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Kitty Hayes

Kitty Hayes (neé Smith) was born in Fahanlunaghta near Lahinch. Her father Peter Smith played the concertina and would often play with Gillie Clancy, Willie’s father. Kitty would steal her father’s concertina whenever she got a chance and taught herself the basics, based on what she had heard her father and others play.

“….I picked up bits and pieces that my father played. I had it all from listening to music. My head was bursting with the music but I had no way of playing it. But then my father gave in and gave me his concertina.”
Interview with Andrew Hamilton, “The Clare People”, 13/11/2007

House dances were very popular at the time and Kitty often accompanied her father to these dances. As she became older, she began to play with the other musicians at these house dances. It was at one of these dances that she met her husband, Josie Hayes. Josie was a flute player and a member of the Laichtín Naofa Céilí Band. After they married and started their family, Kitty found that she had no time or energy to play music, so she stopped playing for a period of about 45 years.

Kitty’s husband died in 1992. Soon after this, her son Joe was diagnosed with cancer, so Kitty spent much of the next while visiting and spending time with him in England, where he lived. It was then that Kitty was coaxed into picking up the concertina again. She credits her son with giving her the encouragement to revive her musical talent.

“He gave me all the encouragement in the world to go back and play and I finally
gave in. I thought it was too late but he said no. He knew it would be good for me. He would have such a smile on his face when he saw that I was making progress. His face would light up. He loved it.”
Interview with Andrew Hamilton, Clare People, 13/11/2007

After her son died, Kitty decided to continue playing music, as it would have been what he wanted. It was only then, in her early 70s, that she began to become better known for her musical ability. She became friendly with other musicians in Co. Clare, such as Peter Laban and Eoin O Neill, and it was people such as these who convinced her to record her music. She then went on to record two albums. The first was recorded in her daughter’s kitchen in Ennis and is called ‘A Touch of Clare’. Her next album ‘They’ll Be Good Yet’ was recorded in her own house and featured her friend and musician Peter Laban. These recordings are very much treasured by everybody.

Kitty passed away peacefully at her home in May 2008.

Hello Kitty’, Kitty Hayes interview with Andrew Hamilton, Clare People, 13/11/2007
They’ll Be Good Yet’, 2006, Tom Munnelly (CD sleeve)
Kitty Hayes, A Touch of Clare: Traditional Irish Concertina Music’ Geoff Wallis, CD Review, 31.10.01 -

Kitty Hayes, A Touch of Clare: Traditional Irish Concertina Music’, Claddagh Records, 2001
They’ll Be Good Yet’, Kitty Hayes and Peter Laban, Clachán Records, 2006
Kitty Hayes Remembered’ , Kitty Hayes and various artists, Glór label, 2009

Music of Clare Project:
Music featuring Kitty Hayes

Youtube videos
Kitty Hayes and Peter Laban play The Dairy Maid and The Abbey Reel
Kitty Hayes and Peter Laban play Pigeon on the Gate, Drunken Landlady, Sporting Nell
Kitty Hayes and Peter Laban play The Doonagore and The Coalminer's Reels
Kitty Hayes and Peter Laban play Na Ceanabháin Bhána and Hardiman the Fiddler
Kitty Hayes and Eoin O'Neill, Quentin Cooper, Yvonne Casey, Ger Hoyne
Kitty Hayes and Eoin O’Neill play the Galway Rambler

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Kitty Hayes
Photo: © Peter Laban