By Michael Gill

Between 1930 and the mid-1950’s, Delia Murphy was Ireland’s most famous female singer. She is probably best known today for her wonderful renditions of songs like ‘The Spinning Wheel’ and ‘If I Were a Blackbird.’

There was, however so much more to Delia Murphy than being an excellent ballad singer and recording artiste.

Delia was born in 1902 in Roundfort, near Hollymount, Co. Mayo. The locals are still proud of her, evidenced in the small but tasteful monument to her as well as ‘Delia Murphy’s’ a thriving local bar which still hosts live music sessions,

Delia’s father, John Murphy was a self-made wealthy man who had made his fortune in the Klondike gold fields and the Leadville silver mine in Colorado.

It was in Denver that John met and married Ann Fanning from Roscrea. They then returned to Ireland, buying the huge Mount Jennings estate in Hollymount.

John Murphy never forgot his humble beginnings and allowed travelling people to set up camp on his estate. The young Delia was fascinated by the colourful lifestyle of the travellers and would often join them around the campfires in the evening.

It was here that she first heard the traditional ballads of Ireland. One of the travellers, Tom Maughan, was of a similar age to Delia and encouraged her to sing the ballads herself.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own