Mudcat Café message #3777894 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #159372   Message #3777894
Posted By: keberoxu
10-Mar-16 - 03:23 PM
Thread Name: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)
Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
"All the dear Spinning Eileens" comes from a review quoted in the OP opening this thread. The names quoted there are "Kathleen Watkins [and] Deirdre O'Callaghan," who made recordings as a duo when young. They are names in an interesting list: Deirdre Ní Fhlóinn [Flynn], Mary O'Hara, Janet Harbison, and many other students. What these harp students have in common is of course their teacher, Mairín Ní Shé. Their teacher was no nun, however she accepted the offer to work as harp instructor at Sion Hill's Dominican College, so it was nuns who hired the teacher.

And their teacher's teacher was a Cork native whose name is variously given as either Caroline Townshend or Caroline Townsend.

What both Ms. Townsend, and the three Ní Shé sisters who all studied with her, have in common, is that none of them seem to have had the kind of music training that goes with classical music instruction. Janet Harbison, who did indeed have such a background as a long-time piano student, states that Mairín Ní Shé did not read music at all, but taught by ear, and relied on those who did read music to perform pieces recorded in print so that she could learn the pieces by ear. Less is known of Caroline Townshend -- I cannot find anyone who says definitively whether or not she ever learned to read music.

One writer who offers information on Caroline Townshend is the late Nora Joan Clark, in her "The Story of the Irish Harp." Because only lets me view certain preview pages in this book, I cannot get at Clark's end-notes to see the sources of her quotes. Here is the best I can view online.
"Other sources mention Caroline Townshend, daughter of an eminent philanthropist in nineteenth century Irish life, who '....set herself the task of rediscovering the long-since outlawed Irish harp, the emblem of Ireland....gave free lessons and many copies of her [Welsh] harp were made.'
"Sheila Cuthbert notes that Caroline Townshend was '....interested in everything Irish, the language, culture, music, and she taught the Irish harp to anyone interested, especially to the local girls near her Dublin, she was delighted to find herself teaching quite advanced musicians...the O'Shea sisters and many others.'
(pp. 105 - 106, The Story of the Irish Harp: Its History and Influence)