Inspirational music teacher with a reputation for getting things done

Mirette Dowling: November 4th, 1923-August 12th, 2015

Mirette Dowling: the Wicklow Choral Society which she founded was the first choir from outside Dublin to perform in the National Concert Hall in 1983, two years after its opening

Mirette Dowling, who has died aged 91, was a highly regarded music teacher and choral conductor who inspired generations of young musicians in a career spanning 70 years.

A former student referred to her as “the most inspiring person I’ve ever met. She seemed to approach life as one would approach a difficult piano piece: with ample knowledge to support every decision and always with the utmost sincerity and passion.”

She was one of two daughters of Michael Dowling, a bank manager, and Theresa (née MacDonagh). After schooling at the local Dominican convent, she took a licentiate from the Royal Academy of Music in London, where she also studied under the Australian pianist Max Pirani.

Her long teaching career began in St Leonard's-on-Sea in Sussex but she returned to Ireland and was music teacher in Holy Child Convent, Killiney, Co Dublin for 30 years. She also taught music for a period at Our Lady's School, Rathnew, Co Wicklow and at Wicklow Vocational School.


In 1963, she founded the Wicklow Choral Society and was its musical director for many years. In this capacity she worked with many well-known Irish artists, including Bernadette Greevy, Virginia Kerr and William Young (baritone). The society was the first choir from outside Dublin to perform in the National Concert Hall in 1983, two years after its opening.

Under her direction, the choir also appeared at Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral and St Patrick’s Cathedral, performing oratorio works by Handel, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Vivaldi and Fauré.

This paper's music critic, Charles Acton, wrote in 1966: "When a town the size of Wicklow puts on an oratorio, it is something to rejoice about; when it chooses a rare one such as Handel's Samson, it is a brave venture." Dowling's approach to Handel, he wrote, was " basically very sound indeed, with plenty of vigour, clean tempos and no sentimentality, thank goodness!"

Dowling had a reputation for getting things done. As a young teacher without a car, she took the train to work from Wicklow. However, at the time the Wicklow train did not stop at Killiney, which meant she had to get out in Bray and commute by bus to Killiney. She pleaded her case by letter to CIÉ and succeeded in having a new stop at Killiney station established.

Her only sibling, Peggy, died in 1973 and she had no immediate family for over 40 years. Her past students were her family and they travelled from far and wide to visit her and to pay their respects and perform at her funeral.