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 Denis O'Hampsey

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Denis O'Hampsey

Harpist, Folk Figure. An important figure in the preservation of Ireland's musical heritage. Born in Craigmore, County Derry, his name in Gaelic was Donnchadh O' Hamsaigh and variously recorded as Hampson or Hempson. Blinded by smallpox at age three, he was raised on his family's farm in Magilligan and began studying the harp at 12. Under the patronage of Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry, he toured Ireland and Scotland and performed for Prince Charles Stuart in 1745. O'Hampsey's appearance at the 1792 Belfast Harp Festival was recognized as an historic occasion. Reportedly in his nineties, he was the last of the old school Irish harpists, utilizing the traditional fingernail technique and playing mostly old Gaelic and Scottish folk pieces that had been neglected for decades. With great foresight the Festival organizers hired musicologist Edward Bunting and others to notate some 50 works in his repertory; many would have been lost had it not been for O'Hampsey's devotion to the past. They include "Scott's Lamentation", "Feach an gleas", and the famous "Londonderry Air", better known in its adaptation as the song "Danny Boy". At his death O'Hampsey was anywhere between 107 and 112 years old. His bogwood harp, the only one he ever played, is on display at the Guinness Museum in Dublin.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bobb Edwards
  • Added: 23 Jul 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 20594194
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Denis O'Hampsey (c.1695–Nov 1807), Find A Grave Memorial no. 20594194, citing Saint Aidan's Church of Magilligan, Limavady, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland ; Maintained by Find A Grave .