Finalist in 2012-13 PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE for Non-Fiction
Mary O’Hara won global acclaim as a singer and harpist. Her recordings sold by their millions and in her concerts and television shows audiences worldwide were thrilled by the warmth of her personality. Yet behind this public success with her music lay a personal tragedy.
Born in the west of Ireland and educated in a convent school, she became a singing star at the age of 16. She fell in love with a young America poet Richard Selig but their marriage only lasted 15 months before his tragic death. Overwhelmed by grief, Mary continued to sing while searching for a convent in which to live the remainder of her life in prayer and silence. She found the answer at the strict Benedictine monastery of Stanbrook in the West Midlands.
12 years later, spiritually enriched but fragile in health, she emerged and restarted her music career, winning even wider praise on her worldwide tours. She had her own season at the London Palladium, appeared on the Royal Variety Show, sang at all the major concert halls in the English-speaking world and made frequent guest appearances on television chat shows. Her television shows Minstrel of the Dawn and Mary O’Hara and Friends drew viewers by the millions.
Travels with My Harp takes up the story with many amusing anecdotes from concert tours around the world, but also sheds new light on her earlier years. In 1994 she decided it was time to retire from the stage. Two years later a new life of undreamed of adventure and unexpected challenges opened up when her husband’s work (she remarried in 1985) took the couple first to Kenya and later Tanzania. The six years spent in Africa opened up a whole new world of rich, rewarding experiences such as her work with children born with AIDS. She also discovered a new talent and the book is illustrated with a selection of her expressive sketches of African people she came to know.
For over half a century Mary O’Hara’s voice has delighted audiences all over the world and her recordings of music continue to sell. Her story is an inspiring tale of triumph over tragedy, helped by her deep religious faith and many friendships with other performers, recounted with warmth and humour in this updated version of her autobiography.
Mary O’Hara now lives with her husband on the Aran Islands off the West coast of Ireland, but still travels and lectures.
Visit her website: www.maryohara-travelswithmyharp.co.uk
‘This moving testimony concludes with the revival of Mary O’Hara’s music career and a spell spent in Africa with her second husband.’
The Tablet 13 October 2012
‘She tells her moving and surprisingly uplifting story honestly and even amusingly – Her account of life in a nunnery is fascinating, her courage and faith are amazing.’
Graham Lord THE SUNDAY TIMES
‘A moving autobiography’ she writes with a clean simplicity which is as accomplished as her singing. Ms O’Hara has applied her new found gift to the most intensely moving autobiography for many a year.’
John Paddy Browne THE IRISH POST
‘A lady who is as adept with the pen as she is with the lilting cadences of an Irish song.’
Tim Cromer CORK EXAMINER
‘Like everything Mary O’Hara does, this book has on it her special personal touch drawn from her own wide experience’
‘Her harp-playing revived the tradition of the Irish harp as an accompanying instrument – a tradition that had almost disappeared in Ireland. Her recordings influenced a generation of Irish female singers who credit O’Hara with shaping their style and her music inspired Folk Revival period artists such as Joan Baez, The Clancy Brothers and Bob Dylan.’
On December 28 2014 the Irish TV Channel TG4 showed a documentary – Mary O’Hara – a Saol (Her Life) – Read more about it here.