Sources for Gaelic harp music

Lee’s Carolan

A late 18th century collection of tunes by or attributed to Carolan, set with bass and treble parts. There were various printed editions under different titles by different publishers, none of them dated, and I have not been able to compare all the different copies. Various authors give contradictory statements as to who pirated or re-issued whom; when and where. Walker1 states that John Lee's 1780 edition was a reissue of the Carolan-Delaney book of 1747-8; Donal O'Sullivan2 disagrees. Gráinne Yeats has identified 2 of the tunes in Lee as being copied from the 1747/8 book, and suggests that 12 more of Lee's tunes may derive from the lost pages of that book. (Gráinne Yeats, ‘Lost chords’, Ceol VII/1&2 (December 1984), pp.14–19. Kidson3 says that John Lee re-issued an earlier book by Manuel Lee.

The music is set on two staves, with the tune on the upper (with occasional treble 2-note chords, suggesting double stopping on the violin) and a single-line bass on the lower. Note the list of instruments given; some people, most notably Gráinne Yeats and Andrew Lawrence King, have placed much weight on these prints as preserving the only "authentic" early Irish harp basses but I rather suspect that they are standard European baroque treble and bass settings... (see my blog post on Carolan's original harp basses)

Donal O'Sullivan is rather scathing about these settings - he considers the tunes to have been badly noted - though I suspect this is merely an excuse for him to tidy up rythyms and bars.

A Collection of Irish Airs by the celebrated composers Carolan and Conolan
Published by Edmund Lee, Dublin, [1778]
I have not seen this book. Sandra Joyce describes it as containing 68 Carolan tunes, and she also says that it is "devoted exclusively to his compositions" - which is curious given the title which implies that some of the tunes are by Thomas or William Connellan. A facsimile of the title page and p5, showing Mrs McDermott, Bryan McGwyer Esq. and Capt. Higgins is given in 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.298.

A Favourite Collection of the so much admired old Irish Tunes, the original and genuine compositions of Carolan, the celebrated Irish Bard. Set for the harpsichord, violin, and German-flute
Published by John Lee, Dublin, [1780]
I have not seen this book. Donal O'Sullivan (Carolan, 1958) describes it as having 68 tunes on 28 pages. Pages 20 and 22, showing Mr. Patrick Kelly, Mr. Maurice O'Connor, John Drudy, Mrs Poer (aka Carolan's Concerto), and Lord Louth, are reproduced in The Complete Works of O'Carolan, Irish Harper and Composer (1670-1738) Suitable for all melody instruments, Ossian Publications 1989 (2nd edition), pp. 13-14

A Favourite Collection of the much Admired Old Irish Tunes, the original and genuine compositions of Carolan the celebrated Irish bard, set for the Harpsichord, Piano Forte, Violin and German Flute
Published by Hime, Dublin, [1798]
I have inspected this book5 and it contains the same settings of the same tunes as the pages listed above, though re-engraved. 23 pages with 68 tunes. The five tunes on the last page are without basses. Pages 18, 20 & 21, showing Carolan's Maggot, Mr Patrick Kelly, Mr. Maurice O'Connor, Mr Delaney, Mr James Betagh, Jigg, Young O'Connor, & Mervyn Spratt Esqr are reproduced in 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), pp. 12, 14 & 13.

A Favorite Collection of the so much Admired old Irish Tunes, The Original & Genuine Compositions of Carolan the Celebrated Irish Bard. Set for the Piano Forte, Violin & German Flute.
Published by Broderip & Wilkinson, 13 Hay-market, London.
This book is available to view online at archive.org, courtesy of the University of Southampton. It includes all of the tunes, in a slightly different order, and with no titles (except for the very last tune “69 Carolans receipt”). The tunes are numbered instead from 1 to 69. Tune no.7 is the jig to tune no.6, titled in the other books “John Moore”. I have added the tune numbers to my Carolan Tune Collation Spreadsheet so you can use that to work out whch tune is which. The NLI catalogue suggests it was published c.1804.

Donal O'Sullivan also mentions another editions by MacLean, Dublin, but I have not seen this. The NLI catalogue suggests it was published c.1836

Gaelic harp music in this source

All of the tunes in this publication originate as Gaelic harp tunes. You can use my Carolan Tune Collation Spreadsheet to collate these tunes with their DOSC number and other published or manuscript versions of each.

Ple Raca na Rourkaugh.
Other versions: Bunting: ; Neal: Plea Rarkeh na Rourkough or ye Irish weding...;

Grecy Nugent

John Kelly

Mr.. Charles O Connor.

Mr.. Waller

John Moore.


Major Shanly

Mrs.. Edwards

Toby Peyton

Mrs.. O Neal

Mrs.. Mc.. Dermot

Bryan Mc.. Gwyer Esqr..

Capt.. Higgins.


Mrs.. O Connor.

Mr.. Wm.. Ward.

John Nugent of Colambar.

Mrs.. Trench.

John Staffords Receipt.

David Poer Esqr.

George Reynolds Esqr.

Mrs.. Crofton.

O Connor.

Dennis O Connor.

Mrs.. Nugent

Mrs.. Waller

Loftus Jones.

Mrs Costeloe.

Madam Cole.

Bumper ’Squire Jones.

James Daly.

Madm.. Maxwell.

Mrs.. Sterling.

Honble.. Thos. Bourk
DOSC11. This is a different tune from Burk Thumoth's Thomas Burk, according to Donal O'Sullivan.

Mrs.. Garvey.

Doctor O Connor.

Harry Mc.. Dermottroe.

Mrs.. O Donnel.

Mrs.. Garvey

Miss Murphy.

Lord Dillon.

Mr. Michl. Connor.

Young Lady Dillon.


Bishop of Clogher.

Other versions: none known

Councellor Dillon.

Mrs.. Harwood.

Col: Manus O Donnel.

Mrs.. O Connor of Balynagar.

Mr. Poer.

Lord Louth

Colonel Erwyn.

Carolan’s Maggot.

Mr.. Patrick Kelly.

Mr.. Maurice O Connor

John Drudy.

Miss Noble.

Mr.. Edmond Mc.. Dermot Roe

Docr.. Delany

Mr.. James Betagh


Young O. Connor

Mervyn Spratt Esqr

Sir Edward Crofton.

Mr. James Crofton

Plangsty Bourk.

Plangsty Connor.

Carolans Frolick.

Planksty by Carolan.

Carolans Receipt


Simon Chadwick