Edward Bunting

Bunting, Edward, musician and composer, was born at Armagh, February 1773. At the age of nine he lost his father, and went to live with his brother in Drogheda.

His extraordinary talents soon showed themselves, and when only eleven years old he was appointed sub-organist of a church in Belfast. There he became intimate with the McCracken family, who proved his best friends all through life.

The boy taught music; and it is related that his ears were occasionally boxed by irate young lady pupils, who resented his necessary criticisms upon their performances.

As he grew older, his attention was mainly directed towards the collection of ancient Irish airs—especially after 1792, when there was an assemblage of Irish harpers at Belfast; and his life may be said to have been principally devoted to this pursuit—for which he was well qualified, were it not for a spoiled, dilatory, wayward, and more or less dissipated disposition.

His publications supplied Moore with many of the airs for his Melodies.

Bunting’s last ambition was, as he himself expressed, “as he was the first to give to the world a regularly arranged selection of our national airs, to terminate his labours by leaving behind him a complete, uniform, and, he trusts, very nearly perfect collection of Irish music.”

He died in Dublin, 21st December 1843, aged 70, and was buried in the cemetery of Mount-Jerome.

Moore, in his Journal, speaks of one volume of Bunting’s collection as “a mere mess of trash;” but bears testimony to the good-nature and good sense with which Bunting hailed his success, dimming, as it inevitably did, Bunting’s hopes of fame from his own collections of Irish music.


116. Dublin University Magazine (29). Dublin, 1833–’77.

244. Moore, Thomas, Memoir, Journal and Correspondence: Lord John Russell. 8 vols. London, 1850–’6.