Carolan's Farewell to Music
CAROLAN'S FAREWELL TO MUSIC (Ceileabrad Uí Cearballain). AKA – "O'Carolan's Farewell." Irish, Air (4/4 time). G Dorian (Complete Collection..., O'Farrell): D Minor (Williamson): A Minor (O'Farrell/Pocket). Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Complete Collection): AABB (O'Farrell): One part (Williamson). The last tune composed by blind Irish harper Turlough O'Carolan (1670–1738). "It was in the spring of 1738 that Carolan felt a weakness coming over him and, foreknowing his death, he made a return to the home of his dearest friend and sponsor, Mrs. MacDermott Roe. It was by now an old, old lady who received him at (the ancestral seat of the MacDermott Roes,) Alderford. Carolan spoke lovingly to her, telling her he was come home to die. Then, calling for his harp, he played this farewell to music. At the close of the tune, he walked upstairs to the bed, where he died a few days later amid the tears and praises of friends and mourned the country round" (Williamson, 1976). John McCutcheon (1982) said that when he visited the site the present occupants told him stories of a two-week wake given in the harper's honer "...with port barrels and ale as far as the eye could see! There was harp music around the clock for the entire wake!"
Harper Arthur O'Neill (1734–1818) mentions Carolan often in his memoirs and obviously idealized him as a master harper and composer. He was less kind to Carolan's male offspring:
When Carolan died he left an only son and three daughters. There Lived in some part of the County of Louth the celebrated Dean or Doctor Delany, who delighted in Carolan-so much so that he took young Carolan (in a manner) by the hand, with the intention of opening a subscription for the purpose of defraying every expense incident to revive and recover his father's music. Young Carolan was a tolerable performer on the harp, and totally destitute of any capability of composition. However, the Doctor never stopped until there was a subscription to the amount of £1,600 or thereabouts collected, on which young Carolan made some attempts to represent his father. But his productions were scandolous, which I often heard, and Master Carolan becoming tired of industry, after humbugging the good-natured Delany for some time, formed an acquaintance with another man's wife in Ballymahon in the County of Longford [and] took her to London, where I am informed he died in obscurity when [the] residue of the £1,600 was spent or otherwise disposed of between him and his Dulcinea.