Neilí Pluncéad - Eleanor Plunkett

This poem in praise of Eleanor Plunkett of Robertstown highlights her descent from the renowned Plunketts of Armagh".

The Plunketts had long held the stronghold of Castlecome in Armagh. Yet the poem goes on to observe that now only Eleanor of all her relations survives in the area. It is said that 30 persons of that family were hold up in the castle of Castlecome where they were killed by boiling water.

The Plunketts, like many other Catholic families, lost their lands in the Cromwellian plantation. Eleanor's grandfather, Francis, then had to take a long lease on the former Plunkett lands of Armagh and Moate from the new owners, the Taylors of Headfort in Kells. When Francis died in 1682 his wife Catherine had a monument erected to his memory in St Bridget's churchyard, Robertstown. It may be seen to this day.

'Neilí an chúil chraobhaigh,
a bhfuil do dhá shiúil ar dhath an fhéir ghlais
Ag éirghe dhon lá,
Ó! nach bréagh dham seo a rádh,

'S gur tú do shliocht na bhfear éifeacht
Ó Árdmacha bréige,
Fuair sár-chlú ó Ghaodhalaibh
Le tréan-neart a lámh.

Nellie of the flowing hair,
whose two eyes are the color of the green grass
Arising to the day,
O! isn't it nice for me this to say,

That, it is you, of the line of accomplished men
From Armagh the corrupted, *
Which received true greatness from the Gael
By the mighty strength of their arms.

* I get the sense that the poet is making it clear that the current owners of the Armagh estates are merely usurpers/corrupters, and are not entitled to the fame that was the legacy of Armagh. The false claim ("breig" ) by the Taylors, (current, illegitimate owners), to the legacy of Armagh, is denied by the poet. That fame having been truly won, and justly claimed, by the Gael, through the great gallantry of their deeds... Frank Osborne.

It was said that while Carolan was composing this song and playing it on his harp that he was interrupted by Eleanor's coachman who said: "I often heard some of them words before in other songs." Carolan full of resentment sought his staff and made an offer to strike the man - and said in angry words neither you nor any other person will ever hear more of it but what is already composed."

Source: O'Sullivan's 2001 edition of Bunting's 1796-1840 publications, published in Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society.
Thanks to Frank Osborne for the English translation.
Thanks to my friend Basilio DeSalvo for fixing the notations
For phonetics consult the pocket dictionary Fóclóir Póca.

Replay background music: Eleanor Plunkett


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