Dooney Rock on The Yeats Trail is in the ‘valley my father called their home’ between Ben Bulben and Knocknarea, and features prominently in Yeats’s lyric poem The Fiddler of Dooney.
Located in Dooney Forest on the shores of Lough Gill, Dooney Rock is a large limestone formation that rises vertically in the centre of the forest, surrounded by a popular signposted forest trail.
Yeats visited Dooney Rock as a boy and immortalized the place in this poem. The musician has filled an important role in Irish life for many centuries and in Sligo, the role of the fiddler has particular importance.
Traditionally the annual festival of Lughnasa was celebrated at The Holy Well (Tobarnalt) and near Dooney Rock (nowadays on the last Sunday of July). The travelling musician was a common sight in 19th century rural Ireland, and the fiddler has had a particular place in the music of Sligo. The Fiddler of Dooney fiddle competition takes place annually in tribute both to this poem and to the Sligo Style of playing made famous by renowned fiddle players Michael Coleman, James Morrison, Paddy Killoran, and others.
from The Wind among the Reeds (1889)
The Fiddler of Dooney
When I play on my fiddle in Dooney,
Folk dance like a wave of the sea;
My cousin is priest in Kilvarnet,
My brother in Moharabuiee.
I passed my brother and cousin:
They read in their books of prayer;
I read in my book of songs
I bought at the Sligo fair.
When we come at the end of time,
To Peter sitting in state,
He will smile on the three old spirits,
But call me first through the gate;
For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle
And the merry love to dance:
And when the folk there spy me,
They will all come up to me,
With ‘Here is the fiddler of Dooney!’
And dance like a wave of the sea.