O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 43

O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 43
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periodical Publisher
Regan Printing House, Chicago, 1913
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periodical Title
O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians
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84 Iris/i Minstrels and MusiciansHarpers at the Granard and Belfast Meetings 85Of such were Doctor MacDonnell, Robert Bradshaw, Henry Joy, and otherestimable citizens of Belfast, who founded the Belfast Harp Society in 1791.Originated for the purpose of reviving and perpetu ting the ancient music andpoetry of Ireland, it fulfilled its mission to a degree not equaled by any prioror subsequent endeavor in that line. The concluding paragraph of their pro-spectus, which follows, was well calculated to appeal to the sympathies of allmusic-loving Irishmen:An undertaking of this nature will undoubtedly meet the approbation ofmen of refinement and erudition in every country. And when t is consideredhow intimately the spirit and character of a people are connected with theirnational poetry and music, it is presumed that the Irish patriot and politicianwill not deem it an object unworthy his patronage and protection.The ten harpers who responded to the invitation to attend the Harp Festivalat Belfast in July, 1792, were:A Welsh harper named \Villiams also played. His execution, which wasvery great, was in marked contrast to the sweet, expressive tones of the Irishinstrument. He died on shipboard soon afterward.The first premium of ten guineas was adjudged to Charles Fanning, and thesecond of eight guineas was awarded to Arthur ONeill. All of the othersreceived six guineas each. After the meeting. which lasted four days, all ofthem were liberally entertained at his residence by Doctor MacDonnell.Edward Bunting, who bad been selected to take down the airs played bythe harpers, says Fanning was not the best performer, but that he succeeded ingetting the first prize by playing The Coolin with modern variations, a pieceof music at that time much in vogue with young practitioners on the pianoforte.A prejudice in favor of The Coolin still exists, for not a few who pro-claim a love for Irish melody have no ear for any other strain. Most of theharpers convened at that historic meeting were men advanced in life, yet littlewas known to them of the origin of the tunes they played. To them, all oftheir tunes, even then, were ancient and handed down traditionaflv from theirpredecessors.PATRICK Lvxnox\Vhile making his way to Belfast to attend the Harp Festival, Arthur ONeillmet Patrick Lyndon. a most interesting harper and poet, who was anxious toaccqmpanv him if his wardrobe had not been so scant and shabby. KnowingLyndon to be an excellent bilingual scholar and a desirable representative of theprofession, he furnished him with a presentable suit of clothes. Lyndon wasso delighted with his improved appearance in the newly acquired raiment thathe went rambling around in such elation of spirits as to forget to keep hisappointment with his benefactor, who was reluctantly obliged to continue hisjourney without him.Lyndon, who was a native of County Armagh, boasted of his boyhoodacquaintance with Turlogh OCarolan. Patrick Quin, who played at the BelfastI-Tarp Festival, was one of his pupils.OSHEAAnother harper of acknowledged ability, named OShea, was prevented byextreme (lebility from attending the Belfast Meeting. Though an octogenarian,lie was still an enthusiast in everything connected with Irish feeling, a charac-teristic common to practically all natives of Kerry, the county from which hehailed.ARTHUR ONEILLThe most celebrated of all the harpers in many respects was Arthur ONeill,who was born in 1734, at Drumnaslad, in the County of Tyrone. Intelligent,liberal, and companionable, this exemplary minstrel honored the traditions ofhi illustrious ancestry. His manners and aCquirements, uniting tells us, weresuch as would not have been inconsistent with the pretentious of many countrygentlemen.Stored in his tenacious memory, he preserved an array of- facts, anecdotesand reminiscences concerning his predecessors and contemporaries. but for whichthe very names of many of them would have passed into oblivion. From hismanuscript memoirs, written out by one Thomas 1 -Itiglies at Belfast, about theyear 1809, Edward Bunting and other writers derived niost of such informationas is now available relating to the Irish harpers of the late centuries.Both parents, as well as his paternal and maternal ancestors for generationsindefinitely back, were ONeills. In fact, he had no relatives, to his knowledge.of any other surname. An injury to his right eye. when but two years old, ledto his total blindness, and he commenced the study of the harp at the early ageof ten, under the tuition of Owen Keenan, who continued to be his instructorfor three years. Although lie set out as a traveling harper at the immature ageof fifteen, there is no doubt but that he subsequently received some training atthe hands of Hugh ONeill, a blind harper from County Mayo, for whom healways entertained the greatest friendship and veneration.Accompanied by a boy as guide, young Arthur ONeill directed his foot-steps southward, wandering through the provinces of Leinster, Munster. andConnacht successively, and arriving at the home of his parents about theyear 1760.\Vhile visiting Murtagh Oge OSullivan. at Dunboy Castle, Berehaven, atChristmas time, his guide came to his bedside one morning in great alarm, tellinghim to bless himself. Being asked why, he replied: Och, sir! theres a pipe ofwine and two hogsheads of some other liquor standing up in the hail, with theheads out of them, and a wooden cup swimming in each, for any one that likesto drink their skin full. Similar instances of reckless and wholesale hospitalitycame to his notice elsewhere in Munster.At an entertainment given by Lord Kenniare (annually) to the Macs andOs or principal Milesian families in the district, all were represented but theOYeills. Murtagh Oge OSullivan told his lordship he could supply a youngman who could fittingly represent the name.Denis Hempson, blind Native of Derry age 97 yearsArthur ONeill, blind Native of Tvrone age 58 yearsCharles Fanning Native of Cavan age 56 yearsDaniel Black, blind Native of Derry age 75 yearsCharles Byrne Native of Leitrim age 8o yearsHugh Higgins, blind Native of Mayo age 75 yearsPatrick Quin, blifld Native of Armagh age 47 yearsWilliam Carr Native of Armagh age r yearsJames Duncan Native of Down age 45 yearsRose Mooney, blind Native of Meath age 52 years
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O'Neill, Capt. Francis
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O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians

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