Tá áthas orainn bheith anseo I Manorhamilton chun caint faoi ‘n tradisiún sa cheol a tháinig síos ó ghlún go glún in gach áit in Éirinn chomh maith le Co. Liathroma. Áit aláinn aoibhinn dathúil iseadh an Chondae seo, lán de lochanna, sceachanna, coillte, agus an abhann mhór sin an tSionnaine ag sníomh síos tríd an conndae go léir. Agus tá Fáilte Uí Ruairc le fáil I ngach áird de’náit seo.
We are very pleased to be here in the Glen Centre, Manorhamilton, to talk of the rich heritage of music, song, and dance that has come down from the past. It appears that Leitrim was the hub of activity in Connacht in the 17th century.
We call ourselves “The Cómhrá dTonn”. Dan Healy will play the concert and E flat Flute. Ciaran will play the violin and viola. At this point we go back to 1603 when the Nine Years ‘War came to an end. O’Neill and O’Donnell were reinstated and readmitted to favour by King James 1, but Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare was refused a pardon. All his estates at Dunboy Co Cork, were confiscated and he and his followers were forced to hide in the mountains. Bad news came from Spain - O’Donnell was dead and King Philip III was not prepared to send an expedition to Ireland.
So Donal Cam decided to seek refuge with the O’Rourkes in Leitrim. On the last day of 1602 he set out from Glengarriff with 400 soldiers, and 600 women, children and servants. Their march was horrific, confronted at all times by the enemy. They made their way to Ballyvourney Duhallow, and Liscarroll. They skirted the Ballyhoura mountains, got to the Glen of Atherlow, and the Galtys. They had no food and although Donal Cam had money, people were afraid to help them. They suffered extreme cold.
They had to sleep under the open sky. The ninth day of their journey the Shannon was in full swell. This was at Ballymacegan, where the three Provinces meet, at the northern end of Lough Derg. How were they going to get across? Their final decision was to kill a number of their horses and make currachs with the skins. They carefully packed the horse flesh as best they could for food. They suffered more hardship after crossing the Shannon. Many, many died of exposure. The Burkes harassed them for miles. Finally they crossed the Curlieu Mountains, southwards to Knockvicar beside the river Boyle and here they took some rest. Their journey was across rugged, rocky, country on foot. Then it snowed heavily and some had to carry their companions.
Can you imagine their joy when next morning the sun rose over Knockvicar and they were able to see, just five miles away, the Tower of one of O’Rourkes Castles in Leitrim – Breffni Castle. They got there at eleven o clock and a wonderful welcome awaited them. They had set out from Glengariff two weeks before, 1000 in number, and only 35 entered O’Rourkes Castle. A few more arrived later in two’s and threes. All the rest had either perished or dropped behind. The welcome of the O’Rourkes has come down in history.
At this time Feargal Óg Mac an Bhaird, (1540 –1616) wrote without any ornamentation. Three verses in honour of Brian O’Rourke.
Brian O Ruairc mo rogha leannán , lór a bhuga ag bronnadh séad
‘S is lór a chruas I gcrú chaoilshleagh, an chnú de chnuas Ghaoidheal nGréag
Murcadh mac Briain ,
bradán Sionna, samhail Uí Ruairc ó
Nó Niall Caille nar éar aoinfhear, déar aille na n-aoigheadh é.
Rí Calraighe na
gcreach líonmhar budh leis Teamhair , treabh na Niall;
Béal Bearcháin do bhí dá labhra: budh rí ar sheanchlár Banba Bhrian.
“Brian O’Rourke my choice of friend, who pleasantly presents valuable possessions, who is strong in time of battle, descended from the ancient Irish, who some say came from Greece. He can be compared to the son of Brian Boru, king of Tara, or like Niall high king who never gave up. All has been foretold by St. Beacháin of Calraighe near Lough Gill in his poem of Prophesies.”
Play here “Lament For the Milesians” This is a poem of Giolla Íosa Mór Mac Firbishigh ,written in 1395 and to be found the Genealogies ,Tribes and Customs of the Uí Fiachrach taken from the Book of Lecan. Giolla Íosa taught for 60 years in the Mac Firbishigh School set up by the Mac Egans 1300-1361. This man lived five generations before the great Antiquary, Dubhaltacht Mac Fhirbishigh (1600-1671) and was an ancestor of his. The song can be found in the Yellow Book of Lecan, and was printed for the Irish Archeological Society. Actually 23 of Ireland’s counties are mentioned In the Book of Genealogies and the Ordinance Survey 1834-1841. One of these counties is Leitrim. Thomas Davis put words in English to this lovely song which he calls “Lament For the Milesians” We call it Bruach na Carraige Baines. Who is to say what county The Edge of the white Rock belongs to? I thought it important to talk of it tonight.
Now we go back to 1636. The Franciscans Michael Ó’Cléirigh, his brother and a cousin from Leitrim – Cúchoigcríche Ó Duibhgeannain, with some more of their friends, spent ten years collecting the history of Ireland which they called “The Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland.” They spent quite a number of years in the Ballymacegan School I mentioned a few minutes ago. This work was completed in the Franciscan Monastery in Bundrowse north Leitrim and was sponsored by Fergal O’Gara Catholic M.P. in the barony of Coolavin Co.Sligo. The first reel is a tribute to him and the second one is the Sailors Bonnet a great Leitrim favourite.
Music, dancing, keening, mumming, lullabys and singing are all part of the Leitrim heritage. There was always a demand for music at christenings, weddings, parades, political meetings and other festivities. It was the same in every village as far back as memory goes, Mummers and Mummer dances were a feature on New year’s Eve. This tradition has come down to us from the 14th century. About 20 men wore disguise of specially made straw hats fitted down to the shoulders and pointed high above the head. Sashes and straw ropes were also worn so that the wearer could see through the straw disguise. When they came to the door they were invited in and to the music of the mummers who played in the darkness outside the door they danced a set.
We had a very good friend from Ballinaglera the late Padraig Forde who wrote Ballinagleara Parish, Co. Leitrim Aspects of its History and Traditions. It was actually started by the school teacher Peter Clancy who died before he got very far with it. Then his wife Eileen Clancy a teacher thought she might finish it but it took the stamina and perseverance of Padraig Forde to complete the work. A highly intelligent man he was an expert musician on the concert flute and fiddle. Many is the time he regaled us with stories of Ballinaglera and talked of Drumkeerin where McKenna came from. If you look at the map you will see Drumkeerin on the left of Lough Allen and Ballinaglera on the right handside. Outstanding flute players at the beginning of the last century were Pat Doyle of Aughrim, and his two sons Francis and John. Two other flute players in 1900 were John Gilrane of Corralubber, and John Mc Gourty of Cornamuckla South. Leitrim with its beautiful scenery, it’s expanse of lakes, and the mythological Sliabh an Iarainn is a breath taking county. According to Irish Mythology the Tuatha dé Danann came from Greece. We will leave all that for another day.
It is true that in the 17th century even though times were bad people were poor and some landlords were very demanding ( for instance the landlord could with a flick of his finger call his tenant for a day’s labour without pay and he dare not refuse). Still traditional music was played in every home. Penal laws could not prevent this. The music was responsible for keeping the hearts and souls of the people alive and well. With a good fire and plenty of music as it alternated to every house in the village people were able to cope with hardship.
It was at the end of this century that Turlough O’Carolan’s family came to live in north Roscommon just a few short miles from here. Mrs MacDermot Roe had him educated and taught the harp and he began to earn his living as an itinerant musician. His first call was to the home of a Mr. Reynolds in South Leitrim and it was here he composed Shee.Beag,Shee Mór. Mr. Reynolds told him the story of the battle between the fairies who inhabited the two mountains Sheebeg and Sheemore. It was a popular story at the time that Fionn Mac Cubhail and his Fianna had been defeated there. Reynolds had to go on a journey and when he came back Carolan had this tune composed.
In the 15th and 16th centuries the O’Rourke Chieftains owned much of the Land of Leitrim. Church Island with it’s 42 acres was formerly O’Rourke property. Two well known areas are Hollywell and Cloughrerevagh close to Church Island , beside Newtown or Parkes Castle. There was a fragment of an old O’Rourke Castle called Dooroi Castle. Perhaps the stones were taken from there to restore Parkes Castle. Close to Drumahair overlooking the river Bonet and also in Co. Leitrim are the restored ruins of Creevalea Abbey. In the Annals of the Four Masters it is recorded that in 1508, O’Rourke and his wife Margaret …commenced the monastery of O’Rourke town. The Franciscans were the first to live there but it was burned down in 1536. It was restored in 1642 and the Franciscans re-occupied it .
The beauty of the scenery of Leitrim is full of Draoícht very like that of Sligo and one feels the very air, trees and lakes breathe the music. Going back to the Harp Festival in Belfast and later in the time of Carolan there was so much music in Leitrim that I feel the geographical lay out of the county lent itself to this.
One of Carolans earliest friends was Hugh Mac Gabhrán, who is mentioned as Aodh Mac Gabhrán in a list of 18th century poets by the poet Tadhg Ó Neachtain. It is important to know that poets were and still are an important part of our cultural tradition. Mac Gabhrán had written the words of a very famous song called “O’Rourke’s Feast”. We know it as “Pléaráca na Ruarcach” He prevailed on the bard to set this to music. The subject of the poem was Murtha O Ruairc, Prince of Breffni the famous 16th century Irish Chieftain. Carolan obliged. Dean Swift the dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral was visiting the home of Mr. Gore of Co. Leitrim. There was all kinds of feasting and drinking --ale , poitín, beef, mutton and pork for everyone . This was 1720 and there was hardly one man in a hundred who spoke English in Leitrim at that time.
Yet everyone welcomed Swift, even though he was a bitter Protestant. But they were aware that he was no friend of England so they gave the Dean a hundred welcomes. It was here at this party he heard some man singing “the Revelry of the O’Rourkes” in Irish. Seemingly, he took to the tune. Gore told him about the teacher Hugh Mac Gabhrán and said he would send him an invitation to join the party. This he did and Mac Gabhrán obliged him by translating the Irish poem into English, Dean Swift, retranslated it to suit himself and no one now remembers Mac Gabhrán’s ‘s English translation. Here is a few lines of Swift’s translation.
noble fare will ne’er be forgot
“ By those who were there or those who were not.
His revels to keep, we sup and we dine,
On seven score sheep, fat bullocks and swine.
. Uiscebaugh to our feast
In pails were brought up,
a hundred at least, And a madder our cup.
O! there is the sport ! we rise with the light
in disorderly sort,
From snoring all night.
O! how I was trick’d, My pipe it was broke
My pocket was picked! I lost my new cloak.
Here is the second verse found in Donal Ó'Suilleabháin’s book on Carolan
A-shaking their feathers,just
roused from their slumber,
By the noise of the harp and of feet without number,
The sons of O’Rourke bounced up in the throng,
Each man with his woman and danced to the song :
Till the ground shaking under partook of their coges,
Which as they quick trotted glic-glugged in their brogues.
Long life and good health to you ,Loughlin O’Enegan,
By my hand you dance bravely Margery Grinigan!
Here’s to you dear mother, I thank you dear Pat.
Pitch this down your throat, I’m the better of that.
Come shake us down rushes,an excellent bed,
And over us next the winnow cloth, spread.
This song depicts the Christmas festivities held in the Great Hall by the famous 16th chieftain Brian O’Rourke Prince of Breffni known as Brian na Múrtha. He waged incessant war against Queen Elizabeth 1 and helped the Spaniards stranded on the west coast after the wreck of the Armada. When he went to Scotland to seek help from King James, James delivered him to the English and he was hanged drawn and quarted at Tyburn.
Carolan’s most beautiful poems are the love songs he composed to his wife Mary Maguire, who died in 1733. Alas! He did not compose any music for those lovely poems. Joseph Cooper Walker says that Carolan settled on a small farm in Leitrim near Mohill after his marriage to Mary where they had seven children, six daughters and one son. But he had to be away from home for long periods, so I presume she did most of the child rearing. Here we will play Eleanor Plunkett. (A Lament of Carolans)
Oh! That my love and
I from life’s crowded haunts could fly,
To some deep shady vale by the mountain, where no sound might make its way,
Save the thrush’s lively lay, and the murmur of the clear flowing fountain.
Where no stranger should intrude on our hallow’d solitude,
Where no kinsman’s cold glance could annoy us.
Hardiman collected this in Irish and Thomas Furlong translated it.
Mo léun ‘s mo chrádh gan mé ‘s mo ghrád
A ngleanntán áluinn sléibhe
Gan neach d’ár gcáirde bheith le fághail
‘N áit ar bith ‘n ar ngaobharann.
Another song composed by Carolan is Ullachán Dhubh
A thousand farewells
be to County Leitrim
And to Ullachán Dhubh Ó and the next farewell to Cavan of the O Reillys
And Ullachán Dhubh Ó.
A Leitrim man by the name of Colonel Jones made a wager with an Englishman, that he had a blind cowherd, at home who had more skill in music than any man in Wales or England. Jones got in touch with Jerome Duigenan and ordered him to bring his harp and dress of Cauthac Made (of beaten rushes) to Dublin. Jones was from Moneyglass and was a representative in Parliament for Leitrim. The decision as to who was the best was to be made in the Irish House of Commons (now the Bank of Ireland, in Dame Street.) The two harpers performed and it was decided by a majority in favour of Duigenan, who wore his full Cauthac dress and a cap of the same stuff shaped like a sugar loaf with many tassles.
While Carolan was enjoying the hospitality of another of the Jones, family, ----Thomas Morris Jones of Moneyglass, Co.Leitrim, in the year 1730, his inspiration returned after he had once more taken the forbidden draught (poitín) I presume. He had been advised by Dr. Stafford to give up the drink, or he would not live long. He took this advice for about six weeks, and could not resist the temptation any longer. When he got the strong smell of the poitín all his good resolutions went with the wind and the drink went to his head. He immediately composed Planxty Stafford. (It is also called Carolans receipt for drinking.)
It is quite hard to fit into a lecture like this all the information available from various sources about the heritage of this county. In May 1830 Hugh O’Donnell of Greyfield, which was formerly the estate of Henry and Mary MacDermot Roe, Carolan’s first patrons in the west, got some information from Daniel Malone about William Bartley, of Killargy about seven miles from Manorhamilton. He said that Wm. Bartley was frequently in the society of Carolan. He had often sung many of Carolans Irish songs for O Donnell himself and imitated Carolan’s manner and attitute as if playing the accompaniment on the harp. Bartley’s family name was Mc Partholan an ancient clan in that country . O’Donnell also said that Bartley was present at Carolan’s death-bed, (This information can be had in the Royal Irish Academy in Manuscripts by Mundey –O’Reilly)
The Annals of the Irish Harpers by Charlotte Milligan Fox, a native of Omagh, gives us an account of how many of Carolan’s tunes were collected. After the Harp Festival in 1792 Edward Bunting was employed by the committee of the Harp Festival to note whatever music he could get in Connacht. Bunting did not know any Irish, so a Professor of Irish from Loughlinisland, north of Belfast was appointed by the committee to go with him – Patrick Lynch. Actually Bunting went to London selling pianos and Lynch set off on foot and did most of the collection himself. This was in April 1802. He kept a diary, which Charlotte Fox recalls in her Annals. He called to the home of Anthony Bunting in Drogheda where he got directions and instructions. He had letters of recommendation from Mr. O Connor of Belfast to the Rev. James French West Galway, and also a letter from the same man to William Bartley, Esq.,of Kilargy, near Manorhamilton.
He walked from Drogheda to Manorhamilton a journey of 82 miles. Six miles further on he came to the home of Wm. Bartley in Killargy. He got six songs from him and indeed he said they are the best of Carolans. One of them was Fanny Power which will be played for you now.
Another Harper of note was Charles Byrne, born in Co. Leitrim in 1712. He attended the three Granard Balls and the Belfast Harp Festival. He was guide to his blind uncle to whom Carolan had a deep aversion. He had no superior as an entertainer with anecdotes and Irish songs but was not great on the harp. He died in 1810. Charles Fanning another Co. Leitrim Harper was the most brilliant performer who attended the Belfast Harp Festival. His first prize was ten guineas. He played the Cúlfhionn. Most of the competitors were men of advanced years, yet they knew little of the origin of the tunes. But they knew they were ancient and handed down by their predecessors. We will play it now and it is still as popular as it was then 208 years ago.
Another piper a Mr. Quinn, from Cloone barony of Mohill Co.Leitrim, was born about 1805. His landlord Agustus Nicholls, (Gusty) took him in hand and had him taught on the Uileann pipes. He spent ten years engaged by a Co.Cavan gentleman as a house piper. He received £50 and the use of a saddle horse per year but no inducement could prevent him in Spring from taking to the road with the first troop of itinerants who came along. Later he went to New York. His style of playing the pipes was the Connacht staccato style.
Sergt James Early, was born at Cloone, near Carrigallen Co. Leitrim went the USA as a boy He joined the police in Chicago in 1874 and met James Quinn and became Quinn’s pupil. The tunes they played were noted by Captain Francis O’Neill are in his Music of Ireland. I need to say here that Francis O’Neill never came to Ireland to collect music. But he collected the biggest amount of tunes ever published in his own home. Irish emigrants from all over Ireland went to Chicago and he easily collected 1, 850 tunes of all kinds.
During the years 1845-1852, poverty and destitution were widespread in Ireland but especially in Leitrim. The potato crop had failed. Poor people could not afford to pay the rent and many were evicted. Starvation and death was the fate of many. Soup kitchens were set up by the Quakers. Many had to go into work-houses. Various relief committees were set up in each poor-law area. Many had to emigrate. That is only a section of the story. But nothing daunted early in 1846 William Forde a well-known musician of Cork travelled to North Leitrim in search of traditional tunes. The Great Famine did not stop him. And these were printed after his death in W.P Joyce’s Ancient Irish Music. Forde had hoped to publish this collection himself but alas! He died before he could do this. Pigott was another collector whose collection was published in W.P.Joyce’s Ancient Music of Ireland. It can be said of Joyce that he acknowledged the contribution of these two great men, even to the last tune.
Forde had the good fortune to meet Hugh O’Beirne in September 1846, when he was in the parish of Fenagh, near Ballinamore and he took down scores of tunes from him. One of these tunes was the hornpipe The Little stack of Barley. With this we will put the Stack of Wheat . A tune Forde got from Hugh O’Beirne was : ar Bhruach na Carraige Báine, (which is not as musical as the one we have.) I have already spoken of this tune earlier in the lecture. Other tunes Forde got from Hugh were The troubled Child, The Owenmore River, Little Celia O’Connellan, At Cloone Church the Fight Began, and eighty seven other airs in Leitrim which are to be found in Joyce’s Ancient Irish Music. Hugh was a famous fiddle player in the early years of the 19th century. When the authorities at the Feis Ceoil selected some of his contribution for publication Dr.Joyce said, Hugh O’Beirne belonged to a type o country musician full of love and enthusiasm for Irish Music.
A few years before the middle of the 19th century Colonel Francis Nesbit from Derrycairn, near Drumod, sold his estate to an Englishman who was passionately fond of pipe music. He gave a barbecue and held a competition for his new tenants at which 30 pipers attended. The new landlord selected nine of the best pipers to compete for prizes. Owney Brennan of the barony of Mohill, Co.Leitrim was proclaimed the champion being an excellent piper. His rendering of Lady Kelly’s Reel was excellent. This is a reel one seldom hears today. This information I gathered in the Co. Sligo reference library last summer. Play Lady Kelly here. Owney Brennan, unlike many of the harpers of the time was not blind but took to the roads because he enjoyed the life. He rode around in a donkey and cart playing the pipes.
It is clear from studying various musical histories that the common bond of music often leads to friendships and deep affection. At the beginning of the last century Joe Liddy was born in Killargy. There was little distinction in that rich traditional area of Sligo, Leitrim, taking in Arigna, Killavil, Ballymote, and Mayo. Roscommon and Cavan. The musician Jim Coleman brother of Michael was friendly with Joe as were John Joe Gardner and his sister Kathleen Harrington, Michael Gallagher and John McKenna. They all shared a great night’s traditional music in the thirties when McKenna was home from the states.
In 1924 Joe joined the Garda Siochana and became a member of the Garda Ceili Band. He and Ned Gorman and Joe’s brother Tommy formed the Belhavil Trio. They recorded three 78 records and did numerous broadcasts from Radio Éireann. Many of the players of that time were Bill Harte, John Clancy, Mick Liddy, Hugh Daly, Seamus Horan, Michael Patrick Carroll, Michael and Kevin O’Brien, Pat Sweeney, Kevin Mc Kiernan and Michael Clancy. Joe Liddy produced two books of music which he started to work on in the early seventies. His first book is called “TheLeitrim Fiddler” The L.P.”CeolTire” launched in 1976, has a track by the Belhavel trio.
The tradition is being kept alive today by many in Leitrim, the MacNamara family, Michael the father on concert flute, sons, Brian and Ray on pipes, Enda on Fiddle, Ciaran on Flute and Deirdre on the concertina. I must not forget Pakie Duignan of Arigna. We all knew him when he visited Slattery’s in Dublin. He used to take out this piece of newspaper from inside his coat and lo! and behold! wrapped in it was a wooden concert flute on which he charmed the listeners. Then there was the late Tom Mulligan who came mostly to John Egans club. Later he took Neillidh with him and let us not forget that Tom’s sons are in Smithfield Square, Dublin, carrying on the tradition in the Cobblestones, You will get music there any night of the week. Then there is Vincent Harrison who returned from the States some years ago and has no equal in fiddle playing and the late Phil McConnan who was a friend of his. Jim Joe Mc Kiernan another fiddle player and well known sculptor from Leitrim was in great demand when he came to traditional conferences years ago. It was he cut the memorial stone for the late Willie Coleman, that well known fiddle player of Carnaree, Ballymote. Then there is Charlie Lennon and his family, his wife Sheelagh, an excellent sean-nós singer, sons Donal and Seán and daughter Éilis. The music and expertise of the Lennons would charm the birds from the bushes. Charlie’s compositions are beyond dispute the best. His brother Ben and family also carry on the tradition. I am sure there are many more that I have not mentioned so please forgive me.
At the end of the 19th century the concert Flute held sway and John McKenna was Leitrim’s master of this instrument. The recent John McKenna Traditional Society has promoted his unique style. His father was from Arigna and his mother from mid-way between Drumshambo and Drunkeeran. In poor desolate country like this was, the house dances and long nights of music and singing alternated in the houses of the village. So while Carolan was earning his living playing for the wealthy, years before, the traditional musicians of Leitrim learned their music from excellent musicians of the time and their hearts and souls were enchanted with it. McKenna emigrated as did Michael Coleman and James Morrison, McKenna’s recording career spanned a period of 16 years in the States.
Our last tunes are tunes McKenna and Morrison recorded together. The Mountain Path and The Return of Spring. Their duets are unequalled for their sheer spirit , rhythm, liveliness, soul and excitement. South Sligo music seemed to dominate the Irish music of the day, but Morrison and McKenna were great friends and their music styles complimented each other. Catherine McKenna a daughter of John said that James Morrison was a frequent visitor to their house in New York. Every window in the neighbourhood was open to hear their music. Sadly both of the died in New York in November 1947.
Anois sin é deire an clár. Tá súil agam gur bhain sibh taithneamh as. Agus go raibh maith agaibh a cheoltóirí. Bíonn na foinn ana tabhachtaibh ar fad. Mar adúirt mé cheana bhíomar lán tsásta teacht anseo agus bheith ag caint faoin tradísiún. Go n-éiri an t-adh libh go léir.