O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 40

O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 40


periodical Publisher
Regan Printing House, Chicago, 1913
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periodical Title
O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians
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Harpers of Note 79young man, but blind and Andrew Victory, a blind harper from County Longford, whose name gave rise to much banter and pleasantry.RENOWNED MINSTRELC0RMAC Co i ioxCHAPTER VIIHARPERS OF NOTEMISCELLANEOUS MENTIONDuaiNG his comprehensive tours throughout the four provinces, Arthur ONeillnot only 1 icked up all the information and curr it gossip relating to his prede-cessors, but met all the prominent harpers of his own time. Not included in thelist of those already mentioned were a few whose attainments he deemed worthyof special note.Foremost among them were three brothers named McAleer, encountered inTyrone. Edward, the oldest and most accomplished, spent five years in theIrish Brigade in France, and of course learned the language of the country aswell as some other acquirements less praiseworthy. Assuming the name Lee-riano for professional purposes, after his return to Ireland, he started out asa traveling minstrel. Down in County Cavan, at a gentlemans home, he wasset to perform in a hall where some tailors were at work, and gave a fine exhibi-tion of jig and reel playing. After some time, the lady of the house said shewas much disappointed in his performance, as some of her own countrymencould excel him. Leeriano sarcastically responded that as he had been orderedto plav in the hall, he appropriately played tailors and servants music. Thisoutspoken reflection on the knights of the goose aroused them to ftiry, andhad it not been for some peacemakers coming between them, the French harpermay not have escaped with his life.Of fourteen harpers encountered at Cavan, ONeill says, Ned McCormackwas by far the best of them all. The first and best which claimed his attentionin County Tyrone was Paddy Ryan, a cherished friend next to Hugh ONeill.Ryans father was a Munsterman, and his kindly biographer adds: Indeed,Paddy was not inferior to any man I ever heard on the harp. Besides, itappears Ryan was honorable, and devoid of the low ideas of jealousy commonto itinerant musicians.Hugh Quinn, one of Con Lyons pupils, comes in for special mention.He was a gentlemans son, and as such conducted himself. He reflectednothing but credit on his teacher.Also in Tvrone he came across his namesake, Peggy ONeill, who playedvery decently on the harp. Her special claim to fame, however, was founded onher ability to play all OCarolans planxties extremely well.While at Bantrv. County Cork, he met a blind harper named John OGara,from the County of Sligo, who was a good performer. He was also evidently aman of spirit, for when offered part of his confiscated estates, he declined tocompromise, and so forfeited the whole.Others of some note mentioned in Arthur ONeills Memoirs, recently pub-lished in the Annals of tile Irish Harpers, by Mrs. Milligan Fox, are: NedMaguire. a blind harper of County Mayo. who was drowned in the River Shan-non at Limerick ; Mathew Ormsby of County Sligo. a good performer, but sopeevish as to be unendurable; Owen ODonnell of Roscommon, a very genteelWhile Turlogh OCarolan may be regarded as the last of the Bards, CormacCommon was undoubtedly the last of the Order of Minstrels, called Taletellers,or Fin-Sgealaighthe.1-ic was born in May, 1703, at Woodstock, near Ballindangan, in the Countyof Mayo, although he spent many years of his adult life in the adjoining Countyof Gaiway. I-us parents possessed little but a reputation for honesty and sim-plicity of manners. Smallpox deprived him of sight before he had completed thefirst year of his life, so that blindness and poverty conspired to deprive him ofthe advantages of education. While he could not read, lie could listen to thosethat did, and though lacking in learning, he was by no means deficient in knowl-edge. for a receptive mind and tenacious memory made amends for his misfortune.Unkind fate seemed relentless, for a generous gentleman who procured hima teacher on the harp died suddenly when his protege Cormac had received buta few lessons, and so the poor blind boys musical prospects came to an end.His taste for poetry was still unquenched. and though too poor to buy stringsfor the harp, it cost nothing to listen to the songs and metrical tales which heheard sung and recited around the fireplaces at his fathers and neighbors houses.Having stored his memory with all he heard, and being without other means ofobtaining a livelihood, he became a professional tale-teller.At rural wakes, and in the hospitable halls of the native gentry, he found aready welcome for his legendary tales, and being blessed with a sweet voice anda good car, his recitations were not infrequently graced with the charms ofmelody. He did not recite his tales in an uninterrupted monotone, like those ofhis profession in Oriental countries, but rather in a manner resembling thecadences of cathedral chanting.But it was in singing the native airs that he displayed the powers of hisvoice to the best advantage, and before advanced age set the seal of decadenceon his vocal cords, he never failed to delight his audience. He composed sev-eral airs and songs in his native Irish language. Onea lament for John Burke,Esq.. of Carrentryleis preserved in Walkers Historical Memoirs of the IrishBards.\Ve find that the highly romantic story of Eibhlin a Ruin and her elope-ment with Carroll ODaly was derived from Cormac Commons repertory.Twice a widower, his offspring were not few, and when immortalized by\Valker in 1786, he was living with a daughter near Dunniore, County Galway.In his old age he continued to be led around by a grandson to the homes of theneighboring gentry, but it would appear that with his faculties much impaired bythe tooth of time, he was endured rather than admired. The date of his deathis not a matter of record.PATRICK BYRNE, THE BLIND HARPEROf all the minstrels trained by Arthur ONeill in the school founded by theBeltast Harp Society in 1807, none achieved such fame as a performer as Byrne.The Blind Harper, as he was called. Of his early life nothing is known,except that he was born at a place called Farnev, in the latter part of theeighteenth century. He was said to he about sixty years of age in 1843 or 1844,78
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O'Neill, Capt. Francis
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O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians

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