Saturday 7 December 2019

Archive of world renowned soprano donated to Cork

Tributes have been paid to the family of world renowned Macroom-born soprano Rita Lynch for donating her personal archive to the Cork City and County Archives for study by scholars.

Chief Archivist, Cork City and County Archives, Brian McGee said the collection was an important one in that it not only featured extensive material relating to the late Ms Lynch but also provided insights into the cultural life of Cork.

"Rita Lynch's career was relatively short - approximately 20 years from the 1930s to the 1950s - but in that time she became known all over the world, performing in the UK and in the United States as well as here in Ireland," said Mr McGee. "She really was one of the premier singers of international repute to come from Cork so we're delighted to get her archive, which is very comprehensive, from her early successes in Feis Maitiu to her international performances."

The archive includes programmes, press clippings, letters, cards, telegrams, photographs, awards and audio recordings, and will be available to the public once it has been conserved and catalogued by the Archives Service, he said.

Born in 1914, Ms Lynch was the only girl and middle child in a family of nine who lived at Park View on the Killarney Road in Macroom and she attended the local Mercy Convent, where her talent was noticed. She later attended secondary school at the Ursuline Convent in Blackrock in Cork city where her singing talent was further nurtured by the nuns who quickly recognised her potential.

Ms Lynch's daughter, Mary Davies, told The Ryan Tubridy Show on RTE Radio 1 how her mother, on leaving school in 1933, won junior and senior medals and cups both at the Feis Maitiu in Cork and at the Dublin Feis Ceoil.

And she told how after studying with Mary Sheridan in Cork, her mother moved to Dublin to study under Jean Nolan, winning the highly prestigious Count John McCormack Competition in 1939.

"John McCormack said 'nobody can touch the little Lynch girl - she had a voice better than anyone else' - she sang Thomas Moore's 'The Last Rose of Summer which was the song she became associated with forever afterwards," said Mary.

"I've heard stories of people being brought in from the countryside to Macroom town to hear that broadcast on 2RN to cheer and to clap her on - I suppose it was like the Voice of Ireland at the time and she hit the headlines.

"One of her friends wrote to her afterwards she won the John McCormack competition and said to her 'The front page of The Cork Examiner was full of you and Hitler' and we still have that letter in the archive."

Besides raising her family of four, Ms Lynch, who died in 2009, continued her singing into the 1950s, sharing the stage with the famous Scottish tenor Fr Sidney MacEwan at Macroom's Palace Cinema in 1955 before she retired.