Singer Mayo’s Orphan Girl debuts at No.1

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Nicola O’Haire

MAYO singer Nicola O’Haire saw her debut single, Orphan Girl, go straight to number 1 on iTunes Charts (Ireland) this week.

The song, released on Wednesday, was written by Brendan Graham to commemorate the relocation of over 4,000 Irish orphan girls who were shipped to Australia during the Great Famine of the 1840s.

Originally from South Mayo, Nicola (23) graduated from American College Dublin, where she received her BFA in Musical Theater. She has appeared in numerous theatrical productions.

His two years at Mayo Vocal Academy earned him a High Achievers Award from the Royal Irish Academy of Music. This talent eventually led her to backing vocals for Russell Watson at the Waterfront Theater / Ulster Hall, the National Opera House, and the Bord Gáis Energy Theater, and she also performed as an ensemble singer on Scorn Not His Simplicity by Phil Coulter.

Orphan Girl’s release date marked the anniversary of the Irish Orphan Girls’ first landing in Australia aboard the merchant ship Earl Gray on October 6, 1848.

Nicola explained the song choice: “I really like Irish songs, especially ones like this one that tell a story. And the reason this is happening is because of Brendan’s talented songwriting. It’s like a mini history lesson more than anything.

Any feeling of elation and satisfaction on Liberation Day was tempered somewhat by the fact that on that day, some 173 years ago, the young Irish women whose utterly heartbreaking story is so eloquently told in the Graham’s masterpiece first set foot on Australian soil, having been forced to leave their native Ireland last June.

Unlike in more recent times, these unlucky and helpless souls had little choice in their journey. Their fate was decided by Earl Gray, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, after whom the ship that transported the orphan protagonist “barely sixteen” of Graham’s tale from a workshop in Westport to Australia where she hoped “… to find a better life for myself”, was named.

As part of the cruelest plan, which also bore his name, Earl Gray decided that the perfect solution to Ireland’s workhouse overcrowding problem was to ship this excess number of human beings to the next. end of the world where they would help set up the new Australian colony, making up for the lack of service staff and domestic workers there.

So how did Nicola go from a makeshift hay bale ‘stage’, singing You Raise Me Up, to a shed full of cattle in the winter at home on the family farm – just on the Mayo side of the Galway Division? / Mayo – singing in a recording studio with Brendan himself watching her perform one of his songs, something she described as a real ‘pinch me’ moment?

She explained, “There was talk of a concert involving Brendan Graham in my community, and I usually sang at such events, you see. Two great men for supporting their community, Ray McHugh and Paddy Rock from Cong, had me in mind to sing on it, so they put a good note on me. It all started from there.

“I told Brendan (who lives in Finney) and he suggested that I perform one of his songs at the concert. And that song was Orphan Girl.

“Brendan originally wrote it in 2012, to commemorate the relocation of over 4,000 Irish orphan girls who were shipped to Australia during the Irish Great Famine of the 1800s.”

Covid, however, means the concert never got to take place. But, having fallen in love with the song and so moved by the story, Nicola still wanted to record it.

“My dream is and always has been to become a successful recording artist. And every day, I aspire to take one more step towards this dream. I have always worked so hard to make my dream come true.

“But I also had the incredible opportunity to work with the amazing Brendan Graham himself when our paths crossed last year. He made this opportunity possible for me and helped me every step of the way. process. It was an incredible experience for me. A very surrealist to that. This project with Brendan was an incredible adventure, an adventure that I will never forget. “

And thanks to songwriters like Brendan and artists like Nicola, Ireland’s lost orphans will never be forgotten either.

In the end, the “orphan girl” Nicola sings in was just one of 4,114 such girls, seen as little more than an annoying inconvenience by those who ruled their homeland.

In the song’s third verse, Nicola expresses what may have been the desire upon which all hope for a happier life rested for our dear Mayo, when she sings: “And I’ll be a good man’s wife.”

That she and more of those 4,114 orphans found happiness in one form or another while still on this earth, we can only pray.

Orphan Girl is available on all platforms.


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