Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Daisy Fowler Kennedy (1893–1981)

by Wayne Hancock

This article was published:

Daisy Kennedy, n.d.

Daisy Kennedy, n.d.

Daisy Fowler Kennedy (1893-1981), violinist, was born on 16 January 1893 at Kooringa (Burra), South Australia, fifth of six children of Joseph Arthur Kennedy, a schoolteacher born in Northern Ireland, and his wife Elizabeth Isabella, née Lorimer, born in South Australia. At the age of 7 Daisy began violin lessons in Adelaide with Mrs R. G. Alderman and in 1906 won a scholarship to the Elder Conservatorium of Music as a student of Hermann Heinicke. In 1908 she played for the visiting virtuoso Jan Kubelik, who recommended that she study in Europe.

After tuition with Otakar Ševčík in Prague and at the Vienna Meisterschule, she made her début in Vienna in October 1911 and in London two months later. She settled in England in 1912. Equally adept as a recital artist and a concerto soloist, she played regularly with leading orchestras under such conductors as Sir Henry Wood and (Sir) Landon Ronald. Her tours took her to Poland, Bohemia, Austria, France, Hungary, North America and Egypt.

On her tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1919-20 Kennedy was greeted with acclaim. On 17 April 1914 at the register office, Marylebone, London, she had married the Russian pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch, with whom she often performed. The marriage ended in divorce in 1924. On 16 December that year she married the poet and dramatist John Drinkwater, also a divorcee, at the register office, Kensington, London.

Kennedy possessed a brilliant technique and striking stage presence, and was much admired for her innovative repertoire. The New York Times praised her 'breadth of style', 'powerful tone', and 'certainty of intonation'. In 1927 she caused a stir when she publicly complained of insufficient rehearsal time for a Promenade Concert engagement in London. The music critic Ernest Newman observed: 'I am delighted to find, for once, an artist with the will and the pluck to fight her own battle'. In the late 1920s Kennedy concentrated on her role as wife and mother. She performed less often, although in 1932 she formed the Kennedy Trio with her cousin, the cellist Lauri Kennedy, and his pianist wife Dorothy McBride. She was seriously injured in a motorcar accident in 1937, and her husband died shortly after. Left impecunious, she became the conductor and leader of a light orchestra at the Regent Palace Hotel in London, remaining there until 1950.

Survived by two daughters from her first marriage and one from her second, Daisy Kennedy died on 30 July 1981 at Hammersmith, London, and was cremated. Her ashes were scattered in the Adelaide hills. A woman of independence and determination, she moved in the highest social circles and was famed for her beauty and glamour. Kennedy’s Columbia recordings, now rare, are a testimony to her considerable artistry as a musician. Her eldest daughter, Tanya Moiseiwitsch (1914-2003) was an influential designer for the theatre.

Select Bibliography

  • A. G. Stephens, Interviews (1921)
  • I. Moresby, Australia Makes Music (1948)
  • J. Creighton, Discopaedia of the Violin 1889-1971 (1974)
  • New Age: A Weekly Review of Politics, Literature and Art, 7 Mar 1918, p 377
  • New York Times, 5 Mar 1921, p 18
  • Sunday Times (London), 28 Aug 1927, p 5
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 26 Nov 1948, p 7, 21 Sept 1964, p 8, 14 Feb 1978, p 26
  • W. Hancock, Daisy Kennedy and her Adelaide Concerts (typescript, 1995, copy held on ADB file)
  • Kennedy papers (Performing Arts Collection, Adelaide Festival Centre).

Additional Resources

Citation details

Wayne Hancock, 'Kennedy, Daisy Fowler (1893–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 30 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Daisy Kennedy, n.d.

Daisy Kennedy, n.d.

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Moiseiwitsch, Daisy
  • Drinkwater, Daisy

16 January, 1893
Burra, South Australia, Australia


30 July, 1981 (aged 88)
Hammersmith, London, England

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.