seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Soprano Catherine Hayes

Catherine Hayes, world-famous Irish soprano of the Victorian era, is born in Limerick, County Limerick, on October 25, 1818. According to London‘s Daily Express, “Hayes was the ‘Madonna‘ of her day; she was the 19th-century operatic equivalent of the world’s most famous pop star.”

Hayes is born into abject poverty. After five years of vocal study in Paris and Milan she makes her debut at the Italian Opera in Marseilles, in Vincenzo Bellini‘s I Puritani in May 1845, followed by performances of Gaetano Donizetti‘s Lucia di Lammermoor and Gioachino Rossini‘s Mosé in Egitto.

Her debut at La Scala in Milan quickly followed in 1845 with phenomenal success. Shortly thereafter the young Giuseppe Verdi becomes interested in her for one of his new operas. Her great success continues in Vienna, as well as in Venice, Florence, Genoa, Rome and other cities in Italy, where she becomes the most sought after Lucia di Lammermoor.

Early in 1849, Hayes accepts a contract to sing at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London where she makes her debut in Linda di Chamounix in April. In June 1849, she receives an invitation to sing at Buckingham Palace for Queen Victoria and 500 guests. After an evening of Italian music, when the Queen requests an encore, Hayes with a smile sings the beautiful Irish rebel songKathleen Mavourneen.”

During Ireland’s Great Famine in November 1849, her emotional return to her native country results in rave notices for her performance in Lucia di Lammermoor and other operas and concerts in Dublin, Limerick and Cork. Her success is now almost complete.

In 1851 Hayes goes to the United States, where Jenny Lind is creating such a wave of success. Hayes gives concerts in New York City, Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Charleston, Savannah and New Orleans and forty-five other places including the river towns along the Mississippi River, with equal success. She meets presidents, statesmen and business leaders along the way. She is also destined to meet her future lover and husband in America, Jenny Lind’s former manager. Her travels take her to the “gold rush” in the San Francisco area in the 1850s, where her presence creates a furor, singing for the miners and the elite of San Francisco. The great showman P.T. Barnum sponsors her tour.

She sings in opera and concerts in Peru and Chile, then travels to Hawaii where she gives a concert before continuing on to Australia. Hayes is the first great European opera star to visit Australia. She is mentioned in most Australian history books about early culture in the young colony.  She also travels to Calcutta, India where she performs for the British Military and then on to Singapore and Batavia (Java) before returning to Australia for more opera and concerts.

Hayes returns to England in August 1856, after an absence of five years.  On October 8, 1857, at St. George’s, Hanover Square, she marries William Avery Bushnell. He soon falls into ill-health and dies at Biarritz, France, on July 2, 1858. After her husband’s death she takes part in concerts in London and the country towns.

Catherine Hayes dies in the house of a friend, Henry Lee, at Roccles, Upper Sydenham, Kent, on August 11, 1861, and is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery.


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Birth of Henry Vivien Pierpont Conyngham

henry-vivien-pierpont-conynghamHenry Vivien Pierpont Conyngham, 8th Marquess Conyngham, Anglo-Irish nobleman who holds titles in the Peerages of Ireland and the United Kingdom, is born on May 25, 1951.

The eldest son of Frederick Conyngham, 7th Marquess Conyngham by his wife, Eileen Wren Newsom, he attends Harrow School before studying at Harvard University.

Styled Viscount Slane until 1974 and Earl of Mount Charles from 1974 until 2009, he succeeds his father in the marquessate and other titles in 2009. However, in the Republic of Ireland frequently, and erroneously, he remains referred to as Lord Mountcharles, his former courtesy title. He also inherits the U.K. peerage title Baron Minster, of Minster Abbey in the County of Kent, created in 1821 for his ancestor, the 1st marquess thereby giving the Marquesses Conyngham the automatic right to sit in the British House of Lords until 1999.

As Earl of Mount Charles, he unsuccessfully contests the Louth seat in 1992 for Fine Gael. In 1997 he stands for election to Seanad Éireann for Trinity College Dublin, and runs again without success as a Fine Gael candidate for the European Parliament in 2004.

Lord and Lady Conyngham divide their time between Beauparc House and Slane Castle in County Meath. The latter is the family’s principal ancestral seat until it is badly damaged by fire in 1992. The castle has now been restored.

The Marquess Conyngham enjoys a high profile in Ireland as the author of a weekly column in the Daily Mirror. He has been dubbed the rock and roll aristocrat or the rock and roll peer owing to the very successful series of rock concerts he has hosted since 1981, held in the natural amphitheatre on the grounds of Slane Castle. These concerts have included performances by The Rolling Stones, Thin Lizzy, Queen, U2, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Guns N’ Roses, Oasis, and Madonna. Lord Conyngham receives the Industry Award at the 2010 Meteor Awards. In his autobiography Public Space–Private Life: A Decade at Slane Castle, he describes his business career and the challenges of being an Anglo-Irish peer in modern Ireland, and how being Anglo-Irish has gradually become more accepted there.


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Birth of Singer Ruby Florence Murray

ruby-florence-murrayRuby Florence Murray, one of the most popular singers in the United Kingdom and Ireland in the 1950s, is born on the Donegal Road in south Belfast on March 29, 1935. In 1955 alone, she secures seven Top 10 UK hit singles.

The distinctive sound of Murray’s voice is partly the result of a throat operation in early childhood. She tours as a child singer and first appears on television at the age of 12, however, laws governing children performing, Murray has to delay her start in the entertainment industry. She returns to Belfast and full-time education until she reaches 14 years of age.

Spotted by producer Richard Afton, Murray is signed to Columbia 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, replacing Joan Regan. Softly, Softly, her second single, reaches number one in early 1955. That same year Murray sets a pop-chart record by having five hits in the Top Twenty in one week, a feat unmatched until the emergence of Madonna in the 1980s.

The 1950s is 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, and tours the world. During a 52-week period, starting in 1955, Murray constantly has at least one single in the UK charts, this being at a time when only a Top 20 is listed.

Murray appears with Frankie Howerd and Dennis Price in her only film role, as Ruby in a 1956 farce, A Touch of the Sun. 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. EMI puts together a compilation album of her hits on CD in 1989, including songs that are regularly featured in her act, Mr. Wonderful, Scarlet Ribbons, and It’s the Irish in Me. They update this with the release of EMI Presents The Magic Of Ruby Murray in 1997 and a triple album, Anthology — The Golden Anniversary Collection, in 2005, the 50th anniversary of her peak successes on the charts.

A play about Murray’s life, Ruby, written by the Belfast playwright Marie Jones, opens at the Group Theatre in Belfast in April 2000.

Although her days as a major star gradually diminish, Murray continues performing until close to the end of her life. She spends her last couple of years in Asprey’s Nursing Home, often delighting her carers with a song. She dies of liver cancer, at the age of 61, on December 17, 1996 in Torquay after a long struggle with alcoholism.