RIP Singer Mary McPartlan

Mary McPartlan

RIP Singer Mary McPartlan

Well-known Leitrim singer and arts promoter passes away.

Traditional singer and arts promoter Mary McPartlan has passed away today (6 April). McPartlan, who died following a long illness, was known as a performing and recording musician as well as a concert organiser, NUI Galway lecturer and Fulbright scholar. 

McPartlan was born in 1955 in Drumkeeran, Co. Leitrim, and sang in the 1970s with folk duo Calypso. Basing herself in Galway, she founded the Galway singers’ club Riabhóg. McPartlan also worked in theatre, founding Galway theatre company Skehana and she was administrator for Galway Youth Theatre. She also performed in the Druid Theatre and Seán Tyrell productions of The Midnight Court

In the 1990s she developed the concept for the national traditional music awards which developed into the TG4 Gradam Ceoil, and she also co-produced the music series Flosc for the Irish-language station. 

In 2003 she released her debut album The Holland Handkerchief, including songs such as ‘Slieve Gallion Braes’, ‘Rainy Night in Soho’ and ‘Peat Bog Soldiers’. This was followed by Petticoat Loose in 2008. McPartlan was a lecturer in Creative Arts and Theatre at NUI Galway and in 2013 received a Fulbright Scholarship to teach at Lehman College CUNY. Her research into the folk musician and collector Jean Ritchie culminated in the album From Mountain to Mountain in 2016. The album explored the relationship between the folk music of Ireland and the Appalachian mountain regions in the US and included tracks such as ‘The Cuckoo’, ‘Loving Hannah’ and ‘Tribute to Jean’.

In January of last year, she received the Ireland United States Association (IUSA) Distinguished Alumni Award in recognition of her commitment to the Irish-US relationship and her contribution to culture, education and music.

McPartlan was the Creative Director of the acclaimed events programme Arts in Action at NUI Galway, where she curated an annual series of concerts, recitals, readings, plays and arts events. 

Marking her passing, President Michael D. Higgins said:

Acutely aware of the history of Irish music, song, dance and culture, Mary McPartlan brought the truth of emotion and empathy to her singing, and her acclaimed debut album The Holland Handkerchief established her as one of the greatest traditional singers of her generation… Her invocation of place, history and feeling was unique. 

Published on 6 April 2020

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