I once met Irish singing star Mary O'Hara in New Brighton, a small seaside town in England. She was appearing at a theatre there as part of nearby Liverpool's Irish festival. Mary had been a successful recording artist back in the 1950's, known for her clear soprano voice and for accompanying herself on the harp. She had travelled the world then but before the decade was through, she had taken herself off to a convent and become a nun, disappearing from the public gaze and never to be heard again.
Well, that had been the plan.
Until one day, many years later the story goes, the famous comedienne Joyce Grenfell had been strolling past said convent and heard Mary's dulcet tones emanating from an open window. Joyce had to let Mary know how beautiful she thought her singing was and it was she who eventually persuaded Mary to cast off her habit and return to singing in public once again.
Through the 1970's Mary's star rose once more and she had phenomenal success both at home and internationally with sell-out concert tours and million selling albums.
And it was one such album that I happened to have on my person when I met Mary that day in New Brighton. Handing her both the album and my trusty pen, we chatted about her music, Joyce Grenfell and life in general. She was very sweet and impressively serene (as one would expect from a nun) and then she duly signed my album and handed it back to me with a perfectly delightful smile. Later on I realised that she had kept hold of my pen.... Hmm lesson learnt, never lend a pen to a singing nun, you probably won't get it back.
Mary continued singing into the 1990's and then retired to write her memoirs...quite possibly with my very own pen.
Now aged 80, she lives quietly on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland.
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