Turlough Carolan was born in 1670 in Nobber, co. Westmeath, Ireland. He was taken under the patronage of Mrs. MacDermott Roe of Alderford to be educated. However at the age of 18 he was blinded by smallpox, and so his patron stopped his education and instead had him sent to be trained as a harper for three years. Upon his finishing his musical training at the age of 21 she provided him with a horse, a guide and some money, to start him on his career as an itinerant harper.
Carolan built a succesful career as a harper, winning many patrons both Irish and English, Protestant and Catholic. He himself was Catholic and composed music for the church. (the early Irish harp was often used to provide church music). however only one of his sacred pieces is known to have survived, "The Elevation".
Carolan married Mary Maguire from Fermanagh; they had six daughters and one son. Mary died in 1733 and Turlough died in Alderford in 1738.