Epitaph for a Musician: Rhoda Coghill as Pianist, Composer and Poet


  • Laura Watson Maynooth University




Rhoda Coghill, music and Ireland, song, performance, music and literature, women composers, music and gender, interdisciplinary


A pianist by profession, Dublin woman Rhoda Coghill (1903–2000) also sought to establish herself as a composer from the 1920s to the early 1940s before abruptly switching her artistic focus to poetry in the late 1940s and 1950s. This article is the first detailed study of Coghill’s work. It explores her career in the first half of the twentieth century chronologically and thematically; it addresses her impact as a performer, the nature of her compositions and the circumstances of their creation, and further claims that her poetry captures the essence of her musical experience and ideas. These themes are considered in relation to nationalist cultural politics as Ireland transitioned from Free State to Republic. As part of this, the institutional influences of Radio Éireann and the Feis Ceoil on Coghill’s musical identity and activities are scrutinized. Building on current developments in Irish musicology and reflecting literary scholars’ recent efforts to reassess Coghill’s importance, this article aims to understand her musical and literary outputs as the expression of a unified aesthetic and to stimulate interdisciplinary dialogue about this underappreciated pianist-composer-poet.

Author Biography

Laura Watson, Maynooth University

Laura Watson lectures at Maynooth University, where she is currently Director of the MA in Musicology. Her main research interests are twentieth-century music, gender, sexuality, and French art music c1870–1940. She has published in journals and edited collections, edited Paul Dukas’s writings for the Francophone Music Criticism Digital Repository and contributed to the ‘Women of Note’ radio series (2012) for Lyric FM.




How to Cite

Watson, L. (2016). Epitaph for a Musician: Rhoda Coghill as Pianist, Composer and Poet. Journal of the Society for Musicology in Ireland, 11, 3–23. https://doi.org/10.35561/JSMI11151