Personal archive of Ireland’s 'golden-voiced soprano' donated to Cork archives

Personal archive of Ireland’s 'golden-voiced soprano' donated to Cork archives
Rita Lynch

The vast personal archive of Ireland’s “golden-voiced soprano”, Rita Lynch, has been donated to Cork’s city and county archives.

The extensive and high-quality archive of one of the first musicians from Cork to achieve worldwide fame includes some 200 programmes, a Thomas Moore song-book dated 1866, press clippings, correspondence including fan-mail, cards, telegrams, photographs, awards and business contracts, spanning her early musical education and her singing career from 1935 to 1955.

The audio content includes 78s records from 1948, remastered live radio broadcast recordings from New York, Chicago and Boston in 1949, radio interviews from the 1980s and 1990s, and the Lyric FM feature, ‘Digitising Rita’ which was broadcast in 2015.

Ms Lynch’s daughter, Mary Davies, said her mother, who raised four children and who died in 2009, aged 95, had an instinct for preserving the details of her extraordinary life.

And while it has taken some time to organise the material, she said she and her sisters, Marita and Salette, are now delighted to hand it over.

“Following her death, we decided to put some shape on the material in the archive," Ms Davies said.

I found it difficult and emotional but I was given so much help and support along the way. Not alone does the archive give a fascinating insight into her career, it is also a wonderful social and cultural history of the time.

Ms Lynch was born in Macroom, Co Cork, in 1914. The only girl in a family of nine, she showed singing ability from an early age, and was nurtured.

Ms Davies said her mother flourished thanks to her own mother, Mary O'Shea's, attitude to her talent.

“She opened the cage and let her fly,” she said.

In 1939, Ms Lynch moved to Dublin to study under Jean Nolan and won the renowned Count John McCormack Competition, which was broadcast live on radio, singing Thomas Moore’s ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ - a song which was associated with her thereafter.

Though her married name was Shaw, she performed under her maiden name and while her early career was disrupted by World War II, she recorded three 78 records at the HMV studios in London before embarking on a three-month sold-out tour of the US.

Her last public performance was at the Fianna Fáil golden jubilee celebration concert in Cork City Hall on October 23, 1976, introduced by former Taoiseach Jack Lynch, and which featured Niall Tóibín and Frank Patterson.

Ms Lynch was predeceased by her husband, Patrick J Shaw, and her son, Harry, who died in 2006.

City archivist, Brian McGee, said the archive will be made available to the public once it has been conserved, catalogued and processed.

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