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Eileen a Riún – 1380

Western People 14th October, 1911 p.9 (abridged)

Tree

Road to Corcomrue Acrylic on canvas EO’D

Eileen-a-Riún (Eileen O secret)
The song Eileen a Riún was written in 1380. Eileen Kavanagh of Polmonty Castle, County Wexford, was the loved one. The lover was Carrol O’Daly, the chief composer of Ireland at the time and Ollave of Corcomroe. Although so distinguished, O’Daly was not like by Eileen’s parents, who forbade him to enter Polmonty Castle, or to speak with her. They engaged her to wed another but on the wedding day, when all was ready, an aged harper entered and craved the privilege of singing a song he had composed in honour of the bride. This was granted. The ‘old harper’ was O’Daly, and when he sang Eileen recognised his voice. Feigning an excuse to speak with the minstrel, she stole away with him and they married.

The song also defied the Statues of Kilkenny. Passed in 1367, these laws made it a penal offence for anyone to receive or entertain Irish bards, harpers, minstrels or rhymers. Many Irish families continued giving their patronage whenever they safely could. Henry VI (1421-1471)  gave an order that all Irish poets and musicians should be imprisoned and this order remained in force for nearly two centuries.

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