A Scholar and a Poet...
Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill (also known as Eileen O’ Connell) was one of 22 children born to Dómhnaill Mór Ó Conaill. She was born in 1743 and died in 1800. She was an Irish noblewoman, composer, and poet, and she was best known for writing Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire. This poem is declared as being one of the best laments ever written and one of the greatest love poems in the Irish language.
When Eibhlín was 15, she was married to an older man, but he died within six months of the marriage. No children were produced in that marriage. In 1767, when Eibhlín was 23 she fell in love with Captain Art Ó Loaghaire (O’Leary). He was from Rathleigh, Macroom, County Cork, and had just returned home from serving in the Hungarian Hussars.
This new marriage was against what Eibhlín’s parents wanted so the two eloped. They would live in Rathleigh with Art’s father, Conelius Ó Laoire. There she would give birth to five children, but three died at childbirth. She was pregnant once again when Art was killed.
Art was a Roman Catholic at a time when being Catholic was all but outlawed in Ireland. There were several Penal Laws in place that made life for Catholics incredibly difficult. These laws were what resulted into an ongoing dispute between Art and Abraham Morris of Hanover Hall, Sheriff of Cork County. The Penal Laws were why Art took to military service in the first place because it made employment and land ownership difficult in Ireland for Catholics.
The feud began when Morris offered five pounds for Art’s horse, which was incredibly low, but what was supposed to be the price of any steed owned by a Catholic. Art refused and fled. Morris was able to use his position to have Art outlawed, and placed 20 guineas on his head. He was now able to be shot at on the spot by anyone.
Art attempted to ambush Morris at Millstreet, but this was a failure. He was soon shot at after the attempt. His mare raced back to Rathleigh covered in blood, Eibhlín found the mare and galloped back to Carraig an Ime, where Art had been shot. There she found him dead.
The lament she wrote was for her husband. It was to mourn his death while simultaneously calling for revenge. It was composed and soon became part of Irish tradition; although, it would not be written down for many years later.