Delia Murphy was a famous ballad singer who was a native of Co Mayo, Ireland. During World War II she helped Monsignor O Flaherty to save Jews and escaped allied soldiers from the Nazis. At the time her husband Dr Thomas Kiernan was Irish Ambassador to Rome.
Delia Murphy was born near Claremorris Co Mayo, Ireland on February 16th 1902. She grew up on Mount Jennings Estate in Hollymount, Co Mayo and attended Robeen National School. Her father allowed members of the travelling community to camp on his estate and Delia said that it was from them she learned many of her songs.
Following National School she was educated at Presentation Convent, Tuam, Co Galway and Dominican College Dublin. A very bright student Delia took degrees in both Arts and Commerce in University College Galway (UCG). In UCG she met and married economist and author Dr Thomas Kiernan when she was 22 years old.
In 1924 Dr Kiernan joined the diplomatic service and his first appointment was to London. Delia regularly sang at diplomatic gatherings and became friendly with the singer John McCormack. She became well known as a singer in her own right and in 1939 she recorded three songs ‘The Blackbird’, ‘The Spinning Wheel’ and ‘Three Lovely Lassies’. The recordings became popular in Ireland and abroad.
Thomas Kiernan was appointed Irish Minister Plenipotentiary to the Holy See in Rome and the family moved to Rome in 1941. Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty (“Vatican pimpernel”) who was responsible for saving 6,500 Allied soldiers and Jews from the Nazis was supported and assisted in his efforts by Delia Murphy. During his career Kiernan also served as Ambassador in Canberra, Bonn, Ottawa and Washington.
Despite having four children, a busy lifestyle and frequently moving to new locations, Delia Murphy continued to record and perform. During the 1950’s she did concert tours in Ireland and Britain and in1961 she recorded ‘The Queen of Connemara’ whilst living in Canada. Shortly after the death of her husband she moved to Ireland in 1969 to live near Chapelizod, in Dublin.
Delia Murphy, famous ballad singer from Co Mayo who did so much to promote Ireland abroad, died in Dublin in the year 1971 On This Day.