Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sheebeg an' Sheemore (O'Carolan)

This tune is said to be the first tune Carolan composed. After leaving Alderford at the age of 21, Carolan stopped at Squire Reynold's house at Lough Scur. Mr. Reynolds, who had been a harper and poet himself, was not apparently impressed by Carolan's musical abilities and asked him if he composed. When Carolan replied he did not, Squire Reynolds remarked he "might make a better hand of his tongue than of his fingers." Reynolds planned to leave a few days and suggested Carolan make a tune out of a local legend of a "battle between the kings of the gentry [fairies]." (O'Sullivan, Vol. 2, p. 123) Upon his return Carolan had composed this tune.In an account of his visit to the area in 1828, Edward O'Reilly tells of two ranges of hills. On the highest part of one of the ranges "is one of those ancient conical heaps of stones and earth called motes or raths, so common in this country, and which the popular voices says are inhabited by the Daoine Maithe, the "Good People", which the country people dare not venture to call by the name of fairies. This mote, and the mountain on which it stands, are much celebrated in the popular poems and songs of Ireland under the name of Sigh Mor. " (O'Reilly quoted in Sullivan, Vol. 2, p. 123) On the other range, near Squire Reynold's home was another mote, Sigh beg which was also reputed inhabited by fairies. According to local tales during the period in which Fionn Mac Cubhail and Fianna Eirionn were defeated, one of Fionn's heroes (perhaps Fionn himself), who was killed, was entombed in Sigh beg and a warrior of the other side was buried in Sigh mor. The battle of the two continued to be carried out by the immortals of Sig beg and Sig mor.

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