‘A Hidden Ulster – people, songs and traditions of Oriel’ – Order Here



The following contribution is from ORIEL ARTS harper, Sylvia Crawford. See also her description of the Early Irish Harp in Oriel Harpers section here. Click Music tab beneath video above for music manuscript sources.

In the video she is playing a HHSI Student Otway harp (on loan from The Historical Harp Society of Ireland), made by David Kortier (USA) and modelled on the Otway harp. The Otway (or Castle Otway) harp, was once owned by Oriel harper, Patrick Quin, and is now owned by Trinity College, Dublin.

Sylvia Crawford playing early Irish harp with fingernails. Photo: Brenda Malloy

‘This piece of music is sourced from Oriel harper, Patrick Quin, by Edward Bunting.

My playing of this tune is based on a field transcription by Bunting. It appears under the title Lochaber, in a group of tunes, written upside down at the back of Bunting’s MS 33(1). One of the tunes in this group is Quin’s Burns March (or Pretty Peggy), and all of the other tunes in this group are cited elsewhere as having been collected from Patrick Quin, so it is likely that Lochaber was also collected from Quin, in County Armagh around 1800.

It is worthy of remark, that Quin was the only harper at the Belfast Meeting who attempted to play ‘Patrick’s Day, of which he was very proud, having set, or, as he expressed it, ‘fixed it’ for the harp’ (Bunting, 1840).

It is interesting that the title is given as Lochaber. This tune is usually known in Ireland as Limerick’s Lamentation and in Scotland as Lochaber. The tune is said to have been composed by Miles Reilly (born c.1635) of Killincarra, County Cavan.

Bunting writes that Reilly ‘was universally referred to by the harpers at Belfast as the composer of the original Lochabar.  This air is supposed to have been carried into Scotland by Thomas Connallon, born five years later at Cloonmahon, in the county of Sligo’ (Bunting 1840 p.69).

In a later piano arrangement, in Bunting’s MS 12, book 2, p.58, Bunting gives the title as Lochaber or Limerick’s Lamentation, but in the published version in 1809 (p.55), the title is given as Marbhna na Luimneach – Limerick’s Lamentation; the Scottish title Lochaber, as collected from Quin, has been dropped. In Bunting’s own annotated copy of the 1809 publication, there is a hand-written note, giving alternative titles: Sarsfields Lamentation, Limerick’s Lamentation, Teralyn, King James’s Farewell to Ireland, but Bunting does not mention the Lochaber title here.

There are two tunes in A Hidden Ulster, bearing the name Lochaber. One occurs on p.464, no. 96 of Patrick McGahon’s collection. This tune air is related to Lochaber (as collected from Quin), but is more closely related to the tune called Sarsfield’s Lamentation, in Bunting MS 33(3), p. 1. There is another song air called Lochaber mentioned on p.484 of A Hidden Ulster, in the 1912 collection of Song Airs published by Luke Donnellan. This air does not seem to be related, except in title. Donnellan compared Sarah McDonald’s Lochaber with another local song called Sliabh Féilim. (Ní Uallacháin 2005 p.479).

It is clear that there are a number of different but related tunes, and that variants have been used for different sets of words, in different places.  For more information, see Donal O’Sullivan (1927) who writes more on the possible origins, and early publications of this tune.


The MS 33(1) version has 3 sharps written in the key signature, with E as the final note. The 7th degree of the scale, which occurs in bar 17 is a D natural, suggesting an E Mixolydian mode. All the other tunes in this group are written in keys that would not be suitable for the early Irish harp, but they all work one note lower. (It is possible that Quin’s harp may have been tuned a note higher.) This principle would set Lochaber in D Mixolydian.

The printed piano version is written in E flat major, with 3 flats in the key signature, but with a D flat being added in bar 17, to give the flattened 7th note. The key of E flat is appropriate for the piano, but not for an early Irish harp. The piano arrangement also contains chromatic notes in the bass which would not be possible on an early Irish harp. This is why reference to earlier manuscript versions, where available, is important.

In the manuscript version, the tune is written in ¾ time, but some bars contain only 2 beats. This occurs in other of Bunting’s field transcriptions, where he writes a crotchet (or quarter note), but then realises it is longer, and either changes it to a minim or adds a rest to complete the bar. In this case he does neither, leaving an incomplete number of beats in some bars. There is no bass indicated in the manuscript version, and the arrangement is my own, based on my understanding of what could be appropriate for this instrument. The rhythm of the ms version is straight, compared to the more dotted rhythm of the printed version. I have taken liberty with the rhythm and ornamented as I felt was appropriate. In the video clip I am playing it in G Mixolydian.

My transcription is based on Bunting MS 33(1), p.66 (upside down), set a note lower, in D mixolydian. Minims have been added where necessary, to complete the bars.’

Oriel Arts 2018 © Sylvia Crawford


Simon Chadwick (2017). Patrick Quin (c.1745 – early nineteenth century) [online]. Available from http://www.earlygaelicharp.info/patrickquin/tunes.htm [accessed 12 April 2017].

Academia (2017). (LOOMIS, K 2010). Edward Bunting’s Annotated Volumes of Irish Music: An Overlooked Treasure at the British Library [online]. Available from http://academia.edu [accessed 13 April 2017]

O’SULLIVAN, D. (1927). The Bunting Collection of Irish Folk Music and Songs. Journal of the Irish Folk Song Society (ed. 1967). Vol VI.

MOLONEY, C. (2000). The Irish Music Manuscripts of Edward Bunting 1773-1843. An Introduction and Catalogue. Dublin: Ceol Taisce Dúchais Éireann (Irish Traditional Music Archive).

BUNTING, E. (1809). A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music. London and Dublin.

London, British Library, MS Addl 41508

Queen’s University, Belfast, Special Collections MS 4/12.

Queen’s University, Belfast, Special Collections MS 4/33(1).

BUNTING, E. (1840). The Ancient Music of Ireland, Arranged for the Piano Forte. Dublin.

NÍ UALLACHÁIN, P. (2005). A Hidden Ulster. People, songs and traditions of Oriel. Four Courts Press.




Sylvia Crawford transcription, based on MS 33(1). Copyright Sylvia Crawford 2017


MS 33(1), p.66 (upside down).

MS 33(1), p.66 (upside down).By kind permission Queens University Special Collections 2017

Bunting's printed version attached 1809 p.55

Bunting’s printed version attached 1809 p.55