Ceileabhradh le Ceol - Farewell to Music

Carolan's Harp
Carolan's Harp, National
Galary Of Ireland, Dublin

Carolan, sensing the end was near, traveled back to the home of his patron Mary MacDermott Roe in Alderford, County Roscommon, whose maiden name was Mary Fitzgerald. "I have come here after all I have gone through, to die at home at last, where I got my first schooling and my first horse."

When Mrs. MacDermott Roe met Carolan at the hall door and he told her that he had come home to die, 'she received him with tears and after a minutes rest and taking a drop of the usual cordial, he called for his harp and played the following song, "Farewell to Music."

A Mháire a chroidhe Nic Gearailt,
A rún mo chléibh is mo charaid,
Mo léan mar táim ag sgarúint,
A dhé-bhean d'fhóir dam iuons gach céim!

Mary Fitzgerald, dear heart,
Love of my breast and my friend,
Alas that I am parting from you,
O Lady who succoured me at every stage!

He retired to bed, eventually too weak even to raise himself. Toward the end Carolan woke from sleep and asked the butler, William Flynn for a drink. Then he repeated the following verse in a clear and distinct manner, laid down his head, and in a moment sunk in a sleep to wake no more. It was Lady Day, Saturday, 25th March, 1738.

Shiubhail mé thart go ceart thríd críche Chuinn,
Is fuair mé marasaigh neartmhar, bríoghmar ann.
Ar brígh mo bhaisde ní bhfuaras ariamh sa' rainn
An té choissg mo thart go ceart ach Uilliam Ó Floinn!

I duly travelled round through Conn's territory
And I found many mighty and vigorous there.
By my baptism, for dispensing [drink] I never found
One who quenched my thirst aright but William Flynn.

Charles O'Conor, the student to whom Carolan taught the harp, wrote this tribute to the bard in one of his notebooks:

Dia Sathairn, an XXV lá den Mhlárta, 1738. Toirrdhealbhach Ó Cerbhullláin an tsaoi inntleach agus priomh-oirfideach clúil na h-Éireann uile d'fhagail bhláis inniu agus a chur a dteampall Chille Rlónláin Mhuintire Dhuibhgeannláin, san 68 bliain de aois. Trócaire go bhfagha a anmuin lóir bhí riaghalta agus bhí crláifeach.

Saturday, the 25th day of March, 1738. Turlough O'Carolan, the wise master and chief musician of the whole of Ireland, died today and was buried in the O'Duigenans' church at Kilronan, in the sixty-eighth year of his age. May his soul find mercy, for he was a moral and a religious man.

Carolan's remains were laid out in grand style. A messenger express was sent out to notify people. So many well-to-do people came that they filled all the houses in Ballyfarnon. The poorer people pitched tents in the field. There were caggs of whiskey, one at each side of the door. Mrs. MacDermott Roe herself was attending the country women at their going and desiring them to cry over her poor gentleman well, the head of all Irish music.

Carolan was waked for 4 days. During that time 10 harpers attended night and day who afterwards followed in the funeral procession and performed a dirge over his grave. He was put in the hearse by Bishop MacDermott Roe. He was interred by Father Daniel Early, Parish priest of Kilronan Church. Upwards of 60 priests and bishops attended the funeral, and this was all in penal times. His burial was in the old church of Kilronan built about the year 1340, now in ruins. On 15th May, 1955, a tombstone inscribed in Irish and English was unveiled there by the Bishop of Ardagh.

Ceileabhradh le Ceol


Midi Music: Fairwell to Music
Replay Background music: Fairwell to Music
Account of funeral: - the only one available. Daniel Early pp 198-9
Source of death narrative & poems Donal O'Sullivan vol 1 pg 100 - 103
Source: O'Sullivan's 1927 et seq. edition of Bunting's 1796-1840 publications, published in Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society)

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