Mac Kenna, Niall (MacCann)
(fl.1700), poet, harper, and songwriter, was born in the Fews, Co. Armagh. His date of birth and parents’ names are unknown. Indeed very little is known about him apart from the songs he left behind. While O'Reilly gives MacKenna as the English equivalent of the surname, it is more usually given as MacCann, which is a common Armagh name. Around the beginning of the eighteenth century he moved to Mullaghcrew, Co. Louth, where he appears to have spent the rest of his life. His songs include: ‘Mo mhíle slán duitse síos a Thriucha’; ‘Ainnir deas ciuin’, a well-known song written to a local tune; ‘Gluais liom go beacht’ and ‘Ní measama féin’. He is also believed to have been the author of the words of ‘Sheela bheag ni Choindhealbhan’ and the ‘Old Triugha’. According to Edward O'Reilly (qv), Mac Kenna may have written the words to these songs but the music is much older. In RIA Ms 23 E 12, Nicholas O'Kearney (qv) attributed the song ‘Coillte Glasa an Triúcha’ to Mac Kenna. Henry Morris (qv) (Énrí Ó Muirgheasa) included a further three of Mac Kenna's songs in his collection Céad de Cheolta Uladh (1915): ‘Agallamh an Bhaird agus na Teamhrach’; ‘Máire Ní Mhaolmhuaidh’ and ‘Ruairí Ó Ruanaigh agus Maighréad Ní Chathasaigh’.
Edward O'Reilly, A chronological account of nearly four hundred Irish writers, cciii–iv; Énrí Ó Muirgheasa, Céad de cheolta Uladh (1915)
Originally published October 2009 as part of the Dictionary of Irish Biography