Uilleágan Dub O
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UILLEÁGAN DUB(H) O. AKA - "Ailleaean Dubh O!," "Uileacán Dubh O." AKA and see "Fair Hills of Eire O!." Irish, Air (4/4 time). G Mixolydian. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB. A popular air composed in the early 17th century, and used for several songs. The title literally translated means “dark or black (--haired) round head”, but Bunting (1809) gives the title as “The Song of Sorrow.” It was adapted in 1746 by Donogh MacConmara (Macnamara) to the well known song “The Fair Hills of Dear Eire” (Ban cnuic Eireann Og). “Uilleágan Dubh O” was printed by Walker in 1786 and was one of the tunes played in a meeting of Belfast harpers in July 1792 by Denis O’Hampsey (1695-1807), Denis Hempson or Hampson (Donnchad a Haimpsuigh) of Magilligan, County Derry, who was then aged 95 years. Bunting collected the tune from Hempson and gives two settings, one from his MS 29, p. 44, and one from MS 33, book 3. He notes in the former that it is “The best set I ever got before of ‘ouly can do wo’…Dennis a Hampson in 1796 + 1796.” Hempson was blinded at age three, but was a skilled performer. Bunting (1840) says of him: “The pieces which he delighted to perform were unmixed with modern refinements, which he seemed studiously to avoid; confining himself chiefly to the most antiquated of those strains which have long survived the memory of their composers, and even a knowledge of the ages that produced them. Hempson was the only one of the harpers at the Belfast Meeting in 1792, who literally played the harp with long crooked nails, as described by the old writers. In playing, he caught the sting between the flesh and the nail; not like the other harpers of his day, who pulled it by the fleshy part of the finger alone.”
See also O'Neill's related "My bold trainor o."
Source for notated version:
Printed sources: Bunting (Ancient Music of Ireland), 1809; No. 2. Heymann (Legacy of the 1792 Belfast Harp Festival), 1992; pp. 4-5. Roche (Collection of traditional Irish Music, vol. 3), 1927; No. 70, p. 21. Samuel, Anne & Peter Thompson (The Hibernian Muse), London, 1787; No. 9, p. 6.