Blind Harpist Arthur O’Neill, Recollection of Night of Music at Colonel John Irwin’s House, Co. Sligo 1759.
Jones William Irwin of Streamstown, County Sligo, whose house was famous for hospitality to itinerant musicians. Jones Irwin’s own father, Colonel John Irwin, was a patron of the famous blind harpist, Turlough O’Carolan, who, in 1713, dedicated a ballad, ‘Colonel John Irwin’, to him. (4) The harpist, Arthur O’Neill, also blind since childhood and one the last of the traditional bard harpists, records a visit to Jones Irwin’s house in 1759 in his memoirs.
I am totally at a loss how to describe this gentleman’s uncommon manner of living at his own house and among his tenantry. This gentleman had an ample fortune and was passionately fond of music. He had four sons and three daughters who were all proficients; no instrument was unknown to them. There was at one time a meeting in his house of forty-six musicians who played in the following order: the three Miss Irwins at the piano; myself at the harp; six gentlemen, flutes; two gentlemen, violoncellos; ten common pipers; twenty gentlemen, fiddlers; four gentlemen, clarionets. At the hour this hospitable gentleman’s customary meeting was finished, some guests contiguous to their places went away, but those who lived some miles off remained, and in order to accommodate them Mr and Mrs Irwin lay on chairs in the parlour. For my part, I never spent a more agreeable night … (5)
Art O’Neill in Beara