Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

In County Leitrim, Ireland's blind bard found inspiration. Turlough O'Carolan was a composer, poet and harpist. And O'Carolan's work and life fired Paul Hadfield to weave some words about Lough Scur in Leitrim.

article summary —

with a poem by Paul JA Hadfield

County Leitrim is surely Ireland's most unsung county. Tucked away in the northwest, but with none of the grandeur of Fermanagh or Donegal, Leitrim is quiet, mellow and hushed. Low hills preside over valleys filled with drumlins which are draped with pastures that shade from jade to emerald. Peaty dells, soft loughs and ancient megaliths give texture to a landscape that is quintessential Ireland.

It was in Leitrim that Turlough O'Carolan, Ireland's celebrated composer, poet and harpist, found both patronage and inspiration. For a while he stayed at Letterfian on the shores of Lough Scur, and it was here that his host, George Reynolds, recounted to O'Carolan tales of the surrounding country. O'Carolan heard of the crumbled dolmen on the shores of the lake and of the battles that had been fought by the fairies who lived on Sidh Beag and Sidh Mór, the two hills on opposing sides of Lough Scur. These stories inspired some of O'Carolan's most acclaimed music. Something of the blind harpist still haunts the Leitrim landscape.

This is just an excerpt. If you are a subscriber to hidden europe magazine, you can log in to read the full text online. Of course you can also read the full article in the print edition of hidden europe 22.


Paul Hadfield was a writer and educator who lived for over twenty years in Ireland. He was for many years a theatre director, a university teacher and joint editor of Theatre Ireland Journal. His poetry has been published in many journals including Critical Quarterly and Études Irlandaises. Paul died in January 2018. He was a good friend and will be sadly missed.

This article was published in hidden europe 22.