Helen O’Shea


Helen O’Shea is the Australian author of No Better Boy: Listening to Paddy Canny (Lilliput, 2023) and other non-fiction works about Irish traditional music, including her acclaimed book The Making of Irish Traditional Music (2008). She has also published creative non-fiction based on oral history projects in rural Australia. For most of her life, Helen has performed Irish traditional music on the fiddle, mentored by musicians from East Galway and East Clare, including Paddy Canny’s brother Jack, who migrated to Australia in the 1960s. From first hearing a recording of Paddy Canny playing with P. J. Hayes, she fell in love with his music, as so many listeners have. Her musical understanding developed during her years as a graduate student in Ireland c1980, while researching Seamus Heaney’s poetry, in extended visits to Ireland and during a year of doctoral fieldwork in East Clare in 2000. Her experience teaching and researching at universities in Ireland and Australia encompasses literature, history and music. She is currently an honorary research fellow in ethnomusicology at the University of Melbourne.