Turlough O'Carolan, (1670 – 25 March 1738) was a blind early Irish harper, composer and singer whose great fame is due to his gift for melodic composition.

"Carolan" by From R.B. Armstrong "The Irish and Highland Harps", Edinburgh, David Douglas, 1904. - Source: Early Gaelic Harp Transferred from english wikipedia to Commons.


Some quotes from Bunting about O'Carolan:[1]

"If we reflect upon the disadvantages under which he laboured; born blind–with slender opportunities of acquiring ideas, the inhabitant of a country recently desolated by a civil war, the flames of which had scarcely subsided, and add to this, his own propensity to idleness and dissipation, we cannot but be astonished at the prodigious powers of his mind. He has occasionally tried almost every style of music; the elegiac, the festive, the amorous, and sacred; and has so much excelled in each, that we scarcely know to which of them his genius was best adapted. His first composition was amorous and plaintive, called “Bridget Cruise”, addressed to a lady, to whom he was tenderly attached, without the hope of success. He is said to have dedicated fifteen different pieces to her, none of which are contained in this collection."
"He composed “The Fairy Queen”, “Rose Dillon”, and other of his serious pieces, early in life; but after having established a reputation, and addicted himself too much to festive company and the bottle, he dedicated his time to the composition of his Planxties, which required no labour or assiduity."
"As Carolan never taught any itinerant pupils, except his own son, (who had no musical genius) and as we have never heard that any of his pieces were committed to writing until several years after his death, when young Carolan, under the patronage of Dr. Delany, edited a small volume, we need not wonder if nine tenths of the whole be irreparably lost."


Free sheet music of a few of Carolan's compositions can be downloaded from IMSLP.

Here's a list of the O'Carolan works included in the Bunting Collection[1]:

  • Abigail Judge (No. 45)
  • Bob Jordan (No. 59)
  • Carolan's Concerto (No. 42)
  • Fairy Queen (No. 5)
  • Grace Nugent (No. 65)
  • Kitty O'Brian (No. 38)
  • Lamentation of Owen O'Neil, The (No. 52)
  • Madame Cole (No. 16)
  • Madge Malone (No. 36)
  • Nanny McDermott Roe (No. 53)
  • Planxty Dillon (No. 66)
  • Planxty Drury (No. 10)
  • Planxty Kelly (No. 21)
  • Planxty Johnson (No. 58)
  • Planxty McGuire (No. 64)
  • Planxty Reilly (No. 46)
  • Rose Dillon (No. 24)
  • Snowy Breasted Pearl (No. 35)
  • Thomas O'Burk (No. 62)
  • Young Terence McDonough (No. 55)

Recommended Harp Music Edit

There are more recent arrangements based on O'Carolan's work that are available for purchase.

Pop Culture Edit

You can follow O'Carolan on Twitter: @TurloughCarolan

Further Reading Edit

References Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music By: Bunting, Edward. Printed & sold by Preston & Son. 1796