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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Eibhlín (Eileen) Kavanagh

The origin of the song Eileen Aroon

In olden times the present parish of Clonegal consisted of two parishes called Moyacomb and Barragh. St. Barragh was the saint of the district and the church was dedicated to him, while the blessed Well nearby was called Crunavane Well. Clonmullin Castle was also in this parish and it was in this historic building that the song, "Eileen Aroon" was first sung.

At the time the castle was the home of Eibhlín (Eileen) Kavanagh who was the heroine in that song. The story may not be familiar to many but the facts are that Eileen had formed an attachment for Carroll More O'Daly who was a brother of a chieftain of Connaught. This was in the reign of Elizabeth I. The young man was accomplished at poetry and music and he and Eileen were very much in love, Eileen's friends and family were opposed to the union and while Carroll was away on business they persuaded her that he had married someone else. Having convinced her by trickery of the truth of this, they got her to agree to marry a man of their choice. Then a Festival was arranged in the Castle to celebrate the approaching marriage but her lover, Carroll heard what was afoot and attended the celebration dressed as a gleeman.

He revealed himself to Eileen through the song and she knew that his constancy had never wavered. Carroll had composed his song to express his love and faithfulness while remaining incognito to the rest of the guests. Eileen later escaped from the castle, fearful of being forced into a loveless union and in due course wedded Carroll O'Daly.

Margaret Hayden

*Eileen aroon (Eibhlín a Rún) - means Eileen, my love

Source: Carloviana 1983. No. 30.  p13'

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