seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Matt Molloy, Flautist & Member of The Chieftains

Matt Molloy, Irish musician and member of The Chieftains, is born on January 12, 1947, at Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon, a region known for producing talented flautists. Coming from a strong musical background, he is considered as one of the most brilliant Irish musicians, his style that adapts piping techniques to the flute has influenced many contemporary Irish flute players.

As a child, Molloy begins playing the flute at age 8 and by the age of 18 he wins the All-Ireland Flute Championship and has a string of successes in National Fleadh Cheoil and Oireachtas. He moves to Dublin in the mid 1960s where he starts playing in the music scene and becomes acquainted with Paddy Moloney.

During the burgeoning folk scene of the 1970s, Molloy is a founding member of the famous Irish traditional band, The Bothy Band. After the Bothy Band, he appears briefly with the reformed group, Planxty. He joins The Chieftains in 1979, replacing Michael Tubridy. The Chieftains 9: Boil the Breakfast Early is his first album with The Chieftains.

Over the course of his career, Molloy has released several highly acclaimed solo albums and has worked with other accomplished musicians. He has teamed up with Paul Brady, Tommy Peoples, Micheál Ó Súilleabháin, Dónal Lunny and the Irish Chamber Orchestra among other artists.

In addition to playing, Molloy owns a pub on Bridge Street in Westport, County Mayo, called Matt Molloy’s, where he has recorded a live session album. His pub is well known for having sessions including many different musicians.

The flutes used in traditional Irish music are called concert flutes. These are the standard instruments found in orchestras during the 19th century, prior to the introduction of Boehm system flutes circa 1843. They are conical-bore, transverse flutes, typically constructed of blackwood. They are played using ‘simple system’ (keyless) fingering or ‘old system’ (four to eight keys) fingering. They have a more robust and breathy tone compared to metal flutes.

In addition to the flute, Molloy plays the tin whistle, though not very often. The tin whistle is a vertical fipple-flute. The fipple is the duct in the mouthpiece that directs air to produce sound. The first tin whistles of the 1800s were rolled plates of tin forming a tube, with a wooden block in the mouthpiece carved to form the fipple. Today’s tin whistles are made of metals including nickel-silver, brass and aluminum. They have a range of two octaves, and are made in a wide range of keys.


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Death of Margaret Emmeline Dobbs, Scholar & Playwright

Margaret Emmeline Dobbs, Irish scholar and playwright best known for her work to preserve the Irish language, dies in Cushendall, County Antrim, Northern Ireland on January 2, 1962.

Dobbs is born in County Antrim on November 19, 1871 to barrister Conway Edward Dobbs who is Justice of the Peace for County Antrim, High Sheriff for Carrickfergus in 1875 and High Sheriff for County Louth in 1882. Her mother is Sarah Mulholland, daughter of St. Clair Kelvin Mulholland of Eglantine, County Down. The family spends time living in Dublin where Dobbs is born. She attempts to learn Irish, however, when her father dies in 1898 her mother moves the family back to Glenariff.

Dobbs is interested in learning Irish and finds it easier to learn in County Donegal where it is still spoken. Her first teacher is Hugh Flaitile. She attends the Irish College at Cloughaneely in the Donegal Gaeltacht. She brings the idea of promoting the language to the Glens of Antrim and her circle of friends. She is one of the small number of Protestant women interested in the Gaelic revival.

The year 1904 sees the “Great Feis” in Antrim and Dobbs is a founder member of the Feis na nGleann committee and later a tireless literary secretary. In 1946, the Feis committee decides to honour her by presenting her with an illuminated address. It can be seen today at Portnagolan House with its stained glass windows commemorating a great Irishwoman. During her speech she says, “Ireland is a closed book to those who do not know her language. No one can know Ireland properly until one knows the language. Her treasures are hidden as a book unopened. Open the book and learn to love your language.”

Dobbs writes seven plays, published by Dundalgan Press in 1920, though only three are actually performed. The Doctor and Mrs. McAuley wins the Warden trophy for one-act plays at the Belfast festival in 1913. Her plays, however, are generally not a success and after 1920 she never writes another. She continues to work on historical and archaeological studies and her articles are published in the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, in a German magazine for Celtic studies, in the French Revue Celtique and in the Irish magazine Ériu.

Roger Casement is a good friend and although Dobbs never makes her political opinions known she contributes to his defence costs when he is accused of treason. Although her political views are not clearly known, Dobbs has been a member of the Gaelic League and in the executive of Cumann na mBan.

Dobbs dies at her home, Portnagolan House, Cushendall, on January 2, 1962.


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Birth of John Todhunter, Poet & Playwright

John Todhunter, Irish poet and playwright who wrote seven volumes of poetry and several plays, is born in Dublin on December 30, 1839.

Todhunter is the eldest son of Thomas Harvey Todhunter, a Quaker merchant of English origin. He is educated at Quaker schools, including Bootham School in York and in Mountmellick, County Laois. He starts work at his father’s offices in Dublin and London before continuing on to attend Trinity College, Dublin, where he studies medicine. While at Trinity, he wins the Vice-Chancellor’s prize for English Verse 1864, 1865 and 1866, and the Gold Medal of the Philosophical Society 1866 for an essay. He also clerks for William Stokes while studying. He receives his Bachelor of Medicine in 1867 and his Doctorate of Medicine degree in 1871.

In 1870, one year prior to receiving his Doctorate of Medicine, Todhunter becomes a Professor of English Literature at Alexandra College, Dublin. Four years later, he resigns from that position and travels to Egypt and several places in Europe. He marries Dora L. Digby in 1879. In 1881, he finally settles in London, where his home in Bedford Park, Chiswick is located in a small community of writers and artists, including William Butler Yeats. Informal “symposia” are held at his house about once a fortnight, when friends gather at his fireside to discuss poetry and philosophy. He is involved in the founding of the Irish Literary Society there.

Todhunter’s first volume is a collection of narrative and lyrical poems entitled Laurella (1876). Grace, tenderness, and melody mark these poems. In later years he does much stronger work under the influence of ancient Celtic literature, to the study of which he is led by the memorable rendering of the Cú Chulainn legend published in 1878 by Standish O’Grady. The Banshee and Other Poems (1888) and The Irish Bardic Tales (1896) contain the best of his work in poetry.

Three of Todhunter’s plays have been acted with success. One of them, The Black Cat (1893), produced by the Independent Theatre Society, a private club formed to forestall censorship by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, is a factor in the revival of the literary drama. However, it only receives one performance, on December 8, 1893 at the Opera Comique. His translation of Heinrich Heine‘s Buch der Lieder is perhaps the best complete English version of a work than which none more irresistibly attracts or more cruelly eludes the art of the translator. He is also author of a few brief prose works, including “The Life of Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan” and “A Study of Shelley.”

Todhunter dies on October 25, 1916 at his residence in Bedford Park.


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Death of Artist Harry Aaron Kernoff

Harry Aaron Kernoff, Irish artist in oils and woodcuts, dies in Dublin on December 25, 1974. Of London/Russian extraction, he is primarily remembered for his sympathetic interest in Dublin and its people. He depicts street and pub scenes, as well as Dublin landmarks with sympathy and understanding. This is particularly evident in his woodcuts.

Born in London on January 10, 1900 to a Russian Jewish father and Spanish mother, Kernoff moves to Dublin in 1914 and becomes a leading figure in Irish modernism. While working as an apprentice in his father’s furniture business, which leads to his woodcuts, he takes night classes at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art. There, in 1923, he wins the Taylor scholarship and goes on to exhibit at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) every year from 1926. He is elected RHA in 1936.

Influenced by Seán Keating, he paints the Irish landscape, genre scenes, and portraits. His work is part of the painting event in the art competition at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. In 1930, he visits the Soviet Union as part of an Irish delegation from the friends of Soviet Russia led by Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington. While visiting, he is influenced by the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia.

Kernoff is famously associated with Davy Byrne’s pub. His paintings and woodcuts of Davy Byrne’s pub are documents of his friendship with the original owner. While living in his adopted Dublin Jewish community he produces picture illustrations of his local scenes for a neighbourhood writer and friend, Nick Harris, for his book called Dublin’s Little Jerusalem.

Outside Kernoff’s home in Dublin, where he lives with two unmarried sisters, there is a long-standing sign in the front garden which says “Descendants of the Abravanels.” The Abravanel (or Abrabanel) family is one of the most famous Sephardic Jewish families in history, noted for their large quotas of rabbis, scholars, and members of a variety of scientific and artistic fields, dating from about the 13th century in Lisbon. The emergence of the famous philosopher and scholar Don Isaac Abravanel in the middle of the 16th century brings his works to greater universal recognition.

Kernoff spends the vast majority of his life unappreciated and makes little or nothing from his paintings until a few years before his death, when he begins to be appreciated by contemporary critics. He never marries.


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Thin Lizzy Reaches No. 1 with “Whiskey In The Jar”

Irish rock band Thin Lizzy reaches No. 1 on the Irish Singles Chart with its rendition of “Whiskey In The Jar” on December 19, 1972.

“Whiskey in the Jar” is the tale of a highwayman or footpad who, after robbing a military or government official, is betrayed by a woman; whether she is his wife or sweetheart is not made clear. Various versions of the song take place in County Kerry, Kilmoganny, Cork, Sligo and other locales throughout Ireland. It is also sometimes placed in the American South, in various places among the Ozarks or Appalachians, possibly due to Irish settlement in these places. Names in the song change, and the official can be a Captain or a Colonel, called Farrell or Pepper among other names. The protagonist’s wife or lover is sometimes called Molly, Jenny, Emzy, or Ginny among various other names. The details of the betrayal are also different, being either betraying him to the person he robbed and replacing his ammunition with sand or water, or not, resulting in his killing the person.

The song first gains wide exposure when Irish folk band The Dubliners perform it internationally as a signature song, and record it on three albums in the 1960s. In the United States, the song is popularized by The Highwaymen, who record it on their 1962 album Encore. The song has also been recorded by singers and folk groups such as Roger Whittaker, The Irish Rovers, Seven Nations, Off Kilter, King Creosote, Brobdingnagian Bards, Charlie Zahm, and Christy Moore.

Thin Lizzy’s 1972 single (bonus track on Vagabonds of the Western World [1991 edition]) stays at the top of the Irish charts for 17 weeks, and the British release stays in the top 30 for 12 weeks, peaking at No. 6, in 1973. This version has since been covered by U2, Pulp (first released on a 1996 various artist compilation album Childline and later on deluxe edition of Different Class in 2006), Smokie, Metallica (Garage Inc. in 1998, which wins a Grammy Award), Belle and Sebastian (The Blues Are Still Blue EP in 2006), Gary Moore (2006), Nicky Moore (Top Musicians Play Thin Lizzy in 2008), Simple Minds (Searching for the Lost Boys in 2009), Blaggards (Live in Texas in 2010) and Israeli musician Izhar Ashdot. The song is also on the Grateful Dead live compilation So Many Roads (1965-1995) disc five.


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Birth of Eamonn Campbell of The Dubliners

Eamonn Campbell, Irish musician who is a member of The Dubliners from 1987 until his death, is born in Drogheda, County Louth on November 29, 1946. He is also in The Dubliners when they record their 25th anniversary show on The Late Late Show hosted by Gay Byrne.

Campbell is known as a guitarist and has a rough voice similar to the late founding member of The Dubliners, Ronnie Drew. He tour with three other ex-Dubliners as “The Dublin Legends,” now that the group name has been retired with the death of Barney McKenna. Although originally from Drogheda in County Louth, he later lives in Walkinstown, a suburb of Dublin.

It was Campbell’s suggestion that The Dubliners work with London-based Irish band The Pogues in the mid-1980s, thus giving them their second biggest UK hit to date, “The Irish Rover.” Their biggest hit is “Seven Drunken Nights” which reaches number 7 in the charts in 1967 and an appearance on Top of the Pops.

Campbell produces all of The Dubliners’ albums from 1987 onwards, as well as albums for many other Irish artists, including Foster and Allen, Brendan Shine, Daniel O’Donnell and Paddy Reilly. He plays locally with the Delta Showband, The Bee Vee Five and the Country Gents before joining Dermot O’Brien and the Clubmen and first meets The Dubliners when both acts tour England together in 1967. In the mid to late 1970s he more or less retires from the road and becomes involved in the growing Irish recording scene, first as a session musician and later moving to production.

In 2002, Campbell puts a complaint to a commission to inquire into sexual abuse as he says he was abused by the Christian Brothers as a child. In an interview he says “I felt emotional with hate at what this arsehole had got away with. He was abusing the whole class. I still haven’t heard anything back.”

Campbell is the Grand Master for the 2009 Drogheda St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In his younger years he teaches guitar lessons at the “Music Shop” in Drogheda. His granddaughter Megan Campbell is a Republic of Ireland international footballer.

While on tour in the Netherlands with The Dublin Legends, Campbell feels unwell during his final performance. He returns to his hotel at around 1:00 AM and goes to bed. He dies during the early hours of the morning of October 18, 2017. His body is flown back to Dublin where his funeral takes place on October 26, 2017.

(Pictured: Eamonn Campbell during the Festival Interceltique de Lorient in 2014 | This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)


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Birth of Willie Fay, Actor & Theatre Producer

William George “Willie” Fay, actor and theatre producer who, along with William Butler Yeats and others, is one of the co-founders of Dublin‘s Abbey Theatre, is born in Dublin on November 12, 1872.

Fay attends Belvedere College in Dublin. He works for a time in the 1890s with a touring theatre company in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. When he returns to Dublin, he works with his brother Frank, staging productions in halls around the city. Finally, they form W. G. Fay’s Irish National Dramatic Company, focused on the development of Irish acting talent.

The brothers participate in the founding of the Abbey Theatre and are largely responsible for evolving the Abbey style of acting. After a falling-out with the Abbey directors in 1908, the brothers emigrate to the United States to work in theatre there.

Fay moves to London in 1914, working as an actor on stage and in films. One of his most notable film roles is as Father Tom in Carol Reed‘s Belfast-set Odd Man Out (1947), whose cast is dense with actors from the Abbey Theatre. His memoir, The Fays of the Abbey Theatre, appears in 1935.

Willie Fay dies in London on October 27, 1947, at the age of 74.

(Pictured: William George Fay 1903, Dublin City Council Image Galleries, http://www.dublincity.ie)


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Death of Irish Playwright George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright, critic, and polemicist, dies at the age of 94 on November 2, 1950 at Ayot St. Lawrence, Hertfordshire, England. His influence on Western theatre, culture, and politics extend from the 1880s to his death and beyond.

Shaw writes more than sixty plays, including major works such as Man and Superman (1902), Pygmalion (1912) and Saint Joan (1923). With a range incorporating both contemporary satire and historical allegory, he becomes the leading dramatist of his generation, and in 1925 is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Shaw is born on July 26, 1856, at 3 Upper Synge Street in Portobello, a lower-middle-class area of Dublin. The Shaw family is of English descent and belong to the dominant Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland. Between 1865 and 1871, Shaw attends four schools, all of which he hates. His experiences as a schoolboy leave him disillusioned with formal education. In October 1871 he leaves school to become a junior clerk in a Dublin firm of land agents, where he works hard and quickly rises to become head cashier. During this period, he is known as “George Shaw”; after 1876, he drops the “George” and styles himself “Bernard Shaw.”

Shaw moves to London in 1876, where he struggles to establish himself as a writer and novelist, and embarks on a rigorous process of self-education. By the mid-1880s he has become a respected theatre and music critic. Following a political awakening, he joins the gradualist Fabian Society and becomes its most prominent pamphleteer. He has been writing plays for years before his first public success, Arms and the Man in 1894. Influenced by Henrik Ibsen, he seeks to introduce a new realism into English-language drama, using his plays as vehicles to disseminate his political, social, and religious ideas. By the early twentieth century his reputation as a dramatist is secured with a series of critical and popular successes that include Major Barbara, The Doctor’s Dilemma, and Caesar and Cleopatra.

Shaw’s expressed views are often contentious. He promotes eugenics and alphabet reform, and opposes vaccination and organised religion. He courts unpopularity by denouncing both sides in World War I as equally culpable, and although not a republican, castigates British policy on Ireland in the postwar period. These stances have no lasting effect on his standing or productivity as a dramatist.

The inter-war years see a series of often ambitious plays, which achieve varying degrees of popular success. In 1938 Shaw provides the screenplay for a filmed version of Pygmalion for which he receives an Academy Award. His appetite for politics and controversy remain undiminished. By the late 1920s he has largely renounced Fabian gradualism and often writes and speaks favourably of dictatorships of the right and left — he expresses admiration for both Mussolini and Stalin. In the final decade of his life he makes fewer public statements, but continues to write prolifically until shortly before his death, refusing all state honours including the Order of Merit in 1946.

During his later years, Shaw enjoys tending the gardens at Shaw’s Corner. He dies on November 2, 1950, at the age of 94 of renal failure precipitated by injuries incurred when falling while pruning a tree. His body is cremated at Golders Green Crematorium on November 6, 1950. His ashes, mixed with those of his wife Charlotte, are scattered along footpaths and around the statue of Saint Joan in their garden.

Since Shaw’s death scholarly and critical opinion has varied about his works, but he has regularly been rated as second only to Shakespeare among English-language dramatists. Analysts recognise his extensive influence on generations of playwrights. The word “Shavian” has entered the language as encapsulating Shaw’s ideas and his means of expressing them.


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Death of Terence MacSwiney, Playwright & Politician

Terence James MacSwiney, Irish playwright, author, politician and Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Cork during the Irish War of Independence, dies in London‘s Brixton Prison on October 25, 1920 after 73 days on hunger strike. His death brings him and the Irish Republican campaign to international attention.

MacSwiney is born at 23 North Main Street, Cork, County Cork, one of eight children of John and Mary MacSwiney. Following the failure of this business, John MacSwiney emigrates to Australia in 1885 leaving the children in the care of their mother and his eldest daughter.

MacSwiney is educated by the Christian Brothers at the North Monastery school in Cork, but leaves at fifteen to help support the family. He becomes an accountancy clerk but continues his studies and matriculates successfully. He continues in full-time employment while he studies at the Royal University (now University College Cork), graduating with a degree in Mental and Moral Science in 1907.

In 1901 MacSwiney helps to found the Celtic Literary Society, and in 1908 he founds the Cork Dramatic Society with Daniel Corkery and writes a number of plays for them. His first play, The Last Warriors of Coole, is produced in 1910. His fifth play, The Revolutionist (1915), takes the political stand made by a single man as its theme.

Described as a sensitive poet-intellectual, MacSwiney’s writings in the newspaper Irish Freedom bring him to the attention of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He is one of the founders of the Cork Brigade of the Irish Volunteers in 1913, and is President of the Cork branch of Sinn Féin. He founds a newspaper, Fianna Fáil, in 1914, but it is suppressed after only 11 issues. In April 1916, he is intended to be second in command of the Easter Rising in Cork and Kerry, but stands down his forces on the order of Eoin MacNeill.

Following the rising, MacSwiney is imprisoned by the British Government under the Defence of the Realm Act 1914 in Reading and Wakefield Gaols until December 1916. In February 1917 he is deported from Ireland and imprisoned in Shrewsbury and Bromyard internment camps until his release in June 1917. It is during his exile in Bromyard that he marries Muriel Murphy of the Cork distillery-owning family. In November 1917, he is arrested in Cork for wearing an Irish Republican Army (IRA) uniform, and, inspired by the example of Thomas Ashe, goes on a hunger strike for three days prior to his release.

In the 1918 Irish general election, MacSwiney is returned unopposed to the first Dáil Éireann as Sinn Féin representative for Mid Cork, succeeding the Nationalist MP D. D. Sheehan. After the murder of his friend Tomás Mac Curtain, the Lord Mayor of Cork on March 20, 1920, he is elected as Lord Mayor. On August 12, 1920, he is arrested in Cork for possession of “seditous articles and documents,” and also possession of a cipher key. He is summarily tried by a court on August 16 and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment at Brixton Prison in England.

In prison MacSwiney immediately starts a hunger strike in protest of his internment and the fact that he was tried by a military court. Eleven other Irish Republican prisoners in Cork Jail go on hunger strike at the same time. On August 26, the British Government states that “the release of the Lord Mayor would have disastrous results in Ireland and would probably lead to a mutiny of both military and police in south of Ireland.”

MacSwiney’s hunger strike gains world attention. The British Government is threatened with a boycott of British goods by Americans, while four countries in South America appeal to Pope Benedict XV to intervene. Protests are held in Germany and France as well. An Australian member of Parliament, Hugh Mahon, is expelled from the Parliament of Australia for “seditious and disloyal utterances at a public meeting,” after protesting against the actions of the British Government. Two weeks later, the Spanish Catalan organization Autonomous Center of Employees of Commerce and Industry (CADCI) sends a petition to British Prime Minister David Lloyd George calling for his release and the newspaper of the organization, Acció (Acción in Spanish), begins a campaign for MacSwiney.

Food is often placed near MacSwiney to persuade him to give up the hunger strike. Attempts at force-feeding are undertaken in the final days of his strike. On October 20, 1920 he slips into a coma and dies five days later after 73 days on hunger strike. His body lay in St. George’s Cathedral, Southwark in London where 30,000 people file past it. Fearing large-scale demonstrations in Dublin, the authorities divert his coffin directly to Cork, and his funeral in the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Anne on October 31 attracts huge crowds. He is buried in the Republican plot in St. Finbarr’s Cemetery in Cork. Arthur Griffith delivers the graveside oration.


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Ruby Murray Has Two Singles in the British Top 20

Belfast-born Ruby Murray has two singles, “I’ll Come When You Call” and “Evermore,” in the UK Singles Chart on October 22, 1955. Her much quoted achievement is that she has five hits in the Top 20 in a single week in March 1955, a feat only matched by pop singer Madonna four decades later.

Murray is born near the Donegall Road in south Belfast on March 29, 1935, the youngest child in a Protestant family. She has surgery at six weeks of age due to swollen glands, and as a result, has a very husky voice. She tours as a child singer and first appears on television at the age of twelve, having been spotted by producer Richard Afton. Owing to laws governing children performing, she has to delay her start in the entertainment industry. She returns to Belfast and full-time education until she is fourteen.

After being again spotted by Afton, Murray is signed to Columbia Records and her first single, “Heartbeat”, reaches No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart in December 1954. Afton offers her the position of resident singer on the BBC‘s Quite Contrary television show, to replace Joan Regan. “Softly, Softly“, her second single, reaches number one in early 1955. That same year she sets a pop chart record by having five hits in the Top Twenty in one week, a feat unmatched for many years. In 2014, the Guinness Book of World Records issues three certificates confirming that at the date of issue, nobody has beaten this record, although it is now shared with three other singers.

The 1950s are a busy period for Murray, during which she has her own television show, stars at the London Palladium with Norman Wisdom, appears in a Royal Command Performance (1955), and tours the world. In a period of 52 weeks, starting on December 3, 1954 and lasting until the end of November 1955, she constantly has at least one single in the UK charts, this at a time when only a Top 20 is listed.

Murray appears in her only film role, as Ruby, in A Touch of the Sun, a 1956 farce with Frankie Howerd and Dennis Price. A couple of hits follow later in the decade. “Goodbye Jimmy, Goodbye“, a No. 10 hit in 1959, is her final appearance in the charts.

In 1957, while working in Blackpool, Murray meets Bernie Burgess, a member of a successful television and recording vocal quartet, the Four Jones Boys. Shortly afterwards she leaves Northern Ireland to marry him and live with him in England. The couple includes a song-and-dance segment in her act during the 1960s.

Murray struggles with alcoholism for most of her life and this contributes to the breakdown of her marriage in 1974. The divorce is finalised in 1976 and she moves to Torquay to live with an old friend, Ray Lamar, a former stage dancer and theatre impresario, who is 18 years her senior. They marry in 1991 and spend the evening with a small party of friends and family at an Italian restaurant in Babbacombe.

Although her days as a major star are long over, Murray continues performing until close to the end of her life. Spending her last couple of years in Asprey’s Nursing Home, she often delights her carers with a song, and is visited by her friend Max Bygraves. She dies of liver cancer at the age of 61 on December 17, 1996.