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JOHN JONES. Irish, Planxty (3/4 time). A Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. Composed by blind Irish harper Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738). The subject of the composition has not been identified conclusively, although it is perhaps a Captain Jomes of Tirreagh, who, as told by Mulloy MacDermott:
...was in love with a young lady whom he dreaded to demand as his bride lest he should be refused by her parents. When he revealed his mind to Carolan, he composed this song in a strain of a lover deeply affected, an who could not survive without the object of his affections, and sung it in a mournful strain before the young lady, which fortunately for Captain Jones had the desired effect.
However, Edward Bunting recorded in his notebook the opinion of harper Denis Hempson (who was in his 40's when Carolan died, and, O'Sullivan believes, must have known him well) who thought that Jones was a tailor who had made Carolan a suit of clothes and did not charge him for it. Hempson thought that Carolan wrote the song in gratitude.
Source for notated version: Denis Hempson the harper, via Edward Bunting's manuscripts [O'Sullivan]. Hempson was the only harper Bunting heard who played in the ancient style, with long curved fingernails plucking brass strings. The collector greatly admired the playing and repertoire of Denis Hempson, an elderly man when the nineteen-year-old, hired to make some transcriptions at the Belfast Harp Festival of 1792, first met him:
Hempson, who realized the antique picture drawn by Cambrensis and Galilei, for he played with long crooked nails, and in his performance, “the tinkling of the small wires under the deep notes of the bass” was particularly thrilling, took the attention of the Editor with a degree of interest which he never can forget. He was the only one who played the very old—the aboriginal—music of the country; and this he did in a style of such finished excellence as persuaded the Editor that the praises of the old Irish harp in Cambrensis, Fuller, and others, instead of being, as the detractors of the country are fond of asserting, the ill-considered and indiscriminate, were in reality no more than a just tribute to that admirable instrument and its then professors. ... [Bunting, Ancient Irish Music, 1840, Preface p. 3]
Printed sources: Complete Collection of Carolan's Irish Tunes, 1984; No. 63, p. 57. O'Sullivan (Carolan: The Life, Times and Music of an Irish Harper), 1958; No. 63, p. 135.