Edward Bunting


Edward Bunting (1773–1843) was an Irish musician and folk music collector known for his significant contributions to preserving and documenting traditional Irish music and for whom Bunting Road is named after. Born in County Armagh, Ireland, in February 1773, Bunting began his formal music studies at the age of seven in Drogheda and later apprenticed with William Ware, the organist at St. Anne’s church in Belfast.

In 1792, at the age of nineteen, Bunting was engaged to transcribe music from oral-tradition harpists at the Belfast Harp Festival. Despite being classically trained, Bunting faced challenges in understanding the unique characteristics of Irish music, such as modes. He sometimes “corrected” tunes according to Classical music rules, leading to some discrepancies in his transcriptions. However, his work was invaluable in preserving the tunes, and his notes on the harpists and their playing techniques are highly regarded.

Bunting’s arrangement of the festival melodies for the piano forte and accompanying notes were published in London as “A General Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland” in 1796. He organized a second festival in 1813 and donated the proceeds to the Belfast Charitable Society to help the poor.

Over the years, Bunting went on collecting tours between 1792 and 1807, becoming the first to transcribe music directly “in the field” as played by musicians. Recognizing the importance of Irish words to the songs, he employed Patrick Lynch to collect these lyrics.

Bunting moved to Dublin, where he held the position of organist at St. George’s Church. He died in Dublin on December 21, 1843, and is buried at the Cemetery of Mount Jerome, Dublin. Bunting’s papers, lost for many years, were rediscovered in 1907 and are currently housed in the Special Collections department of Queen’s University of Belfast.

One of Bunting’s notable works is “The Ancient Music of Ireland,” published in three volumes. The first volume, in 1796, contained 66 tunes transcribed at the Belfast Harp Festival. The second volume was published in 1809. In 1840, Bunting issued his third collection, complete with 151 tunes and a dissertation on the Irish harp and harpers.

Bunting’s work played a crucial role in preserving and promoting Irish music. Despite some controversies and disagreements, his collections remain influential, and he is celebrated for his dedication to documenting and understanding the musical heritage of Ireland.

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Connection with area: Irish musician and folk music collector who Bunting road, Walkinstown is named after.