O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 46

O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 46
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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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90 Irish Minstrels and MusiciansHarpers at the Granard and Belfast Meetings 91arrived, the renowned harper was called into the great halls to play. After atime, four fiddlers joined in, and the tune they plaecl was The King ShallEnjoy His Own Again. Hempson was brought into the Pretenders presence,it is said, by Colonel Kelly of Roscommon and Sir Thomas Sheridan.On his return to Ireland, the celebrated harper played in the houses of thenobility and gentry and in the principal cities throughout the country. Like alltraveling musicians, his memory was stored with an inexhaustible assortment ofinteresting, gossipy narratives.He had been in OCarolans company when a youth, but never took pleasurein playing his compositions, preferring such ancient strains as The Coolin,Eileen a Roon, The Dawning of the Day, etc.He was not entirely free from egotism, the proverbial professional failing.In conversation with Bunting in 1793, the year aft r the Belfast Meeting, he said,with conscious pride, \Vheu I played the old tunes, not another of the harperswould play after me.A gay bachelor at the age of eighty-six, he married a woman at Magilligan,in his native county, who bore him a daughter, with whom he spent the last yearsof his life. Commenting on his belated matrimonial venture, he remarked:I cant tell if it was the devil buckled us together, she being lame and I beingblind.The day before his death, on hearing that Rev. Sir H. Harvey Bruce hadcome to see him, he desired to be raised up in bed, and his harp placed in hishands. Having struck some notes of a favorite strain, he sank back, unableto continue, taking a last farewell of an instrument which had been a companioneven in his sleeping hours and a solace through a life protracted to the astoundingspan of one hundred and twelve years.CHARLES FANNINGAs a winner of prizes against all competitors, Charles Fanning, a native ofFoxford, County Mayo, and a contemporary and rival of Arthur ONeill, standspre-eminent. For the excellence of his performan e at the meetings of harpersat Granard, County Longford, in the years 1781, 82, and 83, respectively, hewas awarded the first prize. This success he repeated at the Belfast Harp Fes-tival in 1792.Born in 1736, he was the son of Loughlin. Fanning, a comfortable farmerwho played well on the harp, although the instruction of the son was entrustedto a County Roscommon harper named Thady Smith.Charles Fanning preferred Ulster to his native province, and although cer-tain important episodes in his life happened at Tyrone, his chief haunts werein the County of Cavan. The mistake of his life was marrying the kitchen maidof one of his early patrons, a Mrs. Baihlie, who was a good performer on theharp herself, and who had entertained him at her table, and introduced him togenteel company. The result is well expressed in the concise language of Bunt-ing: He was also patronized by the celebrated Earl of Bristol, the great Bishopof Derry; but in consequence of having married a person in low life and corre-sponding habits, he never attained to respectability or independence.- JAMES DUNCANThe gentlemanly conduct of this distinguished competitor at the BelfastHarp Festival in 1792 attracted much attention. Musically inclined in his youth,he \vas taught 10 play the harp as an accomplishment and not as a means ofobtaining a livelihood, his tutor being Harry Fitzsimmons.Litigation connected with the settlement of his paternal estate in CountyDown drained his financial resources, and he had recourse to his harp as a meansof securing funds to defray the expenses thus incurred. Fortunately, the law-suit was decided in his favor, although he did not live long to enjoy his success.Tie (lied about the year i8oo, in the fiftythird s-car of his age.In his Memoirs, Arthur ONeill describes him as an excellent performer,who knew very little of ancient Irish airs, but played a great variety of modernairs very well.HUGH HIGGINSThis distinguished harper, mentioned at some length in connection withOwen Keenans escape from prison, was a good performer, and outranked insocial standing most of the professional harpers of his time. He was born atTvrawlev, County Mayo, in 1837, his parents being in comfortable circumstances.Blindness in early life led him to the study of the harp, and being gifted in amusical sense, he made rapid progress.Well dressed and genteel in appearance, Higgins aimed at supporting thecharacter of a gentleman harper, and traveled in a manner befitting the besttraditions of Irish minstrelsv. He attended the Granard Balls and the BelfastMeeting in later years, but won no premiums. In fact, he did not play at allat the second ball at Granard. having taken offense at something connected withthe arrangements. Arthur ONeills avowed friendship for Higgins was aguarantee of his respectability.PATRICK QuINOne of the youngest of the harpers who played at the Belfast Harp Festivalin 1792 was Patrick Quin of Portadown, County Armagh, a pupil of PatrickLyndon of the Fews, in the same county.Early in the nineteenth century, he was taken under the patronage of theeccentric but enthusiastic John Bernard Trotter, whose extravagance led to hisbankruptcy in 1817, and death a year later.Modesty, it would seem, was not Quins most conspicuous virtue. He wasso elated at his being selected to play at the OCarolan Commemoration Meetingheld at Dublin in 1809 that. on his return to his own country, he scorned to playthe fiddle, as before, at public gatherings, although it had been his chief sourceof income in former years, ere he had fallen a victim to megalomania.ROSE MOONEYThe most noted of the women harpers was Rose Mooney, winner of thirdprize three years in succession at the Granard Balls. She also attended theBelfast Harp Festival in 1792, where no third prize was on the programme.She hailed from Count Meath. where she was born about the year 1740.Her teacher, Thady Elliott. as well as herself, was blind, and being an incor-rigible wit and joker, he was much disliked and seldom out of trouble.Accompanied by her maid as aguide. Rose Mooney adopted the life of anitinerant harper, but in the course of time sacrificed her popularity and in asense her life to a fondness for conviviality, a weakness which was decidedlymore pronounced in the maid than the mistress. Some accounts intimate that
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O'Neill, Capt. Francis
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O'Neill - Irish Minstrels and Musicians

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