Turlough O'Carolan 1670 - 1738


Turlough Carolan (the spelling " O'Carolan " seems to be a modern variant) was born near Nobber, County Meath in 1670.

He was the son of Sean Carolan, a subsistence farmer and / or blacksmith. When he was 18 Carolan caught smallpox and became completely blind.

By this time his family had moved to Ballyfarnon on the Sligo / Rosscommon border. His father was employed by the MacDermott Roe family who owned the ironworks there.

Mrs. Mary MacDermott Roe who became a good friend and patron throughout his lifetime placed Carolan under the apprenticeship of a local harper. After three years or so she provided him with a harp, a horse and a helper to guide him on his way.

Many of the Irish harpers were blind for this was not a total impediment to the profession of music. The harping tradition was of course a wholly oral one so the ability to read music was not a necessity.

Carolan became the greatest of the itinerant Irish harpers. He is regarded nowadays as perhaps Ireland's only true national composer. Most of his music has survived in the form of one line melodies, an astonishing treasure trove of the Celtic soul.

When he felt his time was near Carolan returned to Ballyfarnon to his old friend Mrs. MacDermott Roe. After about a week of illness Carolan passed away and was buried in the MacDermott Roe family vault in Kilronan churchyard.