Best, Edith (1865–1950), musician, was born 11 July 1865 in Dublin, youngest of fourteen children of Eldred Oldham , Dublin merchant, and Annie Oldham. Educated at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, she studied under Margaret O'Hea, winning the Lord O'Hagan's prize (1883). One of the first candidates to win a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, London (1883), she became an associate of the College by competitive examination (1887) and the adored friend and confidante of its director Sir George Grove, whose many letters to her (1883–99) are in the RCM library. She was appointed teacher in piano (1887–1932) by the RIAM, and assistant to Michele Esposito (qv) as a local centre examiner. A founding member of the Feis Ceoil, she undertook major responsibility for its organisation, and under her leadership it became an annual event. In a paper to the Incorporated Society of Musicians (1898) she described the inspiration behind the founding of the Feis, convinced that it ‘will ultimately do more for the art of music in Ireland than anything which has yet been attempted.’ Largely through her influence, the festival broadened its repertoire beyond the original intention of concentrating solely on Irish music. She was honorary secretary of the Feis Ceoil Association 1896–1905, and vice-president 1905–50. Esposito dedicated to her his prize-winning cantata ‘Deirdre’ (1897). She was also a founder member of the Dublin Orchestral Society (1899); succeeded Esposito as director of music at Alexandra College, Dublin (1927); and was made associate of the RDS (1892); and FRIAM (1938). She died 9 March 1950 at her home in Dublin. She married (1906) Richard Irvine Best (qv), celticist and librarian; they had no children. Her brother was the economist Charles Hubert Oldham (qv).
GRO; Royal College of Music, London, archives; ‘The proposed Irish musical festival’, Freeman's Journal, 16 June 1896; Edith Oldham, ‘The eisteddfod and the feis ceoil’, New Ireland Review, viii, no. 6 (1898), 349–61; ‘Mrs Edith Best: an appreciation’, Ir. Times, 11 Mar. 1950; T. S. C. Dagg, ‘Mrs R. I. Best (née Edith Oldham)’, The Royal Irish Academy of Music 1856–1956 (1956), 49; ‘In memoriam (Hon. A.R.C.M.) Edith Best née Oldham’, Feis Ceoil syllabus 1943–1954; P. M. Young, George Grove, 1820–1900: a biography (1980); private information