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Denis Hempson.

Donnchadh Ó Hámsaigh
Last of the Irish Bards.

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Denis Hempson.
 

( 1695 - 1807)

Denis Hempson is remembered as one of the last Irish Bards and as a man who's life spanned three centuries, he was born near Garvagh, in County Derry in 1695, both his parents were natives of Magilligan on the North Coast.

At the age of three he contracted smallpox which left him blind, he subsequently took up music as a career as was the case with Turlough O'Carolan another famous blind harper born in Nobber County Meath, music was one of the few career option open to blind people, blind musicians were quite common in Ireland during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Denis Hempson's talent as an acomplished player soon became recognised, he developed the teneque of plucking the strings with his nails rather than the fingertips, at the age of eighteen he was presented with a magnificent 30 string Irish Harp by a local landowner. It is thought the Downill Harp, now in the Guiniss Museum, Dublin may be Hempson's harp, it was made in 1702 by Cormac O'Kelly, the harps first owner may have been C O Devlin whos name is inscribed on it.

In 1745 Hempson toured Scotland he received an invitation to play at Holyrood House for Bonnie Prince Charlie who was defeated at the battle of Culloden the following year.

 

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