TURLOUGH O'CAROLAN (LAST OF THE IRISH BARDS).
'Bard' is a noun; formerly a person who composed and recited epic or heroic poems, often while playing the harp, lyre or the like.
Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738) was born near Nobber in Co. Meath, the son of a farmer and blacksmith. Unfortunately he became blind from an attack of smallpox at the age of seventeen, but by then his talent as a musician and poet had aroused interest and admiration. His music and poetry attracted the attention of his father's employer, Mrs MacDermott Roe of Alderford House, near Ballyfarnon. She gave him some money a horse and a harp and sent him off on his travels as an itinerant harpist or bard.
For the next thirty years he travelled throughout Ireland staying with rich and poor and repaying their kindness with songs and compositions. In 1720 he married Mary Maguire, they were blessed with seven children. Unfortunately Mary died in 1733 and he never fully recovered from her death. In his last days he went home to his friend and patron Mrs MacDermott Roe. He died on 25th March 1738 and, as befitted a lover of whiskey, women and song, his wake lasted for four unruly days. He is buried in the old church of Kilronan near Keadue in Co. Roscommon, next to the MacDermott vaults. For many years his skull was displayed in a niche in the church, draped with a black ribbon.
Turlough O'Carolan was, and will always remain a very important figure in Irish music, and is sometimes referred to as Ireland's National Composer. His image appeared on the old Irish 50-pound note.
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