Ina Boyle

Dr Ita Beausang writes about Ina Boyle, formerly of Bushy Park, whose work features in the forthcoming Wicklow In Song event, 23rd August in support of Bray Cancer Support Centre and the Wicklow Hospice Foundation.

inaboyleIna Boyle (1889-1967) was a prolific composer of vocal, choral, chamber and orchestral music, but her works are rarely performed today and few were published. Living in seclusion in her native Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, she dedicated herself to music composition while she was carer for her parents and sister and looked after the family home and estate. She had the distinction of being the only woman composer to be honoured by the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust in 1920 when her orchestral rhapsody, ‘The Magic Harp’, was selected for publication.

From 1923 she crossed the Irish Sea by steamship for lessons with Ralph Vaughan Williams, who thought highly of her music and encouraged her to have it performed. Unfortunately the outbreak of the Second World War ended her travels and cut her off from musical opportunities in London. She continued to compose throughout her life and never ceased to promote her music by sending scores to conductors and choir directors, but with little success. Her friend Elizabeth Maconchy noted that as a result of her isolation she made few musical contacts and her music remained little known and almost unperformed.

Lough Bray Upper

Her manuscripts, which are preserved in Trinity College Dublin Manuscripts Library, include three symphonies. In 1925 one movement of Symphony No. 1 ‘Glencree’ – Adagio ‘Above Lough Bray’- was performed in the Royal College of Music by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Adrian Boult. The ‘Glencree’ symphony received its only complete performance in 1945 when it was played in Dublin at a Radio Éireann Studio concert. The orchestral score for full orchestra runs to 124 pages, and consists of three movements. It was revised in 1927 following lessons with Vaughan Williams.

There is currently a revival of interest in Boyle’s life and music. An exhibition of the scores of her three symphonies was on display in the Long Room Trinity College Library from May to June. Her orchestral piece, ‘Wildgeese’, was played by the EU Youth Orchestra at concerts to celebrate Europe Day 2013 in London and Iceland, and her motet, ‘O thou whose spirit’, will be performed at Evensong in St. Paul’s Cathedral on 5 October. The principal conductor of the Ulster Orchestra, JoAnn Falletta, has also spoken of her keen interest in the music of Ina Boyle, and of her wish to conduct the ‘Glencree’ symphony.

The performance of the ‘Glencree’ symphony by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra will further raise the profile of a talented woman composer by bringing her music to a wider audience and instilling interest in her other works.

In 1937 Vaughan Williams sent Ina Boyle a note of encouragement:

I think it is most courageous of you to go on with so little recognition. The only thing to say is that it does come finally.

The provision of funding from the Ambache Charitable Trust for this project will fulfil this aspiration for a neglected woman composer whose courage never failed. The inclusion of some of her songs in Wicklow in Song in Killruddery House is a fitting tribute to a remarkable Wicklow native whose music reflects the peace and beauty of the landscape.


Submissions are invited for articles to the 2013 Journal of Enniskerry and Powerscourt Local History. The theme this year is “Gathering our Genealogies“. See here fore more details

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