Reading My Way Around the World

Saturday 19 April 2014

The Queen of Connemara

The Queen of Connemara - Delia Murphy

If I Were A Blackbird was one of Delia's best known songs - hear a little bit of it here

Delia Murphy (1902 - 1971) was born and raised in Co. Mayo, and made her first recordings in 1938 - The Spinning Wheel and 3 Lovely Lasses from Bannion coming from the earliest batch. She became Ireland's first and arguably greatest musical ambassador and her contribution to the folk revival of the 50s and 60s was immeasurable. Her simple ballad style and endearing presentation on stage made her an almost overnight success on radio. Married to diplomat Tom Kiernan, Delia travelled the world, finally settling in Canada, only returning to live in Ireland in 1969.

With Tom, they were posted to the Vatican during the War years where she was involved in many escapades involving the escape of allied soldiers - later Tom became the first Irish Ambassador to Australia and Delia brought back many songs that later moved into the Irish Tradition. 

Among here many recordings was a song called the Queen of Connemara about a boat ... and this was where her nickname came from.

Delia's website is maintained by her grandson, the uilleann piper Ronan Browne at

Delia Murphy was without doubt the single most influential singer to have recorded traditional songs in Ireland and she influenced a generation of singers that followed her. 

I made a series of documentaries for RTE television and with the help of guests from the various strands of Irish music we reconstructed the biographies of Delia and the other first Irish ladies of song who were recording in and around the 1950s.  The series was called Songbirds and I will write about it in a later post.    Our newer recordings of these well known songs (many of which I've shared here through these A to Z posts) is available through my website at along with more information and a DVD of the series if you'd like to read more about her and the Songbirds series. 

Here's my version of If I Were A Blackbird


  1. How lovely to hear your voice singing this song, Fil. I grew up with my parents singing folk songs from the Joan Baez songbook (even though we are English!) so although some had an Irish background most come from an American slant - really interesting to hear about Delia.

  2. Aw thank you so much :) I learned a lot of my songs from Joan as well … she was a great folklorist and introduced me to a lot of English, Scottish and Irish folk songs …
    Lovely to meet you here on the A to Z challenge - it's been a tough run but very enjoyable - happy Easter.

    Fil at Fil's Place - Old Songs and Memories

  3. That was lovely! Thank you for singing it for us here. How sad, though, that Delia only had two years in her native country. I will come back here and check out your other letters (when the rush to complete this crazy alphabet soup is over).

  4. I am in South Florida and I loved your post ! #AtoZchallenge ☮Peace ☮ ღ ONE ℒℴνℯ ღ ☼ Light ☼ visiting from


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