Annie Hession, was a celebrated traditional singer, mesmerising audiences at Feis and Oireachtas organised by the Gaelic League in the first years of the 20th Century. The eldest of the Hessions of Ballydotia, she was known variously as Aíne or Eithne Ni Oisin, and after her marriage to local Farmer John Keane, as Bean O’Catháin or Mrs John Keane. In the 1910s she popularised several traditional songs including particularly “Una Bhán” and “Sal Óg Ruadh”, and both inspired and collaborated with Carl Hardebeck the composer. Annie qualified as an Irish Teacher at “the Partry School” in Toormakeady, Co Mayo, and taught initially at Kilskeery, Trillick Co. Tyrone, then in Spiddal and later for a time at Collaiste Uladh, Cloughaneely Co Donegal. A regular singer on early Irish radio in the late 1920s and 30s, she took centre stage in the radio commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the 1916 Rising in 1936.
Oireachtas Winner 1902-1906
Annie first appears in the press the winner of first prize in singing at the 1902 Oireachtas (Freemans Journal 14.05.1902). The next year, she was 6 times prize winner at the 1903 Oireachtas (Connacht Tribune 16.04.1903) and, later that year at the Connacht Feis , she was a prize winner with her father Stephen (Tuam Herald 22.08.1903), and with her sisters Maggie and Ellen (Western People 29.08.1903) . Both she and sister Maggie took multiple awards in the 1904,1905, and 1906 Oireachtas (Irish Examiner 5.08.1904 and 17.08.1905). In 1904 they also both impressed audiences at regional Feis, at Achonry (Western People 27.08. 1904). 1905 found her in Ballinrobe organising festivities for St Patrick’s Day (again with Sister Maggie). Qualifying as a teacher at Partry College, Tourmackeedy in 1906, it was presumably also through her growing fame as a singer in Gaelic League Competition’s that she secured her first formal teaching post. .
Cill na Sgire, Trillick Co Tyrone 1907-1911
In 1907 she was engaged as a teacher of Irish Language and Singing in Trillick Co Tyrone, as part of Fr Maguire’s energetic programme of “irishification” of the Parish (Ulster Herald 11.09.1907). Her teaching and singing was much revered, with early reviews giving a flavour of the fervour with which she was received.
Thug Áine, Iníon Uí Oisín, amhráin uaithi agus shílfeá gur síbhean cheolmhar éigin a bhí ag tabhairt comhairle do chlannaibh na nGael í agus í ina seasamh ansin ar turtóigín fraoich, culaith bán uirthi, coróin dá gruaig dhuibh ar a ceann, an ceann féin ardaithe go huaibhreach is go huasal, meidhreacht ag lonradh trí mhánlacht ina gnúis agus ina súilibh agus binneas agus anamúlacht a gutha ár sámhchorraí agus ár spreagadh’ (An Claidheamh Soluis 6 Samhain 1909).
Annie Hession delivered a song and you would have thought that it was some musical woman of the Sídh taking counsel with the children of the Gael, and she standing there on a heathery mound, a white dress on her, a crown of black hair on her head, that same head raised proudly and nobly, merryness shining through graciousness in her face and her eyes and the sweetness and soulfulness in her voice soothing and inspriring us.(An Claidheamh Soluis 6 Samhain 1909).