht agh maith na dheigh
ar gach ollamh fa na háite
dar mo laimhse ni breag

a tharlaigh & bhriain agh mhur
tar an tra so fa mo dhein
go nolum as an tsar chupa
slainte bhreagh chiain

It seems to me that two of these quatrains written by Lynch would fit onto the tune noted by Bunting in ms4.33.1 – so we have two and a half verses here. Lynches 1, 2, 4, 5 match Hardiman’s two verses and also ÓMáille’s two verses; I wonder if Lynch’s quatrain 3 matches half of one of Thady Connellan’s verses in Duanaire (Fonna seanma) (1829) – I haven’t yet seen this book (the RIA have the only copy I know of).

Other versions

Donal O’Sullivan (Carolan volume 2 p.80) gives a number of other versions of the tune from traditional musicians in the 19th century in the Forde manuscripts. Joyce (Old Irish folk music and songs, 1909 p.342) prints a version collected by Forde, which has been synthesised from version supplied by John Windele “the distinguished cork archaeologist (died 1865)” and P. Carey, “a piper of Co. Cork”. This is the version that Donal O’Sullivan printed as DOSC 130, with his invented title “Kean O’Hara First Air”.

It would be nice to see the other Forde versions especially the one collected from Hugh Beirne.

Two tunes, or two versions of one tune?

Donal O’Sullivan lists Higgins’s harp version, and the various song versions under separate numbers in his book, as DOSC 130 (the sung version) and DOSC 131 (the harp version). He assumed they were different tunes with the same title, and at first glance they do seem very different. However it is clear that Edward Bunting considered them as versions of the same tune, from his comment in QUB MS4.33.1 “This set (DOSC 130) sings to the words / another set (DOSC 131) in Old Book No. 25”. Bunting did not publish either of the two variants.

This tune could be an interesting case study for how harp instrumental style can shift a tune a long way away from its song air version. It would be an interesting study to line up all the different versions and make formal comparisons of where they track each other and where (and how) they diverge.

Mable Kelly by Carolan

I made a demonstration video of Mable Kelly by Carolan, played on my copy of Carolan’s harp. My performance is based on Edward Bunting’s edited field transcription, apparently taken from the playing of the old Irish harper Hugh Higgins, perhaps in 1792.

Bunting’s notation of the tune was written into one of his little pocket collecting pamphlets, now bound up in Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections, MS4.29 (see my index and text transcript). Mable Kelly is on QUB SC MS4.29 page 78/74/083/f36v.

Attribution to Hugh Higgins

The next page of QUB SC MS4.29 page 79 contains a tune list headed “From Hugh Higgins”, and then the next 11 pages contain 5 tunes also tagged as being collected from Hugh Higgins.

In Edward Bunting’s 1798 manuscript piano arrangement (QUB SC MS4.33.3 p29-30), he tags the tune “Hugh Higgins County Mayo”.

In Bunting’s annotated copy of the 1809 printed book (British Library, London, Add.41508 p.48), he has written “Harp Linden”, implying that he collected the tune from Patrick Linden. However, these tags in the annotated prints were written in the early 1840s, almost 50 years after the old harpers played for him, and I don’t know how reliable these tags are. While Linden may well have played this tune, and Bunting may have transcribed it from Linden’s playing, I think the transcription in MS4.29 p.78 looks from its context to be more likely from Higgins.

For more on Higgins’s life and music, see my write-up of Tá mé mo chodhladh.

Mode and tuning

Bunting writes an interesting commentary in the annotated 1809 print:

This tune presents the anomaly of being in D♮ minor while the harp was tuned in high bass key (or key of C♮) The 4th tone from C. (F) being left out all through. This method of Tuning and arrangement of key viz: D minor happening very often

Bunting sets the 1809 piano arrangement in D minor with one flat in the key signature; he puts a natural accidental on every single B in the tune. Also he puts in quite a few F passing notes.

We can understand the tune as being not in D minor, but in D neutral pentatonic mode. D neutral is related to C major, and uses the notes D, E, G, A, C. This tune does include passing Bs and also there is a passing high F in the MS4.29 transcription, at bar 23, as well as the problematic low F in bar 25.

Understanding the layers of notation

I think MS4.29 page 78 highlights some of the serious problems of understand Edward Bunting’s notations of the old Irish harp music. It seems clear from studying the manuscript page, that this notation originated as the dots transcribed live from the playing of an old harper.

We can compare it to, for example, Brighid Óg on QUB SC MS4.29 p.64/60/069/f29v which presents the process nicely on two facing pages, starting with the live dots transcription, and then proceeding to the addition of note stems and beaming to indicate rhythmical groupings lower on the page, and finally on the facing page 65 a complete edited and “improved” version of the tune. As I discussed on my blog post about Brighid Óg, I think that the facing-page copy has been edited by Bunting as the first step of him progressing away from the live transcription of the traditional performance, towards his polished classical piano arrangement(s).

For Mable Kelly, I think that all three of these stages are superimposed one on top of each other.

it is very difficult to analyse the page to see which marks represent Bunting’s live response to the playing of the tradition-bearer; which markings represent his considered clarification of what he had heard, and which markings represent his classical piano ideas for improvement.

Problem areas

The biggest problem area for me, is bar 25 (first bar of the 4th system on page 78, numbered bar 1 of section 4 by Bunting). The rhythm of the tune doubles in time, and there is a very intrusive F. In my demonstration video I have silently omitted this F – the only change I have made to what is written. I am not entirely convinced by the double-time passage; does it represent Bunting’s flawed attempt to capture some kind of florid melismatic harp flourish? Bunting himself seems not to understand or believe what he has written – when he publishes the tune in 1809, he ignores his own bars 25-6 and just copies the passage given by Neal.

We also have the four-note rising fragment on page 79, with a .$. mark indicating it should be inserted in between bars 23 and 24 (labelled by Bunting bars 7 and 8 of section 3). The paler ink looks similar to the F-A-B-C rising motif in bar 25 – are they both later inventions? Yet bar 25 is not crushed in – why did Bunting leave so much space if this is not what was played? Or did he write the initial live transcription dots scattered all over the page like in Brighid Óg, leaving him plenty of space to insert newly composed bridging material?

Because the layers – live transcription dots, rhythmic explanation, and creative compositional development – all overlay each other, we have to be very careful here.

I don’t really believe that Bunting “gets” the traditional style; I think he is always working towards developed piano arrangements, and so I am very suspicious and basically I don’t believe any of his arrangement choices.

But I am playing this demonstration video for you anyway, even though I think it is corrupt, because I also think that this notation does give us some very interesting and beautiful old Irish harp style and idiom.

Important and interesting features

The reason I think this is a harp performance transcription rather than a song version is not just the D neutral pentatonic mode which fits the harp modes, but also that there are bass notes marked in. “B” has been written below bars 6, 26 and 29, indicating most likely that those notes are played an octave lower, with the right (bass) hand. In each case the bass note is C (in bar 29 the sequence E-D-C), which is interesting since the tune seems to be in D neutral. The notes of a D neutral scale are D-E-G-A-C-D and so there is a clear relationship with a C major pentatonic scale, which can give rise to a “double tonic” effect as the tune switches between a home sonority of D and an away sonority of C.

Bunting does not write any time signatures on p.78, but the tune is clearly in 3 time. However there are a significant number of bars which have four beats in them – bars 6, 16, 26, 28, 29. (bar 16 has 3 beats but is followed by a pickup onto bar 17). I notice at once that all of the bars with the B bass-note markings have four beats. We could also wonder if bar 16 might have had one of the repeated Ds as a bass note (though I don’t play a bass note here in my demonstration). We might also have to count bar 23 as having 4 beats if we insert the little .$. fragment there.

I am thinking that these extra beats in some bars might represent the way that traditional musicians will hold certain notes, stretching the time or rhythm of the tune. Mary Harvessy does exactly this in her singing of Seabhac na hÉirne.

Perhaps related to this is the way that three-note pickups are sometimes written with two semiquavers and a quaver (e.g. at the end of bar 1), and sometimes written as a triplet (e.g. the pickup before bar 1). Other places have three quavers without a triplet mark. I wonder if these also represent different ways of bending and flexing the rhythm of the tune in an old traditional harp style.

Other versions

Bunting made different piano arrangements of Mable Kelly, though only one was published.

Bunting made a piano arrangement in his unpublished 1798 piano manuscript, QUB SC MS4.33.3 p29-30, titled “Maible og ni Ceallaigh or Mable Kelly by Carolan”. He marks a repeat sign for both the first half of the tune and the second half of the tune. Bunting also makes a more florid piano arrangement for his 1809 published book (page 48), titled “Mabla sheimh ini Cheallaidh – Mild Mable O’Kelly”

There is an earlier published setting of this tune, in John and William Neal’s “Colection” printed in 1724, p.14. It is titled “Mable Kelly” and is not attributed. The Neal version curls a bit differently from the Higgins version noted by Bunting. I think that Neal’s versions of tunes are arranged for baroque violin. Bunting had a copy of the Neal book – the only known surviving copy of Neal 1724 is in Bunting’s papers at Queen’s (QUB SC MS4.31). Bunting also had access to another, damaged copy, from which he copied tunes into his collecting pamphlets, on the pages immediately preceeding where he wrote Mable Kelly. (QUB SC MS4.29 pages 67-77)

There is another early copy of the tune in Pádraig Ó Néill’s manuscripts, written in the 1790s. “C Mable Kelly” is set in G neutral. Ó Néill was a piper and so I suppose it’s possible that this is a piper’s version of the tune. it goes too high for fiddle. I think the “C” is Ó Néill’s shorthand for attributing the tune to Carolan.

Mable Kelly is no.73 in Donal O’Sullivan’s Carolan. He says (vol 2 p. 44) “…we have no less than seven airs for persons named Kelly. It has been a matter of some difficulty to sort them out…” I am not convinced that all his claimed associations are correct; we also have to accept the possibility of confusion in the 18th century tradition. O’Sullivan lists a number of versions of Mable Kelly (DOSC 73), starting with Neal (which is the basis for his own edited version of the tune), Mulholland (copied from Neal’s version), and Bunting. He also references versions in the Pigot & Forde mss. I have not seen these.

O’Sullivan also mentions (Carolan vol 2 p.47) two different traditions of the song’s composition. Hardiman (vol 1 p. liii) says that the tune was composed for Mable Kelly at Castle Kelly, Co. Galway, though this is a bit of a throwaway line in a convoluted story. Tomás Ó Máille (Amhráin Chearbhalláin p.271) reports a tradition that it was composed for “one of three handsome daughters of Kelly of Cargins”. Bunting writes in the annotated 1797 print (p.11) that one of the other Kelly tunes, Planxty Kelly (DOSC 71) was “composed for the Kelly’s of Cargins in the county Roscommon”, and his transcription on QUB SC MS4.29 p10 calls it “Miss Kelly”. Perhaps Bunting, or one of his informants, was confused, or perhaps Carolan composed a different song and air for each of the three handsome daughters.

Beneath the notation of Mable Kelly (DOSC 73) on page 48 of the annotated 1809 print, Bunting writes:

This tune was much esteemed by the harpers, it is very wild and from its construction so different from others of Carolans, that we must attribute it to some of the harpers prior to his time, OCaghan, Scott or one of the Connallons

However, I think we can accept this as a Carolan tune because of the tag in the manuscript transcription (presumably from the harper Higgins) and because of Ó Néill’s “C”. And also, because there is a song to Mable Kelly composed by Carolan. There is a version of the song text in Hardiman 1831 vol. 1 p. 60 which begins “Cia b’é bh-fuil sé a n-dán do, a lámh-dheas bheith faoí na ceann”. The song addresses itself to “Máible shéimh n-í Cheallaigh” which matches Bunting’s 1809 printed title “Mabla sheimh ini Cheallaidh – Mild Mable O’Kelly”. Tomás Ó Máille (Amhráin Chearbhalláin p.109) prints it as the very first song in his book, and says in the notes on p.271 that it “is considered the best of Carolan’s poems”.

However, it seems to me that our manuscript transcription from Higgins is a harp instrumental version, and not a song air version of the tune. It is possible that one of the Pigot ms version may be a sung version of this tune. We should check these out.

Brighid Óg

I made a demonstration video of Brighid Óg, based on Edward Bunting’s live transcription from a tradition-bearer in the 1790s:

The transcription is at QUB SC MS4.29 p.64/60/069/f29v. This page from one of Bunting’s little pocket collecting pamphlets, is headed “Breed doag”. On the facing page p.65/61/070/f30r Bunting has made a neat edited copy of the tune, headed “Young Bridget or Breed Doag / Struan a roon”. The neat copy has a number of differences from the transcription, and raises the important question of whether the neat copy is derived from the transcription, or whether the neat copy comes from an earlier book and the transcription is done for comparison purposes. At two points in the neat copy Bunting writes “mine” above the staff and “his” below, with two different notes indicated simultaneously – I presume “his” refers to what the harper plays, and “mine” indicates what Bunting has, either in an earlier exemplar, or in his own new piano arrangement.

The transcription shows the tune written at pitch. It seems to be in A neutral, though I am starting to wonder if it might be artificial to distinguish between the three related modes of G major, E minor and A neutral. There is no F in the tune; there is an intrusive C at a few points (the notes of these pentatonic modes are G A B D E). Bunting has written a few + or tr marks.

The first half of the tune is shown only as dots; in the second half of the tune Bunting introduces stems and a few beams, until the final line is shown with full note values (though still without barlines). At a superficial level we could just use the neat copy to give us the rythym and structure of the tune, but there are two problems with this. The neat copy turns in a different way from the transcription; and the time signature and therefore the barring and phrasing of the neat copy does not seem to match the words. I think this means that the neat copy may be irretrievably corrupt and unusable. Unfortunately, this is the only witness to this tune; we have no other version; and so I think we are stuck.

For this demonstration video, I am working from the dots transcription, and I am using both the words of the song, and the neat copy, as guides to my phrasing and strong notes. I don’t make any claim that this is correct; really, I think that this is a job for a singer, to try and find a way to fit the transcription notation on p.64 to the words.

Song words

Bunting writes “struan a roon” above the neat copy, and when he comes to make a piano arrangement in his 1797 “Ancient and Modern” manuscript (QUB SC MS4.33.2 p.9) he gives us more information, writing “Britheit Og – or Young Bridget – by Carolan / I have the words” above the piano score, and “From Donald Black / struan a roon gan ma agus too / cugea moon a nenagh” at the bottom of the page. Donal O’Sullivan (DOSC v5 p7) points out that this is a phonetic approximation of the first line of a verse from Carolan’s song addressed to Bridget Cruise, which begins A Bhrighid bheusach, is duit an béarsa agus creid an méid úd a dhearbhaim (Tomás Ó Máille, Amhráin Chearbhalláin, 1916, p.181-3). The only difference is that Black’s verse begins “Is truagh…” where Ó Máille’s (v3, top of p.181) begins “‘Se mo chreach” (it’s a pity, it’s a shame)

‘Se mo chreach, a ruain, gan mé agus tú, i gCóige Mumhan i n-éinfheach,
No thios sa Triúcha ar choillte dlúth, agus gan fios ar rúin a bheith aig aoinfhear.
A mhian na sugh ar maidin drúct’, cna agus ubhlaí na dhéidh sin,
As gan de leabaidh fúinn acht féar a’s drúcht agus duilliúr cúmhra mar éadaigh.

I have not found another version of this tune. Donal O’Sullivan (Carolan v2 p. 20-22) prints four different tunes which he gives the invented titles “Bridget Cruise First Air / Second Air / Third Air / Fourth Air” (nos. 26-29). Ours (no.26) is “Bridget Cruise First Air”. I find these invented titles pretty unhelpful; Donal O’Sullivan’s “Fourth Air” is really called “Brighit óg na gciabh” (young Bridget of the curls) and is most likely a song by Séamas Dall Mac Cuarta. O’Sullivan seems to have taken any and every song or tune addressed to anyone called “Bridget” and has mashed them all together and claimed they may be by Carolan. He also changes his mind between his Bunting of 1936 (v5 p.4) and his Carolan of 1958 (v2 p.20) but because he doesn’t explain his rationale for either attributions, nor for matching words to tunes, it is hard to take his pronouncements seriously.

You can check my Carolan Tune Collation spreadsheet to see the different sources and variants of these different tunes.

I think it is possible that we might find a previously un-noticed variant of this tune which matches Black’s transcription dots, and has a title perhaps related to “struan a roon”, but I haven’t looked very hard yet.

Toby Peyton

I made a demonstration video of Planxty Toby Peyton, from Edward Bunting’s live field transcription of the playing of an old Irish harper in the 1790s.

Donal O’Sullivan lists a load of different versions of the tune of Toby Peyton, in his 1958 Carolan – the life times and music of an Irish harper. The tune is no. 148 in his book.

I was wanting to work from the live transcription written down by Edward Bunting in (most likely) 1792. It is in Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections, MS4.29 page 26/26/35/f12v. The dots and bars here look competent and clean, but as usual for this “difficult” section of the manuscript, we have pitch or transposition problems. It seems to me that the first half is notated a 4th too low, but the second half is notated at pitch. I don’t understand why Bunting was doing this!

Bunting wrote a neat edited copy of the transcription on the facing page, p.27/27/36/f13r. There are interesting changes made by Bunting in his facing-page neat copy, which round off a few of the odd features of the tune.

The tune is in A neutral mode. This is related to G major mode, but Toby Peyton is obviously not in G major; apart from the way it finishes on A, there are other A passages in it, which point to the kind of “double tonic” effect that we expect from neutral-mode tunes. An A neutral pentatonic mode tune skips C and F, and Toby Peyton has them as occasional notes. They are placed oddly, which perhaps explains the “crooked” nature of the tune. Other things that make this tune “crooked” are the uneven line lengths and bar counts.

We can look at my Old Irish Harp Transcription Project tune list spreadsheet to see how Toby Peyton on p.26 sits in a group of transcriptions which may have come from Hugh Higgins in 1792. The only one I would be sure about is Tá Mé Mo Chodladh on p.28 which is tagged Higgins 92 in the manuscript. An Róise Bheag Mhodhamhar on p.23 is tagged Higgins in Bunting’s annotated copy of his 1797 piano book, though this is a synthetic arrangement combining features of two independent transcriptions, the other one on p.103 may be from Black in 1796.

In his printed piano book The Ancient Music of Ireland (1840), Bunting prints a piano arrangement of Toby Peyton, and in the index he says that he collected the tune from Higgins in ’92.

I don’t understand why Bunting has written “Jolly Begarman / Lame” at the top of the transcription page. Is this a reference to the theme or words of this tune? Or is it a reference to a completely different, unrelated tune?

Bunting titled the neat copy “Plangsty Peyton (or Toby)” and at the foot of the page he has written “Carolan rode Crooked”. This must refer to an anecdote which he published in the 1840 book (introduction p.99) about how Toby met Carolan on the road. Carolan was riding his horse and Toby said to him that he was riding “crooked”. Carolan responded by composing a “crooked” tune for Toby.

Harper and tradition-bearer, Arthur O’Neil, says he knew Toby Peyton. “I went to Toby Peyton’s <in Co. Leitrim> for whom Carolan composed “Plansty Peyton”… He lived to the age of 104 years, and at the time he was 100… This Gentleman’s age accounts for my observation of Carolan’s time being before mine, and my visiting him.” (Arthur O Neill, Memoirs, Queen’s University Belfast MS4.14.1 p.65). Donal O’Sullivan says (Carolan v2 p.93) that Toby Peyton died in August 1768, so we can tentatively give his dates as c.1664-1768, and place Arthur O’Neil’s visit to c.1764.

Song lyrics

There are two different song texts connected to Toby Peyton, but neither of them seems to go with our tune.

There is a song for Toby Peyton in Tomás Ó Máille, Amhráin Chearbhalláin (1916) p.134, edited from two different manuscript originals:

Plé-ráca Phadhton

Láimh leis an gCéis ta’n siollaire sásta,
Tobóid óg Padhton isé tá mé rádh
Is uasal ‘s is saoitheamhuil is grúagach ‘s is gnaoidheamhuil,
Ní léighfeadh sé a mhasladh choidhche air cáirde.

Go mnu búanach é & saoghlach ina shláinte,
Ó fuair se buaidh air a námhuid
Dá sgiúradh dá ngredadh dá mbúalad a’s dá lasgadh
Más cloidheamh bata nó lamha.

Bromaígh dhá gcioradh do ló & do oidhche
& bhainfeadh as buic dhíomasach’ léimneach
Na céadta fíona dá n-óladh na saoithe
Sé Tobóid óg Padhton do dhíolfadh.

A similar version of these words are in Hardiman, Irish Minstrelsy vol. 1 p. 42, with a facing page verse translation. Hardiman and one of the manuscripts attributes the verses to Carolan, but the other manuscript says “not by Carolan, but by Terence Kelleher, who being naked was clothed by T. Peiton” (Ó Máille p.291)

Donal O’Sullivan (Bunting 1983 p.186) (MOSB 127) says “these laudatory verses are presumably intended for the tune, but they are extremely poor and are not worth printing or translating”. However he also says (Carolan 1958 p.92) that no “extant version of the tune gives a satisfactory correspondence with the words”. I don’t see that a poem by Carolan to Toby Peyton should necessarily go with a tune by Carolan to Toby Peyton; it seems quite possible that the poem was sung to a different tune, and that our tune (DOSC 148) was intended from the start as an instrumental piece. Perhaps we should look for another tune for the song text.

In his notes to this poem, Hardiman (v1 p. 118) says “For the air of our lively planxty, see Irish Melodies no.V, p.18, – The young May moon”. Thomas Moore’s song, The Young May Moon, in vol. 5 of his Melodies states “air: The Dandy O”. The tune was published in Thompson, Hibernian Muse, 1787, No. 38, p. 23 with the title “Irish Air in Robin Hood”. This needs more chasing! Una Hunt, Sources and Style in Moore’s Irish Melodies (Routledge 2017) p.160 would be a good start. Have we just discovered another previously unrecognised Carolan tune?

The second set of words is in Hardiman v1 p.117, as part of the notes to his poem on p.42. These words seem to be addressed to Bridget. Hardiman says that Bridget was the daughter of Toby Peyton, and his words begin “Tá inghín aérách ag Tubóid Péaton”, but the words printed by Ó Máille (p.132) start “Tá cailín aerach aig Tobóid Padhton” (i.e. “Toby Peyton has a gay girl” against Hardiman’s “Toby Peyton has a gay daughter”). Donal O’Sullivan (Carolan v2 p94) says she was a servant-maid in Toby Peyton’s household. I don’t know what air might go with these words.

Broderip & Wilkinson, the Compositions of Carolan

One of the source books used by Donal O’Sullivan for his Carolan in 1958 is the enthusiastically titled A Favourite Collection of the so much admired old Irish Tunes, the original and genuine compositions of Carolan, the celebrated Irish Bard. Set for the harpsichord, violin, and German-flute, published by John Lee in Dublin. There is no date on this book, and O’Sullivan suggests 1780.

I have never actually seen a copy of this John Lee edition used by Donal O’Sullivan; I assume it is this one at the National Library of Ireland (though the catalogue says it is lacking its title page). On my Sources page at I listed other editions or reprints of this book, of which there seem to be rather a lot. None of them are dated and no-one seems to know which was first, or who was responsible for assembling and editing the collection. My understanding is that at this time there was no copyright in Ireland, so as soon as a book was published, other publishers could rattle off their own editions.

Southampton University Library uploaded a large combined album of sheet music to three and a half years ago, but I never saw it up until now. Buried in the middle of a whole load of piano scores is the Broderip & Wilkinson edition of our book. They seem to have been active from around 1799 to 1808; The NLI catalogue suggests this edition was published c.1804.

There are “issues” with this edition. Perhaps most pressingly, Broderip and Wilkinson don’t give the tune names, only numbers. Even more irritatingly, they have changed the order of the tunes so they don’t even match the numbering scheme I have been using based on the Hime edition.

I will go into my Carolan Tunes Collation Spreadsheet and add a column for the B&W numbers, so that you can navigate your way around the facsimile.

Seabhac na hÉirne, or the Hawk of Ballyshannon

I was very pleased to discover what seems to be a traditional sung version of a Carolan song.

I first read about the singer Máire Ní Arbhasaigh (Mary Harvey or Harvessy) (1856–1947), from Clonalig, near Crossmaglen, County Armagh, in Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin’s book, A Hidden Ulster (2003), p.391-2. Pádraigín explains there how Mary had made audio recordings in 1931. I first heard one of the recordings on Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin’s web research article, Carolan in Oriel, where Pádraigín includes the audio of Mary speaking or reciting 10 lines of Carolan’s song-poem in praise of Caitríona ní Mhórdha (Catherine O’Moore). I subsequently followed Pádraigín’s references and found more information about the recording, and a number of slightly varying transcriptions of the song words, in Róise Ní Bhaoill, Ulster Gaelic voices: bailiúchán Doegen 1931 (Belfast, 2010), p.332-3, and on the Royal Irish Academy’s Doegen Records Web Project, and also on Ciarán Ó Duibhín’s web pages.

In September 1931, Karl Tempel was in Belfast making audio recordings of Irish-speakers. Tempel was working as an assistant for Dr Wilhelm Doegen (1877-1967), Director of the Lautabteilung, Preussische Staatsbibliothek (the Sound Department at the Prussian State Library), Berlin. The project was organised by the Irish state, to gather samples of spoken Irish from different regional dialects. The Belfast sessions brought speakers from counties Antrim, Derry, East Tyrone, Armagh, Cavan and Louth up to Queen’s University, where they spoke into recording machines. The wax originals were sent back to Berlin, where they were transferred on to shellac discs, which were lodged with different institutions in Ireland.

Máire Ní Arbhasaigh was the only person from County Armagh to go to Queen’s to be recorded. She made two single-sided records on 25th September 1931; each record was accompanied by a sheet of personal information. Record LA 1224 was made at 5:30pm, and record LA 1225 was made at 6pm. The indexes list the contents of each record by the first line of the poem or words spoken. It’s not clear to me how or why the tracks are separated on the discs. Were the three tracks made as a single take, and separated by Tempel? Were they separated in Berlin? Or were they done as three separate takes one after the other?

LA 1224 contains three tracks; the first two are two sung extracts from the famous song Úirchill an Chreagáin (part 2), and the third track is a spoken version of the words of another song, Aige bruach Dhún Réimhe. Both these songs were composed by Art Mac Cumhaigh (1738-1773), who Mary claimed to have been related to.

The second disk, LA 1225, contains four tracks. They are listed in the online archive as the sung version of an otherwise unknown song, Tá mé buartha, the spoken words of the Carolan song (Seabhac na hÉirne), Caitríona Ní Mhóra, an óigbhean mhaiseach, the spoken words of another song sometimes associated with Carolan, (Kitty Tyrrell) Sé mo léan go bhfacha mé (although she starts to sing this one, but switches to monotone speaking after the first line), and then the sequence of numbers from 1 to 20.

Pádraigín explains that Doegen and Tempel were “generally more interested in recording the spoken word, and did not usually encourage singers to sing, but rather to recite the song” (Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, Carolan in Oriel)

I was listening to the first track on LA 1225, the song “Tá mé buartha…” and I kept thinking I should recognise the tune. It took me a wee while to realise it is the tune of Seabhac na hÉirne, or the Hawk of Ballyshannon, Carolan’s praise song for Catherine O’Moore (DOSC 134).

The first and second track of LA 1225 are not independent song texts. They follow straight on from one another, and form a sung part and a spoken part of the same song. The original handwritten record sheets confirm this, listing disk LA 1225 as containing “(1) Tríona ní Mhórdha, an óigbhean mhaiseach; (2) Tríona ní Mhórdha (fortgesetzt); (3) ‘sé mo léan, etc.” (fortgesetzt means continued)


  1. Tá mé buartha tréanlag claoite
    I am perturbed, thoroughly weak
  2. fá rún mo chléib, Is níl mo leigheas insa tír
    and subdued by my dearest love, And nothing in the land will cure me
  3. amar bhfaighidh mé do póg Rachaidh mé faoi fhód,
    if I don’t receive your kiss, I will go to the grave;
  4. chuala mé, a stór, gur chlaon tú,
    I heard, my dear, that you refused,
  5. A Dhia gan tú agam in mo líontaí,
    Oh God, without you in my clutches,
  6. is mé a fháil bás de do ghrá (…) (sínte),
    and I am dying of your love (…) lying down (?),
  7. Dar a labhraim le mo bhéal is tabhair leigheas ar mo chéill,
    By all I say, and cure me of my disease (?),
  8. Ó, is cha déanfainn do mhalairt achoíche.
    Oh, and I would never replace you.”


  1. Ó, a Chaitríona Ní Mhórdha an óigbhean maiseach
    Oh, Catherine O’Moore, the lovely young woman,
  2. a thug barr deise ar Venus
    who surpassed Venus in beauty,
  3. ‘s í seo an cúilfhionn mhúinte bhéasach,
    she is the fair one of good grace and deportment,
  4. a gile gan smúid a fuair clú ban Éireann,
    bright without stain, famed above women of Ireland
  5. an fhaoileann óg is milse póg.
    The fair maiden whose kisses are sweetest
  6. Is gur Caitríona Ní Mhórdha a tráchtfaí,
    It is to Catherine O’Moore they would refer
  7. in ainm na mbruigh-bhan láidir,
    in the name of the strong fairy-fort women
  8. is minic a thug cíos ins an áit seo;
    who have often paid their due in this place
  9. ó, an lon dubh an t-éan atá gnaíúil daite,
    Oh the blackbird is a pretty coloured bird
  10. is é siúd atá mé a ráitigh.
    It knows that it’s to her I’m referring

Image, audio, text and translation © 2009 Royal Irish Academy, used under Creative Commons BY-NC License.

Carolan’s song

Carolan composed his song-poem on the occasion of the wedding of Catherine O’Moore, to Charles O’Donnell. The poem names her, as O’Moore’s fair daughter, and names him as son of Manus, and Hawk of Erne and of Ballyshannon.

I have been assured by an old Fin-Scealuighe that “O’More’s fair daughter” or “The Hawk of Ballyshannon” was composed for Charles O’Donnell the brother of “Nanny” … This information I find corroborated by accounts derived from the McDermott Roe family

Hardiman Irish Minstrelsy 1831 (vol I p. li)

I have been collating different texts of the song to try and understand how Mary Harvessy’s text fits in here.

Donal O’Sullivan includes Seabhac na hÉirne in his Carolan as no. 134, and he lists sources for the text. I have also tried to find other sources.

The earliest text I have found was collected from a traditional singer in County Mayo in 1802, by Patrick Lynch. You can see Lynch’s three verses in his manuscript copy book at Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections, MS4.10.115-116.

In 1829, Thady Connellan published two independent texts of the song in his Duanaire Fonna Seanma. On pages 11-12 is a long version of the song, with 9 verses. Donal O’Sullivan printed the text and his own translation of the first two of these verses in his Bunting 1983.

On page 44 of Duanaire Fonna Seanma, Connellan prints two verses of the song along with a metrical English translation written in Irish orthography.

There is a version with three stanzas printed along with a melody, in Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society, vol. VII p.21. The caption says “collected by Capt. Ricky of Mount Hall, Killygordon, Donegal.” However the text seems to be the same as Lynch’s , and Charlotte Milligan Fox who was editor had Lynch’s manuscript at that time, so it seems likely that only the melody was collected by Ricky. Fox also gives an English translation.

Tomás Ó Máille prints a version of 8 verses in Amhráin Chearbhalláin (1916), p.135-8, no.23, Seabhac bhéal átha seanaidh, assembled from different 19th century manuscripts. Two of the verses he gives seem to be variants of each other.

We can see that lines 13 to 18 of Mary Harvessey’s text match lines 3 to 8 of the first verse given by both Lynch and Connellan; Ó Máille also has this verse later in his edition. Here is Lynch’s text, with Milligan Fox’s translation:

  1. Ag so feairin deagh mna aílle
    Behold here a gift of female beauty
  2. O Chonchubhuir O Reighlligh go sleibhte I mhaille
    From Connor O’Reilly to the mountains of O’Maily
  3. An rioghuin og is milsi póg
    A young lady of the sweetest kiss
  4. Sar inghin I mhordha a tractaim
    I speak of O’Moore’s fair daughter
  5. Siur na righ bfear laidir
    Sprung from princely heroes
  6. as minic chuir ciosa ar naimhde
    who often laid their enemies under tribute
  7. Phlanda an tseain sna ceraobh folt taite
    You prospering plant with delightful branches
  8. Is tusa ta me raidhte
    it is thyself I speak of

The beginning of Mary Harvessey’s spoken section (lines 9-12 of her text) is harder to place. There is a couplet in Connellan’s and O’Máille’s texts which refer to Venus or Deirdre. Connellan has

  1. Súil mar dhruacht an tsamhraidh,
  2. Cosamhuil le Deirdridhe a dealradh,

O’Maille has this verse in two different forms,

  1. A súil mar dhrúcht ré dealradh,
  2. Cosmhail í lé naomh as Párthar


  1. Thug rí bárr sgéim air mhnáibh na cruinne
  2. Ó Venus as ó Dhéirdre

Mary’s sung text is the hardest to reconcile with any of the other versions though. It seems to be slightly different in tone, directly addressed to the woman by a rejected lover. Mary’s lines 3 and 4 are vaguely reminiscent of lines in a verse given by Lynch and Ó Máille. Again, here is Lynch’s text and Fox’s (slightly corrupt) translation:

  1. Racha me san uaidh
    I shall descend into the grave,
  2. Se is dual dom aicid
    It is due to my comp
  3. Ma ngluaiser seal mbiomsa.
    If you do not hasten shortly to where I am

Lynch’s text seems defective here, with 14 and 15 appearing to be one line broken over two. Ó Máillie has

  1. Rachad insa n-uaigh mar budh dúal do m’aicme,
  2. mur dtige tú seal go dtí mé.

Not very similar at all really! And this is the closest couplet I can see.

However, I don’t think this is necessarily a problem. In the two hundred plus years of oral transmission from the wedding of Catherine and Charles, we might expect words to be swapped out, verses to change order, and entire couplets or verses from metrically similar songs to be inserted. That is part of the living song tradition. Of course Mary was not singing the exact same words which Carolan sang at the wedding two centuries earlier, but no-one would expect her to be.

Incidentally, I find it interesting that Mary’s text is the only one which names Catherine. Everywhere else she is only referred to as the daughter of O’Moore.

Carolan’s tune

We can check my Carolan Tune Collation spreadsheet to see how the melody has been transmitted. There are a number of printed and manuscript settings of the tune from 18th century classical musicians.

Perhaps the earliest version of the tune was published in Burk Thumoth’s Twelve Scots and Twelve Irish Airs (no. IX, p.42-43) in c.1742-5. The tune is titled “Mr. Creagh’s Irish Tune” and is in Thumoth’s usual format, of an arrangement for harpsichord, or for violin or flute with figured bass. Thumoth also gives his usual over-elaborate variation on the facing page.

in this recording, Anna Besson plays Burk Thumoth’s setting, but she omits the variation and substitutes a “traditional” setting of the tune for her second half.

I don’t know who Mr. Creagh was. Burk Thumoth’s titles are often way off beam, like he heard them third hand and didn’t understand them and wrote them all wrong.

Our tune appears a little later in the Caledonian Pocket Companion (book 8 p.45). John Purser in the introduction to his CD-ROM edition (p.4) implies that Book 8 may have been published c. 1757-60.

As is usual with Oswald’s editions, this is a baroque violin or flute re-working of the basic tune. The title, Port Atholl, is very interesting, and links in with the tradition reported from the old Irish harpers in the 1790s, that the tune was not originally composed by Carolan, but is Ruaidrí Dall Ó Catháin‘s Port Atholl. We can also check my Rory Dall Tune List PDF to see other appearances of the tune. This is not the place to go into the question of whether this tune actually goes back to Rory Dall. There are two tunes called Port Atholl, and this is one of them. I mention this question on my page about the other one.

In Lee, our tune is called Mrs. O’Donnell, clearly referring to Carolan’s wedding song. I don’t know Lee’s source for the tune; he gathers tunes from all kinds of previous written sources including from John Carolan’s book of his father’s compositions. Anyway, Lee’s harpsichord setting of Mrs O’Donnell looks, frankly, corrupt.

This is Hime’s c.1798 reprint, A Favourite Collection of the much Admired Old Irish Tunes, the original and genuine compositions of Carolan the celebrated Irish bard, set for the Harpsichord, Piano Forte, Violin and German Flute.

Edward Bunting has a version of our tune in his 1798 unpublished piano book, Ancient and Modern Irish Music (not published)… where it is titled “Seabhac na hEirne or hawk of Lough Erne or Miss Moore / from Arthur O Neill with words English and Irish / By Carolan”.

© Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections, MS4.33.3 p.10-11, used with permission

Unfortunately I have not yet found a live transcription from a harper or singer in Bunting’s field notebooks, so all we have are his piano arrangements. It is an open question as to how much of this 1798 piano arrangement represents Arthur O’Neill’s playing on the harp, or indeed his singing, or how much is Bunting’s piano invention. It is even possible that Bunting made this piano version primarily by reference to the earlier published scores, and merely added the “Arthur O’Neill” tag to indicate that O’Neill had played it or given lore about it.

When Bunting came to publish the tune in 1840, he did give some traditionary information about the tune, perhaps from Arthur O’Neill. Bunting tells us

(No. 13 in the Collection) Seabhac na h-Eirnè. “The Hawk of Ballyshannon”, or “O’Moore’s Daughter”; an altered composition of Rory Dall, being his “Port Atholl” somewhat varied by Carolan, who composed words to it for Miss Moore. It was uniformly attributed to its proper composer by the harpers at Belfast.

Bunting, The Ancient Music of Ireland, 1840 introduction p.91

After that we get more and more notated versions, not all of which I have seen. Many of these are derived from Bunting’s published piano arrangement.

All of the tunes we have looked at so far have the same form, with two eight-line halves. If we were to try and sing Carolan’s lyrics to any of these tunes, we would need two verses to fill the tune. However, some of these classical settings (including Bunting’s 1798 piano arrangement) put repeat marks in between the two halves.

in this video, Eibhlís Ní Ríordáin sings Thady Connelan’s first two verses, to her own Irish harp arrangement based on Edward Bunting’s manuscript piano version of the tune.

Traditional versions of the tune

In my Carolan Tune Collation spreadsheet I have not paid much attention to 19th and 20th century traditional instrumental versions of Carolan’s tunes, since I was there focussing on trying to identify and collate traditional old Irish harp settings where they survive. But we don’t have a traditional harp setting of this tune – we don’t have a live transcription from an old harper in Bunting’s manuscripts. So perhaps we should look at some of the traditional instrumental versions of the tune. Below is the version “taken down by Forde, in 1846, from the playing of Hugh O’Beirne, a professional fiddler of Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim” (Joyce p.296), and published by Joyce in Old Irish Folk Music and Song, (1909), p.298

O’Beirne’s traditional fiddle setting follows the same general pattern as the classical instrumental arrangements discussed before, having two halves each of 16 lines (though without a repeat mark in the middle). There are other traditional settings listed by Donal O’Sullivan (Carolan vol 2 p.83) which I have not tracked down yet. O’Sullivan mentions a setting taken down by Forde from a piper, Patrick Carey of County Cork, which is titled “Port Atholl”.

Song-air versions of the tune

There is one printed tune I know of which derives from traditional sung performance, and interestingly, just like Mary Harvessey’s recording, it only gives the first half of the tune. This is the same page in the Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society, vol. VII p.21 which gives Patrick Lynch’s text and Charlotte Milligan Fox’s translation which I referred to above.

This version was collected by Capt. Ricky, of Mount Hall, Killygordon, Donegal. He states the air was known and sung by different members of his family. The air was composed by the great harper, Rory dall O’Cahan. Carolan wrote an ode to Miss Moore, and it was set to O’Cahan’s air, and known as “O’Moore’s Fair Daughter”. For other versions see Dr. Joyce’s “Old Irish Folk Music and Songs”, page 298, and Edward Bunting’s 3rd Vol. Bunting took down his version from the harper, O’Neill, in 1792. C.M.F

Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society, vol. VII p.21

In comparison to Mary Harvessy’s tune, this version shows classical touches – the sharp 7th at the end of bar 2 especially, but also the way it fills in the gaps in the pentatonic scale. Mary’s tune, by contrast, is perfectly in the pentatonic minor mode, in that she studiously avoids the gaps in the scale (2nd and 6th). Her intonation is very wayward though – she starts with almost a major 3rd which shrinks each time she sings it towards the minor 3rd.

Future work

My Catherine O Moore Song Text Collation spreadsheet tries to line up matching verses from different versions of the text, including Mary Harvessey’s. There are more texts we could consult, to try and get a clearer picture.

I need to listen more to the recording, to understand how the tune curls. I should learn the words. We need to consider the implications of this for giving us an insight into a potential style to look towards in playing Carolan tunes and song airs on old Irish harp.

Most of the versions of this tune which we pay attention to, have come through the classical tradition. I assume the present day oral tradition versions of this tune mostly derive from Donal O’Sullivan’s 1958 edition, which is “slightly altered” from Edward Bunting’s 1798 piano arrangement. I think a proper study of non-classical sources of this tune as represented in the 19th century collections from fiddlers and pipers, would be a very useful contrast to the study of the 18th century classical settings.

We need to look for more relevant traditional music and song performances and recordings of other old Irish harp tunes, which could usefully inform our understanding of the old Irish harp repertory and traditions. My Old Irish Harp Transcriptions Project has been seeking out notated traditional old Irish harp performance versions of tunes, but there are many tunes which we don’t have these live transcriptions for, like with this one; and even when we do have a live field transcription, it could be useful to be able to compare it to other traditional performances of the same tune.

We need to think hard about the old Irish harp tradition, style, and idiom. Where do we want to situate old Irish harp performance? Do we want to be closer to Burk Thumoth on the harpsichord? Edward Bunting on the piano? To Hugh O’Beirne on the fiddle? To Máire Ní Arbhasaigh singing? These are political questions about the worlds we want our music to live in.

Header image: Creggan River above the Liscalgot Road bridge, cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Eric

Edward Dodwell

Edward Dodwell is another of the tunes in the “difficult” section of Edward Bunting’s field notebook between pages 14-40. You can see in my tune list spreadsheet that Ned Dodwell, on p.40, is at the very end of that section. In fact, since the next facing page from p.40 is p.43, I think we are missing a page here, and I think the missing page had a neat copy of Ned Dodwell.

Often when Bunting does a dots and bars transcription, he makes a neat copy on the next page. I think it is quite likely that the neat copy of Edward Dodwell was on page 41, which is missing from the manuscript.

Edward Bunting wrote down the tune of Ned Dodwell “live” at speed from the performance of a tradition-bearer. Later tags in 5 different piano arrangements credit this tune to Charles Byrne, and four of them give the date of collection as 1792.

The live transcription of Edward Dodwell on QUB SC MS4.29 p.40/38/47/f18r is written just as dots and bar-lines. There is one trill mark, and there is some crossing out towards the end, and there are some doodly little dots after the end of the tune. The entire page does not tell us that this tune is Edward Dodwell; we know it is by recognising the tune from elsewhere. The title written at the top of the page, “Plangsty Reynolds Lough Skur”, refers to a completely different tune that appears in the manuscript on p.201/199/208/f99r.

Although it seems pretty clear and straightforward, there are problems with this transcription towards the end. From bar 27 Bunting seems to lose his way; he re-writes the bar line between 26 and 27, he writes two different versions of bar 28, and he completely deletes bar 29, and writes it again afterwards, and he finishes one bar short, on 31. Then after the final double bar line he tries to re-notate the end of the tune. First he re-writes it a bit wrongly, with too many notes. Then on the next blank stave he writes it out more clearly, but he has transposed this last little section of the tune a 4th higher. It is not entirely clear what he heard, because there are so many reworkings of this part of the tune in the transcription. In the different piano arrangements he seems to let his composing creativity free reign and comes up with all kinds of interesting conclusions to the tune.

Bunting made a piano arrangement of Edward Dodwell in about 1798, in his unpublished “Ancient and Modern” piano manuscript (QUB SC MS4.33.3 p.21, where it is titled “Emon Dabhal or Ned Dodwel by Carolan / from Charles Byrne”. Bunting also made piano arrangements much later, in QUB SC ms4/13, and ms4/27, though I don’t have copies of these pages and haven’t studied them. The tune was finally published in a piano arrangement as no.104 in Bunting’s 1840 book.

The transcription of Edward Dodwell is notated in C. We can see from the notes of the tune that it is a neutral mode tune; C neutral has as as its main notes C, D, F, G, B♭. Ned Dodwell includes the other two “out of mode” notes, E and A, except I think it is obvious that it needs E♭. We can check this with the piano arrangements; both the “Ancient and Modern” and the 1840 piano arrangements put the tune one note higher, in D neutral; both of them show one flat in the key signature, but both of them systematically cancel every single B♭ in the tune with natural accidental signs (Bunting’s piano world did not recognise neutral pentatonic modes, and minor is the nearest classical equivalent).

Bunting’s live transcriptions are usually notated at pitch, although there are groups notated one note higher than they would have been performed. This tune cannot work at pitch on old Irish harp, since tuning two flats on the harp is not part of the old tradition; putting the tune one note down to B neutral or B♭ neutral only makes matters worse. There are only two places we could position this tune on an old Irish harp using the traditional tunings, either one note up in D neutral (with the harp tuned all naturals), or a 6th higher in A neutral (with the harp tuned with F♯). We can’t drop the tune two notes down since that would make it run below na comhluighe on the harp.

In five different piano arrangements, the tune is tagged as being collected from Charles Byrne, and four of them give the date of collection as 1792. Byrne was a harper and also a singer, but we know that he was not a very good harper and had not been formally trained in the old Irish harp tradition, but had taught himself. I suppose it is possible that Byrne was so unlearned and incompetent that he tuned his harp in non-standard tunings, and played this tune in C neutral on the harp; but perhaps it is more likely that Bunting collected this tune from Byrne’s singing.

If we check my Carolan tune collation spreadsheet, we can see that Donal O’Sullivan gave this tune the number 40, and he suggested that the song lyrics beginning “Slán linn siar go bruach an chuain” go with this tune. He prints (vol 2 p.26-7) the text from Thady Connelann’s Duanaire Fonna Seanma (1829), where the words are headed “Eadbhaird Dodbhaill. Edward Dodwell, Esq., County Sligo: By Carolan”. There is a slightly different text in Tomás Ó Máille, Amhráin Chearbhalláin (1916) p.141 titled “Éamonn Doduel. Edward Dodwell – Carolan cct” and beginning “Go mbu slán duit fá bhruach an chuain”, though I don’t know the source for Ó Máille’s text of the song. We also have the song lyrics collected by Patrick Lynch in Mayo in 1802, in QUB SC ms4/10 p.10 titled “Planxty Dodwell” and beginning “go ma slan beo buan / an thaoibh a chuain”. All of the texts have the same length, 16 lines, which would fit the tune once through pretty well.

One of my aims in my Old Irish Harp Transcriptions project is to identify notations that are not transcribed live from old Irish harp performance. By ruling certain notations out, it narrows down the field of what notations are significant for the study of old Irish harp repertory, style and technique. For that reason alone, I am not going to make a Youtube demonstration of Ned Dodwell. This would be a good one for a singer to tackle, to try setting the different song lyrics onto Bunting’s dots-and-bars transcription.

Mrs. Anne MacDermot Roe

Edward Bunting made what looks like a live field transcription of a tune titled “Mrs McDermottroe” or “Nanny O Donnely” on p. 18/18/27/f8v of Queen’s University Belfast, Special Collections MS4.29. Bunting made an edited neat copy on the facing page, and he published a piano arrangement in his 1797 book (No.53, Anna ni ciarmuda ruaidh / Nanny McDermotroe / Carolan). There don’t appear to be any independent variants of this tune, so the only way to understand it is to analyse Bunting’s very unsatisfactory notations.

Carolan’s patron at Alderford was Mary née FitzGerald (c. 1660-1739), wife of Henry Baccach MacDermot Roe (c. 1645-1715). Their oldest son, Henry (d.1752), married Anne, daughter of Manus O’Donnell of Newport, Co. Mayo, and I assume that this Anne is the person whose name is referred to in Bunting’s manuscript and printed titles: Nanny O’Donnell, whose married name was Anna MacDermot Roe.

Donal O’Sullivan includes this tune in his Carolan and his Bunting; we can use his numbers to refer to this tune (DOSB 53) (DOSC 82). O’Sullivan connects the tune to a song-poem, which seems to be a wedding song addressed to Anna when she married Henry. The song does seem to share meter and structure with the tune, and so I think in this case we can accept Donal O’Sullivan’s suggestion.

There are two independent versions of the the song lyric. One version (QUB SC MS4.10 p. 33/41-34/42) was collected from oral tradition by Patrick Lynch on his tour of Mayo in the summer of 1802. Lynch’s title is “Madam McDermud Roe” and his text reads:

Toig do mhion.. & seol do chiall
mar ordaigeas dia.. dean dreacht is dáin
agus labhuir do mhian… dar an og-mnaoi sgiamhach
do shliucht na Niall.. is riogha fail

brón no tuirse… riamh ni roibh na haice
is fior gur deas. a piob is a leaca
Anna nín Mhánuis… sár mhac Rudhruigh
an ard fhlaith cluiteach.. nach ndiultadh a nglea

Ni breag a dubhairt me fan thrathsa
le geug na lub sna bhfainneadh
gur geaneamhuil a suil.. a déad sa cúl
is leir liom sud.. gur sugach a glóir

Is gurab aoibhin.. don oigfhear críonna
fhantaigh inghion na scoirbhriathar saimh
Ta si momhar caoidheamhuil ceol mhar saoidheamhuil
blath geal deas dílios gach uair is gac am

Hanrai mhac searlus se tá me radha
dar dual bheith treigheach ae arach tapuigh
aithnighean a mhion ag an ti da mbiadh se
is eol don tír a ghniomh gur breagh e

da mbiadh fíon an mo laimh se
doluinn fein do shlainte
go mbeannuigh dia an dis se anna & heanrai
lastar a piopa & liontar a dram

A similar version of six stanzas is printed in Tomás Ó Máille’s Amhráin Chearbhalláin (1916) p.130-131, edited there from two related versions in RIA ms 23A1 and 23I8, which contain poems written down by “Daniel Malone, a schoolmaster,who travelled through the counties of Leitrim, Roscommon, etc., in the years 1827 and 1828 and collected all these songs from the recital of the people” (AC p.46). Ó Máille says (p.289) that “the melody is given by O Neill, Music of Ireland, p,118”. This version seems to be a slightly garbled and slightly more classical adaption of Bunting’s piano setting, with the intrusive f sharps, and the substiution of bars 13 and 14 with material repeated from 9 and 10.

The tune seems to have three sections, each of eight bars; We can suppose that each bar of the tune would take half a line of the poem, so that three verses of the poem would fit the whole tune; the six verses noted by Lynch would fit onto two repetitions of the air.

The main problem with the tune of Anna MacDermot Roe is the key and the accidentals. Bunting’s live field transcription from the tradition-bearer on p.18 is noted at pitch in A minor. In bar 6, the tune seems to pass through F, but the transcription is ambiguous, and the note head is positioned slightly above the line, and could be read as either F or G. In bar 11, the F is clearly noted and is marked with a ♯ in the transcription. There is an f in bar 12, but it is not marked with an accidental – should we assume it is also f♯? In bar 13 there are two fs, as the musical line ascends and descends. Again neither is marked with an accidental. The ascending one is clearly notated, but the descending one is deliberately elongated as if it has been changed from f to g (or from g to f).

In the third section of Bunting’s live transcription, it all goes horribly wrong. Bunting has not inserted bar-lines into the notation after the first two lines, which is often a sign that he no longer believes in what he has written. Bunting starts the third line by apparently transposing his notation down a 4th, so that he writes the first note of this line as g, when we expect it to be c. This is confirmed, as the ascending passage g a b c♯ d shows an accidental sign on the c (we would expect to see c d e f♯ g). After the first two bars, he goes back to notating at pitch in A minor, by writing high c. In the 5th bar of this section, we again have f, without an accidental. In bar 7 the notation comes to a stop.

The fourth line of Bunting’s live transcription represents him trying again to notate the third part of the tune. This time he has transposed his notation down a 5th, so that he starts by writing f, and he writes the ascending sequence f g a b c. He continues to notate the whole of the third section of the tune at this new pitch level. In bar 5, the “questionable note” is now transposed to b, without an accidental mark; but he has also written a note a 3rd lower, g, lined up with the b, as if he was unsure which should be right.

Bunting made a neat copy of the tune on the facing page, p.19. I assume that he wrote this based on the previous live transcription; however it is possible that the two notations were the other way around. We know that Bunting sometimes copied tunes neatly into ms29 from printed books or from other manuscript sources, and he mentions that his collecting tours were at least partly for “comparing the music already procured, with that in possession of harpers”. So, it seems possible that the p.19 neat copy was copied into the little loose-leaf pamphlet out of a printed or manuscript tune-book, and then later when he was out with a tradition-bearer and heard their version, he tried to notate their version on the previous page to capture the differences. I don’t know how likely that is in this case, because the neat copy is very close to the the transcription. At the moment I am working on the assumption that the p.19 neat copy is derived from the p.18 transcription.

The neat copy shows some interesting changes from the transcription. The neat copy is set in D minor, the same as the final line of the transcription. Although there is (as usual) no key- or time-signature, Bunting marks some of the b notes as b♮, implying a key signature of one flat. The 1797 printed piano arrangement follows the ms29 neat copy closely, except the tune is transposed into G minor with two flats; the E is marked natural in the same places as the Bs in the ms29 neat copy, except for bars 12 and 13, where the neat copy doesn’t show accidentals and the piano print does. Are we to assume the naturals in the neat copy?

In any case, this switching between sharpened to flattened 6ths in the minor scale seems to me to be an interesting and curious thing. Is it connected to Bunting’s process of listening to the tunes with a classically-trained piano ear? Can he not help himself but to add in accidentals? Or, is this something that could come from within the Irish oral tradition?

It seems to me that there are three possibilities for reconstructing Anna MacDermot Roe.

  1. We could consider the transcription as being noted from instrumental harp performance, played on the harp in A minor, with the harp tuned with f♯. All of the fs in the tune would be played sharp, although there are places (bar 6, 13, 21) where we could omit the f♯ and play another note suggested by the transcription (g in bars 6 & 13, d in bar 21). We would pass lightly over the f♯ in bar 21, and we could suppose that Bunting only indicated the ♯ accidental where it struck his classically-trained ear as unusually prominent and distinctive.
  2. We could consider the transcription as being noted from instrumental harp performance, played on the harp in A minor, with the harp tuned with f♮. All of the fs in the tune would be played natural, and we would explain the ♯ accidentals in the transcription as being inserted by Edward Bunting as part of his editorial process to “correct” or “normalise” the tune for publication.
  3. We could understand the transcription as being a fair representation of performance, including the sharp and flat 6ths. Obviously this would not be a harp performance, since the old Irish harp does not give the possibility of having sharpened and flattened versions of the same note, and so we can imagine this as a sung performance.

The only metadata we have for the transcription is a tag in the annotated copy of the 1797 printed piano arrangement (London, British Library Add ms 41508, where the tune is tagged “Harp Mooney”, suggesting that the tune was notated from the harp playing of Rose Mooney. These tags were likely written in by Edward Bunting in the early 1840s, almost 50 years after the transcriptions were made, so I don’t know how much weight we can put on them.

If we look at my tune list spreadsheet, we can see that Ann MacDermot Roe is not closely associated with a group of transcriptions. In the previous gathering there are two Carolan tunes that are notated similarly, with dots on the left page and a neat copy on the right page, Planxty Drury and Planxty Kelly. Both are tagged “Byrne” in the annotated 1797, but both are notated one note higher than we expect, which mitigates against Mrs MacDermotroe being associated with them. There are other “mixed pitch level” tunes in the same gathering and after Anna MacDermot Roe, and there is also the Rambling Boy which is later tagged Charles Byrne, and which appears to be a vocal setting.

Charles Byrne was not a very good harper, but he was praised for his singing and Bunting says he got a lot of songs from him. Should we understand the transcription of Anna MacDermot Roe to be noted down from Charles Byrne singing the song? Did Byrne get to the third section and realise he had pitched his voice too high, and switch down to a more comfortable lower pitch level, confusing poor Bunting?

We can also use this transcription to think about issues of tune transmission. Anna MacDermot Roe does not fit very easily into the pentatonic modes of traditional old Irish harp music, but many of Carolan’s tunes break the traditional rules or systems. Does this unease about the nature of the 6th in this minor mode tune reflect Carolan’s grappling with baroque/classical sounds from within old Irish harp tradition? Or does it reflect ambiguity in oral tradition as the tune and the song were passed down the three generations or so between the wedding and the transcription?

My header image shows an old map of Greyfield House, near Keadue, where Henry and Anna lived.

Planxty Drury

I made a demonstration recording of Planxty Drury (DOSB 10) (DOSC 42) based on the live field transcription written down by Edward Bunting in the 1790s, from the performance of an old Irish harper.

The live field transcription is preserved in Bunting’s manuscripts at Queen’s University, Belfast, Special Collections. There is a dots and bars transcription at QUB SC MS4/29 page 8/8/17/3v, with a neat full copy of the tune on the facing page, QUB SC MS4/29 page 9/9/18/4r.

The neat copy is titled at the top “Plangsty Drury” but there is other text “[..]arm London / Bonny Shannon Water / Warter [Co????] R[ear]y / Werter or sorrows of we[…] / Sally in our Ally / [?????]”

The dots transcription is in three sections; the first and third are barred. The copy seems to follow the first and third section of the dots. This transcription is a very useful illustration of Bunting’s working method. While it is tempting to ignore the dots and work from the neat copy, I think this is a mistake. I think Bunting was editing as he went, trying to understand and interpret what he heard though his classical piano filters, and so I think the dots are the most important level of content for us, assuming that the dots represent his un-filtered automatic response to the playing of the old Irish harp tradition-bearer. I think that we cannot help but use the copy to inform our reading of the dots, but I also think it is very important to constantly refer to the dots as the primary source for the old Irish harp performance practice.

The transcription shows no key or time signature. The implied metre is 6-time. We can see this more clearly if we look at Bunting’s printed piano arrangement of the tune, in his published book, A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music (London: Preston & Son, 1797). Our tune is published there as no.10, “Plangstigh Druraidh – Planxty Drury. Carolan”.

The transcription appears to be not at pitch, but transposed one note up. You can see in my Old Irish Harp Transcriptions Project tune list spreadsheet, that the first 30 pages or so of QUB SC MS4/29 contain transcriptions written one note up. I don’t yet understand why some transcriptions are 1 up and others at pitch. It may be related to Bunting’s working methods, or it may be connected to different pitch standards in use by different harpers. The transcription, and the facing page copy, are both notated in D major, but this would require c♯ to be tuned on the harp. I think it is much more plausible to consider this as a C major tune with the harp tuned all naturals.

The transcription gives us only the tune, with no bass notes marked at all. The copy similarly does not indicate bass at all. Bunting’s published piano arrangement in E♭ major has a newly composed piano bass.

The transcription includes ornament marks. Bunting notes “tr” twice in the first section of the tune, and repeats these two marks in the same place in the neat copy. There is a third “tr” mark in the second section of the dots. I assume that these marks indicate where the harper played some kind of ornament or grace-note.

In the annotated copy of the 1797 print in the British Library, Add ms 41508, which appears to have been Edward Bunting’s personal copy, he has written “Harp Byrne” against this tune. The implication is that he collected the tune from the harper and singer, Charles Byrne. However these annotations were likely written in the early 1840s, nearly fifty years after the transcription was made, and so I do not know how reliable this information is. The spreadsheet shows that ms4/29 pages 7-11 are all tunes tagged “Byrne” in later piano arrangements, though the tunes on page 7 have other, conflicting attributions in other piano arrangements.

My use of the two reference numbers, DOSB 10 and DOSC 42, tells us where to look for information in Donal O’Sullivan’s editions and indexes. The tune is no.10 in Donal O’Sullivan, ‘The Bunting Collection of Irish Folk Music and Songs’, Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society, 1927-39, appearing in part 1 p.36. Donal O’Sullivan prints a typeset edition of the tune from the ms4/29 neat copy, without mentioning the dots transcription. He underlays the words of a Carolan song, “Fáilte romhat go Kingsland, a bhinn-bhean na méar lag” (“Welcome to Kingsland, sweet small-fingered lady …”). However he explains later (p.38) that the words do not come from Byrne in the 1790s, but were collected by Patrick Lynch on his tour of Mayo in 1802. He also explains that there is a different tune called “Planxty Kingsland” or “Fáilte go Kingsland” or “John Drudy”, which the words could be sung to. He says, “in view of the title, perhaps this is the correct air for the words”. Given that the words fit the “Planxty Kingsland” tune, and the titles match, I do not see any rationale for thinking that they should be set to our “Planxty Drury” tune.

Donal O’Sullivan repeats this mis-identification of the tune and its subject in his Carolan, the life times and music of an Irish harper (Routlege & Kegan Paul, 1958) where the tune is numbered 42. In vol.2 p.27 he cites his own Bunting edition, and again matches this tune to the Kingsland words. He also silently changes the title, from “Planxty Drury”, to “John Drury, First Air”. This invented modern title is what the tune has passed back into circulation under. John Drury is the subject of the song lyrics, and again he remarks that the song lyrics could be sung to the “Planxty Kingsland” tune, which he prints as no. 43 with the invented modern title “John Drury, Second Air”.

This seems to be unfortunately typical of Donal O’Sullivan, to mis-match words and air. He wrote so confidently, and his books have had such an influence, that his emended or mistaken titles and word-matches have become accepted as gospel even when they are obviously mistaken, as here. My Carolan Tune Collation spreadsheet helps to untangle the different titles and variants.

When playing this tune on the reconstruction copy of the NMI Carolan harp, I was thinking of two things. First, the way that Bunting transcribed the dots from the playing of the harper informant, with no trace of bass notes, chords or harmony. Many people have suggested that Bunting just ignored or failed to notate the harpers’ basses; but I was also thinking of the tradition reported from Keane Fitzgerald, that “Carolan’s tunes had no bass to them originally”. So I am trying to play just the tune of Planxty Drury, letting the voice of the harp speak the tune clearly and resonantly, with as little bass interference as possible.

Carolan’s original harp bass

Carolan’s tunes had no base to them originally, as we have been informed by the late Keane Fitzgerald, a native of Ireland, and a good judge of music, who had often seen and heard old Carolan perform. It was only after his decease, in 1738, that his tunes were collected and set for the harpsichord, violin, and German flute, with a base, Dublin, folio, by his son, who published them in London by subscription, in 1747.

Abraham Rees, The Cyclopaedia; or, universal dictionary of arts, sciences and literature. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown, 1819. Volume 17, (unpaginated, under ‘Harp’)