The Galway Coulin or the Old Coulin

This article was written by George Petrie and published in the 'Galway Reader' in the 1950s. The 'Galway Reader' is available from Galway Public Library.

The words of the song, 'Coulin', were translated into English by Hector MacNeill.

George Petrie on the Galway Coulin

Writing in June, 1863 to the Rev. James Goodman, afterwards Professor of Irish in Trinity College, George Petrie said:

"The tune, of which you have sent me the setting has been known to me for a long period, and I have always considered it as one of the most beautiful of our melodies. It is generally known in the county of Galway and is called 'The Old Coulin', and most certainly it is not a tune of Carolan's but much older. I first set it from the singing of Paddy Conealy, the Galway piper, about five and twenty years ago, and shortly afterwards got a set of it very slightly different from a folio manuscript volume of Irish songs and tunes written by Edward O' Reilly, the Irish lexicographer. The volume passed into the hands of the late James Hardiman, and thence to the library of the Royal Irish Academy, in which it is now preserved. The tune was the favourite Irish one of the late Lord Rossmore, who had a strong love and a fine taste for Irish music. I have heard him descant upon its expression of sentiment, with an admirable appreciation of its beauty, for a quarter of an hour at a time. I should also tell you that the tune has been published by Edward Bunting in his first volume of Irish melodies about the year 1793, with the name of 'bFear Liom n ire' or 'I would rather than Ireland?';. But he has set it in the minor mode, which makes it appear a different tune, and I doubt that was right in doing so. I certainly never heard it so sung..."


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