Historical Memoirs of the Irish Bards
It could take more than 12 years study for a suitable young man to qualify as a Bard.
To be "suitable" he had to belong to one of the bardic families, to have an aptitude for poetry and music, to be vigorous of understanding and retentive of memory, and in person "be made in the prodigality of nature"!
Once this paragon was admitted, he learned history, law, science and oratory — all conveyed through the medium of poetry.
Those who graduated and received the degree of Ollamh (or Ollave) might become the confidants of kings and princes, judges and legislators, or antiquaries, genealogists and historians.
This exploration of the history of Irish Bards ranges from pre-Christian times to the middle of the eighteenth century. It was written by a member of the Royal Irish Academy and originally published in 1786. It is a wide-ranging study looking at the times and the society in which the bards lived as well as the lives, skills and characters of the bards themselves.
Nine appendices (one in Italian) provide letters and essays from other scholars. Their contents include, amongt other things, biographies of Cormac Common and Turlough O'Carolan; poetical accents; the construction of the harp; and the music for a number of Irish melodies.
Historical Memoirs of the Irish Bards: Amazon US / Amazon UK
The Dunnett connection:
In book two of the Lymond Chronicles, Queen's Play, an Irish Prince and his Ollave play
a very significant part in the story. In case you haven't read the series yet, I'll say no more . . .