Mary Collins Royal Academy of Music and Royal College of Music
It is hardly surprising that Mr Händel chose to premier his great work, “The Messiah” in the capital city of The Kingdom of Ireland. Dublin was the seat of the vice-regal court and the hub of fashionable Anglo-Irish society. Its rich musical culture, abundance of musical talent and a profusion of balls and assemblies for every occasion, ensured audiences suitably appreciative of such an event. Maintaining Irish society at a suitable level of gentility was the responsibility of the dancing master. But who were the dancing masters of Dublin and where did they feature in a society divided by religion and patriotism? Where did they operate and how did hay and straw figure in their methodology? This paper investigates the lives of the 18th-century ‘Lords of the Dance’, examining both the similarities which linked them to their English counterparts and the aspects which identified them as being particularly Irish.