Somewhere a Voice is Calling


American Irish Musical Interpreters, 1850 - 1975

Annie “Ma” McNulty, 1887-1970: The Irish Showboat on Vaudeville

The McNulty family singing

Hills of Knocknashee

In a time of limited public opportunities for women, Annie “Ma” McNulty (born Annie Brigid Burke, in Kilteevan, Co. Roscommon) made a name for herself as an entertainer and entrepreneur on the New York stage and beyond. After being passed over for a teaching position at the National School in Kilteevan in 1910, Annie left for America, where she hoped that her abilities would be better appreciated. In 1926, after her husband John McNulty’s untimely death, Annie settled in New York City with her children Eileen (aged 11) and Peter (aged 9) and soon established the McNulty Family as a radio act. With the success of their radio show, The Irish Showboat, came recording opportunities, and their song and dance vaudeville show sold out a sixteen-year residency, occasionally touring as far as Chicago, Boston, and Newfoundland. In addition to arranging the act, sewing her own gowns, playing the accordion, and singing, “Ma” McNulty also wrote music for the group. Well beyond the advent of talking motion pictures and even into the television era, Annie “Ma” McNulty saw to it that her children and grandchildren could continue to live off of the successful “family business” she had engineered. The McNulty Family continued performing into the 1960s, and appeared on as many as 457 recordings.

PDF File For more information on Annie “Ma” McNulty, see the select bibliography created for this exhibit.


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