Famous Biography

The Famous Biography blog is about the lives of two internationally famous women, Catherine Hayes  and Lola Montez.They both travelled the world and earned fame and fortune. Lola Montez became a courtesan and erotic dancer as a result of circumstances and her extrovert character.

Catherine or Kate as she was popularly known in America and Australia was a lyrics lover and had many written specially for her. One in particular is extremely important in the context of her true lifeand that will be discussed in the new biography ‘Virtue and Vice’.

Catherine Hayes began her singing career in 1839 when she went to Dublin to study under Antonio Sapio. After three years, she returned to Limerick and persuaded the Bishop to underwrite her new dream of becoming an opera star despite the Church’s opposition to stage careers for women.She left Dublin for Paris in October 1842 to study under Manuel Garcia.

Rosenberg tells us in some detail of the evening he spent with Catherine and Mary Hayes at the home of Bowes and his wife ‘just off the Champs Elysee going towards the Arc de Triomphe’. Garcia was also there. After dinner, Rosenberg and Garcia accompanied the ladies home.They left them ‘at their door’ and proceeded past the Madeleine and along to Boulevard des Italiens.His original description of that meeting is important as it proves that Catherine had set up a household of her own in Paris and didn’t live with the Osborne family as others claim.

We don’t know much about Catherine’s life in Paris between October 1842 and April 1844 when she left for Milan.Garcia didn’t allow his pupils to sing in public but we now know that she did so on at least two occasions. Bishop Knox must have continued to support them as usual and was probably a regular visitor to their home. We know that he favoured life on the Continent and in France in particular and that he left Ireland in 1842 never to return to his See. He had a very high income from his Bishopric and his lands and could well afford to live where he choose.

In 1844, Lola Montez arrived and stayed at 24 Rue de la Victoire quite close to where Miss Hayes lived. At that time, Lola was Liszt’s mistress and he’d sent her on ahead to await him in Paris.She said she was there to improve her dancing and actually appeared at the famous Paris Opera dancing in “Le Bal de Don Juan” .Her numbers were entitled ‘Lolita’ and ‘Los Boleros de Cadiz’. She was onlyallowed to give a couple of performances because there were protests from some who said she was below the standard they expected at the Opera.

Life in Paris was anything but dull for the artistic set. Lola got her share of publicity by her usual outrageous behaviour but Kate kept a low profile. Her mother’s presence will have helped her to remain discreet. In 1844, Garcia and Kate appear to annoy each other more than usual and she decides to complete her studies in Milan. She was a difficult pupil at times. Witness the incident at Bowes’ house when she insisted on singing an Irish ballad much to Garcia’s disgust.  No doubt there were other occasions when she kicked over the traces apart from the concerts mentioned above.

Note: Catherine Hayes made a fortune only to lose most of it on her death bed to criminals who forged her will.

Credit Union News

Hi folks. After a long absence, I’ve decided to renovate and update my blog. Work has been continuing on my books and I expect to  publish them in 2017.   Part of the reason for the delay has been due to the fact that I’ve been a volunteer for a Credit Union  and undertook a lengthy course of study for both a Certificate and a Diploma in Credit Union Governance. I’m proud to announce that I received 1 Class Hons. in the Diploma and a 2.1 in the Certificate.  The Irish Central Bank recognised that Credit Unions were run by many unqualified individuals and made regulations requiring directors to be subject to a fitness and probity regime.    However, they failed to stipulate that volunteers achieving Diploma status had to be retained on the Board. Perhaps they thought this was obvious  as what business would train personnel only to replace them with untrained newcomers?   It appears however that Credit Unions are run on the old school tie principle or some unknown philosophy and this has led to me being voted off the Board by about 90 out of the 18,000 members.  I wasn’t even allowed to present a proper bio to those handful present at the AGM whereas the other candidates were.    I appealed this state of affairs to the Board on  17 December, 2014.

On 18 December 2014, as I expected, when it came to accepting that they had made an error and correcting it, my colleagues on the Board took the easy way out for them and stuck to what they had already decided. My appeal for justice and good business sense was rejected. However, I agreed to think about using the complaints procedure and to postpone further action until the new year.  Since complaints are heard by members of the board, it can’t be said to be impartial so it’s doubtful if I will try that avenue.

I subsequently decided to take the matter up with the Central Bank but I got no satisfaction from them. The final outcome was that the Credit union lost a qualified director and wasted about €10,000  of members funds on training.

Tracking Lola Montez in Paris

Believing, as I do, that an author should do his own research so far as time and money permit, I went once again to Paris on the trail of the truth about Lola Montez in Paris.  The results surpassed my expectations and I’m confident now that Lola prepared to seduce King Ludwig I while she was still in Paris in 1846. Portraits show that she transformed herself from an auburn haired Irish beauty to a black haired Spanish grandee’s daughter. She had some  knowedge of Spanish and Catholicism from her earlier stay in Spain. In Munich, she had to pretend to be a Spanish Catholic and she played her part well. By 1846, she already had a Ph.D in seduction (if such a thing existed). Once she got access to old Ludwig, it didn’t take her long to make him believe that she was the best mistress he could find.

Lola Montez must have been a great actress if she really made the Court of King Ludwig believe that she was indeed a Spanish noblewoman and a Catholic when she was neither . Her command of Spanish was poor but so was Ludwig’s. The Jesuits, whom she accused of persecuting her, may have had their suspicions.

If Lola had not engaged in politics and settled down quietly, she might have enjoyed a long and luxurious life as the Duchess of Landsfeldt and the King’s favourite.  There was unending jealousy amongst those at Court who sought to promote their own ends. Lola Montez was inexperienced in dealing with this constant intrigue and pushed too hard to get her views paramount. Inevitably, she had to go sooner or later or be killed.

Even after she was forced to flee from Munich, she continued to enjoy a substantial allowance from Ludwig. Her  marriage in London, first in a Catholic church and later  that same day in a Church of England ceremony, caused Ludwig to doubt her Catholicism and he stopped her allowance on the grounds that her new husband had enough money to support her.

Catherine Hayes and the Da Vinci Code

For those of you who love a mystery and solving puzzles, here’s a nice one to be getting on with. Unlike the fictitious Da Vinci Code, this one is for real.The document reproduced below was worth about a million dollars in today’s money to Catherine Hayes. It gave her back control over her assets which had all been transferred to her American husband William Avery Bushnell on their marriage in accordance with English law as it was in 1857.

A lovely and very helpful assistant in the Mairie in Biarritz, spent about an hour of her time getting out the original register of deaths in 1858 and trying to find other information for me from her colleagues.In addition to that, she gave me a free certified copy of the entry. Such a level of service was exceptional in my research although the majority of libraries, archives and others were indeed helpful.

Here is a scanned image of the document which is of course in French which Catherine was fluent in. Your task is to translate and find out what is wrong with it. I’ve given you enough information above to check its validity. One thing which I guess I should tell you because you haven’t got the registers is that entries were signed by the Mayor and only the Mayor for any year I looked at going back to 1790. (I’d already scanned through the registers on microfilm in London before going to France.)

This is the famous document:  (Will be uploaded again soon)


Catherine Hayes World Travel Itinerary

Catherine Hayes travelled the world at a time when the bell tolled almost every day at Lloyds in London to signal the loss of yet another ship. She was lucky not to have been lost at sea. She knew the dangers well enough and no one can doubt her courage and determination. The itinerary which follows is one of my working documents and will be expanded with notes in the published text. I thought it might be useful here to indicate those places in the world which she visited and where my biography should be of most interest. Some people may notice that certain dates and places disagree with all other published accounts. This is to be expected because ‘Virtue and Vice’ will be the first true account of her life.


1839  Limerick- Dublin.Training under Sapio.First public concerts.

1840-1842 Dublin – Belfast – Dublin.Concerts during training.

1842- 1st Limerick Benefit Concert

1842 Dublin – Paris. Opera training under Garcia.

1842-44 gave at least two public concerts in defiance of Garcia

1844 Paris – Milan. Opera underRonconi.

1845 Milan – Marseilles1st Public Opera Performance.

1846 Milan – Vienna and Venice

1847 Venice- Vienna- Bergamo-Verona-Milan.

1848 Verona-Milan-Florence- Bergamo-Florence-Genoa

1849 Genoa-London. (Bishop Knox died in May 1849)

1849Tour of England

1849 Tour of Ireland (incl. Waterford)

1850 Tours of England Scotland, Ireland (incl. Waterford)

1850 Dublin – Rome

1851 Rome – London UK Tour (July/August in France)

1851 Liverpool – New York

1852 New York . Eastern and Southern States. Canada.

P T Barnum’s daughter’s wedding  at Bridgport 1852

1852 NY-Panama- San Francisco.  via Panama Canal

1853 San Francisco – Sacramento-SF- Grass Valley-SF – Chile – Peru

1854 Peru – SF

1854 SF-Hawaii – Australia (Sydney) –Melbourne-Adelaide

1855 Adelaide – Calcutta- Singapore-Java-Melbourne-Sydney.

1856 Australia – England.

1856 Trip to Paris.

1856 Irish Tour

1857 Tours of UK and Ireland. Never returns to S. Ireland again.

1857 Marriage in October. Leaves London for Pau and Biarritz

1858In France until July.  Hasty return to UK from Bayonne

1859-61. Concerts in UK only until DEATH in August 1861

1860 Trip to Paris for Wieniawski’s wedding.

Catherine Hayes Devonshire Origin

Catherine Hayes Devonshire Origin  I’ve an email from a gentleman who said I was doing a rehash of the Catherine Hayes story. I quite agree with him that what has been written by others up to now was a hash i.e. mess up of her true life history. However, I’m not rehashing their efforts. If that was all I had to offer readers, I’d have packed it in years ago. People should know that I started to study Catherine Hayes because there was talk in our family about a great singer from Limerick who was part of our ancestry. So far, I’ve been able to trace my great grandfather to Tipperary which is the next county to Limerick. His father or grandfather might well have moved over the county line. I haven’t yet found the missing links but I sure found out plenty about the life of Catherine Hayes and those who were close to her.

Looking for the Truth

Anyone who undertakes a serious study of the life of Catherine Hayes will be forced to conclude that a lot of rubbish has been written about her. One author admitted to me that his researcher failed to find the records. I’d asked because his book didn’t agree with what I’d seen and copied from the archives . Not that all official or Church records are true. Wealthy and influential people paid to have records lost, altered or replaced when it suited their purpose.The preservation of family honour or obtaining a legacy were very compelling reasons to hide or destroy the truth.

One of the many mysteries surrounding Catherine Hayes is her birth date and parentage. Her mother Mary claims to have been born in Devonshire on the English 1861 and 1871 census returns shown here: (To be replaced soon)

The above is from the 1861 return and below is 1871 when Mary and Henrietta are living together with no servants.



It would appear that Mary Hayes was really born in Devonshire since there can be no transcription error. I have since found her baptism as Mary Carroll in Devon. She was always imaginative about ages  as you can see by comparing the two returns  which are 10 years apart. It’s not clear whether it’s 76 or 70 on the form but a lot nearer the truth than the 50 declared in 1861. It would appear now that Catherine Hayes was  both Anglo-Irish and Church of Ireland.





Catherine Hayes in Paris Arcades

Catherine Hayes would have been familiar with the 19c Paris arcades. They were very popular for shopping and socialising since they provided shelter from the elements and a clean tiled floor to walk on. At the height of their popularity, there were over 150 of them providing short cuts linking the streets of central Paris. Some would have been lost in the Haussmann reconstruction which occurred after Catherine Hayes left Paris in 1844 but she would have seen the effects on her later visits which ended in 1860. Relatively few remain today and a selection of those is shown above. Well worth visiting especially on a rainy day.

In Pursuit of Bushnell in Biarritz

Most people go to Biarritz to gamble or to enjoy the surfing. You’ll never guess what I was doing there so I’ll tell you.  I was looking for Willy Bushnell’s grave and I spent two weeks  searching every graveyard in Biarritz and Bayonne. I braved mad dogs, the midday sun and wild boar to trace every 19c burial place there is. I suffered cuts and bruises, dehydration and the loss of my precious research papers which were stolen from my car along with my camera and passport.

You may be wondering if I looked in the registers before going on this physically tough tour. I certainly did and they told me that nobody had bought a permanent plot for any Hayes or Bushnell in 1858. Unfortunately, the burial registers run from 1859 only so there was no hope there either.  So I searched and searched to prove or disprove a point.

Biarritz is a pleasant place with many Victorian villas still standing  and they are all strictly preserved now by order of the Mayor. I couldn’t pinpoint the precise location of the one  in which Willy died but I found the census showing it was a small place occupied only by the owner, his wife and a 16 year old maid in a poorer quarter of town.

I tried hard but did I find Bushnell in Biarritz?  Yes and no. All will be revealed in due course.

Religion of Catherine Hayes and Lola Montez

Many writers appear to have been under the impression that one or both of these two Irish women were Catholics. Let me tell you here and now, the religion of Catherine Hayes and Lola Montez  was Church of Ireland into which they were born and bred but at times they pretended otherwise. In parts of the world, Catholics were in the majority and it was best to appear to be of that faith.

Catherine Hayes helped Father Matthew, the temperance advocate, when she was in New York and gave a concert to raise money for the roof of a Catholic church in New Orleans. Lola Montez had to pretend to be a Spanish Catholic to become a Countess of Bavaria. Imagine an Irish protestant from a lower class background being able to achieve that status in a country which was then violently anti-protestant. She must have been a very good actress to fool everyone including the Jesuits. Neither Catherine nor Lola cared much about any faith.

In the 19c, the official religion in Ireland was the Protestant Church of Ireland and the ruling class belonged to it. There was bitter animosity between Catholics and Protestants which continues to the present day in some areas. A mature student at a local Adult Education Centre wrote some essays which have been published in a booklet. This is what she says about going to school in the 1950’s at the age of four.

“My oldest sister carried me to the school on the carrier on the back of the bicycle. I will always remember my sister ( name removed) leaving me at a neighbour’s gate. I would go through the neighbour’s yard. I never stopped to play with the children there. There were nine children in that family and they went to a different school. We were Church of Ireland and went to the Church of Ireland school.”

That’s an example of the deep divisions in Irish society which prevented even the children from mixing and perpetuated the hatred and suspicion which fueled the Northern Ireland troubles.

Perils of Publishing

The perils of publishing  is a little humourous article inspired by a question on a forum and ‘Up Pompeii’. Actually it is also meant to highlight the exceptional and non-commercial returns policy in the industry and the plight of writers who often receive least for their creative effort.

Sinister,dexter,sinister,dexter.  A funny thing happened on my way to the forum this morning. I met Youngus Foolius, the scribe. He was pushing a cart piled high with odes to the Gods. “Wherefore art thou bound, Youngus”  said I. “ To deliver these odes to my friends and the booksellers who have all promised to buy them”  said he. I wished him good luck.

In the forum, we had a lengthy debate on whether the Vestal Virgins gave good value for money. I knew one who certainly did and I daresay one or two other Senators and especially Caesar himself could give an informed opinion.  Prudently, we kept our intimate secrets to ourselves and the Virgins kept their positions.

Wending my weary way home, Youngus Foolius nearly ran me over with his now empty cart.  “Hail Youngus, you seem to have had a good day” said I.  “Yes and no” Senator said he.  I wondered how he’d learned to talk like a Senator and bid him explain.  “Well, Sir I sold all my odes bar two that I donated to the Temple of Hymen but no one has paid me yet. They say I must wait until the Christians eat the lions in the Circus Maximus. The worst thing is that the Tax Collector saw me and he wants Caesar’s share tomorrow and I only have five cistercii”

“Don’t fret, Youngus,  odes are books and, according to the Senate law of  Junius 30, they can be returned for full credit within six months. Therefore, you may make a loss and owe no tax at all. That being so, you can defer payment now and pay more with interest later if you manage to make a profit.”    “Thank you, Senator, said he. I’ll write an ode to you”  I considered charging him five cistercii for my advice but my kinder nature prevailed and I bid him farewell.

Sinister, dexter, sinister…

Lola Montez Black or Red-Haired Beauty?

The mystery surrounding the red-haired version of the Lola Montez painting in the Gallery of Beauties at Nymphenburg intensifies. Here at Famous Biography, only the truth is good enough and so we’re trying to track down the origin of the red haired Lola. It appears on Wikimedia Commons and is being offered for sale by a US based art reproduction website.

Is the red haired version truly the one which Ludwig rejected or is it just a fake? We need readers help in tracking down the truth on this. Please get in touch if you can find any references to Lola’s hair colour in a book or a picture of her with red hair (other than those mentioned above).