All nations can mark key moments in their history when an event, entity or individual has made a crucial contribution to the development and character of their homeland. Most often these moments seem to spring during times of adversity but history also shows that they can occur during peaceful and prosperous times as well. Ireland is a nation that has seen it’s fair share of adversity throughout the centuries but the courage and fortitude of her people has helped to forge and maintain a very special character that shines in the world as something most unique.
As with most colonised nations, the retention and eventual rejuvenation of the native language and music is tremendously important to the internal strength of a country. Examples of individual and collective commitment to the rejuvenation of Irish culture are many and varied. Ireland boasts a plethora of ‘heroes’ who, through the ages, have in various ways kept her sacred music alive for future generations to protect and develop. As a result, the music of Ireland is loved the world over and has kept it’s homeland’s heart beating proudly through thick and thin. Like her native language, Ireland’s music has been the mortar that has bound Ireland’s hopes, tears, smiles and dreams into an amalgam of collective fortitude.
One of the many people to have brought pride and joy to Ireland at a time when it was clearly needed was Delia Murphy. An interesting observation of this phenomena comes from the Irish folk singer Liam Clancy, who sees Delia as a pivotal figure in the Irish tradition – indeed, Delia was someone who broke the mould.
“I grew up in the height of what could be called The National Inferiority Complex in Ireland. Irish people were very sensitive to the pig-in-the-parlour, ‘dirty Irish’ image, and they even became ashamed of their own music and songs. But what we must remember about Delia Murphy was the context of the times when she started recording. We were coming out of desperate poverty, and it wasn’t fashionable any more to sing the ballads, or come-all-ye’s, as my mother used to call them. But, there was Delia Murphy! And it gave us all a feeling of confidence and a feeling of value that there was something to our traditions, and that we had no need to be ashamed of it, because she wasn’t. And she became a heroine and the most popular singer in the country.” Source: Rambling House.
Delia Murphy was born in 1902 in County Mayo and became known as a singer and collector of Irish ballads. She has been credited with making over four hundred recordings. Her voice could be heard on radio stations throughout Ireland and all over the world, in concert halls when she performed live, and later through the medium of television – Delia’s songs were sung, hummed, whistled and toe-tapped-to by millions! Married to an Irish diplomat, Delia travelled to various parts of the world and eventually settled alone in Ontario for a few years. Her husband passed away in 1967. Due to declining health, Delia returned to Ireland in 1969 to lived in Dublin and passed away in 1971.
Martin Doyle‘s good friend, Ronan Browne, himself and renowned piper, teacher, composer and Irish traditional music aficionado, is Delia Murphy’s grandson. He recently sent Martin a link to a radio programme that originally aired on NewsTalk 106-108 Fm in Ireland as part of the Different Voices series. Ronan opens the programme playing the pipes and offers a charming and very amusing introduction to get the ball rolling.
The programme is presented and produced by Sean Street and was archived on the NewsTalk Podcasts pages but has since been removed. It can now be heard on SoundCloud:
The Blackbird – The Life and Legacy of Delia Murphy »