Denis O'Hampsey - his life

Denis O'Hampsey
O'Hampsey engraved by Brocas. With permission of the National Library of Ireland.

Donnchadh Ó Hámsaigh was reputedly born in 1695, and died on either 5th or 11th November 1807.

His parents were both from the area around Magilligan, in Co. Derry, Ireland

He was taught the harp when young; after he finished his studies his first patron was Councellor Canning at Garvagh, who with two other gentlemen purchased a secondhand harp for him. This instrument was used by O'Hampsey for his whole life and still exists today.

He toured through Ireland and Scotland; the anecdotes about him relate only to his Scottish travels. He visited Perthshire and was also in Edinburgh in 1745 and played for Prince Charles at Holyroodhouse.

He retired to a house at Magilligan and married. He was still patronised by the local gentry especially Rev. Hervey Bruce of Downhill.

He attended the meeting of harpers in Belfast in 1792 where he met the young organist Edward Bunting who had been engaged to write down the harpers' music. As O'Hampsey was a couple of generations older than the others Bunting was particularly interested in his old-fashioned playing style and subsequently visited him in Magilligan.

O'Hampsey died in 1807; the date is given as either 5th November or 11th November.