Eibhli Ghail Chiuin Ni Chearbhail

Written by: 
1 Oct 1973

Famous instrumental.

'The Fair And Charming Eileen O'Carroll'; air collected from a blind Irish harpist in the late 1700s. John at the time of recording had no idea what the Gaelic title meant.

The air was collected by Edward Bunting in 1792 and published in 1809. The original poem was written in southern Ulster by a blind poet, Séamus Dall McCuarta (c.1645-1733), also known as Blind McCourt, or James Courtney. The text was probably put to music for harp by Pádraig Mac Giolla Fhiondáin (1666-1733).
McCuarta was born in Omeath, County Louth, and wrote a number of songs in praise of members of the Hall family from Narrow-water Castle, County Down including this song for Ellie Carroll, known as Ailí Gheal Chiúin Ní Chearúil.

John's version is amusing as it must have been a provocation in traditional folk circles to play a traditional tune on electric guitar, or even worse, an amplified and distorted acoustic guitar.

There are various lyrics connected to this song but this is an old (translated) one that fits the melody well:

Fair Gentle Ally Carroll

There’s an unblemished lily known to me in Louth,
I’ll conceal not her name for certain,
The pure, fine beauty first granted to Helen
She has recently acquired in plenty;
Not wounding or bruising or ever enticing
But innocent, playful and childlike,
And a royal flood of Munster blood
Flowing through fair gentle Ally Carroll.

Did you not see the beauty of Angelica and Deirdre
Assembled in this modest young maiden,
Each gem of her hair like the shining of stars,
Or flocks of birds in the summer?
The women of Ireland who share in her beauty
Agree that she far outshines them;
If only she’d leased the townlands of Ely,
Ally of the line of Carroll.

You who brings word to the land of O’Carroll
Tell your story with truth:
That a maiden of theirs of the kindest demeanour,
Ever seen on the face of the earth;
For spirit and sense none can her compare
To Carrick bridge from Clogher,
No fault on earth but she wounded to death
Those heroes of powerful vigour.

My blessings first give her and tell this young woman
That I never forget her enchantment,
But watch out for yourself on seeing her beauty
That you will not die as Carroll did;
When first he heard she had gone to her grave,
The noble fair daughter of Alba.
I doubt that her manner outshined the pearl,
Called gentle fair Ally Carroll

Info on this page was collected from the excellent website orielarts.com.

First release: