Hempson, Denis

1695-1807

Celebrated Irish harper; born at Craigmore, County Londonderry. Blind from the age of three years, his harp was the solace of a long life. His first teachers were Bridget O'Cahan, and Garragher, a blind harper, Fanning and Patrick Connor, all from Connaught, well-known for its harpers. He traveled through Ireland and Scotland and played before Charles Edward at Edinburgh in 1745. Was one of the ten who played at the great meeting of harpers at Belfast in 1792. His manner of playing the harp was like that described by the old writers, he used his long crooked nails to catch the strings. Hempspn's harp is still preserved at Downhill, County Londonderry. Bunting, in his Ancient Music of Ireland, gives an account of Hempson and his wonderful performances.