(see A Hidden Ulster pp.351-3 with detailed references and further information)
Patrick Quin was born in County Armagh around 1746. He was blind and was taught to play the harp by Pádraig Óg Mac Giolla Fhiondáin (Patrick Linden) of the Fews in County Armagh. He was also a proficient fiddle player who made a living from playing at wakes and ‘merry makings’.
Since A Hidden Ulster was published in 2003, it has emerged that harper and his teacher, Patrick Linden, may have been a cousin of Quin’s father (current research by Sylvia Crawford and Colin Johnston Robb, Irish News 1946).
Quin was one of the youngest of the harpers who played at the Belfast Harpers’ Assembly in July 1792, as was another harper from County Armagh, William Carr, who was aged ﬁfteen.
His death is dated to after 1812. Patrick Quin, Patrick (Óg) Linden of south Armagh, William Carr of County Armagh, who was born in 1777 and played at the Belfast Harpers Assembly of 1792, together with Patrick Byrne of Farney, who died in 1863, may have been the last in a long line of Ulster harpers.
Quin owned and played a harp by Cormac Kelly of Ballinascreen (Draperstown), County Derry, dated 1707, which was preserved at Castle Otway in County Tipperary by Captain Robert Jocelyn Otway. Cormac Kelly was also the maker of the harp played by Denis Hempson from Magilligan, County Derry who was the oldest harper to play at the Belfast festival.
He was brought to Dublin in 1809 by John Bernard Trotter, a County Down man and private secretary to Charles James Fox, who established a Harp Society in which Quin was the teacher.
The event took place in the Private Theatre in Fishamble Street, Dublin on 27 September 1809. This was probably Thomas Kennan’s private theatre which was next door to the left of the Music Hall where Handel’s Messiah was first performed in 1742.
Kennan’s Theatre now houses the Irish Contemporary Music Centre. Very little else is known of his life as a harper other than that he was selected to play at the Rotunda in 1809 in a commemoration of the harper Carolan. This was in the Rotunda Music Rooms now the Ambassador Cinema.
What was Dublin’s gain was to be County Armagh’s loss, for, according to Bunting, Quin was ‘so elated by the commendation he received for his performance on that occasion that on his return to his own residence he declined to play any longer on the violin from which he had hitherto reaped a good harvest by performing at wakes and merry meetings in the neighbourhood.’ (AHU p.352)
While he was in Dublin, a Miss Trotter made a sketch of him. This engraved portrait of Quin was exhibited at the ‘Musical Loan Exhibition’ Feis Ceoil, 1899.
In 1831 his playing was still remembered: ‘the strains of Patrick Quin an old Irish harper who performed publicly in Dublin in 1809 were still remembered with delight’. (AHU p. 353)
Among the tunes given to Bunting by Patrick Quin were Staca an Mhargaidh, The Wild Geese, Burns March, Love Lie Beside Me.
Other tunes in Bunting collection at Queen’s University, (identified by ORIEL ARTS harper by harpers Simon Chadwick and Sylvia Crawford), are : I’ll Follow You Over the Mountain, Marbhna no Cumha, A Gradh Luighe Lamh Liom, Suisheen Buidhe, Port Gordon, Ballyhaunis, Mailí Bhán, Sios a Rod a dImigh Si, Lochaber no More, Do Bí Bean Uasal, Planxty McDermott, A Lundubh agus a Chiarsath, Fanny Dillon, Carolans Cap, Nancy Cooper, The Rocks of Pleasure, Carolan’s Devotion, Grace Nugent, Patrick’s Day, O Molly Dear, Planxty Reilly, Aileen a Roon ,The Fairy Queen, O’Rorke’s Noble Feast and Feallagon.
Identifiable songs among them (some also found in the Oriel tradition) are, I’ll follow you over the mountain, Mailí Bhán, Do Bhí Bean Uasal (attributed to Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna AHU p.337), An Londubh is an Chéirseach and O’Rourke’s Noble Feast – an O’Carolan air also found in the Patrick McGahon Manuscript Collection.
Sylvia Crawford from County Armagh, has researched and is editing Quin’s tunes and airs. She has connections with Portadown, in County Armagh, as also did Patrick Quin. She has contributed notes, notation and commentary with each video recording of the Quin tunes, filmed here for ORIEL ARTS. In the video she is playing a Student Otway harp (on loan from The Historical Harp Society of Ireland), made by David Kortier (USA) and modelled on the Otway harp. It was Patrick Quin’s harp, known as the Otway (or Castle Otway) harp, and is now owned by Trinity College, Dublin.
She plays for ORIEL ARTS, in the old style using her finger nails, two pieces collected from Quin: Lochaber and Marbhna nó Cumha. Click on these title links to read more on her interpretation, notes and manuscript sources.