Mudcat Café message #3777926 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #159372   Message #3777926
Posted By: keberoxu
10-Mar-16 - 07:58 PM
Thread Name: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens' (Irish harpists)
Subject: RE: 'All the dear Spinning Eileens'
Thanks, Martin Ryan, for setting me straight about Caroline Townshend. She does sound redoubtable.

Moving on to that trio of sisters:
Their parents were Séan and Caitlín Ó Séaghdha. It seems that all three sisters, when young, studied the Irish harp, and presumably all with the same harp teacher, Caroline Townshend. Interestingly, the sisters pursued differing levels of literacy where music is concerned, no two of them taking the exact same path. In their youth, however, they turn up in notices in archived Irish local newspapers, with the three of them performing as a musical trio; I was left unclear if this was a trio of harps? One or more of them may have sung as well. The paper was unclear about the presentation but their three names were there, as was the emphasis that they were siblings.

Neasa Ní Sheaghdha (1916-1993), when still very young, tried drama; and one book of memoirs from someone outside the family recalls the memory of seeing Neasa as Antigone, a performance that was memorable for all the right reasons. If music remained part of her life, it must have been in a more private, even amateur, context. Also identified as Nessa Ní Shéa, she pursued higher education so as to focus on antiquated forms of the Gaelic, to become literate enough to study manuscript sources containing the great old epic tales of ancient Ireland. Her name appears on a scholarly presentation of the tragedy of Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne / Dermot and Grania / Diarmuid Ua Duibhne and Gráinne from the Fenian saga.

Róisín Ní Sheaghdha earned a B.A. in Celtic studies, studied piano at RIAM (she must certainly have learned to read music), and pursued graduate studies at University College Dublin, in education it appears. She sang to her own harp accompaniment, and participated in many Celtic Congresses. Her career track does not precisely parallel that of her sister Máirín but is close to it.

Máirín Ní Shé / Ní Sheaghdha (1913-1990) is the name which is inseparable from the Harp Room in the music division of the Dominican College of Sion Hill. She was married by then, with a last name variously given as Ferriter or Feiriteir. "Deeply indebted to harp teacher, Caroline Townshend," says Sheila Larchet Cuthbert in her book, The Irish Harp Book: A Tutor and Companion (page 240). She tutored generations of harp students, many of these grist for the "stone castle" mills and Jury's Cabaret. Earlier posts have named the best-known pupils.