Hamilton Harty

A profile of the composer

Ireland’s foremost composer, Hamilton Harty was born in Hillsborough in 1879. He became organist in both Belfast and Dublin during the early part of his career.

Moving to London at the turn of the century, Harty became an occasional conductor with the London Symphony Orchestra. This led to a post as principal conductor with the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester.

During his thirteen years with the high profile Hallé, Harty became known as the ‘Irish Toscaninni’. He gave the first British performances of Mahler’s Ninth and Shostakovich’s First symphonies.

Harty is best known now as a composer, his most famous piece being the tone poem ‘With the Wild Geese’, but he was prolific in his output, including concerti and various symphonies. Like many Irish composers, Harty drew on Irish traditional music as a source for his compositions. He did not forget Belfast during his illustrious career, and bequeathed his Library to Queen’s University. His name is now enshrined in the music department of that institution, with The Harty Room a valued musical performance space.

Harty died in Sussex in 1941, and his ashes were returned to the country of his birth.