Tune of the Day: The Lamentation of Owen Roe O'Neill
This air was composed by Irish harper Turlough O'Carolan (1670–1738), or at least it has been attributed to him by several authorities. W.H. Grattan Flood, however, in his History of Irish Music (1905), says that the “glorious” Owen Roe lament was composed soon after his death, in 1649, predating O'Carolan's birth by a few years.
Owen Roe O'Neill (1582–1649), or, in Irish, Eoghan Rua Ó Neill, was a member of the noble O'Neill family of County Tyrone who as a youth left Ireland for military service on the Continent. He fought in the Netherlands and distinguished himself as an officer in service with the Spanish, but in 1642 at the age of 60 he returned to Ireland and helped to mastermind the rebellion against the Stuart regime called the Confederation of Kilkenny. O'Neill won an important victory at Benburb in 1646, but died three years later of an illness at Cloughouter, County Cavan, just before he was to campaign against Cromwell's Roundheads. It has long been maintained in tradition that O'Neill was in fact poisoned at the hands of a woman who placed a toxin in his shoes before a banquet. O'Neill danced vigorously for several hours, causing the substance to be absorbed into his skin, leading to his death several days later.