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Catherine Hayes, married name Catherine Bushnell, (1818? – 11 August 1861) was a world-famous Irish soprano of the Victorian era. According to London's Daily Express, "Hayes was the 'Madonna' of her day; she was the 19th-century operatic equivalent of the world's most famous pop star."
Hayes was baptised on 8 November 1818, in St Mary's Cathedral, Limerick. She was born of humble Anglo-Irish parentage at 4 Patrick Street, Limerick. Her father was the musician Arthur Williamson Hayes; abandoned the family in 1823, and Catherine Hayes, aged 5, grew up very poor with her mother, Mary Carroll, and sister. Mary Carroll and Arthur Williamson Hayes were married on January 18th, 1815, in St Michael's Church, Limerick. They had four children, Henrietta, Charles, Catherine, and William, who were all baptised in St Mary's Cathedral, Limerick.
In 1838, her vocal talents attracted the notice of Edmund Knox, the Church of Ireland bishop of Limerick. Edmund Knox resided next door to the Earl of Limerick, and heard Hayes singing casually in the back garden, and he was greatly impressed by the tone of her voice. He organized funding for Hayes to have vocal training in Limerick. She then gave private performances for the local Protestant Ascendancy.
Bishop Knox sought advice from the Pigott Family in Dublin, who recommended Hayes to study under Antonio Sapio in Dublin. Funds were procured to enable Hayes to study in Dublin under Antonio Sapio, from 1 April 1839 until August 1842.