The Philip Carolan Manuscripts were compiled in Ballyvicmaha, near Crossmolina from c1863 to c18731. They contain hundreds of tunes, mainly transcribed by Philip Carolan (c1839-1910), a local farmer and fiddler player, but which were never published.

Of significance is the variety of music he notated, both Irish and non-Irish such as popular and classical items which would have been in vogue at the time.

After his death the manuscripts remained in the possession of Carolan’s family2 and thus remained uninvestigated until an in-depth study was undertaken by Angela Buckley in 2007 which included a critical edition presented with copious critical commentary and indices3.

As a valuable source of information on repertoire and playing technique, the Carolan Manuscripts offer a reflection of a traditional musician in rural Ireland in the decades after The Famine and prior to the Land Wars of 1879–1881, and particularly that of a musician in Mayo.

Song collector and local historian Tony Donohoe (1918–2006), speaking in 2003 about his role in the manuscripts rediscovery.4

  1. Apparently unrelated to the manuscript borrowed by P.W. Joyce “from near Lough Conn, County Mayo” c1873; referenced here.
  2. Although one of the manuscripts was lent at some point to local fiddle player Paddy Moran (1926–2005) from Carrokeel, Crossmolina (mentioned elsewhere on this site) in whose possession it remained for around twenty years until Tony Donohoe (see audio clip) retrieved and returned them to Carolan’s grandson Martin McDonnell in the late 1990s. While the originals remain in the possession of the McDonnell family in Co. Mayo, an arrangement was made by Carolan’s great granddaughter Edel McDonnell, then an undergraduate music student at the Waterford Institute of Technology, to lend the manuscripts to the Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin, where a copy is now currently housed.
  3. Angela Buckley, A Critical Edition of The Irish Music Manuscripts of Philip Carolan (c1839-1910). Masters thesis, Waterford Institute of Technology, 2007. [The full work may be found here].
  4. Ceol agus Ealaíon – Music and Musings from Mayo – (Compiled by Joe Byrne), Dreoilín Community Arts, Achadh Mór, 2009. CD3, Track7.

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