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MRS. O'ROURKE. Irish, Planxty (3/4 time). F Minor. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB. Composed by blind Irish harper Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738).
O'Sullivan (1958) says the song was composed for Mary (Molly), the wife of Owen O'Rouke, the hereditary prince of Breffni (see O'Carolan's "Owen O'Rourke"). Mary was a MacDermott, and her marriage united two powerful families. According to Mulloy MacDermott (quoted by O'Sullivan):
Mrs. O'Rourke felt somewhat displeased with our Irish bard for not composing something for herself, but particularly so when she heard her husband's elegy sung by him. She was heard to declare that she was beneath the bard's notice after all her attention and kindness to him; but Carolan dreading her resentment composed the above song for her, to ingratiate himself into her favour, and when he sung it for her she acknowledged that it had the desired effect of regaining her lost favour.
If Mary was the daughter of MacDermott of Coolavin, Prince of Coolavin, as O'Sullivan thinks likely, she may have been the subject of O'Carolan's famous composition "Princess Royal (The)"
Printed sources: Complete Collection of Carolan's Irish Tunes, 1984; No. 143, p. 100. O'Sullivan (Carolan: The Life Times and Music of an Irish Harper), 1958; No. 143, p. 178.