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Sources for Gaelic harp music

Carolan fragment

Click here for more information on Carolan’s life and work.

National Library of Ireland LO 1635, part of the Joly Gift.

Printed after 1742; a single partial untitled undated section survives. Known variously as “Compositions of Carolan” or the “Carolan-Delaney Fragment”, this unique copy of an Irish printed book contains 14 pages (numbered 6-19) with no date or title. It is printed in folio on one side of the paper only. All the music faces the centre, so the first 7 leaves show verso only, the last 7 recto only. It has 23 tunes, all commonly attributed to Carolan, and all with unusual basses that, although not “authentic” harp basses, certainly seem to have Gaelic features.

This book was once thought to have been printed by the Neal brothers in 1721. However the paper can be dated by watermark to 1742, giving an earliest possible date for the printing. An otherwise unknown book of Carolan tunes were published by Dennis Connor of Dublin in 1748, in association with Carolan’s son and Dr. Patrick Delaney. Grainne Yeats has argued that this is our fragment.

A complete facsimile or edition has never been published, but facsimiles of individual pages can be found as listed below.

Gaelic harp music in this source

Many of the tunes in this publication are elsewhere attributed to Carolan; the others seem stylistically similar enough that they are usually accepted as his, though it is worth noting that his name doesnot appear in this source. This is a complete list of the contents. The DOSC number given for each tune is the reference to Donal O’Sullivan's numbered catalogue of tunes in his Carolan, the Life, Times and Music of an Irish Harper Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1958, repr. Celtic Music, 1991, & Ossian, 2001.

No.6-7 / p.1-2 Mr. James Betagh & Jigg to the above
DOSC 4
Other versions: Lee: Mr.. James Betagh & Jigg;
Facsimile: Sandra Joyce, ‘An Introduction to O’Carolan’s Music in Eighteenth-Century Printed Collections’ in Irish Musical Studies 4, ed. P.F. Devine & H. White 1996 p.301 (no.6 / p.1 only reproduced)

No.7 / p.2 Lady Athenry
DOSC 1
Facsimile: Complete Collection of the much admired old Irish Tunes The Orignal and Genuine Compostions of Carolan the Celebrated Harper and Composer (1670-1738) Suitable for Most Instruments, Ossian Publications 1984 (1st edition), pp8-9 (wrongly cited there)

No.8 / p.3 John Drudy
DOSC 43
Other versions: Lee: John Drudy;

No.8 / p.3 Miss Betty Mc.Neal
DOSC 91
Other versions: none known
Words: Tomás Ó Máille, Amhráin Chearbhalláin: The Poems of Carolan Irish Texts Soc., No. 17, 1916, p.171

No.8-9 / p.3-4 Mr. Hugh O Donnel
DOSC 127
Other versions: Bunting ms29 p.12: Plangsty O’Donnell;

No.9 / p.4 Mrs Fallen
DOSC 46
Other versions: none known

No.9-10 / p.4-5 Mr John Reily

No.10 / p.5 Plansty Bourk
DOSC 14
Other versions: Lee: Plangsty Bourk;
Facsimile: Complete Collection of the much admired old Irish Tunes The Orignal and Genuine Compostions of Carolan the Celebrated Harper and Composer (1670-1738) Suitable for Most Instruments, Ossian Publications 1984 (1st edition), pp8-9 (wrongly cited there)

No.10-11 / p.5-6 Mr Daniel Kelly

No.11 / p.6 Mrs Delany

No.12 / p.7 O Flin
DOSC 128

No.12 / p.7 Mr Wm Eckles

No.13 / p.8 Mrs Farrel

No.13 / p.8 Genl. Winne & Jigg

No.14 / p.9 Sr Arthur Shean
DOSC 159
Other versions: none known

No.14 / p.9 Mr. Baptis[...]

No.15 / p.10 Morgan Mc Gann Esqr & jigg

No.15-16 / p.10-11 Michl Connor Esqr & jigg

No.16 / p.11 Mrs Maxwell

No.17 / p.12 Mr Connor & Jigg
Facsimile: Donal O’Sullivan, Carolan, the Life, Times and Music of an Irish Harper Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1958, & Celtic Music, 1991, vol. 1, f.p.163 / Ossian, 2001, p.99

No.18 / p.13 Doctor Hart

No.18-19 / p.13-14 Mr Molone

No.19 / p.14 Fairy Queen
Facsimile (with analysis): Alasdair Codona, Gaelic Harmony

Simon Chadwick