Harp · Writing

How O’Carolan Influenced St. Patrick’s Day

Image of O’Carolan’s memorial attributed to James Yardley.

As sick as I’ve been for the last month, I couldn’t let St. Paddy’s day go by without talking about it just a little bit. Having played a non-pedal harp for half my life, I’ve plucked out my share of great Irish tunes. Several of these are attributed to Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738). He was Ireland’s most celebrated harper for his day.

I’ve always known the basics about O’Carolan. He was blind and wrote many his songs for the nobles of the country. I even knew some fun tidbits, like how he would finger his coat buttons while traveling as a way to practice the fingering of his music.

Since he’s a character in my Work In Progress, I’ve learned some more great stuff about him that makes me wonder for the first time this year, how influential he was in the way we currently celebrate St. Patrick’s day.

During my research for my new book, I came across an excerpt from an article by Very Rev. M. J. Canon Masterson (honestly, I’d like to know why there was a need to put in “Very”) http://homepage.eircom.net/~tina/mohill/O’Carolan.htm. A line that stood out was, “[O’Carolan] served as a heaven-sent envoy to unite all creeds in a common love of country and hatred of oppression and, I repeat, he needed the help of the Protestant gentry, and secured it in generous measure.”

It sounded to me like O’Carolan (who was Catholic) didn’t care who you were, where you came from, or what your faith was. As long as you weren’t cruel to anyone, he was good with you. Being an American, I’ve always come to know St. Patrick’s day as a day where anyone can be Irish. It doesn’t seem to matter our background or creed, it’s a day where we all have a common love of Ireland 😀

With all the traveling O’Carolan did and his intense fame in his time, I can’t help but think that he was a key player in this spirit of the holiday and in the friendly openness of the Irish people in general.

I’ve still got a lot to learn about the bard and am impatiently waiting for my copy of his biography by Donal O’Sullivan, which I unfortunately can’t seem to find at any nearby library. *humph* But I’m enjoying learning about a man whose music I’ve been playing for quite some time. 🙂

What do you think? Are my conclusions about O’Carolan and St. Patrick’s Day feasible? Have you come across other things that may have influenced the “everyone’s Irish for a day” feeling we get?

Glutened Goals Update: Nothing. I think that my glutening may finally be over, but, like my boys who have green goo dripping from their noses, I’ve caught a bug that makes it difficult to tell. lol To quote Gilda Radner, it’s always something.

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