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.