Matthew Wall (c.1810-1876)

From the Commercial Herald, Philadelphia, 17th Jan 1834:1
“Mr Wall was born in Ireland, in the province of Leinster, in Queen’s County, about 40 miles South of Dublin. He is in his 25th year. His blindness was caused by cataract, which commenced in his eleventh year, and in two years his sight was destroyed. He went to Dublin and placed himself in the hands of an oculist of distinction. In about nine months, his sight was so far restored as to enable him to read music without the aid of glasses. From Dublin he went to Belfast, where he was taken by the hand, by “The Irish Harp Society”. He remained there five years-employing himself upon the harp, and perfecting himself in the use of this ancient, and delightful instrument....
“Mr. Wall left Ireland, and sailed for America, in 1828. He landed at St. John’s, New Brunswick, where his sight began gradually and in nine months it was extinguished. He has been sightless ever since...
“Mr. Wall married in Belfast, and has two children.
“In stature he is about 5 feet 10 inches, and is regularly formed. He has an Irish face, which, if lighted up with eyes, would be considered very intelligent...”

According to this he would have been born about 1809, and started to play the harp at age about 14 in about 1823. However, a news report of a meeting of the Society, seems to date his voyage two years later: “At a meeting of the Irish Harp Society on the 17th of June, 1830...It was Resolved, that the Pupil, MATHEW WALL, originally recommended by BROWN ROBERTS, Esq. be permited to accept of an offer made by Mr. M-CANNAN, of St John’s, New Brunswick, to give him a free passage from Belfast to that place, and to settle him there as a Harper. It was further Resolved that a Harp be given to MAT WALL, with additional Wire for Strings; and that he be also supplied, previous to his leaving Ireland, with necessary clothing.”2

Matthew Wall visited a number of places, teaching and performing. In 1831, Wall was in Halifax offering lessons on the Irish harp3, and in 1832 he had moved on to Boston, again offering lessons to “ladies and gentlemen”.4 In 1834, as well as being in Philadelphia, he was playing a concert in Washington5. He issued an advertisement in Philadelphia in 18356. In 1843 he was in Quebec city performing a concert7. He died in Philadelphia in 18768.


1. quoted on an advertisment sheet for a benefit preformance, Philadelphia, 1834, “To the Humane and Benevolent Citizens of Philadelphia” American Broadsides and Ephemera AB&E 4728 ^

2. Belfast News-Letter, Tuesday, June 22, 1830, cited by Keith Sanger online at Old News Clippings. Mary Louise O’Donnell says it was in 1828. ^

3. Halifax Monthly Magazine, November 1831, reproduced in Mary Louise O’Donnell, Ireland’s Harp, Dublin 2014, p.123-5. ^

4. Boston Evening Transcript, 17 October 1832, cited by Michael Quinlin online at Irish Boston History & Heritage, 25 Oct 2012 ^

5. O’Donnell, p.124. ^

6. “Mr. Wall the Blind Irish Harper” advertisement sheet. American Broadsides and Ephemera AB&E 4815 ^

7. O’Donnell, p.125. ^

8. O’Donnell, p.125. ^