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

Pádraig (óg) Mac Giolla Fhiondáin

‘Linden, a harper … very poor ….

                                                   Edward Bunting 1803

Also known as Patrick Linden/Lyndon/ Paddy Linden, Patrick McAlindon

(See A Hidden Ulster, pp.346-8 for full references and further information)

Pádraig (óg) Mac Giolla Fhiondáin, known as Linden in Arthur O’Neill’s Memoirs, was the son of the celebrated harper poet and composer, Pádraig Mac Giolla Fhiondáin who was known as Pádraig na gCláirseach – Patrick of the Harps (1666-1733),  He was also the brother of harper Molaí Nic Giolla Fhiondáin who composed Coillte Glasa a’ Triúcha (The Green Woods of Truagh) and other songs.

He is better known as Patrick Linden, having met the harper Arthur O’Neill on his way to the Harpers’ Assembly of 1792 in Belfast. He is never given his Irish language version of his name in the Bunting and O’Neill references. Tunes collected from Linden include: Miss Hamilton, composed by Cornelius Lyons, Maudhin Voge Eveen (Soft Pleasant Morning) and Saely Kelly by Thomas Connellon.

Not a lot is known about his life. He reputedly boasted about having met with the harper Carolan when he, Linden was young (Captain Francis O’Neill, Irish Minstrels and Musicians. 1913). This is quite possible as his father Pádraig Mac Giolla Fhiondáin met with Carolan in County Louth before 1733, and composed a song for him and Brighid Cruise.

There are passing references to him as being learned, a fine harper and very poor and who, together with his sister Molly, on the death of his father, felt ‘a change of fortune’ which obliged them to leave their home and live with relations in Co. Louth’ (AHU p. 346).

There is a reference to him living in the Fews of south Armagh around 1773, and was also known as Patrick Lyndon/Linden who was a ‘bard’ from the townland of Lisleitrim in the parish of Lower Creggan who ‘visited Art Mac Cumhaigh in his home the evening he died’’ in 1773 (AHU p. 347)

Art Mac Cumhaigh’s house near Ballynagleragh where Patrick Linden reputedly visited on 4 January 1773

There are other references to him from accounts, including from Edward Bunting who wrote: ‘Patrick Linden of the Fews, Co. Armagh, a distinguished performer and poet,’ who taught the harp to Patrick Quin of Co. Armagh.

Since A Hidden Ulster was published in 2003, it has emerged that Patrick Linden, may have been a cousin of Patrick Quin‘s father (current research by Sylvia Crawford: Colin Johnston Robb, Irish News 1946).

Arthur O’Neill from Annals of the Irish Harpers. (1911) Charlotte Milligan Fox

Linden probably met with Edward Bunting as Bunting notes that he got the air Miss Hamilton, composed by Cornelius Lyons, from ‘Patrick Linden the harper in 1802’ and the air Saely Kelly by Thomas Connellon, in the same year, from ‘Paddy Linden at New Town Hamilton (in the Fews), County Armagh’ and Maudhin Voge Eveen from ‘Paddy Linden, a harper – very poor from County Louth’.

Bunting’s reference to Linden’s poverty is in keeping with the account by the Tyrone harper, Arthur O’Neill (1734-1818), who met him on his way to the Harpers’ Assembly in Belfast in 1792.

In O’Neill’s memoirs, he gives the following account of his meeting with Patrick Linden, the south Armagh harper in the Fews in south Armagh at Ballynagleragh:

‘On the Fews Mountains on my way to Armagh, I met Patrick Lindon at a public house. He knew me and called out to me and asked me where I was going. I informed him and he told me he would like to accompany me if he was better dressed. At this time I had plenty of old clothes and I knew him to be an excellent scholar who could read and write Irish very well and (I) wished to have him with me to Belfast, imagining that he would be a great acquisition to this celebrated harpers’ meeting at Belfast. He got my old clothes in order to cut them down and he was so proud when he got them that he rambled through the neighbourhood of Ballynagleragh in the County Armagh in so volatile a manner that when I expected him (according to our terms of parting) he did not appear.’ (AHU p.348)

Ballynagleragh in south Armagh, now Ballsmill, where Arthur O’Neill met with Patrick Linden in 1792

Ballynagleragh is the present day Ballsmill near Forkhill, County Armagh.


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