Bunting, Edward (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

BUNTING, EDWARD (1773–1843), musician and antiquary, was born at Armagh in February 1773. His father was a Derbyshire engineer who went to Ireland to superintend the works at the Dungannon colliery. His mother was a lineal descendant of the Patrick Gruana O'Quin of the Hy Niall race, who was killed in arms in July 1642. The elder Bunting died soon after the birth of his youngest son, Edward, leaving behind him two other sons, both of whom in later years became musicians. The eldest of these, Anthony, was in 1782 settled at Drogheda as a music teacher and organist, and from him Bunting received his nrat instruction. He remained at Drogheda for two years, and in 1784 was sent for to Belfast to act as substitute for a Mr. Weir, a local organist, to whom he was shortly afterwards articled. Part of his duties at Belfast consisted in giving occasional pianoforte lessons to Weir's pupils, which he did with such unusual energy that it is said that one of his lady pupils once turned round and boxed his ears. At the expiration of his articles Bunting had become so popular in Belfast that he had no difficulty in making his own living by the exercise of his profession. He was both clever and handsome, but, indulging in hard drinking and dissipation, he became wayward, hot-tempered, and idle. On 11, 12, and 13 July 1792 a few patriotic Irish gentlemen held a meeting of harpers and minstrels in order to revive their almost extinct national music. Only ten performers could be collected, and Bunting was commissioned to note down the airs which they played. This seems to have awakened in him a powerful interest in old Irish music, and he at once set about collecting materials for a work on the subject, for which purpose he made numerous journeys, principally in Ulster, Munster, and Connaught. In 1796 he published the result of his researches in a volume entitled 'A General Collection of the Ancient Irish Music, containing a variety of Admired Airs never before published, and also the Compositions of Conolan and Carolan. Collected from the Harpers, &c., in the different provinces of Ireland, and adapted for the Piano-Forte. With a Prefatory Introduction … Vol. I.' This book was published by Preston in London and pirated by Lee in Dublin; it contains sixty-six airs, but no words. Although the volume was not a pecuniary success, Bunting went on collecting Irish music for another edition, for which he secured the co-operation of Thomas Campbell, who wrote words for the best tunes. Probably the success of Moore's 'Irish Melodies' (which was largely indebted to Bunting's first volume) hurried on the production in 1809 by Clementi of the new edition, which bore the title, 'A General Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland, arranged for the Piano-Forte; some of the most admired Melodies are adapted for the Voice, to Poetry chiefly translated from the Original Irish Songs, by Thomas Campbell, Esq., and other eminent Poets. To which is prefixed a Historical and Critical Dissertation on the Egyptian, British, and Irish Harps … Vol. I. This book contained seventy-seven additional airs, many of which were derived from a harper named Dennis Hempson, who was said to be over a hundred years old. The words of the songs are given only in English, and are generally unsatisfactory, although the music is very valuable. While this work was preparing for publication Bunting paid several visits to London, where he became a great friend of the Broadwood family. In 1815 he visited Paris when the allied sovereigns were there. It is said that his thoroughly English appearance caused a practical joke to be played on him by some Frenchmen, who lighted a mass of squibs and crackers under a seat on the Boulevards on which he was dozing. On leaving Paris Bunting returned to Ireland by way of Belgium and Holland. In 1819 he was married to a Miss Chapman, and after his marriage he left Belfast and settled in Dublin, where he soon established a good connection as a teacher, besides occupying the post of organist to St. Stephen's. In 1840 he published a third collection of Irish music, dedicated to the queen. This was entitled 'The Ancient Music of Ireland, arranged for the Pianoforte. To which is prefixed a Dissertation on the Irish Harp and Harpers, including an Account of the old Melodies of Ireland.' The book contained 160 airs, 120 of which were published for the first time. Bunting did not long survive this, his last work. He died in Dublin on 21 Dec. 1843, and was buried in the cemetery of Mount Jerome. In person he was above middle height, strongly made and well-proportioned, but in his later years inclined to stoutness. His manners were rough and his temper irritable, but he possessed much kindliness and strong affection. There is a portrait of him in the 'Dublin University Magazine.'

[Dublin University Magazine for January 1847.]

W. B. S.