Late in his life, the harper Arthur O’Neill dictated his memoirs to Thomas Hughes, who wrote down O’Neill’s words as he spoke them. The resulting manuscripts survived amongst the personal papers of Edward Bunting, and these are now preserved in the Library of Queen’s University Belfast.
Although the process of noting O’Neill’s memories and anecdotes must have taken place over several sittings, Hughes would have been hard–pressed at times to keep up with O’Neill when he was in full flow. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that his writings show numerous contractions, a lack of reliable punctuation, inconsistent use of capital letters, and the occasional missing word. As a result, the two previously published accounts of the memoirs (Charlotte Milligan Fox, 1911, and Donal O'Sullivan, 1958) were both revised and edited, in an attempt to clean up the text and emphasise the story line.
However, in doing so, these editions seem to have lost an important aspect of the original; for when reading through Hughes’ work, I was impressed with a vibrant sense of O’Neill’s voice. Here were more than simply stories and memories, they were the actual words the old harper spoke, and they provide extra insight into the man himself. The text in its raw, unaltered form, is the closest thing we have to being in the presence of — and listening to — the real Arthur O’Neill.
In producing this transcription of MS4/14, I have attempted to present it in a form as close to the original as the current format practicably allows. I have deliberately made no effort to amend or complete Hughes’ punctuation, nor have I altered any of his spelling: to do so would run counter to the purpose of a direct transcription. Since Hughes had no knowledge of the Irish language, he wrote phonetically the names that O’Neill gave. Therefore, although his spelling of the Irish may be incorrect and look strange, it arguably preserves something of the sound of O’Neill’s eighteenth–century County Tyrone accent. The few editorial comments I have added are placed within square brackets, as per standard practice.
In writing down the text, Hughes often left gaps between sentences, perhaps in an attempt to create some pauses or phrasing in the narrative flow, without having to start a new line or paragraph (possibly to save paper). In any case, since his true purpose for doing so is not clear, I have thought it best to merely indicate where these gaps appear, by inserting the term
[space] in the relevant position. In a few instances, it is apparent that Hughes made an immediate amendment to what he had just written, by crossing out a word and continuing with a correction. Where this occurs, I have also included the original word, but set it in
It is also worth noting that some minor attempts to rewrite parts of the text have been added above Hughes' script, but these are in pencil and not in Hughes' ink. This indicates that they aren't the words O’Neill himself used at the time of dictation, but a later emendation. They mainly consist of what were probably intended as grammatical improvements to O’Neill’s speech, and therefore have not been included in this transcription of the original manuscript.
I was born in Drumnistad near Dungannon in the County of Tyrone. my father and mother were both named ONeill. their father & mother’s names were ONeill and my Great Grand father and Great Grandmother’s names were ONeill and as far as I can learn their ancestors both male and female were all named ONeil, and at this Day I have not a Relation either male or female from the first to the last Degree, to the best of my knowledge, but are all of the name of ONeill. In consequence of which there is a family pride amongst the ONeills both rich and poor of the County of Tyrone, conceiving themselves descended from Hugh, Con, and John ONeill of the Tyrone family, who were in no manner allied with the ONeill’s of Shane’s Castle in the County of Antrim. [space] At the age of two years I was diverting my self with a penknife, which pierced my right Eye but was not deprived of the sight of it immediately.
I had a Grandmother who loved me to excess, and she perceiving my eye in danger sent every where for occulists and Doctors to cure me. I had to submit to all their prescriptions and the result was, that in their efforts to cure one Eye I unfortunately lost the sight of both, and I have now doubt on my mind, that if it were not for quacking I
was would have the perfect use of both my eyes at present. But there is an old adage in the Irish language, the meaning of which in English is "That the Grandmother’s Pet is the worst of pets." [space] When I was about 10 years old, when I Commenced learning to play on the Harp under Owen Keenan of Augher who frequented my father’s house for about 2years to instruct me, and afterwards I attended him in Augher about a year, at which time I was allowed to play tolerably.
When I was about 15 years old I commenced an Itinerant and my first adventure was to Ballycastle where I fell in with 'Squire Boyd whom I attended back–wards and forwards occasionally. from BallyCastle I went to Shanes' Castle where I was introduced by the agent a Mr OHara as an ONeill where I remained a few Days and was well pleased when leaving that place with the
treatment I received from Charles ONeill the then proprietor. from thence I made may [sic] way to Downpatrick, where nothing particular happened me. I went from thence to Newry, Dundalk, and Navan, in which last place I met Thady Elliott where he treated me very affectionately I being but young, and he middle aged and universally known as a Harper. [space] On Christmas Day Thady was to play at the Roman Catholic Chappel of Navan. A Humorous fellow of Navan took Thady to a public House, and promised to give him a Gallon of Whiskey if he would rattle up "Planxty Connor" at the time of the Elevation, which Thady promised to do. Accordingly when Mass commenced in Christmas Day, Thady as usual play’d some sacred airs untill the elevation, when for the sake of the whiskey and be as good as his word, he lilted up "Planxty Connor." The Priest who was a good judge of musick knew the tune, But at that solemn Stage of the Ceremony, he could not speak to Thady, but to show his disapprobation he Stamp’d violently on the Altar, so much so that the people exclaimed in Irish "Dhar Dhiah, Thaw Saggarth a Dhounsa" that is By God the priest is Dancing. However after playing planxty for sometime he resumed his usual airs. But when Mass was over Thady was severely reproved and dismissed.
A Harry Fitzsimons, a Harper, happened to be at a Gentleman’s House in that quarter, who came that Day to Navan to hear Mass where I met him. On Elliots disgrace I was applied to by the priest to succeed him in the Chappel, which I declined, not wishing to supersede Thady who was always very civil to me. But I recommended Fitzsimons who readily accepted the offer, and he borrowed my Harp, and play’d during the remainder of the Masses, in the interim, Thady to be revenged of him, went to his lodging and got a long staff, and came back to the Chappel, and offered any one of the Congregation half the whiskey, if they would tell him when fitzsimons was coming out, which some of them agreed to. But on the Priests coming out one fellow cryed out in Irish "Hige, Dhar Dhie Shin–eh" ("Tim by God there he is" with that Thady began to lay about him so furiously and made one desperate Clipe, which struck the top of the Chappel Door, and which if the priest got he would not say Mass for a long time. However Thady, who was as great a Devil as ever lived, was so much vexed with his mistake that he went to the Chappel, and made a publick apology on the Alter for his mistake and behaviour.
After staying for some time in about Navan I went towards Dublin, from thence to Carlow, then to Wexford, from
that to Waterford, from that to Kilkenny, from that to Clonmell, from that back to Carrick on Suir, where I fell in with a Gentleman who was blind named Oliver Size, an excellent Harper and lived in great repute in that country. Altho an Itinerant, he dressed very gaudy such as Scarlet and Gold and Silver Lace. he treated me uncommonly friendly. I remained some time in Carrick with a Clergyman named Thewles. I crossed from Carrick over again to Kilkenny, and there became acquainted with the Protestant and Roman Catholic Bishops. The protestant bishop’s name was Doctor Morris, a native of the County Tyrone who knew my father and some of my Relations there, and I believe it induced him to be more Civil to me than perhaps he otherwise would. I frequently play’d in his Palace, and on my leaving Kilkenny, he gave me recommendations to such of the Clergy of his own or other Diocesses as he knew, but I scarce made any use of them. [space] I next came to Clonmell again, then crossed the River Suir into the County of Waterford, and went to Cappoquin, from that to Youghall, then to Cork, in which place nothing particular occurred to me, not being 18 years old at that time. Near Cork I went to a Gentleman named Coppinger of great rank and Consequence
who treated me as if I was the son of a Prince of Ulster.
From Cork I went to Kinsale, where I fell in with the Great Baron D’Courcy, who kept an Harper whom I did not meet, but played upon his Harp which was a very fine one. I forgot to mention, that when I was in Cork I got acquainted with a Gentleman of the name of Dowling who lived in Mallow Lane. He was Rich, miserly and uncultivated Boor, he liked musick, and had an Harp in his House that was made in Belgrade, and tho’ it was as large as mine, it did now more than twelve pounds. Not a man in Cork could tell what kind of wood it was made of. I played on it myself, and never heard anything like it I would give him any money for it but he would not part it. Indeed at that time I had not much Money, and was as Childish as when I set out. I was fond of sweet things, such as Raisins, figs Prunes, Gingerbread &c of which I and my boy used to have our Pockets eternally crammed. At this time I am sure I had never tasted whisky. [space] I travelled the principal part of the County of Corke without anything occurring worth relating. I spent one Christmas with a Gentleman that lived in Beerhaven named, Murtagh McOwen OSullivan who lived in a princely Stile. My boy came to me one morning when in bed, and desired me "to bless myself". I asked him "Why so?" "Och Sir" says he, 'there is a pipe
of Wine, and two Hogsheads of some other Liquor standing up in the Hall with the heads out of them, and a Wooden Cup swimming in each of them for any one that pleases to Drink their Skinful" I mention this merely to record the Hospitality of the Gentlemen of the province of Munster nor was this the only instance of it, as similar occurrences happened to me during the time I travelled thro’ that Country.
Lord Kenmare, the principal proprietor of Killarney, the Lake and the surrounding Country took into his head about this time to give a milesian entertainment, that is to entertain at Christmas time, every milesian that could be found that bore the name of an Irish Chieftain, which names are The ONeill’s, OBrien’s, McCarthy’s, ODonoughue’s, ODriscoll’s, OConnor’s, ODonovan’s, OSullivan’s, OConnor Kerry, McNamara’s, OKeefe’s, O’Meagher’s, OLeary’s, OCallaghan’s, OConnell’s OMahony’s, McKillacuddy’s and some others of the milesian Race, that my memory at present will not enable me to mention. At the feast there were one or more of every name already mentioned present but an ONeill which Lord Kenmare observed and mentioned. " Och," says my patron Murreertagh McOwen OSullivan "Upon my Honour I can soon fill up that Gap for you, as I have now at my House a young from the North who is blind and plays on the Harp very well for his Years, and from what I understand from his own lips he has a good
Claim to represent the ONeill’s on this occasion" Well send for him" says my Lord" I was sent for accordingly, and was without any Ceremony seated amongst them in the Great Hall: Hundreds of questions were asked me concerning my descent, and on my giving Satisfactory answers I was dubbed and deemed an ONeill, for they all say’d I had a good face &c &c. When Dinner was announced, very near 200 of the O’s and Mac’s took their seats, and poor self being blind I done what blind men generally do, I groped a vacancy near the foot of the table, and such a noise of cutting Carving, Roaring, Laughing, Shaking hands, and such Language as generally occurs between friends who only see each other once a year I never before or since Witnessed. While dinner was going on, I was hobnobbed by almost every Gentleman present. But when Lord Kenmare hobnobbed me he was pleased to say "ONeill you should be at the head of the Table, as your ancestors were the original Milesians of this Kingdom" "Och my Lord" sayd I. "Its no matter where an ONeill sits, and let it be at what part of the table I am it should be considered the head of it." An universal burst of applause ensued, and my arm was almost shaken from my body by all present, and I believe
It was in consequence of my reply to his Lordship which they remarked came by instinct to an ONeill, and Damn the ONeill that ever was born, or that will ever yet be born as well as myself but was drank by all the milesians then present. [space] The Gentleman who represented the OConnor Kerry’s after dinner took my Harp, and to my astonishment play’d a few tunes in the first stile I ever heard in my life by a Gentleman of Fortune. He afterwards shifted the Harp into my hands. I played several tunes for which I received some Compliments. But if King David came down to the Hall of Lord Kenmare and play’d his best tunes for that sett of Gentlemen they would make him cut (to stop) the best tune he ever play’d to drink to the Real Irish. Harmony was lost when the Port and Claret began to box each other in Decanters at all parts of the Table. When the cloth was removed, and the Carpet was generally the Bed for the principal part of the visitors, and at that time, it was a Common thing to drink a Dram in the morning to fulfill the old saying of "the dog that bit you a lock of his Hair will Cure you."
As I mentioned that a McKillaCuddy was one of the milesians present, I was informed that at one time taking his seat in Dublin for in the Stage Coach he gave in his name to a woman who kept the Book, but she did not understand him and seemed confused "Give me the book,
my Daisy" says he and I will enter it myself" thank you Sir says the female Clerk, who handed him the Book in which he entered the name of "Jeffrey McShefferov McKillacuddy" on which she on looking over, informed him, that the Children must pay half price. She thinking that the length of his name would occupy the whole coach. [space] When I left Lord Kenmare I heard the beauties of the Lake which I witnessed in every sense, except seeing them, and as far as my Judgment besides what I have been inform’d the Lake cannot be sufficiently described. I heard many descriptions of it but Garrick’s (the Celebrated actor’s) account came nearest to my imagination.
When I left the County of Kerry my next tour was towards Limerick and met with nothing particular untill I came to that City. I met a Counsellor McNamara then Recorder of Limerick who invited me to his Country House about 5 Miles called Castle Connell, where I was very well received. In his house in
Dublin Limerick he had the Skeleton of Bryan Boreau’s Harp, and in consequence of the national esteem I held for the memory of its owner, I strung it, and then tuned it. It was not Strung for upwards of 200 years before, it was made
of cedar. Counsellor McNamara requested me to tye it about my neck, and play it thro that Hospitable City which I agreed to, being young and strong. And the first tune I happened to strike on was "Ellen Oge" now generally called "Savourneen Dheelish and Erin Go Brah" I played several other Irish tunes, and was followed by a procession of upwards 500 people both Gentle and simple, as they seemed to be every one imbibed with the national Spirit when they heard it was the Instrument that our celebrated Irish monarch played upon before routed the Deans at Clontarf out of poor Erin The Lord be merciful to you Bryan Boreau, I hope in God I will tune your harp again in your presence in Heaven, and if it should be the Case, Upon my Honour and Conscience I will not play the tunes of the Protestant Boys or July the first. But I would willingly play "God save the King" and that would be for yourself Bryan". I understand that the Harp is now in the Museum in Dublin College.
When I left the County of Limerick I went thro’ the Towns of Six Mile Bridge, Ennis, Gort, Athenree, Galway, Loughrea, Tuam, Ballinasloe. I then crossed over to Castlebar, Ballinrobe, Sligo, Leitrim, Carrick on Shannon, Roscommon. Then crossed Rousky Bridge, which divides
Connaught from Leinster thro’ which the Shannon runs, then to Longford, Granard, Cavan, Enniskillen, Ballyshannon, Donegal, Mount Charles, then to Boylagh and the Rosses (the wildest Country I ever was in I passed thro’ all these towns without any thing happening worthy of notice, but was treated in the usual manner as well as Itinerant Harpers generally are. When at Boylagh I was invited by a Gentleman named Nesbitt to go with him to a great Wedding (without my Harp) where there were plenty of pipers and fidlers. There was no expense Spared to make it a Grand Wedding. The Gentleman Bride Groom’s name was McGunnigall and the Lady’s name ODonnell, there were as many people at the Wedding as almost at any fair. All that wished to stay all night had to sit up, the beds being occupied by scores lying Three na y’hola (thro other) Mr Nesbitt and I sat up all night, and in the morning he made a remarkable breakfast for those who remained. He burned a large quantity of whiskey in a Wooden bowl, put a pair of Tongs across it when burning, and then he put some Canes Sugar Candy on the Tongs which was soon dissolved into the whiskey, and then the party present Drank of
It with bread, and as for my part I never got a breakfast that I liked so well, as at this time I began to be partial to that native Cordial.
When I left Mr Nesbitts I was almost tired of Rambleing through the Kingdom and formed the design of going home to see my father and mother. I must remark that on my travels through all parts of the Kingdom in this narrative named I was always sure to be well treated when employed by any Gentleman to eat of the best, exclusive of drinking the best of Liquors and Wines when I pleased, and the different Gratuitys I generally received were handed to me privately and Genteelly, and by the time I came to Dungannon near my native place I had some good Clothes with some little money saved, and finally after this my first Journey through the Kingdom I rested myself with my parents for some time improving myself in my profession At this period I was about 20 or 21 years of age being now about 67 years of age and it was in or about the year of 1760 I finished this my first Tour.
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After remaining some years with my parents and friends in and about Dungannon I felt an itching for rambleing once more, and the first place I went to was to a Colonel White of Red Hill in the County of Cavan with whom I remained 7 years sometimes with neighbouring Gentlemen, particularly with a Mr Norris Thompson who lived within a mile and an half of the Colonel’s with whom I spent every Saturday night during that period. I spent my time very pleasantly between Col. White and Mr. Thompson. I spent one Saturday night particularly with Mr Thompson, & he was so fond of the tune of "past one OClock" that we both Tete a tete finished 4 bottles of good old port wine, I playing the Tune all the time except when lifting my hand to my head. I formed the Idea of remaining with the Colonel During his life who was a Batchelor (and some a woman hater) But there was there was a fellow named William Saunderson who was originally a Bastard Son of Colonel Saunderson’s, this fellow conducted all Colonel Whites Domestic concerns & none other though no Scholar. this fellow got Jealous with me, as the Colonel was very fond of me. He
was eternally tattleing to him, and there was a Munster Girl named Winny Burke a housemaid there whom this Saunderson wanted to debauch, which attempt she very prudently resisted, and to mortify him the more she told him "that she preferred me to him" which exasperated him the more, and at last he became so disagreeable to me, that I determined on leaving the Colonel, much against his will during the time I remained with the Colonel I went to Col. Saunderson’s about two miles distant where I spent about a month, and on my return to Red Hill, there was a General report thro’ the House that my Room was haunted & which the Colonel himself told me, But I insisted on sleeping in the same room, which I did, but I was not long in bed when I heard a strong and curious noise in the Chimney. I bounced out of bed and groped to the place and thrust my hands up, and caught a large owl which had a nest in the Chimney that by some means fell down, and lay quiet all Day, but endeavoured to get up by night making a frightful noise in the Efforts, which confirmed the Superstitious servants that it must be a Ghost. However I secured the poor bird and brought it down to the Colonel who seemed so well pleased that he put fifteen Guineas into my hand saying "that he would not for any money have it reported his House was haunted."
When I left the Colonel I steered thro’ the Chief part of the County of Cavan from one Gentleman’s seat to another, without carrying my own Harp, as there was scarce a Gentleman’s house I touched at but there was one. The Harpers found in that Country were Ned McCormick, James McGovern, Owen Clarke, Patrick McGuire, Simon Hunter, Phil Reilly, Francis Reilly, John Clarke, Ned Brady, Michl. Duigenan, Nelly Smith, Kate Martin, Paddy Kerr, and Owen Corr. McCormick was by far the best Harper of them all.
In the County Tyrone I met three brothers named Ned, Frank and James McAleer, who all played very well, on on the Harp, But Ned was far the best. He was very Comical, he lived upwards of five years in France in the Irish Brigades, and would sometimes assume the title of the celebrated "Leeriano from Paris" as he could speak the French Language very fluently. He was a Slave to that pernicious beverage that generally leaves Itinerants in that situation, that they will either pledge their own or any Gentleman’s Harp sooner than want it. !! Pox on you Carolan you must certainly have been half mulvardered when you composed your "Receipt for Drinking whiskey" otherwise I am sure you would never be a Composer as the Effect of that Cordial had so happy an effect on you, that your Ideas floated faster on you than they might have done, if there was no such Liquor to be had!!!
At one time when poor Ned McAleer assumed the name of "Leeriano" he went to a Counsellor Stewart of Baillieborough in the County of [space] [Cavan has been penciled into the space that Hughes had left here] at which time Harry Fitzsimmons Harper was there. Liriano was announced. He was ordered to play in the Hall as a specimen, where there were some Taylors then at work, for the Servants, Liriano began to play some Irish tunes, Jiggs Reels &c. Mrs Stewart after sometime came from the Parlour to the Hall, and told him she was much disappointed, as some of her own Countrymen could excel him. McAleer chagrined, started up and exclaimed, "Madam as you were pleased to order me to play in the Hall I played you Taylors and Servants musick which would otherwise be different" "Damn your soul you humping Rascal" Says one of the Snips bouncing off the floor, and was going to destroy poor McAleer with his Goose, and if it was not for some interference he was determined to revenge the mighty insult. Fitzsimmons knew McAleer who undeceived Mrs Stewart respecting his foreign descent, and was probably jealous with him as McAleer was much the best performer.
When I left the County Cavan I rambled into the County of Tyrone where I fell in occasionally with different Harpers, the first and best who claimed my attention was poor Paddy Ryan my dear Lamented friend next to Hugh ONeill
(herein after mentioned) His father was a Munster man, and an excellent performer, and indeed Paddy was not inferiour to any man I ever heard on the Harp. He was not blind and exclusive of what I knew and was informed of him, he was pregnant with sentiments of Honour and unlimitted friendship to every person, which he evinced to me in a particular manner, he was destitute of the low ideas of jealousy common amongst itinerants. He took pains and taught me several tunes, which however I now forget.
I met my old master Owen Keenan who was Glad to see me, I also met Hugh Quinn who was taught by Con. Lyons He was a Gentleman’s son, and as such conducted himself and was one of the best of Lyons pupils he was not blind. I met a John McCrory a blind Harper was a middling player. I met my name sake Peggy ONeill who played very decently on the Harp, she play’d all
pl Carolan’s planxty’s extremely well. I met a Charles Byrne who was taught by his uncle on the Harp, this man had many advantages not being blind, he was a good player. He had an excellent memory and could recount all the little incidents that happened to him during the time he led his blind uncle thro’ the Kingdom. I heard him sing a good many Irish songs in an agreeable style and pleasing Voice.
Arthur Short was the next and last Harper I met in the County of Tyrone at this time he was not quite blind, the first specimen I heard of his abilities was at my fathers House, he was but an indifferent performer. This man was very peevish, he generally travelled without a guide. I was informed he was about 100 times married but never heard how many children he had. But I was informed he had one son who was a performer beyond the common. [space] I knew and met Hugh Higgins in all my peregrinations, he supported the Character of a Gentleman Harper was uncommon Genteel in his manners, and spared no expense in his Dress. He travelled in such a manner as does and will do Credit to an Irish Harper. Hugh was born in a place called Tyrawly in the County of Mayo of very decent parents, his mothers name was Burke, He lost his sight at an early period, and was bound to learn the Harp, on which my dear deceased friend made such a proficiency as to rank him one of the best I ever heard. [space] When I left the Counties of Cavan & Tyrone I formed a notion of going into the County of Roscommon in Connaught to see my Dear friend Hugh O’Neill. We met by Appointment at a Mr McDonnells of knockrantry in that County, who saw an immensity of the first Company to be had, there was at this time which
was about 30 Years ago a "patron or kind of a meeting (not unlike a Fair) held in that quarter, and Mr McDonnells house was full of Company when I met Hugh there, amongst the rest of the Guests there was a young Nobleman from Germany named the Marquis of Devianne. I was curious to Know his cause of coming to Ireland, and was informed he fell in love with a beautiful Lady in his own Country, but his parents not approving of the match, they diverted his attention from it by sending him over to this Kingdom to take possession of an Estate in the County of Roscommon in right of his mother, from what I myself could guess and from what an accomplished Countryman of my own told me, He was one of the most finished and accomplished young noblemen he ever saw. Hugh and I played our very best tunes for a long time. The Marquis was at a loss how to call for the tune of "past one Oclock" or "Thaw me ma Cullagh naur Dhoursk a mey" which he heard played some where before, he perceived me going towards the Door and followed me, and informed me that there was a man that made Boots for him whose name was Tommy McCullogh, and it was like the Tune by saying, "Tommy McCullough made boots for me" and in the broad way he pronounced it, it was not unlike the Irish name of it. I went in with him and played it, on which he seemed uncommonly happy and informed the Company all round it was his choice.
This young Nobleman was sometime afterwards afflicted with that ugly Disease called the small pox, and Roderick O’Connor the then nominal Monarch of Connaught invited the Marquis to his little palace at Cloonalis where notwithstanding every exertion of the faculty he died at the age of about 22 or 23 years of that Disorder.
At this time I went no further into Connaught and made my way home again through the County of Leitrim, where I met a John Sneyd a very indifferent pur–blind harper, but in consequence of his being a Great thief, so much so that, he got the nickname of "long Glew fingered Jack" (he being very tall) on which accounted I avoided him, and then made the best of my way to Charles Fanning’s (here after mentioned) fathers house where I met father and son with whom I remained about three weeks very happy, during which time I attended many Weddings and Hawlings home, where the national Customs were all supported with the usual Conviviality incident to the circumstances and abilities of the party’s. I next came into the County of Cavan and visitted my old friend Colonel White who received me very well. My old Enemy Saunderson was there also who affected some friendship to me. I next visitted my old Haunts in that County, &
Taught some Scholars there, one of the best of whom was a Biddy Reilly who was blind who played very prettily before I quit that County. [space] I next came into the County of Tyrone, and made my way home to my Parents whom I found alive and well. My mother was curious to know whether I saved any money, but my father seemed well content if I returned whole and clean. [space] I was, after this second return from Rambleing almost stationary between the Counties of Cavan and Tyrone so much so, that I spent 18 successive Christmas Days at the house of a Philip Reilly of the County of Cavan, without meeting with any Harper worth notice but some of those already mentioned. [space] I forgot to mention in it’s proper place like many other of my mistakes that when was perambulating part of the County of Antrim I stopped at the Glenns near which I called at the house of Michael McDonnell and Elizabeth McDonnell (otherwise Stewart) his wife. I was uncommonly well received and they expressed a desire that their three Sons, Randal, James & Alexander should be taught by me. The Hospitality, disinterested Friendship and other favours and attention and favours shown me in their Hospitable mansion called "Vawl iska" (or Water’s mouth) was not exceeded in all my peregrinations through this Kingdom.
Randal McDonnell enjoyed all the sporting Comforts that Romantic Country admitted and without adulation (not caring a pin into whose Hands these unconnected memoirs may fall) He was uncommonly abstemious
he was from the Joys incident to the Chase, fowling &c. he made a tolerable proficiency for his time on the Harp. [space] James (the now senior Doctor) made some proficiency also, but he then appeared to me to have a partiality for some other study and which I am now happy to be informed Ranks him amongst the Class of his profession.
Alexander (the now junior Doctor) made the best attempt of the three (in my opinion) his Juvenile years being much in his favour, and before I left him he played very Handsomely. I cannot account how I acquired the friendship of the three Gentlemen above named, as it always was and now is exercised towards me in the most unlimitted manner.
Long before my starting into the musical world, there were two performers on the Harp, that almost totally eclipsed every one mentioned by me heretofore. the first was Murphy whose father was a Hawker of his Instrument, and an uncommon poor D’houl (or Devil) of
a player and as far as I can learn both father and son were both born in Leinster. But as for the sons excellence I never heard in my travels so much praise given to any Harper, by all the musicians that heard him. He was well aware of his abilities and never spared an opportunity of boasting of them. He was in France in the Reign of Louis the 14th and Murphy’s fame reached the Ears of that great monarch who sent for him, and was so well pleased with his performance that he rewarded him in a Kingly manner as himself say’d. He came home in the Dress and stile of a Great Count. His father heard of his being in Dublin, and at last made out where young Murphy was in high Company, who was so vexed at his father’s shabby appearance, that he very Dutifully Kicked the poor old man down Stairs.
Cornelius Lyons was the other Great performer and a very fanciful composer especially in his variations to the Tunes of Ellen a Roon, Calleena a Voch a thoo Shearsha (Girls did you see George) Green Sleeves, the Cooleen, and several others. He was a County Kerry man, and by all accounts he was a superior Character to Murphy as a Gentleman, and in his profession as good a performer. They were both acquaintances of Carolan’s, who could never abide Murphy on account of his lofty impudence.
Carolan was one night in Castlblaney in a public house and Murphy struts in, and after some acrimonies of his
against Carolan. He say’d "that his compositions were like bones without beef" "Aye Aye" say’s Carolan in a frett "Damn me" says Carolan "but I’ll compose a tune before I quit you, and you may put what beef you please on the bones of it. With that he left his seat, and cautiously stole behind Murphy, then seized him by the Hair of his head, dragged and kicked him through the Room unmercifully during which time Murphy’s screeches could be heard at a great distance, Carolan saying to him all the time he was Roaring "put beef to that air you puppy" and its likely that if it was not thro. some interference he would not leave a drop in Murphy. [space] It was quite the reverse between Carolan and Lyons, as they were on the most intimate footing, as Lyons admired Carolan and his works. and by all I ever heard speak of him, he was Gentlemanly, good natured, Civil and obliging to all descriptions particularly to Brother Harpers. [space] Lyons was at one time at the House of Mr Archdall in the County Fermanagh, at which time Carolan happened to be there and Lyons heard him composing the tune of "Mrs Archdall" and as Carolan could not see Lyons wrote down the music as fast as Carolan composed it, which was but middling on the Harp as Carolan was no great Performer. Mr Archdall & Lyons planned a joke which terminated in the following manner;
There was an Itinerant Harper called Charley Berreen, that Carolan detested very much, which Mr Archdall knew to be the case, and throwing up the window where they were sitting exclaimed "upon my Word here’s Berreen coming" which vexed Carolan very much, but upon the Expostulation of Mr Archdall concerning Hospitality, and the Crime attached to the breach of it, Carolan consented to his supposed admission. Lyons had a servant named McDermott who could play exceeding well on the Harp and a very humorous fellow. Lyons and McD: went into the Hall, Lyons took the Harp, and McDermott placed himself behind his master, to answer any question Carolan might put to the supposed Berreen, Carolan well knowing Lyon’s voice. Lyons began to play the tune of Mrs Archdall in the poorest manner he could to imitate Berreen, who was but a poor performer, and McDermott could well Counterfeit his voice. Carolan began to prance and dance with madness about the parlour, and roared out to the supposed Berreen, to know where he got the tune. "Och says McDermott I have that tune this 40 years and upwards" "You are a damn’d Lyar and villain" (exclaimed Carolan, "and if it was the Devil taught you have it only since last night" There was a publick Stocks near Mr Archdalls house, and Carolan told Mr A. that if Berreen was not immediately put into them He would never more come near his House, on which McDermott
made a pretended loud and strong resistance, but was dragged to the Stocks on which he sat down, and a noise was made of putting in his legs. But Carolan was not yet satisfied without beating the plagiarist and made a great blow of his Cane at him, which McDermott avoided, upon the whole Carolan suspected he was deceived and seemed so unhappy, that Mr Archdall and Lyons had to explain the whole to him, on which he laughed and seemed well satisfied, then shook hands and thanked him for his usual good humour.
The present Marchioness of Antrims Great Grand father and Lyons were almost inseparable. His Lordship was both a Wit and a Poet, and delighted in the System of Equality where vulgarity was not too Gross. At one time he and Lyons when in London, heard of a famous Irish Harper named "Heffernan" that kept a Tavern there. His Lordship and Lyons went there, but before hand they formed the following plan. "I’ll call you Cousin Burke," says his Lordship, you may either call me Cousin Randall or my Lord as you please. After regaling for some time Heffernan was called up, who was at this time well aware of the dignity of his Guest by the talk and Livery of His Lordship’s servants. When Heffernan came into the Room he was desired to bring
in his Harp and sit down, which was done. Heffernan played a good many tunes in a grand stile, But his Lordship wishing to astonish the Landlord, called upon his Cousin Burke to play a tune, the supposed Cousin made many apologies but at length took the Harp, and played some of his best airs, on which Heffernan exclaimed aloud, " My Lord you may call him Cousin Burke or what Cousin you please, but Damn me but he plays upon Lyons’s fingers" What is very extraordinary Heffernan never saw Lyons before. His Lordship undecieved Heffernan, and desired them to enjoy themselves
then together and to Challenge the World on the Harp he then retired to some other appointment.
In my travels I became acquainted with a Dominick Mungan I may say since I was 12 years old, he was born blind in the County of Tyrone and a real good Harper He was a Roman Catholick (I presume my following reason will plead an apology for mentioning his Religion.) He was a great Oeconemist but would spend money as Genteelly as any man occasionally. He had three Sons, Mark, John & Terence, whom he educated in the first stile. Mark was educated for a priest and finished his Studies in France in the College of Lombard where he obtained upwards of 40 premiums for his translations of Greek into French. After he finished his Studies he came home, but in consequence
of his intense application to study he fell into a decay and died in his fathers House in Strabane. John the second son was bred a physician, and practised in and about Monaghan and the adjacent Country with good Reputation. about five years ago as he was returning from the Races of Middleton to Monaghan in his Gig, he was upset and smashed to pieces. Terence the third and youngest son is now Bishop of Limerick and was formerly Dean of Ardagh. He had a good delivery, sung well, and acquired great Interest. He and a priest O’Beirne who was Chaplain to Lord Fitzwilliam when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland were promoted to their present Ranks of protestant Bishops. Now my reason for mentioning the Roman Catholic perswasion is this, that the Doctor and the Bishop both read their Recantations The Doctor before, and the Bishop after, their father’s death, who in his lifetime used to travel the north west Circuit with his Harp, and at one time as he was playing for one of the Judges, he asked Dominick his reasons for not speaking to his Son the Doctor, since he turned protestant. "My Lord" says Dom’k I spared no expense on him when he was unable to provide for himself, and assure your Lordship I am no bigot, but I think it was his Duty to consult
me before he changed his Religion. But it was not for the sake of Religion he did so, but he fell in love with a young Lady who was a Protestant, who informed him she could not have him as he was a Papist, on which he read his Recantation and then demanded her hand, But to his mortification she scornfully informed him that she would be sorry to marry a turn Coat" [space] these anecdotes I merely mention when speaking of Dom’k Mungan, without the smallest Idea of offending the two Bishops more especially as they are well known facts.
When Carolan died he left an only son and 3 Daughters & these lived in the County of Louth The Celebrated Dean Delany who delighted in Carolan so much so that he took young Carolan by the hand with the intention of opening a subscription for the purpose of defraying all expenses
of in revive and recover his fathers Compositions. Young Carolan was but a tolerable performer on the Harp, and totally destitute of any capability of Composition. However the Dean never ceased untill he obtained a Subscription to the amount of £1600, or thereabouts Collected, on which young Carolan made some attempts to Represent his father. But his productions were scandalous as I often heard, and Master Carolan becoming tired of Industry after humbugging
the Good natured Dean for some time, formed an acquaintance with another man’s wife in Ballymahon in the County of Longford, took her to London, where I am informed he dyed when the residue of the £1600 was spent or otherwise disposed of between him and his Dulcinea.
There is an immensity of
Irish ancient Irish music lost in consequence of the attachment Harpers latterly have for modern tunes, and which are now chiefly in vogue, the National airs and tunes being confined only to a few Gentlemen in the different provinces I have travelled through, and without the most distant idea of any view or Interest I here declare that if it was not in Consequence of the unprecedented, and I may say truly inspired Genius of a Gentleman of Belfast, whose name I will have occasion to mention hereafter, the Compositions of Dibdin and some other modern Composers, would in a very few years be the means of annihilating our Dear Irish musick and I again make bold to say that when the Gentleman I allude to will be no more, his Laborious exertions to recover and revive our dying Irish musick should record him and his memory in a manner much beyond what my poor Abilities could attempt to dictate.
I heard a few tunes of the Gleanings of young Carolan played which I thought tolerably decent, but when I heard them and the chief part of his fathers Works playd by the Gentleman I alluded to, I imagined myself in a manner Enchanted.
There was a Harper before my time named Jerome Duigenan a native of the County of Leitrim, (not blind) an excellent Greek and Latin Scholar and a charming performer on the Harp. I heard numerous anecdotes of him, the one that pleased me most well was. That when he lived with a Colonel Jones of Drumshambo, who was Representative in Parliament for the County Leitrim. The Col: went to Dublin at the meeting of parliament, where he fell in Company with an English Nobleman who brought a Welsh Harper with him, that played very well. He played some tunes before the Col: and the nobleman asked him if he ever heard so sweet a Singer, "Yes I did" says the Col: "and that by a man, that never wears either Linen or Woollen." "I will lay you a bet of 100 Guineas", says the Nobleman "you can’t produce any one that can exceed my Harper" "Done with you says the Col:" and the Bet was accordingly bound. The Col: wrote immediately for Duigenan at Drumshambo to come with all speed to him to Dublin, and to bring his Harp, and his Suit of Cauthick. That is, a dress
made of beaten Rushes, with something like a Caddy or plaid of the same Stuff. Duigenan came post haste accordingly and on his arrival in Dublin came to the Colonels lodgings, who acquainted Jeremy and the most of the members of the house of Commons with the nature of the bet. The members requested it should be decided in the House of Commons before business commenced. The 2 Harpers performed before all the members, and it was unanimously decided in Duigenan’s favour, and particularly by the English Nobleman himself, who exclaim’d "Damn you why don’t you wear better clothes" " Och says Duigenan I lost my all by a Law suit, and my old nurse for spite won’t let me wear any other clothes" "Damn me, but you shall," and then put a Guinea into his own (thick) hat, and then went round through the members, who every one threw in a Guinea each, so that the Nobleman’s Hat was nearly half full, which he put into Duigenan’s pockets. Duigenan was in the full Cauthuck dress, and a wore a Cap of the same Stuff shaped like a sugar loaf with many Tassels, he was a tall handsome man and looked very well in it. Poor Jeremy contrived
to spend the chief part of his money before he left Dublin.
I knew an Ackland Keane a blind Harper a native of Drogheda, who was taught by Lyons and an excellent performer, he travelled the Chief part of the Continent as he informed me. He played for the pretender in Rome, from thence he travelled into France, from thence to Spain, in which last place he was uncommonly well recieved, and treated, he might have been happy if it was not been for his great attachment to Drinking, by which means he lost all his Consequences, for at first the Irish dressed him out like a Spanish Don in Madrid with a servant and was introduced to His Most Catholic Majesty & played for him, and the King had some notion of settling a pension for him in compliment to the Irish, but in consequence of his turning out to be an irreclaimable Drunkard, the Royal promise melted away into oblivion. He then came to Bilboa, he always carried his Harp himself. He was strong tall and athletic and absolutely beat the post (in expedition) from Madrid to Bilboa, where after staying some time he embarked for Ireland where I frequently met him. I was informed by General Campbell
in Armagh that Ackland Keane died in Scotland.
I forgot to mention in its proper place that the Duke of Argyle that lived in Queen Anne’s Reign heard of the Celebrity of Heffernan (the London Tavern Keeper, that played for Lord Antrim) on the harp, who came to his Tavern to hear him play, (with a Large Company) The Duke called for a good Scotch tune, and Heffernan being of a real Irish independent turn of mind, played him the pretty tune of the "Golden Star" which is a plaintive Irish tune. His Lordship sayed it was too melancholy for a Scotch tune "Oh my Lord says Heffernan you must Know it was composed since the Union, alluding to the Duke (being the Counterpart of Lord Castlereagh) in planning the Union of Scotland and that the Golden Star was the most appropriate tune for such Lovers as would Barter their Country’s honour for the temporary use of that tangeant but useful and Corrupted metal,! The Duke started up and hastily quit the Tavern of the plain Hibernian, with his company. I wish I myself may have an
opportunity of playing the same Tune for Lord Castlereagh that upstart apostate, whose Grand father was only a Clerke to a Jamaica planter.
I knew a Michael Keane a blind Harper who was born in the County of Mayo in Connaught he was a decent performer, he left this Country for america with a Governor Dobbs of Castle Dobbs in the County of antrim, who was appointed to the Government of South Carolina, previous to the american Independence. Keane returned from america, and Sir Malby Crofton told this Story of Keane "That when and some other officers were Garrisoned in Fort–oswega & had a party. Keane was with them & quarrelled with them, and beat them very well, and took a Miss Williams from them all; He left the Governor & came back to his native Country which he longed to see.
I heard of Riree D’hol OKeane (blind Roger Keane) He was born in the County of Derry a Gentleman of large property and Heir to an entire Barony in that County. He was Titled by ONeill *Eriagh Thee OCaughan before he
* Eriagh thee, means an Irish Chieftain a General, a Thanist was the first office of State, an Eriagh the second, Thee means Lord of that part of the Country that was assigned to him by the King of Ulster.
Inherited his Estates which were Coleraine, Garvagh — Newtown, Limavaddy, Kilreagh and several others. He showed a strong inclination for the Harp, and by the time he came to his Estate, he was an excellent performer, and lived in a splendid stile in those Days. (James the 1st Reign) He took a fancy to visit Scotland where there were a great many Harpers. He took his retinue (or suit) with him, amongst other visits in the stile of an Irish Chieftain he paid one to a Lady Eglinton, and she not Knowing his Rank, in a peremptory manner demanded a tune, which he declined, as he only came to play to amuse her, and in irritable manner left the house. However when she was informed of his Consequence, she eagerly contrived a reconciliation and made an apology, and the result was, that he composed a tune for her Ladyship, the handsome tune of "Da mihi manum (Give me your hand) for which his fame reached thro’ Scotland, came to the Ears of the Gunpowder prophet, James 1st of England, then the 6th of Scotland. OKeane delighted him so very much, that the Crabbit monarch walked towards him, and laid his hand upon his shoulder as a token of approbation which one of the Courtiers then present observed to Roger "What"
Says OKeane, (somewhat nettled) a Greater man than ever James was, laid his hand upon my shoulder", "Who is that says the King" "ONeill my Liege" says Keane standing up. [space] He composed several fine tunes in Scotland, particularly "purth Athol, purth Gordon, (purth means a Lesson in musick) and several others, the Purths are uncommon fine tunes. I played them once but now forget them. Roger died in Scotland in a Nobleman’s house, where he left his Harp and silver key to tune it. [space] About 40 years after a blind Harper named Echlin Keane a scholar of Lyons’s (whom I often met, and an excellent Harper) went over to Scotland, and called at the house where Roger’s Harp and Key were, and the Heir of the deceased Nobleman took a liking to Echlin and made him a present of the Silver Key he being namesake to its former owner. But the dissipated rascal sold it in Edinburgh and drank the money. Riree Dhol was never married.
I knew a John OGarra well, he was blind & born in the County of Sligo. a very good performer. He was called the Bawn of Cool–a–vin, which I was informed by Charles OConnor the Irish antiquarian, had lost his estate by means of Confiscation. He was offered part but declined, he then forfeited the whole. he was a man of good qualifications — I met him in Bantry.
I Heard of a Ned Maguire he was blind, he was a native of the County of Mayo. I was informed he playd very well. I never heard any thing particular of him, But that he was Drowned in the Shannon in Limerick.
I heard of a Matthew Ormsby who was born in the County Sligo. I heard he was a good performer, but so peevish a Creature that there was no enduring him.
I knew Owen ODonnell he was born in the County of Roscommon, he was blind, he was a very Genteel young man but a middling performer.
I knew Andrew Victory, he was born in the County of Longford, he was blind. I met him in several places, he played well and dressed very well, he told me that he was once in the County Roscommon at the house of Mr McDermott Rowe who sayd to him one Day "Thonum un D’houl where were you the day the battle of Culloden was fought" (alluding to the name of Victory) "Och
says Sir" Says Victory "It was well for the Duke of Cumberland I was not, otherwise he would not have the Honor of being called Billy the Butcher.
I knew a Nelly Smith who was born in the County of Cavan, she was blind. I often heard her play, which was tolerably well.
In a former part of this narrative I observed that I was almost Stationary after my return from Munster & Connaught in and about the County Cavan these many years last past.
A little before the Rebellion of 1798 I formed the idea of opening a School which I proposed to my dear deceased friend
DCaptain Somerville of Loughsheelan in the County of Cavan, who readily consented to erect one near his own house, and also to get me 3 Scholars, and to live entirely with himself. But by means of the subsequent disturbances and the death of the Captain the plan of Course fell to the Ground.
At the time I heard of the first Ball in Granard I was at my brother Ferdinands at Glenarb from whence I pushed toward the County of Longford without meeting with any thing particular only touching at some Gentlemen’s houses in my way. I met Paddy Kerr the harper who was going to Granard also I remained in and about Granard before the ball Commenced.
These annual Balls originated in the following manner; A Mr James Dungan a native of Granard and a very extensive
merchant at that time residing in Copenhagen in Denmark, who heard in some manner that the Gentlemen in Scotland encouraged annual meetings or Competitions amongst Highland pipers, and premiums were awarded to the best performers. Dungan by national ardour in order to retain and support the original Instrument of his own Country wrote to his friends in and about Granard, and remitted a sufficient sum to defray the expenses of the three Celebrated Balls held at Granard in the years of 1781. 1782 & 1783. to the best of my Recollection. [space] "And its to be lamented" says Dungan in a letter to his friends, "That persons placed in high situations and who have it in their power to do the most good by their rank or wealth for their own Country, are I am sorry to hear the least disposed to do it. I will not attempt to say whether by Habit or inclination. I am informed they know nothing of Irish musick or Irish misery only by the name so great are their desires to support promote modern English musick, and I consider my native land half a Century behind Scotland in encouraging and rewarding the best performers on the Bagpipe which if preferred to the wired harp, strongly evinces our taste. The Welsh Harp is encreasing. The Scotch Bagpipes
are encreasing, But poor Erins Harp is decreasing; If I was among you it should not be the case — farewell my friends and I hope you will amongst yourselves support what I make bold to dictate to you. P. S: Why not make or establish a fund for the above purpose. I don’t want you to imitate the Scotch but the ancient Irish — Adieu —"
1781 First Ball, Granard
Harpers present Pat’k. Maguire; Charles Fanning Hugh Higgins Arthur ONeill Charley Berreen & Patrick Kerr Rose Mooney
Who all played their best tunes. When Charles Fanning got the first premium 10 Guineas for the Coolin. I got the second for the Green Woods of Truagh and Mrs Crofton, 8 Guineas, and Rose Mooney got the third for Planxty Burke, 5 Guineas.
The Judges at the first Ball were excellent, and there was some deliberation about the first premium between, Fanning and me, but in consequence of my endeavouring to appear on this occasion in my very best "Dudds" (clothes) they decided in favour of Charley who was careless in his dress, saying at the same time, "that he wanted money more than I did" however I received many handsome verbal Compliments besides the 8 Guineas premium. [space] To the best of my opinion there were there at least 500 persons at the ball which
was held in the Market House of Granard. A Mr Burrowes was one of the Stewards, who was a tolerable judge of musick, and who was so angry at the decision of the premiums, that he thrust his Cane thro’ one of the windows. Mr Pat’k Reilly the Inn keeper prepared the supper.
After this first Ball I became a favorite in and about Granard where I remained about 4 months and my Company much sought for, I will not attempt to say, how I deserved such attention only that I was then more Cautious of avoiding inebriation than the other harpers and kept as little of their Company as possible. On my return from the County of Longford I made my way home and stopped with Phillip Reilly of Murrough in the County Cavan, the Gentleman who was the original means of my coming to the Belfast Ball in 1792, with whom I remained some months, and then came to Archdeacon Caulfields of Castle Cosby with whom I spent a very agreeable fortnight, without any thing particular occurring and from thence I visitted all the Gentlemen alternately herein before named in and about the Counties of Cavan, Armagh, Monaghan and Tyrone, where I remained untill the approach of the period of the 2nd Granard Ball in June 1782.
1782 Granard 2nd Ball.
About the month of March I made my way again for Granard and as usual touched again at all my acquaintances (Gentlemens houses. I remained sometime with the Rev. Mr Sneyd Rector of Lurgan Co. Cavan, successor to Parson Sterling the celebrated Bag piper and Composer of the tune of "the priest of Lurgan" from thence to Captain Flemings of Bellville Co. Cavan where I remained about 3 weeks. He was a Captain of Volunteers, a lover of musick uncommonly hospitable but no proficient in musick, from thence to Lismore to Cosby Nesbitts, he was a finished Gentleman in every respect with whom I remained a few days, I then went into the County of Longford and went to see Captain Boyers of M’t Pleasant, with whom I chiefly remained until the Ball was preparing for He was one of the most Comical Genius’s I ever met, he knew something of Musick and delighted in the Harp although he played very well on the Violin.
2’d Ball – Harpers present, Chas Fanning Hugh Higgins Arthur ONeill Ned McDermott Rowe Paddy Kerr Rose Mooney & Pat MaGuire Kate Martin Charley Berreen
who all played as usual their best tunes, But the premiums were reduced this year, the first to 8 Guineas the second to 6 Guineas and the third to 4 Guineas. Charley Fanning Got the first
I Got the second and Rose Mooney got the third, Chas Fanning got the first for the Coolin again. I got the second for the Green Woods of Truagh and the Fairy Queen, Rose Mooney got the third premium, but I don’t Remember for what tunes. Higgins got some how Huffed and retired without playing a single tune. A Major Smith who knew nothing of musick was appointed one of the judges, declared, "By G– they made me a judge, because they knew, I knew, nothing about it. The Company at this 2nd Ball were more numerous than the first, and when all was over I just took the same Rout home in a similar manner as described on my return from the first, only on this my second return I stopped at a Peter Connells of Granary in the County of Longford, he could sing, and compose well, and no end to his Hospitality. Mr Connell had a humorous servant named Jack Hart, who sung both English and Irish songs as well as Mr Owenson the Comedian could. One day taking his master’s Horses to be shod, he had to pass by Captain Boyers’s Door, who was accosted by the Captain. Hart was in the mean time singing the song of "Speak O Yeough," with the Chorus of "Obber O Roo" "Blast you come in" Says Boyers, "until I give you a dram" on which Hart alighted and walked into Boyers’s House
who had at that time 10 Gallons of shrub in the House, and between singing and Drinking they never stopped for the space of 2 days and 2 nights, and never parted untill the Shrub was entirely finish’d. Mr Connell in the mean time imagined His man Hart and horses were lost, but when the Shrub was out Hart brought the Horses to the Farriers to be shod, and returned home the third day. Mr MrConnell of course brought him to an account for his Conduct. Hart without reserve told him the whole Story, & about the 10 Gallons of Shrub "Damn your Body" says Connell did you finish it" "Damn me if we did not" (with a little help") says Hart. "Why then Damn me but I forgive you, and if you did I never would if you had left a single drop" says Mr Connell.
Mr Connell informed me afterwards that Boyers was very parsimonious only when seeing Company when he would spare no expense to entertain the Guests, [space] Always on my return from Granard Balls. I stopped at Counsellor Edgeworths of Edgeworthstown where I was always well entertained. I taught 2 young Ladies Miss Farrell and Miss Plunkett who lived in that Neighbourhood to play on the Harp. Miss Farrell playd handsomely, Miss Plunkett middling. [space] I next came to a Cormack ONeills of Fardrum–hen, in the County Longford. he was an eccentric Genius and kept an house not unlike an Academy
such as Dancing masters, Musick masters, Classical masters of modern languages &c. he having 4 Sons & 3 Daughters on whom he spared no expense. I next went to Felix ONeills of Edinbawn, and Toby Peytons of Laheen, both in the County Leitrim where nothing but Hospitality occurred to me, next to Colonel Gores of Woodford and from thence to Andrew ORourkes of Creevy of CoLeitrim where I got a letter from my friend Hugh ONeill inviting me to come to him to a Mr Brown’s of Cloonfad (a Churchland) I accordingly came to him, and after some time, he informed me that a Connor OKelly a Harp maker was making one for him. As this OKelly was a very peevish man he requested me to go and keep him in temper while the harp was making for fear of disappointment, I attended on Kelly and by means of Treats and Jokes he contrived to finish it, But had to be taken asunder as when it was tuned, the treble was thought too long, it had 40 Strings 35 in General being considered enough. The Harp was a second time put together, and turned out the best one I ever heard or played upon It then only wanted Varnishing to make it a nonesuch and a Mrs Keane of Carrick on Shannon a Japanner wanted
three Guineas to varnish and burnish it, which Hugh declined I being well acquainted in Longford, I informed Hu: I could get it done there better and Cheaper which he agreed to. I took the Harp there accordingly and a Mr OSullivan finished it properly. This Sullivan was like many other mechanics of merit a Heerum Skeerum good natured fellow with whom I spent a humorous time while he was finishing the Harp. When returning back to Mr Browns where Hu: was waiting for me I met a new married Lady on the Road a Mrs Hamilton of Kill–ne–Carragh who invited me to her House, I went to it where I playd several tunes, she was much inclined to detain me, but I was impatient to see Hu: and never stopped till I came to him. He was impatient to try the Harp, & when he got into his hands he playd the Tune of "Limerick’s Lamentation or Tom Conlan’s stolen tune which he called Lochaber no more, in Scotland He was so well pleased that he exclaimed "It answers my utmost fancy" I remained at Mr Browns with Hugh about a month, where nothing particular occurred to me but highly entertained with Hospitality & good nature. [space] I next rambled to Charles OConnor’s of Ballinagar in the County of Roscommon the celebrated Irish antiquarian and I may add Historian who was one of the most Learned men that Ireland has produced. Hugh and I were invited there and indeed we exerted or mutual abilities to please that Worthy
Gentleman with our best tunes and airs. Mr OConnor was himself an excellent performer on the Harp, and one of the best amateurs I ever heard, we stopped with him about a fortnight, and in consequence of the uncommon attention that was paid to us by that Gentleman we only imagined it like a Summer’s Day — I parted Hugh at Ballinagar.
I next came to Charles Whites of White Hill in the County Sligo where as usual in that Hospitable province I experienced the highest respect and attention, I remained there a a few days at this time, but often visitted him from the year 1785 untill 1795. as he was one of my greatest favourites. He died in 1795 and left an only son Robert White the real Counterpart of his father whom I also visitted until 1803 in which year he died. [space] I next went to a Mr Ja’s Irvines of Streamstown County Sligo I am totally at a loss how to describe that Gentlemans manner of living at his own house and amongst his Tenantry, he had an ample fortune. He was an amateur, he had 4 Sons and 3 Daughters who were all proficients in musick, no Instrument was unknown to them, there was at one time a meeting in his house
house 46 musicians who played in the following order.
The 3 miss Irvines at the piano 3 Common pipers — 10 myself at the — Harp— 1 Gent’n fidlers — 20 Gentlemen — flutes — 6 Gent Clarionets — 4 Gentlemen — Violoncellos 2 ___ ___ 34 12 and — 12 ___ 46
At the hour this Gentlemans customary meetings were finished, some Guests contiguous to their own places went home, but those who lived some miles off remained and in order to accommodate them Mr and Mrs Irvine lay on Chairs that night in the Parlour for my own part I never spent a more agreeable night either in bed, or out of Bed.
I next went to the Town of Sligo where I slept that night and next morning went to a Parson Phibbs (a credit to the Cloth) of Ardlaharty near Ballymoat, he loved musick and encouraged it, and he played well on that Wired Instrument called the Dulcimer, if it was not that I wanted to see my friends I would live with him for ever. [space] I went from thence to Captain Irvine’s of Tondrago Co Sligo a finished Gentleman, he was a Captain of volunteers for 16 years and in the Queen of Hungary’s Service he distinguished himself as an Irishman not inferior to the Celebrated Count Lacy.
From Mr Irvines I came to Mrs Crofton’s of Longford the name of her seat in the County Sligo. She was the mother of Sir Malby Crofton, she was the Lady for whom Carolan composed the fine tune of "Mrs Crofton" I remained there only a few Days and then came to Parson Hawks of Screen in the Co. Sligo. He was very like Parson Phibbs in Gentility, and every other respect, he detained me a week From thence I came to Mr Jones of Arney Glass, next to Arthur Coopers of Tanzy Hill, next to Mr Whites of Ballintogher all in the County Sligo where I generally stopped a few days and uncommonly well treated without anything particular happening to me. I next came into the County of Leitrim to a Cornelius ODonnells of Larkfield where I again met my Dear Hugh ONeill, who was there on a visit being contiguous to his own farm in the County Roscommon, and near the boundaries of the Counties of Roscommon and Leitrim. He brought me back with him to his farm of Lis Connor or Forth Connor (Lis signifies a Forth) he walked me through it and described the beauties and could point out the best part of it as well as
a man that had the gift of Eyesight, and when done he says to me "Arthur you are my relation and favourite and if you should survive me this Farm shall be yours (accidents excepted in Case I should not make a Will) *See this field, see that field, Look at all Arthur which shall be yours" I see them very plainly Hugh says I, and thank you my friend" Hu: then brought me to his own house where we spent that night very happy, He then brought me to Mr Tennison’s his Landlord, that Good Landlord who would not accept of Hugh’s annual Rent of £20, But also gave him the receipt of a Rent Charge of £20 a year more on the same Concern. [space] From thence I went to Tom M’Governs of Part Naladdin County Leitrim. No end to his good nature. he was a Genteel Substantial farmer and lived in a stile beyond the common in his Capacity.
I next came into the County Fermanagh and spent a few nights with Sir James Colville very happily. [space] I next came into the County Tyrone and stopped at Ned Conways near Newtown Stewart, he had a Daughter that played the harp uncommon well; Miss Conway and I were closeted together for 3 weeks exchanging tunes She gave me the tune of Dr Hart, and I gave her the tune of Madgey Malone
[Written vertically in the margin of the page is the following footnote:] *Its as common amongst blind Harpers, blind pipers, blind fidlers & all other blind musicians to say "I see this & I see that and "Do you see me &c. as those who have the superlative Gift of sight.
and several other tunes mutually that I cannot remember at present, but left the house on the best of terms. And from thence to another Ned Conways of Montreloney in the Co. Tyrone who received me as well as his namesake, and indeed my intention was to spend my Christmas with Mr Blackall of Ballinascreen in the County Derry, but was prevented in consequence of the snow that fell at that period so much so that the deepest quarries were level with the high Road, in consequence of which many Travellers unacquainted with the Country fell victims to their Ignorance of the Roads. I next went to Mr Blackalls who excused me in consequence of the Fatality of the snow and rejoiced that I escaped it, this was in the year of 1785 or 1786.
From that I came to Ballymenagh, Co Tyrone, and from thence I went to see my brother Ferdinand at Glenarb Co Tyrone near Caledon, when resting my bones between Riding and walking, I spent near 6 months going to and visiting Mr Strong of Fair View, Captain Neville of Mount Irvine, the Revd. Dr Clarke, Rector of Clonfeacle Captain Houston of Tillydowy, Sir Wm. Richardson of Augher, Dean Keating of Clogher, who would not let me touch a Harp in his house, but indulging him
in playing the enticing Game of BackGammon, whom I always excelled blind as I was. [space] From thence I went to Mr Stack of Stacks Grove Co. Monaghan where I remained 8 or 10 Days and again returned to my brother Ferdinand and continued in and about that Neighbourhood until the time for the 3rd Granard Ball was announced, and heard that, that ever respected Memory "James Dungan" the author and instigator of the 3 Balls already mentioned would attend there, and came particularly from Copenhagen (amongst other business) to superintend the last and greatest Irish National Ball respecting Harpers that ever was was held in this Country. I met Mr Dungan there and will speak of him in Course when the 3rd Ball was finished in Granard, and will endeavour to show in the conclusion of these memoirs how folly & fashion will intrude upon the real merits of those who take pains in encouraging the Works of a Sir John Plagiarist– or a Sir John Selector, or a Sir Jn. Innovator, or a Sir Jn. St–v–n. If my friend herein after named, should seek for the empty title of a Knight Bachelor. If a Townsend or a Rutland were to visit this Country he might be sure perhaps of being appointed to a similar title of Honour But this Barren Knight should in my opinion confine
himself to his business in Dublin and not interfere with Mr B–––g or his business. and I shall also endeavour to draw a Contrast between the Revivor and the restorer of ancient Irish musick and a titled upstart that should attempt to plaster his works upon those who will not take pains of looking for the works of Mr B––.
After remaining with my Friends in and about the County of Tyrone in the usual manner for about 9 months I then began to prepare myself for the 3rd Granard Ball and set out accordingly and truched or stopped at almost every house mentioned in my going to the first & second Ball without meeting with any thing particular Worthy of notice untill I got to Mr James OReilly’s of Higginstown Coy Longford with whom I remained untill the Ball commenced on which the following named Harpers, and a few more that I can’t recollect attended viz :
|Charles Fanning—||Lawrence Keane—||Ned McDermot Rowe|
|Arthur ONeill—||James Duncan—||Rose Mooney &|
|Hugh Higgins—||Charles Berreen—||Kate Martin|
The premiums were the same as at the 2nd Ball, that is 8 Guineas the first, 6 Guineas the 2nd and 4 Guin’s the third.
Fanning, deservedly, always got the first, I got the second and poor Rose Mooney as, usual, got the third.
A gentleman named Miles Keane railed uncommonly about the distribution of the premiums, and swore a great oath. That it was the most nefarious decision he ever witnessed. I don’t know what he meant but heard the expression. Lord and Lady Longford attended this Ball and the meeting was vastly more numerous than the two former Balls. Quality 40 miles around attended, and there was not a house in the Town but was filled with Ladys & Gentleman, and the Town was like a Horse fair as there was not Stableing for the 20th part that came, there were at least 1000 people at the Ball. In consequence of the Harpers who obtained no premiums being formerly neglected I hinted a Subscription which was well received & Performed, and indeed on distributing the collection their proportions exceeded our Premiums, this Ball was nearly being spoiled by means of a Bernard Reilly of Ballymorris who entertained some antipathy to Mr Dungan and took every pains to destroy the Harmony of the Ball. [space] Mr Dungan the father, and promoter of the 3 Balls came over from Copenhagen as before mentioned to see how this 3rd and last Ball was Conducted, and he
Got so much so disgusted with the indecorous manners of the Stewards and others who superintended the management of it, that Mr Dungan did not attend during the performance, but attended at Supper; There was a very handsome ode Composed for Mr Dungan on his arrival at Granard, but thro’ Jealousy or some other motives he never saw either the ode or the Composer.
I dined with Mr Dungan the day after the Ball
with Mr D at the Widow Reillys in Granard. I don’t know how I deserved his attention, but I should sit next to him, and dined with him in different places He acquired admiration and respect every where he visitted, in Consequence of his polished manners and Gentlemanly accomplishments, he remained sometime in & about Granard & I understand he is now alive and well in Copenhagen.
If there was a Dungan and a Bunting in each province in this Kingdom, its more easily imagined than my poor abilities can describe, to what a degree of Grandeur the Irish Harp and the musick incident to it would arrive to. When The 3rd Ball was over I took my leave of Duncan and Keane 2 of the harpers,
But I forgot to mention, that before the Ball opened Rose Mooney pledged her Harp, petticoat and cloak. When I make this remark of poor Rose it is with no ludicrous intention of exposing her faults, which should chiefly be attributed to her maid Mary, whose uncommon desire for drinking was unlimitted and taking advantage of her mistress’s blindness, she always when drink was wanting, pawned any article on which she could raise ½ a pint; therefore poor Rose I acquit you of any meaness on your account, as your Guides and mine have often led us into Hobbles which are inseparable from blind Harpers &c and afterwards laughed at, But we in general think its better for people in every situation in life to have about them the Rogue they know, than the Rogue they don’t know.
I made it a point to remain in and about Granard till I understood that Mr Dungan was for returning to Copenhagen and it may be imagined that I say too much of myself, but He took me aside when parting, exchanged mutual friendship and when done shaking hands I discovered the weight of 6 Guineas in mine, adding at the same time, "that I deserved the first premium as he was informed" (he not attending) & "hoped that I would not be offended at his making it superior to Fannings" I never experienced the same feelings on parting with any friend before or since except Hugh ONeill.
In coming home I differed from my Rout from that of the Second ball. As I went thro’ a Skirt of the County of Westmeath into the County Cavan to see my dear friend Captain Somerville, where after frequent Repetition of his promises to support me to the last was our chief conversation, and from his seat of Loughsheelan Lodge I pushed into the County of Meath, and stopped at the seats of Peter Cruise (nephew to Carolan’s favourite Bridget Cruise) Mr James Carolan’s of Carrickmacross Co. Monaghan, I was much disappointed in speaking to this Gentleman, as well as to a great number of the Carolan’s in that County, where the celebrated Terence Carolan, the composer, was born, that not one of them would Claim Kindred to him, which in my opinion, would be no disgrace to either Orpheus, Apollo, or King David. [space] From thence to Mr Plunketts of Rock Savage Co. Monaghan, from thence to Dundalk Co. Louth to see my Relation Owen ONeill, Captain Byrne of Castletown, George & Harry Byrne and altho these 3 Gentlemen had each separate houses they never would dine asunder, for if the Captain was invited any where, George & Harry were sure to be there, and if Geo. or Harry were asked to Dine, the three brothers were sure to be together, they were all
married, and their brotherly affection was the theme of the discourse of the surrounding country.
From Dundalk I cross’d the Fews mountains I had a young man a Guide, named Paddy Ward who threatened to quit me in consequence of the uncommon shower of Snow that fell after we left NewtownHamilton, poor fellow he was nearly famished, (tho a young Lad,) with Cold, and I would not part him till we came to a publick house that was kept by a Mrs McArdell. We scarcely entered when all our apparent wants were enquired into and by the uncommon exertions of that good woman, we were in a short time relieved from the fatigues of our long and Cold journey. I in my turn to gratify her play’d till all was blue, and the next morning when preparing for depart, I of course called for the reckoning. " Mr ONeill" says Mrs McArdle, "do you want a Walloping" (meaning a beating) and then gave me a gentle blow on the Shoulder, saying " there’s a Receipt for you."
I next went to a Priest ONeills of Ballymanabb near Armagh, who was a Relation of mine, and a real ONeill. It may be imagined that I mean to be partial to his character when I say that in all my travels I never met his superior in pointes of unbiggotted & unprejudiced
Hospitality of manners he was a respected Gentleman of his order, on the Altar or pulpit. And out of the pulpit no person, but them that knew him, could distinguish whether he was a priest, parson, or Country Squire. I had some
more difficulty in getting away from him, and when I did I went into Armagh, and alternately visitted Mrs Alford Mr Jenning Doctor Hamilton, and others whom I now forget. I went from Armagh to Caledon, and then again to my brother Ferdinands, and where after polishing off the rust of mind and Care & fatigue my next care was to do something for my Guide, Ward, whom I bound to a Linen Draper Weaver but in consequence of the impression of Rambleing he got under me for the space of 4 years, he quit the Treddles and heavy stays, and enlisted g in a Regiment then recruiting in Caledon. Shortly after I went to the Co. Cavan and Rambled as usual, and paid my first respects to my dear (now) deceased friend Captain Somerville, who received and treated me as formerly, it was almost what is termed, a HouseWarming, I spent about three weeks with him in the usual manner. [space] From the Captains I went to Granard, where I parted my Guide, who was well
known to the 2 Dr McDonnells of Belfast, who in some manner acquired the nickname of, Grog, the Captain asked me the reason of his being called Grog, my answer was "that Grog was insipid and so was Paddy FitzGerald, the boys name, the Captain then procured me a Guide to lead
a me as far as Granard, And there went to a Mr James OReillys with whom I spent about 2 Months very happily. He got me another Guide, named Tom Hannen he was about 36 years of age. He was 9 years in the service of the East India Company, and, notwithstanding the vice and bad habits incident to soldiering, he was the most divested of little dishonest tricks of any other Guide I ever had, not excepting Michl. Hackett my present Guide. When I was not employd poor Hannen would amuse me with an account of his adventures, and he told me some Storys that were often read to me since, amongst which he told me the story of his being present at the burning of a Hindoo Woman, a Custom or Law practised in that part of the East. That is when the Husband dies, the wife is to prepare herself to be burned on a funeral pile of wood, and that all her Relations and friends attend on this solemn occasion to see the wife accomplishes the business
without Cowardice, and she is to be drest in her best attire, and then she walks round the pile, then takes leave of all her Relations and friends, she then ates a that has something of the same effect as Laudnum and when the effect arises she plunges herself into the pile, and her nearest friends have Bamboo poles in their hands, and when the torch is set to the pile they rush forward to assist in strangling or suffocating her before the flames can make her screech or moan. this Story poor Hannen told me. I only mention it in a loose manner well Knowing that is much better described by modern Historians.
Hannen then next led me into the County of Leitrim to Andrew ORourke’s of Creevy, in that County. He was a Gentleman of Learning, wit, and humour, which three great qualifications he never abused in any manner. As for the first, He was capable of composing and actually did Compose several songs in Latin English and Irish, and played very handsomely on the Harp. His wit and humour was never in my presence, and to the best of my information and bel’f, immodestly or indelicately exercised.
From his House, I went to Toby Peyton’s for whom Carolan composed "Plansty Peyton". this Gentleman had a fine unincumbered Estate, and exclusive of the expenses of Groceries and Spices. He spent the remainder of his income in Encouraging National Diversions, particularly Harping & all other wired Instruments; He lived to the age of 104 years, and at the time he was 100, he mounted his Horse as dexterous as a man of 20, and was the first in at the death of a Fox or a Hare. This Gentleman’s age accounts for my observation of Carolan’s time being before mine, and my visitting him. [space] From thence I crossed the Shannon and went into the County of Roscommon again to Charles OConnor’s the celebrated Irish antiquarian already mentioned; This celebrated Character always took the blind side of me in point of good nature, as for when I would order my horse, and when I was imagining myself mounting, there was no Horse, and of course had to return into his house, where Laughing & Hospitality was the apology he pleaded; For my disappointments at length I stole away from him to the house of Patrick Brown’s of Croghan, County Roscommon
about 7 miles orunder, and got the most uncommon wetting I ever experienced and Hannen, my Guide, was Crying with the wet and Cold he suffered in that Journey, But my pride in not availing myself of Shelter was sufficiently punish’d, for I was shortly afterwards afflicted with such a severe Rheumatism that I lost the power of Two of my left hand fingers, & notwithstanding which I went thro’ all my old acquaintances in that County untill I came into Granard again and there tumbled into Jemmy Reillys, my old and before mentioned favourite acquaintance. [space] In consequence of the affliction of the Rheumatism, I felt myself uncommonly unhappy in not being able to exercise my usual abilities on the Harp, and resolved to get home to Glenarb as soon as possible, But notwithstanding the resolution I formed I could not resist the Temptation of making a short–cut to Lough–Sheelan–Lodge, to see (now) my dear deceased friend Captain Somerville, the almost counterpart of Captain Westenra of Bumper Hall in the County Meath, Somerville was in this year, 1792, about 50 years of age, and he perceiving my misfortune of the fingers, amused me with reading, and on reading the Belfast NewsLetter
to me, and the advertisement inviting all the Harpers in the Kingdom to come to Belfast to
come attend to show their patriotism for their love of Ireland, and to bring their instruments with them. [space] When I left Captain Somerville’s I next went to Philip Reilly’s of Mullough, the 18 years constant and unchangeable friend before named, and for fear I should be hurried I will now make free to describe him & his character, he was about 5 feet 7 inches in height, stout and well made, and left no stone unturned to show himself a Real OReilly, "Damn the expense says Phil oReilly, give us a Cooper of Claret" and Mrs OReilly was a Woman of that good humoured turn of mind, that she was well aware of his frailty, but without Contradiction or any expression that might be the cause of an argument while encouraging the Duty of the importation of Wine, she indulged him in his loose Conduct and expressions, and gently reprimanded him the ensuing morning.
At this time I received a Letter from Dr James McDonnell of this Town (Belfast) and how he discovered where I was, I never could Learn, but the subject of the Letter was to invite me to Belfast on the 9th of July 1792 to assist with other Harpers, in Playing on that National Instrument
In consequence of the Rheumatism I felt my own incapacity and expressed it to my friend, Phil OReilly, as I had not the use of the Two principal fingers of my left hand by which hand the treble on the Irish Harp is generally performed. Mr Reilly would take no excuse & swore vehemently. "That if I did not go freely, he would tye me on a Car and have me conducted to assist in performing what was required by the Advertisement before mentioned." I abided by his advice, and on the Fews Mountains in my way to Armagh I met Pat’k Lyndon at a public house, he knew me and called out to me, and asked me where I was going. I informed him, and he told me he would like to accompany me, if he was better dress’d, at this time I had plenty of old clothes, and I knew him to be an excellent Scholar who could read and write Irish very well, and wished to have him with me to Belfast, imagining that he would be a great acquisition to this Celebrated Harpers meeting at Belfast. He got my old clothes in order to Cut them down, and he was so proud when he got them, that he rambled through the neighbourhood of Ballynagleragh Co. Armagh in so volatile
a manner that when I expected him, according to our terms on parting, that he did not appear, and indeed he with his breach of Promise and my having the Rheumatism still I found myself uncommonly awkward when I came to Belfast to endeavour to show myself worthy of Dr James McDonnell’s good opinion of me, and he perceiving my bad State of health thought it necessary to Electrify me every Day previous to the Belfast Ball.
Dr James McDonnell explained to me the nature and purport of this Ball was to show a specimen of patriotism and National ardour to the rest of the Kingdom which was held on the 14th July 1792, at which time the following Harpers attended, with others that I do not now remember, viz.
|Charles Fanning.||Arthur ONeill.||James Duncan.|
|Hugh Higgins.||Denis Hempson.||Donald Black.|
|Pat’k Quinn.||William Carr.||Charles Berreen|
|(Welsh) Williams.||Rose Mooney.||&c. &c.|
On this occasion the different premiums were to be kept a profound secret, so much so that one Harper was by no means to let the others know what he received in order to prevent any jealousy amongst them, and to excite Emulation amongst them to exert their utmost Skill & ability in playing Irish airs &c.
[red margins begin]
This meeting continued 4 Days in the Exchange Rooms in Belfast without the smallest interruption whatsoever, and each Harper exerted himself to the utmost of their ability. they played all Irish musick, and the Judges on this occasion were sufficiently Competent to leave no degree of jealousy amongst the Harpers respecting the distribution of the Premiums.
When the was over Dr J McDonnell invited all the Harpers to dine with him, which they accepted, and we accordingly met and Dined with him, and if we were all Peers of the Realm, we could not be treated better, as the assiduity of Dr and his family to make us happy is more than I can describe. [space] I remained 4 days with him after the other Harpers were gone away, and then set out for home. I went to Broughshane, from that to Cushindall where I remained 2 months for the benefit of the Water at John Rowe McDonnells the Dr’s brother [Nb. The figure ½ has been added (in dark ink) above the text between Dr’s and brother, but it is not apparent when or who by] where I was treated with uncommon Care and attention during that time where I saw my friend Randall McDonnell very often. I found myself much better by the benefit of the water.
and then went to Ballycastle to Archib’d McDonnells another brother [Nb. Ditto — the figure ½ has again been added to the text in front of the word brother] of the Doctors where I remained about 3 weeks. from thence I went to New–Ferry to Henry ONeill’s, the Doctors uncle where I was well received and used. From thence I went to Castledawson and stopped a week there with Doctor Shields. From that to Moneymore, which I might then justly call Money–less, as I was uncommonly bare of money. From that I went to Hugh Stuarts of Ballymena, from thence to Dungannon, and then home to my Brother Ferdinands at Glenarb where I remained in the usuall manner as after my different Peregrinations. [space] After remaining some time at Glenarb with my friends I left my brothers and came to Mr Stewarts of Acton Co Armagh, and on leaving that Gentleman’s house I met Mr Ed. Bunting as I was going toward Newry where he brought me, with whom I spent as agreeable a fortnight as I ever spent in my life. [space] He took some tunes from me, and one evening at his Lodgings he played on the Piano the tune of "Speak OYeough" and I sung with him. There was at that time a Gentleman in Newry in disguise, who called himself Mr Gardiner, and lodged near Mr Buntings, whose Lady was looking out of the window
and heard us. She spoke to my Landlord to induce me to spend the evening with her, and her husband, which I did and was uncommonly well used, and on coming away this Mr Gardiner, who was no other but the Scotch Earl of Galloway in disguise, slipped me a Guinea, & what his motives were for disguising himself I never could learn. [space] I left Mr Bunting in Newry and went to Dundalk where a Gentleman a Mr McCann accosted me in the street and asked me where I was going. I told him "to any place being invited to no place." He then took me to his
hown house in that town where I remained a fortnight very agreeably and then went into the County of Meath and stopp’d at a Mr Taaffe’s of Smarmur Castle. from thence down to Drogheda where I stoppd one night, and then went to Dublin where I visitted a number of Gentlemen for a few days and then went to Lord Powerscourt in the County Wicklow for whom I had a Letter, where I remained some days & then returned to Dublin again where I met a Miss Ryan of Beresford Street, who played very decently on the Harp. When I left Dublin I returned to the County of Cavan but stopp’d at the following places. Lord Dunsany’s
Mr Barnewalls, Lord Ludlow’s of Ardsallagh near Navan, James ONeills of Meathstown, John O’Neill of Kells a respectable Brewer all in the County Meath. Then to Philip Reillys of Mullough in the County Cavan, the Gentleman with whom I spent the 18 successive Christmas Days already mentd. and then I perambulated the County’s of Cavan and Tyrone, pretty much in the same manner as formerly after finishing a Journey without any thing particular happening to me.
In June 1803 I took it into my head to visit Dublin once more, and passed thro’ the Counties of Cavan Monaghan, Louth, Meath, and Dublin stopping at the Gentlemen’s houses before named in each County without meeting with any matter or thing worthy of notice. I determined to see at this time all my friends in Dublin, and spent about 3 weeks in the house of Mr John Farrell of Eccles Street, and notwithstanding the Hospitality and good nature I experienced there, my mind was miserable in consequence of the City being like one universal Barrack, such as the Clashing of arms, beating of Drums to arms, sounding of Bugle Horns & the like in consequence of an unexpected Insurrection amongst a parcel of Country peasants, under the Influence of a Mr Robert Emmett and a few other Leaders of less Capacity and Education. When the Executions commenced after the disturbance was suppressed I was much Surprised to hear of Mr Emmetts Execution
As previous to his receiving Sentence he informed Lord Norbury "That were frenchmen to assume any authority inconsistent with the purest Independence, that would be the signal for their Destruction, and that he would fight them with the Sword in one hand and the Torch in the other he would Root up and burn every blade of Grass in the Land sooner than let a Foreigner tyrannize &c. &c."
I was so impatient to leave that scene of Terror and alarm, that I left Dublin as soon as the first emotion of dismay was subsiding I made off for the County of Tyrone again, and notwithstanding my being blind and of course incapacitated from being usefull either in loyalty
and or Treason I had to get a pass, and indeed without considering my incapacity, the wise acres, on my way home Demanded my pass almost every 5 Minutes. I would sometimes say "here it is" pointing to my Harp, and because there was no Crown on it I was often in Danger of being ill used by the illiterate Loyalists who took pride in displaying their cautious Conduct. But I must say that whenever I was examined by superior officers they Generally assisted me in facilitating my Journey untill I got to Glenarb to my brother Ferdinands.
My head quarters for the last 10 years of my life was principally at a Colonel Southwells of Castle Hamilton in the County Cavan, Brother to Lord Southwell of Rokeby Hall near Drogheda. He was Colonel of the 14th Light Dragoons I never knew a more accomplished Character. I don’t know how I gave him cause to fancy my company so much as he did during that period, but we were almost inseparable, and our usual salutation would be "How are you ONeill". I would answer "very well Colonel" I visitted a great number of other Gentlemen in that Neighbourhood and County, but could not be long out of the Colonels house.
I am now about 68 years of age and exerted my utmost ability to remember as much of my peregrinations as I thought worthy of mentioning and cannot avoid expressing my Gratitude to my best friend Mr Bunting to whom I am principally indebted for ease and Comfort in my declining Years, by whose means I came to Belfast in Consequence of an advertisement I heard read to me. Stating the Gradual decline of the Irish Harp, and how meritorious it would be to preserve the musick of it, there being only one Bard alive Capable of teaching it. The Cap fitted me and I accordingly wore it and came to Belfast and met Mr Bunting and by his uncommon exertions he solicited
Sufficient Co–operation to establish an annuity for me. Let censure, malice or surmise rage in what shape it may, it may be imagined that I am saying to much of that Gentleman But I am sorry that I am inadequate to record or describe his real meritt which I am proud to say has placed him far beyond any mercenary view of Interest and I on my part would be far from acting the part of a Sycophant as thank God I am Independent of being such a Character. But finally Mr Bunting’s plan is That I shall reside in Belfast the remainder of my to instruct such 12 poor boys as have a Capacity to learn & retain the National Musick of the Harp.
[End of Autobiography][A New section begins one third of the way down page 77]
Charles Fanning was born in Foxfield in the County of Leitrim in the province of Connaught. His father Loughlin Fanning was a decent farmer and played well on the Harp. Charles was principally instructed by Thady Smith a native of the County of Roscommon & a tolerable performer on the Harp. Charles Fanning in consequence of His performance on the Harp became much respected. He never taught any but merely was an amateur and principally supported himself by the private emoluments arising from his profession. On his first arrival into the County of Tyrone, he got acquainted with a Mrs Bailie of Terrinaskea in that County who played on the Harp very well. Charles married her kitchen maid, for which Mrs. Bailie was greatly disobliged, as she frequently had him at her own Table. and had him introduced to Genteel company
she fell out with him and he was not received as usually. Charley and the wife boxed now and then. He visitted Mrs Bailie generally at 3 months a time in his professional way. His wife was discharged and was generally sneaking after Charley every where. He went from Mrs Bailie’s to Derry, and got himself introduced to the Bishop who seemed to like him well, otherwise he would not keep him. I Arthur ONeill went to Derry where I met Charley, and when I asked him "how he was" Charley replied "That I might blow a Goose quill thro’ his cheek (meaning he was so poor and thin) and this time he had the wife and one or Two children to support.
After he left the Bishop’s he rambled about the nation a while. I next heard he fell in with a Mr Pratt of Kings Court in the County Cavan. he lived a couple of years there and had a house and Garden and 4 acres of Land and the Grazing of 4 Cows in the Demesne. He had a letter from Mr Pratt that he would give him a Lease of his concern, But on Mr Pratt’s death his brother’s son, who was his Heir, refused giving the Lease & turned him out. Charles consulted Counsellor (now Judge) Fox with his Case, who gave an opinion in his favour, and say’d he would make it good. Charles gave Fox the letter,
But in consequence of some private influence as he believed he never could get it from him again, and it is generally believed he was betray’d. He then rambled as usual. I saw him often afterwards who told me the above Story about Mr. Fox. [space] I next heard of his being in Belfast in 1792 at the time of the Celebration of the French Revolution where I met him, where he got the Highest prize for his performance on that occasion.
James Duncan. This Gentleman was descended of respectable parents in the County of Down, and was taught to learn the Harp, only, as a qualifying branch of his education, for which Instrument he had a particular partiality for. He was principally instructed by a Harry Fitzsimons a professor of the Harp, under whom he made a very considerable proficiency. His Embarrassment in life was the chief cause of his becoming an itinerant Harper for some years. He was deeply engaged in a Law suit with some of his family, and the Emoluments arising from his performances were the principal means of defraying the expenses of it. and the Law suit terminated in his favour, and obtained his property in the possession of which he lately died. I met him in Belfast in 1792 on the occasion already mentioned,
and his Gentlemanly conduct induced me to form an uncommon opinion of him, and was much grieved, when coming to Belfast afterwards, I made his party of the Country my way to call on him when I was informed of his death. He was an excellent performer, But knew very little of ancient Irish airs. He played a great variety of modern airs very well.
Harry Fitzsimons a native of the County of Down, & his son Harry junior were both excellent performers. Harry the elder was decent in his line. But his son was a great libertine, who at one time debauch’d a Lady in the County of Galway, for which he had to fly to his native place. He stay’d at a Counsellor Stewarts’ of Bailie borough in the County of Cavan for 3 years. where he got 3 of the servant Girls with Child who were all brought to bed in the same Month for which he had to leave Mr Stewarts. NB. Both father and son are dead.
Hugh O’Neill was born in Fox Field in the Co’y of Mayo. He lost his Eyesight by the smallpox when he was about 7 Years old. He was descended from parents of respectability on both sides. His
Mother’s name was McDonnell, and was Cousin German to the celebrated Count Taaffe of Curran. At an early period he evinced a strong disposition to learn to perform on the Harp, and was first taught by a Woman of the name of OSheill. He afterwards acquired a great proficiency in consequence of a Gamut invented by himself by means of wires, in the construction of which he was assisted by a Mr Caddell of Harbourstown in Fingal near Dublin. His parents dying when he was young, he was left scarce left any patrimony and had to play for hire, and in consequence of his genteel descent and parentage. He was always received as a Gentleman, which character he himself supported, such as keeping a pair of horses a servant &c. &c. in which manner he always travelled, and the sums he received for his performances were generally given him more in the nature of a present, than as mere payment for his performances. In consequence of which he soon became Independent of accepting any pecuniary favours. But his benefactors in return would establish a fund for him which enabled him to turn an extensive Grazier
so much so that he could purchase several scores of cattle at a time. He held an excellent House & farm by Lease under Mr. Tennison, of Castle Tennison in the County of Roscommon, at the yearly rent of £20, w.ch Rent Mr. Tennison never demanded in consequence of the uncommon esteem he entertained for him. At one time he wanted to sell a Horse, but a gentleman a friend of his prevented him, but proposed to have it raffled for, and actually got subscriptions for that purpose to the amount of 80 Guineas. The Raffle took place and the winner generously returned the Horse to Hugh. This circumstance occurred previous to his becoming Grazier. I have myself been numerous times in his company, and am a good deal indebted to him for a good deal of musick. I have reason to lament his death, as at one time he declared he would make me Heir to his property, as he never was married. He died at a Cousin’s house named Ned McDonnell near his own farm without making any will. His complaint was a fever of which he died in 8 Days, in the absence of
Mr. MacDonnell and his wife, who were from home, & notwithstanding he was in a manner advised by all the physicians of that part of the Country, yet he expired without medical advice, and I am well informed and believe, that if any of the faculty had been sent for he would have survived many years longer, being only about 50 years of age when he died. His property descended to 2 or 3 brothers, that in his lifetime he would not even speak to, which strengthened his partiality for me and I am convinced that if his Cousin was at home when he died he would have made a will, in which I am well aware I would not be forgotten. He is buryed in the Church yard of Ballyronan near Castle Tennison, and in the very Grave where the celebrated Carolan was interred, and what to me is a melancholy reflection. That notwithstanding these Two celebrated characters were in their lifetime caressed by people of the first description and Rank, some subscription was not set on foot to establish a fund for the purpose of erecting a monument of some kind to record their memories, and to point to any amateur or professor of musick passing thro’ that Country the place of interment of Alas! poor Carolan & Hu. O’Neill.
Notwithstanding poor Hugh being blind, it always appeared to me more extraordinary than all Keenan’s capers was to be sure that he would be at every Hunt that would happen, and I am well informed that he crossed the Country and came in at the Death as well as any Gentleman at the Chase, only with this difference, that at some very dangerous leaps he would require some Guide or other directions to prevent any fatality, and at the meeting of the Club to celebrate the Chase, He was always sure to be one of the Company either with or without his Harp. Hugh could not sing a note a song but was uncommonly witty and pleasant in Conversation. Hugh and I once met together at a Captain Westenra’s near Monalty in the County Meath, at his seat called Bumper Hall, and Bumper Hall it was no nickname for it, as there 12 Hogsheads of whiskey 4 hhds of Claret and 2 pipes of port consumed every year, together with 23 Carcasses of Beef also, and a Sheep for each days consumption, notwithstanding that Captain Westenra was a Bachelor. One Day when dining with a large party of Gentlemen, an itinerant blind Harper call’d and his profession was announced at which time Hugh
and myself were at Dinner also, and Captain Westenra finding room for a good joke had admitted. When Dinner was over the Captain asked the Harper "if he ever heard him (the Captain) Play? "No", says the Harper "Fetch me over my Harp", says the Captain, which he put into Hugh’s hands who played delightfully, and when Hugh finished the tune He asked the Harper "how he liked the music? "Oh Damnation to my soul, if one of your breed seed or Generation could play in that manner, and Damn me again if I ever heard the Harp play’d before putting all together" However the poor fellow was detained for that night, tho he would not attempt to play after he heard the supposed Musick of the Captain. Westenra would in fact keep Hugh & I for life, But in drinking he would kill the very Dev’l himself, & I myself often stole away from Bumper Hall otherwise I must have long since made my Exit. He used to lock up my Harp to insure my coming back.
John Keenan was born in Augher in the County of Tyrone, was born blind. He was a school fellow of mine learning the Harp in Augher. He never arrived to
any degree of perfection on the Harp, but an itinerant professor of it. He was of a comical turn and an excellent Companion. he was once going thro’ Dundalk & in carrying his Harp under his arm, he knocked it against the Glass of a Carriage in the street, the Coachman seized him to make good the damage. poor Keenan had no money and his harp was seized. Keenan then got into a Gentleman’s house. "Well says he I’ll soon settle this affair." How will you settle?" reply’s the Gentleman. "By the Lord, says he "there is a Well in such a place & I will go and pitch myself into it, and that will settle the whole affair" "Tut, tut," says the Gentleman, "why would you do that"? "because Says Keenan, my Harp is taken from me, & how can I do without that having no money, nor the way of getting it" The Gentleman then gave him a Guinea and afterwards went thro’ the Town & got him 9 more. He then released his Harp, and next went to Mr. Stewarts of Killymoon, and fell in Love with a French Governante that was there, and they became of consequence very great. He next went to the House of a Gentleman in that neighbourhood, and in a few nights he contrived to visit
Madam, and contrived also to come back to Killymoon and brought with him a 19 foot Ladder, and put it up against her bedchamber window, then climbed up and tumbled into bed, however Madam was not in bed, but another old woman, who screechd out and made an alarm and poor Keenan, was taken and committed to Omagh Gaol. When Mrs Stewart heard of it, she made some noise not knowing the reason, Miss Stewart, a young Girl exclaimed "Oh many a night he slept with Mrs Bennalte (the Governante) "and me".
When in Gaol Hu: Higgins before named, came there to visit him, not thinking his crime dishonourable it being a love affair, and after some conversation Keenans liberation was planned. Higgins sent out for some whiskey, and the Gaolers wife who doated on it, the Turnkey and other prisoners fell to drink and all got drunk, except Keenan and Higgins. the Gaoler’s wife got so Drunk she went to bed, the Gaoler being from home, and Keenan got into her Room and stole the key of the Gaol out of her pocket, then opened the Door & took Higgins’s Boy with him to lead him, and left Higgins behind him in his place. He then crossed the River with
The boy on his back, and went directly back to Killymoon again to see the Governante. He was again committed for the Ladder business, but at the assizes the Judge ordered him out of the Dock thinking it impossible a blind man could himself alone manage the Ladder at the window in the manner before mentioned. Keenan however married the Governante, and after divers journeys thro’ this Kingdom, they went to America together where poor Keenan died.
I forgot to mention a circumstance that showed the independent spirit of poor Keenan. When he made his escape from Omagh Gaol to Killymoon, Mr. Stewart heard all about him, and on meeting him He reproved him very much, and Commanded him to beg his pardon "What says Keenan", roaring out, "Beg your pardon If I do damn me" you yourself that is such a terrible old Lecher wants me to beg your pardon, No, sir I will beg my Ladys pardon to whom the offence, if any, was given"
The Governante was a Huguenot and poor Keenan had to read his Recantation in the parish Church of Kilmore, which oath was dictated to him by a Captain Fleming before the ceremony was performed.
Kate Martin, this female performer was born in the parish of Lurgan in the County of Cavan. Her parents I am informed were but poor. I do not know how she became nearly blind, as she could walk without a Guide. She was taught the Harp by a man named Owen Corr, with whom I had no acquaintance. Kate played very handsomely, but had a strong partiality for playing the tunes composed by Parson Sterling, the Rector of that parish of Lurgan, who was celebrated for his performance on the Bag pipes This Minister compos’d a celebrated tune called the "Priest of Lurgan which tune Kate played uncommon well. She seldom or ever travelled out of the bounds of the County Cavan.
Rose Mooney, this female was born in the County of Meath. I am not sure of what circumstances her parents were. She was blind and taught to play on the Harp by Thady Elliott. this Thady was a mixture of every kind of Devilment, such as drinking swearing and an uncommon propensity for women, for which we blind men in general are addicted to. He was meanly obscene, pregnant with smutty songs, & stories, & in consequence of his Drollery he was generally entertained only by the
middling order of people, who delight in that kind of mirth. I must digress from Rose’s memoirs of whom I have not much more to say. I was entertained at a Mr. Prestons near Navan, and same Thady Elliott was there at that time, to offer his usual services. But Mrs. Preston dismissed him for two reasons, one was to pay me a compliment, not to suffer him to intrude on me, & the other was that she was much prejudiced for his conduct, as he would endeavour to show his Wit no matter in what Company. I know nothing more about Thady, but I understand he died one Day of an Innishoen Epilepsy in the County of Meath, where he was born. [space] But to return to Rose Mooney I never heard much about her only as an Itinerant Harper untill I was informed that she and her maid Mary were in Killala at the time the French landed there. How she and her maid, & the Devil’s own Maid she was, finished their career, is not well known, but it is generally imagined, that when the Rebels forced open the Loyalist’s spirit stores, Rose and her maid went into some of them, where the impression Thady Elliott gave Rose in her early Days had such an effect, that it is
generally imagined she Kicked the Bucket as her tutor did. Rose was at one time much respected, But it is certain that her maid was the principal cause of her falling into dis–esteem, as she would, and did sacrifice her mistress’s reputation for a Glass of Whiskey.
Thomas Conlan, the Great Harper, was born before my time. I heard he played very well. He made himself conspicuous in Scotland by means of the Tune of "Lochaber" which he plaistered upon the Scotch as one of his own composition. Whereas it is well known it was composed by Miles O’Reilly of "Killing–Care" in the County Cavan under the name of "Limericks Lamentation" however Conlan arrived to City Honours in Edinburgh chiefly by means of that Tune, among others. I heard they made him a "Baillie" or Burgomaster in Edinburg where he died. [space] I heard much of his brother William Conlan who was a famous Harper and a fine Composer. He composed the "Golden Star", Madame Lestrange, the Jointure and a number of others that I now forget. he died in the County of Waterford.
Submitted by Michael Billinge, 5 August, 2017
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