The Jail Journal by John Mitchell, written over one hundred years ago, is fully available on-line on google books. What is good about this digitized version is that terms are searchable — very convenient — plus there is no dust. I had previously read sections of the Jail Journal when researching the dramatic conclusion to the story of the four Glandree men sent to Bermuda on the convict ship Medway in 1847.
https://www.google.com/books/edition/J ... hl=&gbpv=1
And thank you very much for sharing the link to the Percy French song Gortnamona — this was the first I had heard of the song. Very sad. I've listened now to the rendition sung by Brendan O'Dowda, and I much prefer his version than the one by Slim Whitman:
Not sure if it was the sad lyrics or the above youtube video having a photo of Brendan O'Dowda leaning against a flimsy railing at some Irish harbor, but it reminded me of poor Tim McNamara who drowned at Key West and was eaten by sharks. Long long ago in the County of Clare, when the family of Tim McNamara heard the Banshee crying crying crying, did they know that their Tim was drowning far across the sea? The story of Tim McNamara of Key West is haunting, haunting, haunting.
Surprisingly, Percy French went to Bermuda as an entertainer sixty four years after the four Glandree men who were convicted in 1847 and sent there on the convict ship Medway:
Percy French and Dr. Houston Collisson had arrived in Quebec on the Royal Edward on 6 October 1910 (note, his marital status as "single" and birthplace as "England" are incorrect):FRENCH COLLISSON ENTERTAINMENTS
Sparkling Humour; wide Versatility
It is said that the Irishman is the wit of the world; and the compliment is not infrequently paid to him of ascribing to his genius a joke which without such paternity might find difficulty in making its way in the world. "Pat" has a natural turn for rhetoric and acting; he is generally gifted with an agreeable voice with terms of endearment and with terms of reproach his native language furnishes him in abundance; and the soft brogue slides off his tongue in a fashion all the more piquant from his incurable disposition to construct his sentences after the Celtic model even when he is discoursing in English. His mastery of vowels and consonants renders possible for him the utterance of sounds which to the Englishman are perfectly impossible; and this, of course, supplies an important—indeed an indispensable—factor to his powers of mimicry.
Of wit and talent which are rare, even among Irishman, those who were present at the Opera House on Monday evening last had a succession of examples which few of them will hastily forget. Mr. Percy French and Dr. Houston Collisson hail from the Emerald Isle. They have made a reputation for themselves in the United Kingdom and on the Continent; they have invaded America and, after that, it was a mere bagatelle to take little Bermuda by storm.
To an artistic talent of the highest order Mr. Percy French adds a grace of elocution which is frequently much to seek. His pictures grow under his hand and appear before they eyes of the onlookers as if by magic; and yet, all the while he is delivering bits of the choicest Irish humor or interpolating a descriptive epithet with an air that is irresistibly comic. "The Descent of Man" illustrative of the evolution of the modern schoolboy from the primeval rabbit evoked roars of laughter; the sketch of Killarney was a marvel of humour and skill; and "He looked like That" fairly brought down the house.
As for Dr. Houston Collisson, it is simply impossible to do justice to him within the limits of anything less than a volume. His skill as a musician has received the highest recognition from an academic view; his beautifully resonant voice, so admirably suited to both singing and recitation, captivates his audience and the sparkling wit of his verse and dialogue provokes bursts of laughter impossible to suppress. His songs, "The Mountains of Mourne," and "Mrs. Brady" have a world-wide reputation. The story of "Our lake", "Our hunters" and "Our—waist coat," is told by Dr. Collisson in a manner which, if he possessed no other talent might mark him as an entertainer of the first order.
Miss Isolde Connore's mastery [aka, Florence Connor] of the violin was displayed to the great delight of all in three solos, of which "Ave Maria" may be mentioned especially. . .
Taken as a whole the French-Collisson entertainments, presenting as they do numerous unique features are among the most enjoyable ever given in Bermuda.
The Royal Gazette, Bermuda, Thursday, 2 February 1911
Source: Bermuda National Library newspaper archive (free)
They toured in Montreal, Boston, and New York, prior to Bermuda. French and Collisson returned to New York from Hamilton, Bermuda on the Bermudian on 13 February 1911; their final destination was listed as Jamaica. Percy French was correctly reported as "married" and born in Dublin, Ireland. Their destinations for the remainder of the tour were very diverse.
Percy French and Dr. Houston Collisson arrived in Southampton on the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company ship Trent on 17 April 1911.The Canadian and American tours of Mr. Percy French and Dr. Houson Collisson have been so successful that Mr. J.C. Duff, of Daly's Theatre, New York, is extending the tour to Bermuda, the West Indies, Panama, British Guiana, and the Windward Islands. Mr. Percy French and Dr. Houston Collisson will not, therefore, return to London until after Easter. Dr. Collisson will not appear in public after the present year.
Evening Irish Times, Dublin, 25 March 1911
There are several biographies about Percy French available on-line, including:
1) The Dictionary of Irish Biography: https://www.dib.ie/biography/french-william-percy-a3371
2) Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percy_French
3) Clare Library: https://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/cocla ... /percy.htm
The Dictionary of Irish Biography and Clare Library both mention that in 1910/1911 Percy French "toured Canada, the eastern USA, and West Indies." The fact that Bermuda was included in the "West Indies" is an important clue on how the story of the four Glandree men sent on the Medway to Bermuda was passed down to the Cooney grandchildren of Margaret Clancy McNamara (≈1798 - 1890).
The three sources above share one thing in common, a lack of documented sources, especially with regards to the origin story of several of Percy French's most famous songs.
Sheila, don't you think that Percy French's songs are quite entertaining enough as it is, without creating scenarios around various aspects of how the songs originated?
The Emigrant's Letter:
This appears to be untrue. Percy French and Dr. H. Collisson boarded the Royal Edward on 29 September 1910 at Bristol, England. As a resident of London, Bristol would have been convenient for Percy French. There were 866 total passengers; 709 adults and 157 children. The passengers were mostly English and also hundreds of Russians and others from the Continent. There were only a handful of Irish passengers, mostly female domestic servants and the odd 30 year old accountant. Not sure why a farmer's son from Donegal would board a ship for North America from Bristol and not Ireland. Plus, "The Emigrant's Letter" was published in April 1912, and thus most certainly did not premier in Montreal:Many of his songs and poems were composed around a single, arresting turn of phrase that he heard spoken. On the steamer to Canada he overheard an emigrating Donegal lad remark wistfully to his companion as they watched the coast of Ireland recede: 'Well then, Mick, they'll be cuttin' the corn in Creeslough the day'; thus inspired, French composed 'The emigrant's letter' aboard ship, and premiered the song at the first recital of his North American tour, in Montreal.
Dictionary of Irish Biography
It was a challenge to obtain the original lyrics to "The Emigrant's Letter", there are several different versions on-line and I've no idea which, if any, were the original:IN THE PRESS
By PERCY FRENCH
"THE EMIGRANT'S LETTER"
A song something after the manner of "The Mountains of Mourne," representing the thoughts of an Irishman who has just left his native land on board an Allen Liner for New York.
A fine satire of hotel life in West Clare. One of the most humorous of Mr. French's songs.
PRICE 1s 6d, EACH, Post Free
FROM THE PUBLISHERS, PIGOTT & CO, Ltd, 112 Grafton Street
Evening Irish Times, Dublin, 15 April 1912
http://www.welovedonegal.com/the-emigra ... lough.html
Gather Round Me: The Best of Irish Popular Poetry, edited by Christopher Cahill (2004, Beacon Press)
https://books.google.com/books?id=UQTOZ ... &q&f=false
And the popular versions of the song by Brendan O'Dowda and Paddy Reilly leave out the verse where the emigrant in his letter suggests to his friend Danny that he murder Pat and Mick should they get anywhere near the girlfriend he's leaving behind: "Don't kill Patsy outright, he has no sort of chance, But Mickey's a rogue you might murder at once".
Brendan O'Dowda: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W41Dde-X4NM
Paddy Reilly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3n96ELaEVE
The focus of the Clare Library biography of Percy French are his connections to County Clare, with an emphasis on the song "Are you right there, Michael?". But there is no mention of the 1912 song "Mick's Hotel", "a fine satire of hotel life in West Clare". There doesn't appear to be any modern adaptation of this song, but I was able to track down the lyrics on "The Mudcat Cafe", a website about music. Here is the first verse, the remaining three verses are equally brutal. The identity of "Mick's Hotel" of West Clare remains a mystery.
Has anybody ever been to Mick's Hotel,
Mick's Hotel by the salt say water?
None o' yez ha' been there? Just as well!
Just as well for ye! Oh!
If ye were an os-the-ridge ye might contrive
To get away from the place alive.
They charge you a dollar for a meal you couldn't swaller,
And it's down by the silver sea.
Oh yes I've been there
Yes I was green there
Hoping that the waiter might perhaps attend to me.
"What's in the tureen there?"
"Soup sir, it's been there."
Never again for me.
Are you right there, Michael?
Sheila, you first introduced this Percy French song to me when attempting to decide what songs Mae Brosnan, a native of County Kerry, would sing at the County Clare picnic in San Francisco in 1913.
http://www.ourlibrary.ca/phpbb2/viewtop ... nch#p12463
You stated that this song about the West Clare Railway was published in 1897, but I believe that 1902 would be more accurate.
Sheila, the year that "Are you right there, Michael" was published is rarely mentioned in the various biographical sources. Perhaps because the year 1902 is not very consistent with the "urban rural myth" that Percy French was late for his concert at Kilkee in August 1896 due to the West Clare Railway being so late. And that in 1897 Percy French supposedly won a lawsuit against the railway, as stated below:FAMOUS IRISH SONGS
PIGOTT & CO., DUBLIN
Are you right there, Michael? (Just Published). . . . . . W.P. French
M'Breen's Heifer (new)
Mat Hannigan's Aunt
Slattery's Mounted Fut
Phil the Fluter's Ball
The Night Miss Cooney Eloped
The Crockery Ware . . . . . . . W.J. Ashcroft
Freeman's Journal, Dublin, 18 September 1902
'Are ye right there, Michael?' was inspired by an actual event of 10 August 1896 when French arrived late for a performance in Kilkee owing to the unpunctuality of the West Clare Railway; the apocryphal myth that he was sued by the railway company for libel over the song probably arises from his successful action against the company for £10 damages (his audience on the night having been refunded their money).
Dictionary of Irish Biography (link above)
The actual footnote source (4) of wikipedia is a newspaper article by Frank McNally who wrote a column called "An Irishman's Diary" for The Irish Times. He researched the newspaper archives of what he calls the "urban rural myth" of "Are ye right there, Michael". "The Irish Times archive's last word on the subject is from April 1961, when the newspaper's radio reviewer tracked the myth back to a documentary of a few years before, which had attributed such a sweet resolution of the dispute to the imagination of the composer himself" (The Irish Times, 14 November 2007).Are Ye Right There Michael, a song ridiculing the state of the rail system in rural County Clare caused such embarrassment to the rail company that – according to a persistent local legend – it led to a libel action against French. According to the story, French arrived late at the court, and when questioned by the judge he responded "Your honour, I travelled by the West Clare Railway", resulting in the case being thrown out.
Wikipedia (link above)
https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/an-i ... y-1.982080
Percy French was a very famous man in Ireland; his concerts received lots of press in the Irish newspapers. He had performed at Ballinrobe in County Mayo on 16 July 1896 and at Waterville in County Kerry on 22 August 1896 (the reviews of both these shows mention his skits making fun of railway porters and hotel waiters). Looking at a map, Kilkee in County Clare appears about equidistant from both locations. So, Percy French might well have been scheduled to perform at Moore's Hall at Kilkee on the evening of the 10th of August 1896. I can't find any mention in the newspaper archives (and no sources are mentioned in any of the biographies), but perhaps the newspaper archives are incomplete or have odd transcriptions? But what is absolutely certain is that there were no lawsuits, either by Percy French or the West Clare Railway, as any such court action would have been heavily covered in the Irish and British press, and they simply do not exist in the archives. Nor are there any such actions in the petty session court documents.
Plus, the song "Are you right there, Michael" was published in 1902, some six years after Percy French's (undocumented) performance at Kilkee. The song appears to have been an immediate hit in County Clare. It was performed at a "Grand Concert in Aid of the Sisters of Mercy" in Kilrush in February 1903. "Mr. Rountree, P B, next contributed, with a banjo accompaniment, a skit by Percy French dealing with our local Railway line, which was received with much favour in the 'celestial' region in especial and as an encore could not be denied" (Kilrush Herald and Kilkee Gazette, 20 February 1903).
In 1907 there was a special railway commission to investigate Irish railways, which is the closest I can see that Percy French's song ever got into a "courtroom" . The below newspaper article was from the Dublin Evening Mail, but the same news was published across Ireland and Britain by dozens of newspapers (as would any court action by Percy French against the West Clare Railway, which clearly did not happen). The testimony included a reference to the song "Are you right there, Michael?", plus the Kilkee commissioner who gave evidence was a woman, both probably led to newspapers across the UK picking up the story with big headlines:
I reckon replacing a narrow gauge railway with a broad gauge railway would be quite expensive. Here is a 1995 souvenir stamp sheet of "Narrow Gauge Railways" in the Irish Post's "Transport in Ireland" series. The West Clare Railway stamp is on the upper left side:THE RAILWAY COMMISSION
BY COUNTY CLARE LADY
The "Brighton of Ireland"
IS IT BRAY OR KILKEE?
IRISH RAILWAY JEERED AT
IN A COMIC SONG
Today the Commission to inquire into the working and management of Irish railways continued its sittings for the taking of evidence at Leinster House, Kildare Street.
The commissioners present were . . . [long list of men] . . .
Among those present. . . [long list of men] . . .
Mrs. Amy Griffin, a member of the Kilkee (Co. Clare) District Council, said she had been deputed by the Council to lay before the Commission
Some of the Grievances
of the Kilkee people with regard to the railways of West and South Clare. Kilkee is a seaside place, which lived chiefly by tourists and visitors. The ordinary population was a thousand, or fourteen hundred, but that number rose in the summer to 10,000. It was a very favourite resort of tourists, and had great natural attractions. It was called
The Brighton of Ireland
If there were proper railway facilities the number of tourists, she believed, would be largely increased, but she feared that owing to the faulty arrangements the number of visitors were rather decreasing. The industries of the district are fishing, kelp-making, turf-cutting, and cattle-rearing. She considered that the railway service to Kilkee for goods and cattle to have suffered inconvenience and loss owing to the want of truck facilities. That, of course, injured the fairs and caused loss to farmers and every one in the district. Some facilities might be given for excursions from Lahinch, Kilrush, and other places to Kilkee. She did not know much about the fares, but she thought there was great disproportion between the fare of 4s. from Limerick to Lahinch and that of 11s. 9d. from Limerick to Kilkee. What she thought was most required was speed and punctuality in the trains. The West Clare Railway was made
The Subject of a Comic Song
which she thought everyone knew—"Are you right there, Michael?" and in which the lines occurred—
"You may get to Kilkee before night
You may not, or you might."
The Chairman—Is this a chronic state of things, or is it exceptional? It is chronic.
An Interesting Anecdote
The witness told the Commission that she heard of an incident which illustrated what she complained of in the matter of speed. A lady passenger had a canary which escaped from it cage, and the tram stopped while she tried to capture the bird (laughter). The witness further said that it would be a great advantage if a boat were placed on the lower Shannon to connect the Coast of Kerry with the Coast of Clare. Undue delay took place at Moyasta Junction, a station between Cappa Pier and Kilkee. Speaking, generally, she thought the remedy for the present state of things would be to amalgamate the Clare railways with the Great Southern and Western Railway, and the substitution of a broad gauge for the narrow one, so that there should be no transfer of goods or passengers at Ennis. . .
. . . [many more paragraphs with testimony] . . .
Dublin Evening Mail, 8 January 1907
One final comment on Percy French. He left Bristol on 29 September 1910 and arrived in Quebec City at 1:30 pm on 6 October 1910. A seven or eight day journey max? Steamship travel to North America during this time period cannot be compared to the journeys taken by famine immigrants, such as the eight Elizabeth McNamara's documented in my prior postings who arrived at New York and Boston about 1850. To describe such quick trips by steamship to America as "epic journeys" might be rather insulting to those whose ancestors were famine immigrants. And the young man from Donegal who Percy French overheard in 1910 saying that they're cutting the corn in Creeslough today, could easily go back to auld Creeslough someday.
Sheila, with regards to your comments about my "putting flesh on the bones" of the already dramatic story of the four Glandree men sent to Bermuda on the convict ship Medway in 1847. I never finished the story. Like the journey of the West Clare Railway to Kilkee, my story was slightly derailed before it could arrive at its destination. First by the McNamara's of Rosslara, then Irish funeral practices, the missing Timothy McNamara of Rosslara, the Banshee, and the haunting story of Tim McNamara who drowned in Florida and was eaten by sharks etc.
Sheila, thanks again for introducing me to the Percy French song Gortnamona.
#1 Betsey, #2 Eliza, #3 Libby McNamara, To Be Continued