Catherine Hayes


In continued celebration of International Women’s Day this blog will profile eight amazing women throughout the month of  March.


In the spirit of this weekend past (St Patrick’s Day), our next notable woman is Catherine Hayes.  Born into poverty at Limerick in the early 19th century, she was working as a house keeper when the Bishop of Limerick heard her sing.  Taken by her voice, he arranged sponsorship and encouraged her to study.  It wasn’t long before she gave her first performance in Dublin at the age of 19.  She then moved on to Milan and in 1849 Catherine performed for Queen Victoria with the Royal Italian Opera Company.

She became the first Irish international opera singer and travelled to Europe, Canada, the United States of America, and Australia to perform.  She even had a brief spell in Calcutta and went to Hawaii to perform for the Hawaiian Royal family in Honolulu.

Catherine was very successful; her career afforded her an exciting and financially comfortable lifestyle.  When she returned to Limerick in 1857, she offered to help members of the Limerick Harmonic Society raise money for instruments by giving a free benefit performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Limerick Athenaeum.  She is also said to have donated £10 000 towards the restoration of Limerick’s ancient St Mary’s Cathedral.  She died in 1861, leaving behind an estate worth £16 000.

Catherine’s short life was packed with adventure and excitement rarely experienced by women of her generation.  Her extraordinary talent and ‘rags to riches’ tale have left an indelible mark on Irish history.


Our poetry anthology is now open to submissions.  We are looking for captivating and insightful poetry that reflects all things maiden, mother and crone.  Journey to Crone aims to celebrate women, female wisdom, and all stages of womanhood.  Submissions will be taken throughout the year until either the anthology is full, or late autumn.  The book will launch on 8th March 2013.

Check out our submission and guideline pages for full details.

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