“Si Bheag Si Mhor” performed by Sarah May Rogers on Fiddle, Brenda Castles on Concertina and Oisin Dillon on Guitar, Trinity Sessions, Dame Street, Dublin, 2014.


… As a young man Carolan first found favor at the house of his first patron, Squire George Reynolds of Lough Scur at Letterfain, Co. Leitrim (himself a harper and poet). It is said that Carolan was at this time only moderately skilled at the harp and the Squire advised him to direct his talents to composing, as he “might make a better fist of his tongue than his fingers.” It is likely this tune was Carolan’s first attempt at composition. His inspiration for this tune was a story told to him by Reyonolds about Si Bheag and Si Mhor, two ranges of hills near Lough Scur, that according to local lore were the seats of two groups of fairies of opposing disposition.

The groups engaged in a great battle, in which Finn McCool and his Fianna were defeated. Some versions of the legend claim the mounds were topped by ancient ruins, with fairy castles underneath where the heroes were entombed after the battle between the rivals. Reynolds is supposed to have been much pleased by the composition. The fairy mounds appear to have been ancient conical heaps of stones and earth called motes or raths (e.g., the Teltown Rath in Meath), actually prehistoric remnants of the earliest (i.e., pre-Celtic) inhabitants of Ireland.


Dulcimer tab, with backup chords for guitar and other rhythm instruments, on the Three Rivers Dulcimer Society’s website eastern Washington state at:

Click to access Si%20Bheag%20Si%20Mhor%20042512.pdf

* * *

Brian Boru (c. 941 – 23 April 1014) was the last of the high kings of Ireland. According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Boru), his name lives on in “one of the oldest tunes in Ireland’s traditional repertoire: ‘Brian Boru’s March.’ It is still widely played by traditional Irish musicians.” But this isn’t “Brian Boru’s March.”

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