Herbert Hughes (composer)

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Herbert Hughes (16 May 1882 – 1 May 1937)[1] was an Irish composer, music critic and collector of folk songs.

He was born and brought up in Belfast, Ireland, but completed his formal music education at the Royal College of Music, London, graduating in 1901. Subsequently he worked as a music critic, notably for The Daily Telegraph from 1911 to 1932.

Described as having an “ardent and self-confident manner”, Hughes is first heard of in an Irish musical capacity (beyond being honorary organist at St Peter’s Church on the Antrim Road at the age of fourteen) collecting traditional airs and transcribing folk songs in North Donegal in August 1903 with his brother Fred, F.J. Bigger,[2] and John Campbell. Dedicated to seeking out and recording such ancient melodies as were yet to be found in the more remote glens and valleys of Ulster, he produced in 1904 Songs of Uladh with Joseph Campbell, illustrated by his brother John and paid for by Bigger.

Continually encouraged by Bigger, and in collaborations with the poets Joseph Campbell and Padraic Colum (met at Bigger's house Ardrigh), and Yeats himself, Hughes arranged and produced three celebrated Irish songs that have and will long outlast his memory, My Lagan Love, She Moved Through the Fair and Down By The Salley Gardens. A dispute with Hamilton Harty over copyright on My Lagan Love was pursued on Bigger’s advice, but failed.[3]

Apart from writing about music, Hughes composed chamber music and for the stage and film. A supporter of the Gaelic Revival he was one of the founders with Charles Wood of the Irish Folksong Society in 1904, and himself collected and set down hundreds of traditional melodies.

Hughes and John Robert Monsell created songs for a musical version of Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The Rivals called Rivals! which was staged at the Kingsway Theatre in London in September 1935 by Vladimir Rosing.

Married to Lillian Florence (known as Meena) Meacham and Suzanne McKernan, Herbert had three children - Patrick (known professionally as Spike Hughes), Angela and Helena. He died in Brighton, England at the relatively early age of fifty-five.

Partial bibliography[edit]

  • Songs of Uladh, (1904)
  • Irish Country Songs (four volumes: 1909, 1915, 1934 and 1936)
  • Historical Songs and Ballads of Ireland (1922)


  1. ^ "MusicSack". Retrieved 27 August 2010. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Hughes, Angela (2008), Chelsea Footprints: a Thirties Chronicle, p. 10 

External links[edit]