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.





Book Research Tip

  When I found a Memoir of Catherine Hayes published by her agents, Messrs. Cramer & Beale of London, I thought now I can get the facts and eliminate all the silly stuff printed elsewhere. It turned out that all the other wrong short biographies of Miss Hayes had been largely based on this Cramer & Beale one. I won’t go into all it’s shortcomings here but let’s consider one major issue i.e. her education and early childhood in Limerick.

The traditional and, I have to say, accepted view to date is that she was a poor widow’s or deserted wife’s daughter with a natural talent for singing and that she was discovered by Bishop Knox as he was boating on the river Shannon. She was overheard as she sung in a bower in the Earl’s garden where she was helping her aunt who was a domestic servant there. They remarked on her fine trill.

No dount about her talent but the rest is humbug. Miss Hayes was never a servant, neither was her mother and Mrs. Daly was only an honorary aunt. The truth is that Catherine was brought up as an aristocrat’s daughter as was her sister Henrietta. They went to a young ladies academy where they learned Music, French, Italian, English and Elocution. Their mother was a rich man’s mistress whose husband had mysteriously disappeared and was never seen again.

The question now is: How do you, as a researcher, decide that all is not well with the generally accepted view of events? When you study life in Limerick in the 1820’s it should soon become apparent that there was great poverty, no schools for the poor, deserted wives could barely live never mind pay for an education. If they had the money, their children would be refused admission because only a gentleman’s daughters would qualify. By now, you should be seriously querying the published accounts of your subject’s early life and looking for alternative answers.

We have those alternative and correct answers provided for us by a close friend of the family. He details the education enjoyed by Catherine and Henrietta at a private academy and even describes their Italian and French teachers. There is later evidence in the form of letters and the employment of Henrietta that she knew French very well.

The moral here is that if the supposed facts don’t fit, you must look for alternatives which will. As a mistress, Mary Hayes didn’t work and was provided with everything she wanted. It’s doubtful if she lived in Patrick St. at all because her lover had many properties in the country which offered better privacy for his visits which had to be kept discreet.




Book Content – Does It Matter?

I said in a recent discussion that it’s the content which matters but is that true today? We have the situation in which bookshops are trying to keep afloat and the books they display prominently are those which will bring them the most revenue. This means the ones from publishers who give them a regular extra discount for putting their books on display in the window and/or inside and promote them in the press etc. It doesn’t matter if they are chick-lit, non-fiction or fiction masquerading as truth. So long as it sells, it’s manna from heaven.

At a recent meeting in Dublin, I heard that 9 in 10 of ‘celeb’ books fail but the 10th hits the big time and pays for the others. What does that say for content? At Famous Biography, we’d like to think that content is king and that books like our ‘Virtue and Vice’ will prove the point. There is no doubt that in Catherine Hayes and Lola Montez, we have great characters to work with.

Please comment.

Catherine Hayes

Miss Catherine Hayes – from a Portrait by A. Salome 1849

Courtesy of the Mander & Mitchenson Theatre Collection -London

Catherine or Kate Hayes is the principal subject of ‘Virtue and Vice’ to be published by Suir Vista later in 2015. This portrait of her is one of the very few that can be said to be based on original art work although the location of the original by A. Salome remains unknown. Several altered copies and mirror images of this picture are to be found in various collections. This is the oldest dated that the author can find.

There was a portrait painter called Anthony Salome who studied in Munich and practised in London in 1849. His painting of Tyutchev’s daughters is in the Tyutchev State Museum at Muranovo near Moscow.

It seems therefore that we can be reasonably sure that this is a good likeness of Catherine Hayes in 1849 when she was at the height of her fame. She sang at Buckingham Palace for Queen Victoria on 1st June 1849.

All rights reserved: TA Hayes 2014