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Discover Mayo

The Arts

Mayo has a strong traditional heritage, from crafts to artistic visitors.  In particular the county is well known for crafts such as the Foxford brand of rugs and tweed clothing. Basket Making is another strong tradition which is being kept alive, as is the building of currachs which were traditionally used as rowing boats for fishing and the ferrying of livestock.The Arts consists of a wide range of artistic disciplines.


Acting greats from Co. Mayo

  • Joseph Maher was born in Westport in 1933. He achieved great success in both theatre and film, having been nominated three times for Broadway's Tony Awards.

    He also starred in films such as Sister Act as well as appearences in television shows such as Seinfeld, M*A*S*H, and Murder, She Wrote.


  • Born in Tourmakeady, Mick Lally went on to become one of Ireland's most loved actors. He had starred in "Translations", a play by Brian Friel in 1980, before landing the role of Miley Byrne in the RTE series Glenroe.

    After Glenroe, he went on to star in a number of roles on the stage and screen, and also provided a voice for the
    Brother Aidan in the Academy Award-nominated film "The Secret of Kells".


  • Born in Castlebar, Vicky Burke is most known for her role as Kylie Kavanagh in the RTE series "Fair City". She has also appeared in the RTE series "The Clinic" as well as having numerous theatre roles including "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Samuel Beckett Centre in Dublin


Distinguished Artists from Co. Mayo

  • Ballintubber native Cathal McCarthy is most known for his sculptor "The Player" which is located in Ballindine. He has also designed the sculpture "Stream Spire" which is located in Mullingar and was commissioned by Westmeath County Council.

  • Born in Claremorris, Edward was a renowned sculptor whose works included a statue of Wolfe Tone and a famine memorial which can be found on St. Stephen's Green in Dublin, and a statue and memorial to Thomas Davis on which is located on College Green in Dublin.


  • Owen Walsh was born in Westport in 1933 and was educated at Blackrock College in Dublin. He continued his studies at the National College of Art and Design where he was awarded the MacAuley Fellowship. He co-founded the Independent Artists Exhibition during his career as an artist.


  • Richard King was born in Castlebar but grew up in Westport. His stained glass work can be seen in Newport Church, Tuam Cathedral and Swinford Church. Richard also designed 12 commerative Irish postage stamps between 1933 and 1949.



Broadcasters from Co. Mayo

  • Born in Kiltimagh, Áine Ní Cheanainn went on to be a co-founder of Cumann Scannán na nÓg, which later merged with the Irish Film Institute to form the Irish Film Centre. She was also appointed to the Teilifís Éireann authority in the 1960's.

  • Gerard Colleran, a native of Mayo but grew up in County Clare, has previously held the position of editor for The Kerryman newspaper and is currently the editor of the Irish Daily Star.


  • John Healy was a renowned journalist, having worked with the Western People, The Irish Times and the Sunday Review. He also published two books during his career: Nineteen Acres (Mercier Press, 1968) and Nobody Shouted Stop – The Death of an Irish Town (Kenny's Bookshop & Art Gallery, 1978).

    Tribute has been paid to the journalist through the annual John Healy Weekend in Charlestown which is now in its third year.


  • Born in Kilmaine, Jonathan Mullin went on to build a career in journalism and broadcasting, having previously held the postition of Deputy Sports Editor for the Irish Daily Mail and GAA Correspondent for RTE. He is currently the editor of the Irish Racing Post.


  • Keith Cunningham started his radio career in his native Castlebar at a pirate radio station. From that point onwards, he continued to work in broadcasting at radio stations such as CRC FM, Mid West Radio, and Galway Bay FM.

    He then went on to present the Red Rooster Breakfast Show on Cork Red FM radio station. He is now presenting the weeknight show "KC at Night" on Today FM.


  • Castlebar native Michael Murphy has had a successful career both as a broadcaster and author. His book "At Five in the Afternoon" documented his battle with cancer and was shortlisted for the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards in 2010. Michael is currently a newscaster with RTE.


  • Ballina native Ray Foley began his broadcasting career working at radio stations such as East Coast FM, 98FM and Lite FM before working at Spin 103 presenting the drive-time show. He then went on to work at Today FM, where he currently presents the weekday show "The Ray Foley Show". Ray also presents the hit show "Take Me Out" on TV3.


  • Sean Egan, originally from Swinford, was a highly regarded journalist with RTE where he presented religious and current affairs programmes. He worked with the Daily Mail and the Sunday Independent, and was also a director of journalism studies at the College of Commerce in Rathmines.



County Mayo natives who made a mark in the music world

  • Delia Murphy grew up in Mount Jennings House, Hollymount – ‘a big house’ purchased by her father after making his fortune in the gold mines of North America. Delia acquired her love of traditional ballads from her firm friend Tom Maughan, the ‘tinker’s son’ who taught her ballads as they walked to school together.

    Indeed it was from him she learned If I were a Blackbird, which she was later to make famous all over Ireland. Delia became one of the most requested singers on Radio Eireann, with such songs as the Spinning Wheel, Three Lovely Lassies from Bannion and The Moonshiner.

    In 1925, Delia married Dr. Tom Kiernan, who was shortly afterwards appointed Ireland’s High Commissioner in London. During their married life, they lived in several countries including Australia, Germany, Canada and the USA.

    While Dr. Kiernan worked as a career diplomat, Delia combined her part-time singing career and family life with her role as hostess, often using her voice to entertain government ministers, churchmen, statesmen and literary figures throughout the world.

    She was a natural performer who developed an immediate rapport with her audiences and made a great impact on the Irish entertainment scene. Many generations were raised listening to her singing and she did much to revive a love of Irish folk songs.


  • Pop Svengali-figure Louis Walsh, a native of Kiltimagh, has risen to the top of the pop industry through perseverance and a keen eye for young talent. Having successfully managed the careers of the likes of Eurovision-winners Johnny Logan and Linda Martin, Louis then turned his eye to ‘manufactured’ boybands, after having seen the meteoric rise of the English group Take That.

    The result was the creation of Boyzone, who went on to achieve massive success worldwide. Louis followed this with another spectacular boyband – Westlife. He also promoted Samantha Mumba and Ireland’s Pop Idol TV show-winners Six. He took over as manager of Scottish 60s singer Lulu and oversaw her come-back during the 1990s.

    Louis then went on to become a judge on the ITV show The X Factor in 2004 alongside Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne. He has achieved great success on the show with acts such as JLS, Shayne Ward and Jedward. He has also made a recent appearence as a judge on Britain's Got Talent. Louis is currently managing Jedward and new girlband Wonderland along with Westlife's Kian Egan.


  • Born in Castlebar in 1889, the youngest of five surviving children of local postmaster John Burke Sheridan and his wife Ellen Cooley, Margaret came to be regarded as one of the greatest sopranos of all time. She captivated audiences in the leading opera houses of Europe, notably Milan’s La Scale, Rome’s Teatro Reale, Naples’ San Carlo and London’s Covent Garden.

    Margaret was orphaned at the age of 11 and sent to boarding school in the Dominican Convent in Eccles Street, Dublin. She later attended the Royal Academy of Music in London and studied under Martini and Emma Corelli in Rome.

    In 1918, she made her operatic debut as Mimi in Puccini’s La Boheme at La Constanzia in Rome. The following year, she made her Covent Garden debut as Cio-Cio-San, the lead role in Madame Butterfly. Puccini first heard Margaret sing in Milan in 1919, when she was again performing the lead role in his Madame Butterfly. He subsequently coached her for the lead in his Manon Lescaut, perhaps her most famous part. Burke Sheridan continued to charm audiences for many years with outstanding performances in operas by Puccini, Mascagni and Respighi, among others.

    When she died in Dublin in 1958, Sean T. O’Kelly, President of Ireland, recalled that when he "first met the girl from Mayo who was to become, and for many years to remain, one of Italy’s most admired, most beloved prima donnas…she was young and full of gaiety and charm, sparkling, radiant and devoted to her act".


  • Patrick Cassidy, born in Claremorris, is one of Ireland’s most important composers of classical music. His compositions have been described as following the Hiberno-Baroque tradition, frequently drawing on Irish legends and epic poetry, and reflecting a fusion of Irish themes with formal classical European forms.

    In this, he follows in the style of the famous composer Sean O’Riada. Cassidy’s first album, Cruit in 1989, was an arrangement of 17th and 18th century melodies for harp played by a Baroque ensemble. His composition The Children of Lir was released in 1993 and his new orchestration of Deirdre of the Sorrows in 1998.

    assidy has also written music for the feature film Broken Harvest and his ‘A Famine Remembrance Symphony’ in Neo-Classical style was a specially commissioned work to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Great Famine.

  • Stephen Garvey, born in Castlebar’s Castle Street, came to prominence when he was chosen to lead the first dance orchestra on Radio Eireann.

    In 1926, he formed the Stephen Garvey Orchestra and toured extensively throughout Ireland and Britain. The 1930s was the ‘big band era’ and Garvey was the king of music in Mayo. The members of the band changed over the years, at one time including Val Doonican.

    Garvey’s interest in music extended to the production of Gilbert and Sullivan operas. He also produced Little Red Riding Hood, the first musical pantomime staged in the Town Hall, Castlebar, in February 1922.

    He retired in 1956, after 40 years in show business, and later died in the USA. His final wish was fulfilled when he was re-interred in Castlebar in 1996. Castlebar Urban District Council unveiled a plaque to his memory in 1978 at his former home in Castle Street.


Writers, Novelists and Poets

Writers, Novelists and Poets from Co. Mayo

  • Antoine O’Raifteiri, perhaps Mayo’s most famous poet, was born in Killeaden, near Kiltimagh. He was the son of a weaver and, like Carolan and other harpists, lost his sight in childhood.

    Although O’Raifteiri played the fiddle, he is best known for his songs and poems, following in the tradition of travelling musicians seeking the support of patrons. His poems were later collected by Douglas Hyde (1860-1949) and Lady Gregory (1852-1932) at the turn of the century.

    They also collected the memories of the old people who remembered the poet. O’Raifteiri’s poetry provides a modern example of Bardic-style praise-poetry and a contemporary record of Irish political and social history.


  • Canon Ulick Bourke was born in Castlebar, and was a founder of the Gaelic League. His most well-known books includes A College Irish Grammer (1856) and Pre-Christian Ireland (1887). A commerative plaque is currently on display in Linenhall Street, Castlebar in rememberance of Ulick Bourke.


  • Mayo born Ernie O'Malley was initially an Irish Republican exponent of the physical force tradition. Born in Castlebar, O’Malley spent his summers at Rosbeg, Westport.

    In 1907, his family moved to Dublin, but he was to return to Mayo in the 1930s to live at Burrishoole Lodge in Newport. His two autobiographical volumes, On Another Man’s Wound and The Singing Flame, are important accounts of the revolutionary period of 1916-23.

    His books Raids and Rallies, based on a series of articles in the Sunday Press newspaper, was published posthumously.


  • George Augustus Moore was born in Moore Hall to George Henry Moore and Mary Blake Moore.

    He originally intended to become a painter and was associated with the French Impressionists in Paris. Instead, he became a distinguished writer, publishing 35 books in all.

    He was part of the Irish Literary Revival of the late 19th century and early 20th centuries and one of the founders of the National Abbey Theatre in Dublin, together with W.B. Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory, among others.


  • Matthew Archdeacon was born in Castlebar and was a school teacher as well as being a successful novelist. He is known for novels such as the Legends of Connaught (1829), Connaught: A Tale of 1798 (1830), Everard (1835), and The Priest-Hunter (1844).

  • Richard Murphy was born in Mayo in 1927. He spent the majority of his early childhood living abroad in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). However, he returned to Ireland in 1954 when he moved to Cleggan in County Galway.

    Richard has achieved great success as a poet and writer through his poetry collections Sailing to an Island (Faber, 1963), The Price of Stone (Faber 1985) and his most recent collection "Collected Poems".

    His autobiography achieved rave reviews in 2003, with The Guardian commenting that the book was "A memoir which is by turns funny, quirky, and lyrical." He has received the American-Irish Foundation Award and the AE Memorial Award.


  • Born in Westport, Rory Brennan is a Communications Lecturer in Dublin City University. He has previously presented educational programmes for RTE Radio as well as making regular contributions to the Irish Times and Irish Independent.

    However, he is most known for his collections of poetry which includes "The Sea on Fire" (Dolmen Press, 1978); "The Walking Wounded" (Dedalus Press, 1985)and "The Old in Rapallo" (Salmon Press, 1998). He also won the Patrick Kavanagh award in 1978 for "The Sea on Fire" poetry collection.


  • Born in Castlebar, William Larminie is known for being a poet and folklorist. He published two collections of poetry during his career: "Fand and Other Poems" in 1892 and "Glanlua and Other Poems" in 1889, along a collection of stories titled "West Irish Folk-tales and Romance" in 1893.


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