Discrepancy in Eleanor Plunkett

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    While looking at the O’Carolan tune Eleanor Plunkett, I found a discrepancy between Sylvia Woods and Kim Robertson’s arrangements.


    Are you talking about the second full measure (I don’t count the anacrusis) on the third beat? In Mitch Landry’s arrangement it is an A to a G. I don’t know what is correct, but that is what is there.


    Bonnie Shaljean

    I haven’t seen the arrangements you’re referring to, but if the piece is in the key of G, then A-G is very likely correct, because this is the melody Dr. Donal O’Sullivan gives in his definitive biography of Carolan, and he gathered the tunes from original source material – in this case the manuscripts of Edward Bunting, who collected the music directly from the harpers.

    Fairy Reel

    See, the thing with Irish songs is that, one, a lot of the songs have been passed down orally. Actually, I don’t think O’Carolan’s songs were published during his lifetime (don’t quote me on that and correct me if I’m wrong).

    Something you really have to keep in mind is that both versions–actually, all versions mentioned in the above posts are someone else’s arrangments. It’s what THEY thought was nice; what someone else thought worked. The phrase in question is not a drastic melody change all things considered, so really there is no right or wrong.

    I do love this piece, I must say! When I play it I’ve arranged it my own way entirely; it’s more fun, I think.

    Happy harping!–Fairy


    I think it sounds better with a high A to a G and play it that way myself. The MIDI versions I’ve found on this Web site agree with this interpretation. (

    —– Alice Freeman

    Bonnie Shaljean

    The old harpers clearly played it that way too, though Fairy’s point about the “folk process” is a good one and is certainly true.

    O’Sullivan points out that Eleanor was the last survivor of her family, and quotes the line of Carolan’s verse (in Irish) attesting to this, which he translates as: “Though there survives in this land / Only you of your kindred.”

    What exactly happened to the Plunketts is not clear, and after extensive research he could not verify a rather lurid story printed in a 1916 collection of poems which says that “thirty persons of that family shut themselves up in the castle of Castlecome [sic], two miles from Robertstown [County Meath], which were destroyed by boiling water.”

    O’Sullivan’s comment on this tale is: “I have been unable to get to the bottom of this.

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