Turlough O'Carolan (Gaelic: Toirdhealbhach Ó Cearbhalláin, 1670 - March 25, 1738) was a blind, itinerant Irish harper whose great fame is due to his gifts for composition and verse. He is considered by many Ireland's "National Composer" and "the last of the Irish bards".
Carolan was born near Nobber, County Meath, and moved with his family to Ballyfarnon, County Roscommon, at the age of fourteen, where his father took a job with the MacDermott Roe family. Mrs. MacDermott gave him a education, and he showed talent in poetry. Blinded by smallpox at eighteen, Carolan was taught the harp for three years. Then, being given a horse and a guide, he set out to travel Ireland and compose songs for patrons. For almost fifty years, Carolan journeyed from one end of the country to the other, composing and performing his tunes.
Carolan's works show a mix of folk and classical elements. His unique style of composition consisted of composing the tune first as he rode from place to place, then adding the words later. This was the reverse of the usual procedure of his time. He frequently wrote works, which he called "planxties", in honor of some person. It is said that weddings and funerals were often delayed until he could arrive to perform. He composed at least 220 tunes which survive to this day.
Some of his compositions are preformed by many popular Irish musicians, such as Planxty and The Dubliners.