Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

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Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Jimbo » Sun Nov 07, 2021 6:55 am

Hi Sheila,

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. ... 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:
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)
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):

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.
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
Percy French and Dr. Houston Collisson arrived in Southampton on the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company ship Trent on 17 April 1911.

There are several biographies about Percy French available on-line, including:

1) The Dictionary of Irish Biography:
2) Wikipedia:
3) Clare Library: ... /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:
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
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:

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
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: ... lough.html
Gather Round Me: The Best of Irish Popular Poetry, edited by Christopher Cahill (2004, Beacon Press) ... &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:
Paddy Reilly:

Mick's Hotel

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.
Mick's Hotel
(Percy French)

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. ... 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.

Are you right there, Michael? (Just Published). . . . . . W.P. French
M'Breen's Heifer (new)
Drumcolliher (new)
Mat Hannigan's Aunt
Slattery's Mounted Fut
Andy M'Elroe
Phil the Fluter's Ball
Soldier's Three
The Night Miss Cooney Eloped
The Crockery Ware . . . . . . . W.J. Ashcroft
Freeman's Journal, Dublin, 18 September 1902
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:
'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)
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.[4]
Wikipedia (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). ... 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:
Amusing Evidence

The "Brighton of Ireland"

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
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:

1995 Irish Stamps, Narrow Gauge Railways, Transport in Ireland.jpg
1995 Irish Stamps, Narrow Gauge Railways, Transport in Ireland.jpg (179.68 KiB) Viewed 4276 times

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

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Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Sduddy » Sun Nov 07, 2021 4:08 pm

Hi Jimbo

Thank you once again for a most interesting posting. I enjoyed it very much.

Jimbo, I don’t think you should say “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),” since there is not sufficient reason to think that the story would have been passed down by her in particular, or, indeed, if it was passed down by anybody at all.

I’m glad you liked Gortnamona. Here is a small watercolour painting, by Percy French, entitled Gortnamona: ... ona/177434

The story of the neat quip made to the judge by Percy French may be a creation of his imagination*, but it seems he really did take a case against the West Clare Railway. It was heard at Ennis quarter sessions in January 1897. In the Tracks of the West Clare Railway, by Edmund Lenihan, (1990), begins with a chapter on the history of the West Clare Railway and then moves on to a wonderful weaving of the lore, legends and actual events pertaining the places the tracks ran through. On page 31**, he writes:
But the lighter side of life, never very far away from the operations of the West Clare, got its fair share of coverage, too, as in the case of the businesslike Limerick lady [***] returning from Lahinch on a fair day in 1896. While hurrying along the platform to catch her connecting train for home, she was knocked down and injured by a donkey which rushed out of a carriage of a West Clare train. The ensuing court case was reported blow by blow in the local press and makes hilarious reading. The company, however, was not amused when a decree for £16 plus £6 0s 10d was given in favour of the plaintiff. [note 2: Clare Journal, 18 January 1897]. At the same quarter-sessions sitting, a second action against the company was decided – none other than the famous Percy French case. It also went against the West Clare, but at least the £10 money was well, if unwillingly, spent. For such a paltry sum was immortality bought!
* This piece by Myles Dungan, posted 2017, suggests that he believes the story of the quip: Or maybe he thought it simply too good to omit.

** the online preview of In the Tracks of the West Clare Railway, by Edmund Lenihan, does not include pages 30 – 45: ... &q&f=false. I am taking the liberty of quoting from the book.

*** The Limerick lady is named as Mary Anne Butler in this Wikipedia entry on West Clare Railway:

I think it is good that Percy French is featured in “Clare People” ( ... /percy.htm ), due to his association with the West Clare Railway, but I think “The Darling Girl from Clare” should have been mentioned as well. It think it is the only Percy French song with the name of the county in the title, and it was often played by the band at Clare hurling and football matches. Here it is given a good rattle by the McNulty family in Newfoundland (the scenes in the video are Newfoundland scenes):

I like the picture of those brightly coloured stamps. Thank you for taking the trouble to include them.
Edmund Lenihan says that one of the West Clare locomotives, Slieve Callan, had a moment of fame when it featured in a short film, A Minute’s Wait, made in 1956. Some of the West Clare rails were exported to Nigeria, and some were sold to Bord na Móna, but the Slieve Callan has been restored and can be visited in the West Clare Railway heritage museum:
The West Clare was affectionately known as ‘Kate Mac.’ I don’t know if she still answers to that name.


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Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Sduddy » Mon Nov 08, 2021 3:56 pm

Hi Jimbo

You may have noticed that the words of Gortnamona are written on the back of the Gortnamona painting: ... ona/177434. Well, I have been finding out a bit more about Gortnamona. It seems it was just a poem and was not put to music until the making of the television programme entitled Percy French, 1854 – 1920, with Brendan O’Dowda (you will remember that you provided the link to that programme in two of your postings: At the 35 mark, Brendan O’Dowda says he came upon the poem and had it set to music. A BBC programme (hour-long) made in 1989 explains a little more fully what happened. In an interview with Percy French’s daughter, Ettie, she mentions that it was Philip Green who put music to the poem. Brendan O’Dowda then says that he loved the poem and wanted to include it among his Percy French songs, so asked Philip Green to put it to music. Some credit, therefore, must go to Philip Green for the lovely song.

Now to an entirely different subject: Jimbo, I’ve been meaning for some time to thank you for recommending Clare and the Civil War, by Joe Power. I am glad to have read it. There is a thoroughgoing honesty about it. The Civil War was much worse and had more shameful episodes in it than I ever imagined. It is on my shelf now - maybe never be opened again - but will stay with me.


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Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Jimbo » Fri Nov 12, 2021 8:57 am

Hi Sheila,

The American Civil War was far worse than the Irish Civil War. More soldiers died at Gettysburg, a three day battle, than the entire Irish Civil War lasting just under eleven months. Thus, it is a bit of a worry what happened to the missing American Civil War soldier Thomas McNamara of Glandree. I often return to both books by Joe Power, Clare and the War of Independence as well as Clare and the Civil War. It is interesting to read what occurred at places in County Clare which I've become somewhat familiar with in the ongoing search; Kiltannon, for example. I especially like that there are two separate indexes, one of names, and one of places. The books have proven quite useful already. After finding a Tadgh McNamara in the name index, the resulting story got this particular McNamara off the hook, so to speak, from being the Tim McNamara who drowned and was eaten by sharks at Key West in 1917.

This reminds me that I must return to the story of Bridget "Delia" O'Donohue (1876 - 1955), the daughter of Patrick O'Donohue (1834 - 1917) and Mary McNamara (≈1846 - 1876), and granddaughter of Michael McNamara (≈1804 - 1880) of Ahish, in Caher townland, Crusheen parish. Delia Donohue returned to Ireland in 1922 during the truce period, prior to the start of the civil war. She was working in Chicago as a domestic servant in the Catholic rectory of Holy Name Cathedral in 1910 and St. Bernard parish in 1920. We left this story pretty much under the belief that Delia was acting as a servant in 1922 to the three Catholic priests from Chicago who were traveling on the same ship back to Ireland. I picture her pouring tea for the priests while on board the SS Cedric crossing the Atlantic. However, there is far more to this story which casts a light on one result of the Irish war of independence which is both interesting and not discussed in the history books.

Sheila, I've now watched the youtube video entitled Percy French, 1854 – 1920, with Brendan O’Dowda in its entirety. When I first provided the link to this some years ago, I noted that at 50 minutes it was "a bit long". Truth be told, I probably skipped over much of it, including the song Gortnamona. Hence, in my last posting I thanked you for sharing the link to this song and stated "this was the first I had heard of the song". Knowing more about Percy French, the 50 minute video was much more interesting the second time around.

Sheila, thank you for providing the much needed documentation for the origin story of "Are your right there, Michael?" which was so terribly missing. The three new sources you provided are great. Especially the new detail that there were court proceedings involving Percy French in January 1897 and again in March 1897.

Evidence #1: In the Tracks of the West Clare Railway, by Edmund Lenihan, (1990) was a great find, especially discovering that the quarter session was in January 1897. Thanks for posting this. On google books, my preview was missing pages 33 to 63, so I had the page you quoted from. I suspect that Edmund Lenihan is well known in County Clare, but I was surprised to read his biography on wikipedia that he was "one of the few practising seanchaithe (traditional Irish lore-keepers and tale-spinners) remaining in Ireland."

He lives in Crusheen and is the author of many books. I've just ordered "Meeting the Other Crowd: The Fairy Stories of Hidden Ireland" by Eddie Lenihan and Carolyn Eve Green (2004, TarcherPerigee) and hopeful it will include some stories as told by people from County Clare. "The Savage Pigs of Tulla and Other Stories" also sounds interesting, but will wait for a cheaper used copy to become available. Eddie Lenihan's storytelling of "The Banshee" on this 15 minute youtube clip was truly exceptional:

In his research and travels, Edmund Lenihan heard that the "Michael" made famous in the song, was Michael Talty from Kilrush? In the comment section of the youtube song "Are you right there, Michael?", one contributor states that this "song is written about my great, great grandfather Michael Hayes from the railway cottage between Lahinch and Ennistymon." Another comment, "My Mum reckons this song was written about my Great Great Grandad. He lived in the railway cottage between Ennistymon and Lahinch." Perhaps the same Michael? He may not, or he might. It's surprising that no hotel in West Clare has laid claim to be Mick's Hotel, another song by Percy French. I reckon having such a connection to the famous Percy French would be great for their tourist trade.

In the Tracks of the West Clare Railway states that Percy French was meant to perform at Moore's Hall on the evening of the 10 August 1896 (page 124). The Kilrush Herald and Kilkee Gazette was a weekly newspaper, usually only about five or six pages. Between 1879 and June 1922, the newspaper is available on the British Newspaper Archive website. Instead of relying upon their search engine, I read the weekly editions for August 1st and August 8th, but there was no advertising or notice of the upcoming Percy French performance of August 10th. And then their August 15th edition had no review of the performance which was said to still have taken place although with a smaller audience since Percy French was so late. The only mention of Percy French was a long column length article from 1903 where a Percy French skit (by a Mr. Rountree, not by Percy French) was performed at a benefit concert for the Sisters of Mercy, as noted in my last posting.

Evidence #2, the wikipedia article for the West Clare Railway had much greater detail than the wikipedia article for Percy French. They provide the specific headline from the Clare Journal, and also new information that the January 1897 court case was appealed by the West Clare Railway at the Clare Spring assizes:
Many myths have arisen concerning the Percy French incident. The facts are that French had arrived in Kilkee four-and-a-half hours after the scheduled time for a show he was due to give at Moore's Hall on 10 August 1896. He had been due there at 3:25 pm, having begun his journey at Broadstone Terminus in Dublin that morning. The show was late starting as a result, and with a much reduced audience. French won his case at the Ennis Quarter Sessions in January 1897, and was awarded £10 plus expenses. The Clare Journal's headline for the court hearing was, 'An Hour With Percy French "free of charge"'. The case has since been re-enacted by the Corofin Dramatic Society at Ennis Courthouse. His award was subsequently upheld in a reserved judgment when the railway company appealed the case two months later at the Clare Spring Assizes, before the Rt. Hon. Chief Baron Christopher Palles, by which time French had the germ of a song in his head: the line, 'If you want to get to Kilkee, you must go there by the sea' was repeated in court although it failed to make it in the song's final version. The Railway had a disastrous policy of defending litigation. In another case heard on the same day as the Percy French case, Mrs. Mary Ann Butler, from Limerick sued when she was struck by a donkey on the Railway platform in Ennis.
Unfortunately, unlike the Petty Session records, I believe the Quarter Session records were sent to Dublin to the Public Record Office which was destroyed during the Irish Civil War (if County Clare was tardy in sending records to Dublin, they may have survived, but I'm not sure about this). Thus, newspaper accounts are required for evidence. In the British newspaper archive, the Clare Journal and Ennis Advertiser is unfortunately only available through December 1872, so I was unable to read the actual newspaper article quoted in the above wikipedia entry. And no other newspapers appear to have covered the Ennis Quarter Sessions of early January, unlike other quarter sessions. The National Library of Ireland has copies on microfilm for 1897 of the Clare Journal and Ennis Advertiser :

Evidence #3: thank you Sheila for providing the blog of Myles Dungan, historian and broadcaster. His recent podcast of the History Show on RTÉ Radio 1 from Sunday, 7 November 2021 included an interview with author Sheila Killian and her recently published book "Something Bigger" about her great uncle Father James Coyle and his clash with the KKK in Alabama. It's a great interview, the first 20 minutes of the podcast: ... mber-2021/
Of course, the railway was immortalized by its hilarious brush with the songwriter and performer Percy French. He successfully sued the line for loss of earnings, after arriving four and a half hours late for an engagement in Kilkee, on 10 August 1896 thanks, he alleged, to the rather relaxed attitude of the railroad employees to the joys of timetabling. He won £10 and costs at the Ennis Quarter Sessions in January 1897.

Now most sensible corporations, when in a hole, stop digging. But not the West Clare Railway. They appealed the decision at the next Clare Spring Assizes, held before the formidable jurist, Chief Baron Palles. French might have forfeited the case, as he arrived an hour late for the hearing. But his explanation—‘I took the West Clare Railway here, your honour’—probably sealed the case in his favour, though unless he was travelling from coastal Clare it was a humorous porky.
The history blog is similar to the wikipedia entry in stating that there were two separate court cases involving Percy French: at the Quarter Sessions in January 1897 and the Clare Spring Assizes in 1897. With neither of these court records likely to have survived the destruction of the public record office in 1922, newspaper reports must have been used as the source.

The Petty Sessions from Ennistymon makes reference to a Quarter Session case back from 16 January 1897, not for Percy French but a Patrick Lynch from Carroweragh townland, Kilshanny. But at least there is strong confirmation that there was indeed a Quarter Sessions in Ennis on 16 January 1897. Sheila, your three new sources are starting to ring true!

Mr. A M Harpur, R M, presided at the Court house, Ennistymon, yesterday, and resumed the hearing of the case in which Patrick Kelly, of Kilshaug [Kilshanny?], was charged with firing two shots of a revolver with intent to murder George Blood.

District Inspector Irwin conducted the prosecution, and Mr. J. J. Daly, solicitor, Ennistymon, appeared for the accused.

The deposition of George Blood was read. In it he stated that the defendant's wife took a civil bill of action against him for a civil bill sale of goods, which she claimed as her property, and which was dismissed by the County Court Judge on Saturday, 16th instant, at Ennis. He left Ennis about two o'clock in a cart. He heard a groan inside a fence and asked what was that. The next thing was a shot from behind the fence. He saw the prisoner get up from behind that fence and running in the direction of his own house. He ran after him as fast as he could calling on him to stand. He ran to his house, and outside the door he [Kelly?] turned and fired another shot deliberately at him [Blood?]. He [Blood?] then was within three yards of him [Kelly?]. A great flash of light came towards witness. The next thing that occurred was that Griffin caught hold of witness by the collar of the coat and pulled him back. When he arrived home he saddled his horse and went to Ennistymon and reported the matter to the police. When the first shot was fired at him from the fence he saw the defendant plainly and distinctly.

Witness was cross-examined by Mr. Daly, solicitor, very closely as to numerous assault cases against him by prisoner's wife and as to the number of drinks he took on his way home that evening. It appeared he stopped at seven places with his friends and had drinks.

Prisoner was committed for trial at the assizes.

Freeman's Journal, Dublin, Thursday, 28 January 1897
The above court case relating to events occurring on the 16th of January (Ennis Quarter Sessions) was documented in the Petty Sessions records for Ennistymon on the 26th and 27th of January 1897 (available on many genealogy websites). The outcome was "Defendant returned for trial at the next assizes to be held at Ennis in and for the County of Clare".

So, George Blood of Carroweragh townland would have attended both the January 1897 quarter session (as a defendant; Mrs. Kelly as complainant) and the 1897 Spring Assizes (as the key witness against Patrick Kelly), both held at Ennis, at the same time as Percy French. Unfortunately, similar to the quarter session records, the assizes court records for this time period were also destroyed during the Irish Civil War along with the public record office. We are only left with the newspaper reports:
. . . The Lord Chief Baron, who opened the Clare Assizes, expressed great satisfaction at the distinct improvement in the condition of the country, and a hope that it would soon be the condition of the other counties. There had only been seventeen specially reported offences since the last assizes, as compared with thirty-four in the corresponding period of 1896.

Dublin Daily Express, Tuesday, 2 March 1897
So both the wikipedia article for the West Clare Railway, and also the blog of historian Myles Dungan, appear to be accurate in stating that Lord Chief Baron Christopher Palles was the presiding judge at the Spring Assizes at Ennis in 1897. The wikipedia entry (see below) for Christopher Palles even mentions the West Clare Railway case from 1897 — we now have very solid evidence that is so well corroborated. Fortunately, the Percy French case "did not raise any important point of law" or else there would be millions of lawsuits, every single day, when public or private transportation was late.
In 1897 he [Chief Baron Christopher Palles] heard the much publicised case of French v West Clare Railway Co. This was the West Clare Railway Company's unsuccessful appeal against an award of damages in favour of the famous songwriter Percy French, who sued for loss of earnings after his train arrived at Kilkee more than four hours late, causing him to miss a performance. The case did not raise any important point of law, but is still remembered as the basis for French's celebrated song Are Ye Right There Michael, which ridiculed the railway company's poor timekeeping and general inefficiency.
At the Spring Assizes at Ennis, the case of Anthony Cahill (from Kilrush, per an earlier Petty Sessions) and two pigs (also from Kilrush) made the Dublin newspapers, but no word about the "much publicised case" of the very famous entertainer Percy French. Interestingly, another of the cases at the Spring Assizes involved a Thomas McNamara. The article spelt his name as "Thos" which might prove useful when searching newspaper archives for the missing Thomas McNamara of Glandree.
Ennis, Tuesday.
After the Lord Chief Baron's address to the Grand Jury yesterday afternoon, the criminal business was proceeded with.

Anthony Cahill pleaded guilty to the charge of maiming two pigs. It being stated that he had given some compensation, he was allowed to send out on his own recognisances.

Two Limerick fisherman named Thos. MacNamara and Michael Clancy were acquitted of a charge of assault on Thomas Keys, a bailiff in the employment of the Limerick Fishery Conservators at Athlunkad in May last.

Thomas O'Dwyer was acquitted of a charge of violently assaulting Michael Casey with a stone after a fight in a public house.

Dublin Daily Express
, Wednesday, 3 March 1897
On Wednesday of the Spring assizes, Patrick Kelly and George Blood are back in court and the testimony was reported in great detail by a Dublin newspaper. But still no word of Percy French. Given his celebrity, the Lord Chief Baron must have used a "gag order" to prevent the press from discussing the Percy French case?

Ennis, Wednesday

The Lord Chief Baron resumed the criminal business yesterday.

Patrick Kelly was indicted for firing at George Blood on the 16th January with intent to murder him.

Blood deposed that Kelly's wife had sued him that day at Ennis Quarter Sessions for alleged wrongful seizure, and that the process was dismissed. On his way home, accompanied by this father-in-law, Patrick Griffey, and two men named Hehir and Nagle, he and the other got off the car near Kelly's house to walk. He was behind the others, and heard a groan from the direction of Kelly's house, and turning saw a flash and a bullet whistled past his head. Seeing a man running away, he jumped over the fence after him and recognised him as the prisoner Kelly. He called out — "Kelly, you robber, stand, I am not in dread of you." He followed the man as far as the corner of the boreen to Kelly's, where he (Blood) was overtaken and caught by the collar from behind by his father-in-law. Kelly, who was then at his own house, turned again, and fired another shot at him. Griffey said to him—"Come away and let him fire away." Witness then went away, and when he got to his house he saddled his jennet and rode to Ennistymon, four miles away, where he reported the occurrence. Kelly was arrested the same night at his own house.

In cross-examination by Mr. Barry, Blood said he had a little drink when he left Ennis. They had two drinks at Corofin, each, and they also stopped at Kilfenora at a public house. He was not drunk. The only one of the party who was drunk was Hehir. He denied that he or any of his party attacked Kelly's house or struck Mrs. Kelly with a stone. He had no revolver and did not believe his brother Tom had one.

Patrick Griffey corroborated.
A quick interjection as it is interesting to consider how the Irish traveled back in the day. Below is a map showing the route from Ennis courthouse to Carroweragh townland near Kilshanny, a 23 mile journey. Were the four men (Blood, Griffey, Hehir, and Nagle) traveling by "cart" or "car"? Was it pulled by a horse, mule, or donkey? Whichever the means of transportation, according to the above testimony the animal appears to have needed a rest about every 9 miles and thus they stopped at a public house at Corofin and then Kilfenora for a drink. But according to the testimony of the Petty Sessions at Ennistymon on the 26th and 27th of January, George Blood testified that on the 16th of January he "stopped at seven places with his friends and had drinks" — so that would be about every three miles for a little rest and refreshment.

Journey from Ennis Courthouse to Carroweragh.jpg
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Patrick Nagle deposed to hearing the shots. Immediately before he heard the first shot he had met Tom Blood, brother to George, on the road. He had passed the car when the shot was fired.

Thos. Blood deposed to hearing the shot, and saw his brother pursue a man across the field.

Head Constable Minnane, of Ennistymon, said when Blood came to report the outrage he was sober. Witness and a constable went at once to the place. It was then about 12 o'clock. Going there he saw a man run across Kelly's field and the constable followed and caught him. He had thought it was Kelly from the report, but it turned out to be Tom Blood who had been making a short cut to his brother's. He searched the house, and he also searched the place where Blood said the shot was fired first, and he found marks as if a man had been kneeling there.

District-Inspector W. Irwin put in a statement made by Kelly when he was arrested at his own house, in which he said his house had been attacked by a party who threw stones at the door. His wife began to screech. He saw George Blood, his nephew, Tommy Riley, John Blood, and, he thought Hehir and Nagle. He made complaint the same night to the police at Kilshan post. That was before he was arrested.

A little girl, daughter of the prisoner, swore to having seen George Blood and other attacking the house. Her mother was struck on the leg at the door by a stone by one of the party. Her father was in the house all the time except when he went out for the milk.

The jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

Dublin Daily Express, Thursday, 4 March 1897
Of course, this was not the end of the bitter feud between the Blood's and Kelly's of Carroweragh. They will be back at the Petty Sessions at Ennistymon on 24 March 1897. On the way home from the Clare Assizes, on the 4th of March, apparently, Patrick Kelly abused and threatened Patrick Hehir. Patrick Kelly, was also accused of insulting and threatening Bridget Hehir on a public street in Ennistymon on the 9th day of March. And so it continued. Fortunately, the Bloods, Hehirs, Nagles, and Kellys of Carroweragh, Kilshanny all appear to have survived to the 1901 census where they are living happily as neighbors.

Patricia Lysaght in The Banshee discussed how the decline in story-telling among the modern Irish people was due to improved education in Ireland (see page 33). This led to increased reading of newspapers and books for news and enjoyment, then later the radio and going to the cinema as a form of entertainment, and the final death blow to story-telling was a television in every home. But the Irish story-telling and folklore behind the origins of the Percy French song "Are you right there, Michael?" don't appear to have been hindered whatsoever with newspapers, books, or the cinema. Indeed, the modern Irish appear to have even adapted their story-telling very effectively with the internet, as many of the creative entries associated with Percy French on wikipedia can attest.

But what I find most interesting was the development over one century of the Irish folklore behind the song "Are you right there, Michael?". The earliest reference to there actually being a lawsuit between Percy French and the West Clare Railway that I could discover was written by an American newspaper man who visited County Clare and appears to have been told the tall-tale by some Clare resident on his Irish tour. He dutifully went back to America and documented the myth with his newspaper, most likely to the glee of the Irish. But then over a subsequent generation or two the Irish themselves appear to have fallen for this same story. Hook, line and sinker. I reckon this is equally as amusing as the lyrics of "Are you right there, Michael?".

#1 Betsey, #2 Eliza, #3 Libby McNamara, To Be Continued

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Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Sduddy » Sun Nov 14, 2021 10:49 am

Hi Jimbo,

That is very interesting.
The Clare Journal is on microfilm in the Local Studies Centre, Clare Library, and I will go there sometime and check if the issues for January 1897 are available: ... studi1.htm.
Just to be sure to be sure.


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Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Sduddy » Mon Nov 15, 2021 4:11 pm

Another Action Against the West Clare Railway Company – An Hour With Percy French “Free of Charge.”

The succeeding case was also one in which the West Clare Railway Company figured at the defendant side of the court, the “man with a grievance” in this case being the well-known society entertainer, Mr. W. Percy French, who in his effort to fasten due liability on the company for his failure through their break-down “en route” to enable him to turn up in time at an advertised performance at Kilkee, which damage he estimated at £10, provided an hour’s entertainment for the court “free of charge.”
Mr H C Cullinan, instructed by Mr J Cullinan, C.S., appeared for Mr French.
Mr Murphy again represented the Company, instructed by Mr Healy.
Mr French it would seem from Mr Cullinan’s opening statement had advertised a concert on the 10th August last at Kilkee. He dared say his Honor had heard of Mr French, a gentleman of family and position who had been obliged to supplement his income by giving variety entertainments in different parts of the country. He advertised this entertainment at Kilkee, the doors to be open at 7.30 and to commence at 8 o’clock. He left the Broadstone terminus at 7.40 that morning expecting to arrive at Kilkee at 3.25, going by that route although it was 12s more expensive than the other one, to get there. He made the connexion at Ennis, but when he got to Miltown Malbay the train did not proceed any further. It was eventually 8.20 when he arrived at his hall, when he found his audience had dispersed. They had waited until past 8 o’clock. He did give an entertainment but there was a very sparse audience.
His Honor – Didn’t he get then all he was expecting?
Mr Cullinan – No, sir. Persons came there and went away and did not pay Mr French, but his old accompanist will be able to tell that his monies for the night should be £14 while he only sues here for £10.
Mr Murphy – Very moderate.
Mr Cullinan said there was another thing. Mr French had a magic lantern also, but it did not arrive at the Hall until 9 o’clock, when it was too late to be put up. Mr French was injured in his professional reputation as well. Having regard to Mr French’s position he should say there was a very graceless defence on the part of the company and it reflected very little credit on whoever was responsible for it.
Mr Healy – You will have to restrain counsel, sir (a laugh).
Mr Murphy said their first defence was that the company were not responsible inasmuch as it was an inevitable accident. Of course, if his Honor ruled against them, their only defence would be to measure the amount of damages.
Mr French then ascended the table and gave a history of his eventful experience on this fateful day. Leaving Broadstone at 7.40 a.m., he had got near Miltown-Malbay, on the “narrow gauge” system, when his troubles began. Here the train slowed down and finally it came to a stop at the station at Miltown-Malbay, where they were detained for three hours. He was aware that an engine had been telephoned for to Ennis, and it duly arrived, but notwithstanding, they were kept for some time on the siding.
His Honor – I suppose they were waiting for some other train? Yes, your Honor. The train from Kilkee came and passed, and then I thought we would go on, but we waited for the train from Ennis.
His Honor – Why were you left there? I can’t tell, that’s for the company to tell you. They did not explain why they waited for the train from Ennis. When I got to Kilkee the doors were not open. There were about 30 people outside the hall. There were about 30 booked in the hall. I let them in and gave an entertainment.
His Honor – If you had time to advertise it it would have been larger, and besides it was damaging to your professional reputation. You had no time to decorate the hall?
Mr French – No. Mr Enright, who had my magic lantern, arrived at 9 o’clock, when it was too late to put it up. Mr O’Callaghan, my accompanist, was in Kilkee before me. It was injurious to my reputation – it was not up to my usual standard, and besides there was a breach of contract with the audience.
By Mr Murphy – Plaintiff said the entertainment was to be held in Moore’s Concert Hall, which would hold about 350 people. He gave one there before by himself and he got £14 in the house. With the assistance he had he should say he would have got more now. Mr Enright was a favourite singer. He should take about 100 two shilling tickets and the balance in shillings. He had sent a telegram to the proprietor that the train was late. It was advertised to begin at 8 o’clock, and it was 8.25 when he began.
Have you any reason to think that the Hall would be full there that night? It was the height of the season there.
His Honor said it should be full, unless the people were entirely drinking whiskey there, and that was he was told what they did, and the more public houses they get there, the more they want. It was impossible to give them enough of them. Here was this gentleman coming down to try to improve them and give them a taste for rational amusement and the railway company resist his paltry claim of £10. He did not know who directed them to do it, but he would distinctly say that unless they proved they were not responsible for the accident he would decree them. But of course it was the Almighty they would blame, and his Honor here told a humourous little anecdote of his own experiences on one occasion when crossing the Channel from France when there was an explosion on board, which one of the crew attributed to “le bon Dieu.” In his experience of the West Clare railway they did not mind what he said – they go on appealing against his decisions, but the people who hear the appeals did not know as much about the company as he did (a laugh).
Mr Murphy – It is right to take every advantage (a laugh).
His Honor said he did not think it was. He knew a good deal about companies in England, and they made it a rule to go to law as little as possible.
Mr Murphy then began his cross-examination of Mr French, who had shown himself as much at home in the witness box as he is on the stage. He said he had entertainments in Ennis.
His Honor here observed that rather than submit to such an ordeal he would decline ever coming down here again and let them drink their whiskey (a laugh).
Mr French said he had taken £8 to £9 at the Ennis Town Hall.
Mr Murphy – And Ennis is a fairly good place, of 5,000 inhabitants.
Mr French – But it is not a watering place in the season.
His apt retort caused no little amusement in the court which was increased to a regular peal of laughter when his honor gave his view that Kilkee was a watering place where very little water was consumed in the season.
Mr Harvey – Except in mixtures, sir. They are afraid of the animalculae, and they reduce the water (more laughter).
Mr Murphy asked how many people did Mr French have in the Ennis Hall.
Mr French estimated a couple of hundred, but he could not at the same time see what had this to do with the present case.
His Honor – It does not make much impression on me, but let him go on.
Mr O’Brien, Clerk of the Peace – The Land Commissioners won’t listen to the value of the next adjoining farm (laughter).
This finished Mr French’s evidence, and it must be admitted he was an excellent witness.
Mr. Ed. O’Callaghan was the next witness and he said he thought £10 a very moderate sum to claim.
Mr Murphy said he would admit Mr O’Callaghan’s audience.
His Honor said he did not blame Mr Murphy at all for his defence, he only blamed the gentlemen who instructed him. It was a shame to come forward and resist so moderate a demand. It was a scandalous proceeding on the part of the company.
In reply to Mr Murphy, the witness said there was a crowd of about 30 outside the house. He had been speaking to half a dozen who told him they would have gone but for the delay.
His Honor said Mr French would lose his reputation by such a thing.
Mr Cullinan – The next time he would not have one at all there.
For the defence, Mr George Hopkins, locomotive superintendent on the system, was examined to show that the accident was one that could not be avoided. At Lahinch he said the engine driver found that one of the injectors was working badly, and on getting to Miltown he found the water supply going down, and it was dangerous to proceed. It was necessary to draw the fire.
The engine was in perfect order when starting, and got out of order on the road? Certainly. We had a similar case recently.
His Honor asked the witness could he swear the engine was in order when starting, and he replied certainly. It was one of their newest engines, the Lisdoonvarna. Weeds had got into the boiler and choked it.
Witness explained how this might happen at the time of taking water. He saw the weeds himself taken from it.
Asked by counsel why the train waited so long at Miltown-Malbay, witness said perhaps the idea was to get the two trains by the one engine.
His Honor said that was exactly his idea.
To Mr Murphy – These engines are all washed out once a week. He had nothing to say to the traffic arrangements.
Mr Sullivan, Manager of the System, said that on this date he had a telephone from Miltown to send out an engine, as the 12.40 one was unable to go on as the injector had got stuck. He at once telephoned to Kilkee to bring on an engine to bring the passengers there. He wrote to Mr French apologising for the accident and saying of course it was inevitable.
His Honor said the point was his keeping the train on the siding when he had an engine to bring it on, until the train [from] Ennis came.
His Honor here asked Mr French how long had he been kept on the siding after the train from Kilkee had gone to Ennis.
Mr French said about half an hour. He got into the train that came on from Ennis, but his luggage was all kept back for the other train as they said there was no time to change.
Mr Sullivan – We did everything we possibly could to get over the difficulty. If the driver went on in the condition the engine was, it might be a serious thing.
His Honor – That’s quite right.
Mr Sullivan – When I telephoned the engine came from the other section. It came from Kilrush.
His Honor – You contradict Mr French; he says it came from Ennis.
Mr Sullivan – I will prove it came from Kilrush.
His Honor – The railway company ought really take more care than they do about these accidents. Do these accidents occur often?
Mr Sullivan – No, sir.
His Honor – Are you sure there was not one lately to a train coming in!
Mr Sullivan – There might be a break-down.
His Honor – Doesn’t it break down every second day? (laughter).
M Sullivan – Oh, no, sir.
His Honor – They tell me so in Kilrush.
Mr Sullivan – They are telling you lies, sir.
This closed the evidence and his Honor said he should give a decree for £10 and expenses.

The Clare Journal, Monday Evening, January 18, 1897.

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Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Jimbo » Tue Nov 16, 2021 8:45 am

Hi Sheila,

Thanks a million for going to the Clare library, obtaining the microfilm, and then transcribing the long article from the Clare Journal. I hope you found the Clare Journal article, with all its details on the West Clare Railway and the "tourist season" at Kilkee as interesting as I did. Kilkee in this era, previously described as the "Brighton of Ireland", also reminds me of Atlantic City in New Jersey. Obviously, my absolute certainty that there was no court case involving Percy French and the West Clare Railway was incorrect. I still find it odd that the January 1897 court case was not reported more widely in the Irish press, but only made the Ennis newspaper. And I will still remain very suspicious of the accuracy of wikipedia articles. But again, thank you very much for transcribing such a long article.

Percy French must have read an advertisement similar to the below when making his travel plans to Kilkee in August 1896:

Unrivalled Cliff and Coast Scenery. Good Golfing and Fishing. Splendid Sea Bathing. Iron and Sulphur Spas (highly recommended by the medical faculty).

Tourists traveling from Dublin (Knightsbridge and Broadstone), Waterford and Cork, by the Morning Limited Mail Trains to Ennis, and then by the West Clare Railway, arrive in Ennistymon (for Lisdoonvarna) at two o'clock, and in Kilkee at 3:30 o'clock in the afternoon; through connection also by the 9:15 am trains from Dublin, via Knightsbridge or Broadstone.

Public cars from Ennistymon to Lisdoonvarna. Time—One hour. Car fare, 1s.

During the Tourist Season a Three-Hour Bus runs daily from Lahinch, via the Cliffs of Moher, to Lisdoonvarna (Fare 2s), and thence to Ennistymon (Fare 1s). Fares include Driver's Fees.

Through Tourist Tickets are issued at Kingsbridge, Broadstone, Waterford, Cork . . .

Cheap Week-End and Golfer's Tickets, available for return on the following Tuesday, are issued from Dublin (Kingsbridge and Broadstone) to Lahinch and Kilkee. Through connection with the 2:50 pm train from Kingsbridge on Saturdays.

Hotels — First-Class Hotels at Ennistymon, Lahinch, Lisdoonvarna, Miltown-Malbay, Spanish Point, and Kilkee. The New "Golf Links Hotel" at Lahinch has all the most modern equipments, including electric lighting.

For information as to Fares, Routes, Hotels, Fishing, etc, apply to
PATRICK SULLIVAN, General Manager, West Clare Railway, Ennis, July 1896

Irish Independent, 1 August 1896
Sheila, in the Clare Journal article describing the Percy French v. West Clare Railway court case, the presiding judge was never named and only described as "His Honor"; he was described as the "County Court Judge" in the Patrick Kelly case at Ennistymon petty sessions (which related to events following the 16 January 1897 Ennis quarter sessions). But I thought the judge was very generous with Percy French. The West Clare Railway as a mode of transportation had a reputation for difficulties as had previously been reported by the press in early August. If a business person / entertainer had an important engagement in Kilkee, I reckon they should have arrived the day before and not risked being late:
The hotels and lodges at Kilkee are reported full of visitors, and the place now looks pretty lively along the sands and bay with people of all ages and conditions enjoying themselves. The light railway to Kilkee has not done as much for this charming watering place as anticipated, and numbers of excursionists and visitors are daily complaining of the difficulties they experience in getting on by rail after leaving the steamer at Kilrush to their destination.

Cork Examiner
, 5 August 1896
Several comments by the judge at the Ennis quarter sessions noting the whiskey halls and that Percy French was a "gentleman coming down to try to improve them [Kilkee holiday makers] and give them a taste for rational amusement" might make Kilkee sound fairly down-market. However, this was not the case:
The Empress of Austria *, attended by the Countess Chateck ** and Baron Houer, with her suite, travelled on Tuesday by special train from Killarney to Limerick, and afterwards proceeded to Kilkee. She is [was?] travelling incognito as the Countess Eppan.

Bristol Times and Mirror, 20 August 1896

* only two years later, the Empress of Austria will be assassinated by an Italian anarchist in Geneva. ... of_Austria
** "Countess Chotek", one of the seven daughters of Bohuslav, Count Chotek von Chotkow und Wognin of Austria-Hungary. Not sure which one. One of his daughters Countess Sophie Chotek in 1900 married Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, and both were assassinated at Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 which led to World War I., ... and_Wognin
Sheila, the Clare Journal article of 18 January 1897 provides support for the paragraph by Eddie Lenihan in the book In the Tracks of the West Clare Railway (1990). But Eddie Lenihan never mentions that that there was an appeal by the West Clare Railway that was heard at the Spring Assizes in Ennis, unlike the wikipedia article and history blog by Myles Dungan. I am now less suspicious that the appeal never happened, but still not 100% convinced.

The Percy French archives are maintained at the North Down Museum in Bangor, and the Percy French Society also in County Down has created a catalogue of its contents: ... rcy-french ... 202011.htm

Box 21 includes "photocopies of Clare Journal, 18 January and 8 March 1897, giving accounts of the two court cases, French v West Clare Railway. Originals in National Library of Ireland. From AT. In AT. Stored in cardboard cover in PF Socy Room".

Percy French Society catalogue of North Down Museum archive.jpg
Percy French Society catalogue of North Down Museum archive.jpg (137.72 KiB) Viewed 3892 times

The "AT" mentioned in the Percy French catalogue most likely refers to Alan Tongue, the author of "A Picture of Percy French" (Belfast: Greystone Books, 1990). It was published the same year as the first edition of "In the Tracks of the West Clare Railway" by Eddie Lenihan (the last edition was 2008).

Sheila, with an exact date of the Clare Journal of 8 March 1897, could I please trouble you once again to go to the Clare Library and hunt down the article that relates to the Percy French case. That would be most highly appreciated. I still find it incredible, but now perhaps more likely, that at the Spring Assizes the court case of a famous entertainer like Percy French would not be mentioned in the Dublin newspapers which provided such detail for the other cases, such as the shooting case of the farmers from Carroweragh townland.

The week prior was the swearing in of the grand jury for the Clare Spring Assizes and I was surprised how many men were listed. Was a grand jury of 23 gentlemen really required to hear cases such as the maiming of two pigs? Did they all attend each day of the Clare Spring Assizes? Were they paid to attend? It seems very excessive.

Ennis, Thursday [25 February 1897]

Mr. W A Fitzgerald, Esq, High Sheriff of Clare, accompanied by Major Fred G Cullinan, Sub-Sheriff, attended at one-o'clock today at the County Courthouse, when the following gentlemen were sworn on the grand jury at the ensuing assizes—Thos G Stacpoole Mahon, D L, Corbally, foreman; W S Vandeleur, D L, Kilrush House; Thomas Crowe, D L, Dromore; F V Westby, J P, Kilballyowen, Cross; Hon Edward O'Brien, J P, Dromoland Castle; W J Macnamara, J P, Ennistymon House; R W Cary Reeves, D L, Besborough; W C V Burton, D L, Carrigaholt Castle; R J Stacpoole, D L, Strasburgh; W H Wilson Fitzgerald, D L, Chacombe; Colonel John O'Callaghan, D L, Maryfort; Charles R A MacDonnell, D L, Liscrona; Major J Wilson Lynch, Belvoir; Major S C Hickman, D L, Fenloe; W F Crowe, J P, Cahercalla; Major G S Studdert, J P, Moy; Marcus Keane, D L, Beech Park; Hallam G Studdert, J P, Hazelwood; Major C W Studdert, J P, Cragmoher; Captain O'Callaghan Westropp, J P, Coolreagh; James Frost, J P, Ballymorris; Lieutenant Colonel Fred Tottenham, J P, Mount Callan; and H de L Willis, J P.

The High Sheriff thanked the grand jurors for their attendance, and informed them the Commission of Assize would be opened at one o'clock on Monday.

The Freeman's Journal, Dublin, 26 February 1897
Lord Chief Baron Christopher Palles was noted for his long speeches at the beginning of any Commission of Assize. On the Monday afternoon of the first day at the Clare Spring Assizes, the cases to be heard were summarized in the speech by Lord Chief Baron Palles, and there was no mention of the case of Percy French. They all appear to all have been criminal in nature, and not civil cases.

Ennis, Monday [1 March 1897]

The Commission of Assize for the county of Clare was opened here this afternoon by his lordship Chief Baron Palles.

His Lordship addressing the grand jury said—There are seven cases which will be sent for your consideration at the present assizes. One of them is the charge of infanticide. There is also a charge of shooting at with intent to kill, a charge of indecent assault, two cases of ordinary assault, a case of maiming an animal, and a small case of larceny. None of these cases with the exception of the infanticide will present any difficulty. There may be a question at the trial of both the shooting at with intent and also in the case of indecent assault, but in each case you will have positive evidence incriminating the accused person, and therefore probably you will think it right to send these cases forward for trial and have them investigated by a petty jury.

I now turn to the report which I received from your County Inspector, Mr. Scott. The period we have to deal with at this assizes is, as you are aware, the period from the last Winter Assizes up to the present time. That is a period of three months, can certainly, gentlemen, the diminution in the cases in this return for that period as compared with the corresponding period of last year is certainly very marked. There are 17 cases of the class that are called specially reported cases from the 1st December to the present time in the present year as against 34 (that is exactly double that number) during the previous year. So that, as far as active crime is concerned, there has been a large diminution. Now, in reference to the character of that crime, none of it before me is reported to have any reference to agrarianism, with the exception of four threatening letters. Seven letters of intimidation are before you, but of these there are motives other than agrarian in reference to three. The motive in reference to three others is in one form or other connected with evicted farms, and the fourth has reference to a gentleman with whose name you are probably acquainted in the county, Mr Dwyer, whom I had on occasion to refer to at this time last year, and certainly with whom the people in this district don't appear to be on the best of terms; and that also is plainly an agrarian case. But I find that this return of the cases from the last Winter Assizes is considerably less than I expected of last year, and I trust that it is a sign from which we will be able to indulge in the hope that after a certain time the state of Clare will be that or ordinary counties in Ireland.

Now gentleman, I also have before me—. . .[more stats comparing going back to even the 1895 Winter Assizes; and then a comparison to the numbers of crimes in the 1896 Summer Assizes] . . [discussion on the number of people under police protection and related trends] . . .

But one thing I am able to say again from my experiences of the return this year—that whatever be the state of the county now, there is a marked improvement compared with its state last year. The bills will be sent to you now.

The jury then retired to consider the bills.

The Freeman's Journal, Dublin, Tuesday, 2 March 1897
Three cases at the Spring Assizes, which were described in the Dublin newspapers, occupied the Tuesday; others such as the infanticide may have occurred but perhaps were not reported. The Patrick Lynch case was noted to have occupied the entire day of the Wednesday. Lord Chief Baron was meant to be at the Limerick Assizes on the Friday, but it was noted that "Mr. Justice O'Brien (in the absence of the Lord Chief Baron, detained at the Ennis Assizes), addressed the City Grand Jury . . ." (Dublin Daily Express, 6 March 1897). So there were two days of the Clare Spring Assizes at Ennis, the Thursday and Friday, that were not covered in the Dublin newspapers at all. I suspect that Percy French appeared on one of those days, and was reported in the Clare Journal in its Monday, 8 March 1887 edition, as suggested by the Percy French archive at the North Down Museum.

The popularity of Kilkee as a summer holiday destination was new information for me. Mrs. Amy Griffin at her 1907 testimony to the railway commission from a few postings ago stated that Kilkee's "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". During this era, the sending of postcards from tourist destinations was very popular. I have a collection of old postcards and stamp covers, but had never thought to search auction sites using "Kilkee" since I wasn't aware of its popularity. Yesterday, I purchased the below postcard from an ebay seller from Dresden, Germany. The "Natural Bridge of Ross" appears to be one of Kilkee's famous "Unrivalled Cliff and Coast Scenery" locations as described in the West Clare Railway advertisement at the start of this posting:

Postcard of Natural Bridge of Ross, Kilkee, Co Clare.jpg
Postcard of Natural Bridge of Ross, Kilkee, Co Clare.jpg (127.39 KiB) Viewed 3892 times

The postcard message "Dear M, please send [three unclear initials] old evening coat, one he wore during the winter evenings. All quite well. T E". The postcard was sent from Kilkee on 13 August 1906. Clearly it was much colder on the Atlantic coast in August than anticipated by these tourists from Dublin. Since the owner of the coat is spoken of in the third person, I reckon the postcard was most likely sent to a domestic servant as its message was an instruction and not a greeting. The sender, T.E., might be another domestic servant, or perhaps a family member of the owner of the coat.

Postcard of Kilkee sent on 13 August 1906 to Mountanville House, Dundrum, Dublin.jpg
Postcard of Kilkee sent on 13 August 1906 to Mountanville House, Dundrum, Dublin.jpg (92.38 KiB) Viewed 3862 times

The Kilkee postcard was sent to a "Miss O'Neill" of Mountanville House, Dundrum, Dublin."

Mountanville House was built in 1832 and was the home of Lord Chief Baron Christopher Palles from 1885 until 1920 (his death). Yes, the same Lord Chief Baron who during the Spring Assizes of 1897 may have heard the court case French v West Clare Railway.

Mountanville House, Dundrum, Dublin (Historical Stillorgan facebook page).jpg
Mountanville House, Dundrum, Dublin (Historical Stillorgan facebook page).jpg (146.18 KiB) Viewed 3862 times

The summer holiday plans of the upper classes appear to have been frequently reported in the Irish newspapers, starting with the royal family and working their way down to the various lords:
The Lord Chief Baron of Ireland and Miss Palles have left Dublin for London. They intend to spend the summer vacation on the Continent.

Irish Times, 4 August 1906
Was this true? The Lord Chief Baron would have made a few enemies during his long career and was a natural target. In 1906, would he have communicated his actual plans in an Irish newspaper if he was to go to Kilkee with his niece? That wouldn't be too smart. Below are links to the Chistopher Palles household in both the 1901 and 1911 census, with 9 and 11 servants, respectively. His occupation was reported as "Chief Baron of the Exchequer". After the death of his wife, his niece, Elizabeth Palles, ran the household per his biography on wikipedia. His only son was said to have "needed special care" which was confirmed by the 1911 census. Thus, there were no others living at the Mountanville House that might be the owner of an "old evening coat" as noted in the 1906 postcard. The 1911 census did include a Bridget O'Neill domestic servant, who might have been the recipient of the postcard; although perhaps unlikely since she was reported as only 15 years old in 1911. ... _/1315891/ ... uck/94753/

Sheila, what are the odds that on the same day as researching the case of Percy French versus the West Clare Railway, a case involving his inability to get to Kilkee on time, and that appears to have been held at the Clare Spring Assizes in 1897 before Lord Chief Baron, I would purchase a postcard that was sent from Kilkee to Mountanville House, the home of Lord Chief Baron? There is no reasonable explanation for this other than, as I already mentioned on page 31, the Clare Past Forum is haunted by ghosts.

#1 Betsey, #2 Eliza, #3 Libby McNamara, To Be Continued Later

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Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Sduddy » Wed Nov 17, 2021 10:33 am

Hi Jimbo

I didn’t travel to Ennis (we are urged to reduce social contact at the moment). Instead, I called on the kindness of someone I know and the newspaper report was sent to me. I don’t want to call on that kindness again too soon, so the Clare Journal (8 Mar 1897) report on the assizes can wait a while, but I won’t forget it.

About the grand jury: Many more people were called for jury service than were selected, and that is still the case. The selection of the jury was an important part of a case, and very often the jury was “packed” with people known to be sympathetic to the authorities.
I was called for jury service back in the early 1980s, but not selected. I'd say there were about 30 of us. I remember the judge saying that those who were of unsound mind should leave but nobody left.

Yes indeed, your purchase a couple of days ago of a postcard from Kilkee to Mountanville, home of Judge Palles, is a marvelous coincidence.


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Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Jimbo » Sat Nov 20, 2021 9:59 am

Hi Sheila,

Thank you (and your contact) once again and of course there's no rush on the Clare Journal article whatsoever. The ongoing search for the missing Thomas McNamara of Glandree has not exactly been in chronological order so we can always skip back to Percy French when the timing is better.

I reckon your one-time experience with "jury service" and my four or five times on "jury duty" have led to our confusion about the term "grand jury". Your explanation didn't make sense to me based upon what was reported in the newspapers: 23 men were all sworn in and chose a foreman on Thursday, the 25th of February, and reported to the assizes on the Monday to listen to Lord Chief Baron's speech. A quick look on the internet revealed that a "grand jury" is still in use, on the rare occasion, in the American court system, and almost by definition consists of 23 individuals. The website findmypast provides a good summary of the Irish court system as it would have been in 1897:
Cases of a more serious nature [than Petty Sessions], which did require a jury, were held at the Quarter Sessions, which, as the name suggests were held four times a year. The most serious cases, those like murder or treason that carried the death penalty, were presided over by at least one legally trained judge at assizes held twice a year in circuit. The jury courts used a system known as a commission of Oyer and Terminer, a Norman French phrase meaning To See and To Judge. There were two juries, a Grand Jury who assessed the strength of the prosecution evidence, and the trial jury, who would hear the case if the Grand Jury had decided the case was strong enough to go forward to trial. ... -registers
On Monday afternoon of the Spring Assizes, the Lord Chief Baron after summarizing the seven cases stated, "in each case you will have positive evidence incriminating the accused person, and therefore probably you will think it right to send these cases forward for trial and have them investigated by a petty [trial] jury". The 23 members of the grand jury only had to review the evidence of the seven cases and determine if they should be heard by a trial jury. So I believe their part in the Spring Assizes was finished on the Monday afternoon. Unlike a trial jury, a unanimous opinion wasn't required of the grand jury, only 12 votes.

At the Clare Spring Assizes, the grand jury was given seven cases to review. From the newspaper reporting on the Tuesday (3 cases) and Wednesday (1 case), we know for certain that four cases were sent forward to trial. The remaining three cases perhaps were not approved by the grand jury to move to trial, or maybe the newspapers simply didn't report on the cases. Or perhaps they occurred on the Thursday or Friday. It may have been that French v. West Clare Railway was heard directly by Lord Chief Baron and didn't go through the grand jury, the Clare Journal might provide a few clues on this.

It would be challenging but possible to recreate the County Clare quarter session and assizes court records, destroyed along with the public record office in 1922, using newspapers reports as well as the petty session cases which often fed into the quarter sessions. The Registrar for Lord Chief Baron from 1874 was his brother Andrew Palles (1829-1900), the father of Elizabeth Palles. Very sad that a quarter century of Andrew's work documenting the assizes court sessions was destroyed in 1922.

With regard to the postcard that was sent from Kilkee on 13 August 1906 to Mountanville House in Dublin, I did some more investigating. The Irish Times reporting on the 4 August 1906, that "The Lord Chief Baron of Ireland and Miss Palles have left Dublin for London. They intend to spend the summer vacation on the Continent" was indeed fictitious news.

On the 11 August 1906, "Christopher Baron Pallis", age 74, Irish, arrived in Boston, Massachusetts on the S.S. Republic which had departed Liverpool. On this trip, he was traveling with Matthew J. Bourke, of the King's Bench, but in 1905 he took his niece, Elizabeth Palles. In fact, from 1905 until 1910 Lord Chief Baron Palles travelled to North America annually on his summer vacation. Mostly to New York, but once also to Boston and Quebec. The trip in 1905 with his niece, who was reported incorrectly as his daughter, received the most press:
The visit of the Right Hon. Christopher Palles, or, as some of the American papers have styled him, "Lord Chief Baron of Exchequer in Ireland Palles" (accompanied by his daughter), to New York, has supplied the irrepressible Yankee journalist with copy, but it was of anything but an exciting character. Here is about the most interesting passages the interviewer obtained from the Chief:—I am just over on a little yachting trip," said the Baron. "My daughter and myself will sail for the other side in one week. Yes, it is quite true that I am the last to hold the title of Lord Chief Baron. The object of the Judicature Act, which abolished the title, was to make all Judges of equal rank, except the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls. I live near Dublin, and I tell you it is a great place. Ireland has the best air of any place in the world, and if you don't believe it, just ask anybody who has been there, and he will tell you." The reporter adds — Despite his age, Baron Palles is an active man. He skipped about the deck attending to his baggage and assisting the Customs inspectors.

Dublin Daily Express, Monday 25 September 1905
Christopher Palles (age 73), Elizabeth Palles (age 42), and their domestic servant Annie Howard (age 29), arrived in New York, on the SS Cedric, on 10 September 1905. Their hotel was the Waldorf Astoria. They arrived back in Queenstown on 23 September 1905, also on the SS Cedric, its return voyage.

This summer vacation was typical of all the trips Chief Baron Palles took to North America. In his seventies, he appears to have enjoyed spending most of his time relaxing on the ship, first class, of course, and would stay perhaps only one week in the finest hotels.

The Lord Chief Baron, age 78, arrived in New York on the SS Celtic on 8 August 1910, his sixth trip to North America in six years. The SS Celtic was one of the "Big Four" of the White Star Fleet (Celtic, Cedric, Baltic, Adriatic) which were all common emigrant ships (see Tom McDowell emigration listings at the Clare Library). Below is an old postcard of the SS Celtic from 1902—it's huge:

SS Celtic postcard (1902).jpg
SS Celtic postcard (1902).jpg (163.39 KiB) Viewed 3751 times

The SS Celtic was 20,880 tons, 700 feet long, 75 feet wide.

Libby McNamara (#3 on my listing of page 33), age 15, arrived in New York from Liverpool on the sailing ship Grace McVea on 7 May 1850. The Grace McVea, built in 1849, was only 881 tons, 140 feet long, 30½ feet wide.

The experience of Libby McNamara crossing the Atlantic in 1850 as a famine emigrant would have very little in common with those Irish who arrived 50 and 60 years later on great steamships. Yet, in the program "Percy French, 1854 -- 1920, with Brendan O'Dowda" the song "Emigrant's Letter" (23:30 minute mark), about a Donegal lad leaving Ireland in 1910 , "In the grand Allen liner I'm sailing in style", was introduced with a discussion on the Great Famine and American wakes?

Getting back to my recent postcard purchase. The fact that Lord Chief Baron Palles was in Boston in 1906 when the postcard was mailed from Kilkee in County Clare, really narrows the possibilities as far as who is who. And upon a second look at the 1901 census, the recipient of the postcard, "Miss O'Neill" and "Dear M.", must be "Mary Neill", age 33, occupation "House Maid-Domestic Servant", born in County Wicklow. The owner of the "old evening coat" appears to have the initials "M" and "P", the "M" ends with a swirl, which at first I thought was an additional initial, but likely there are just the two initials. I reckon "M P" stands for "Master Palles" which is how the servants would have addressed, Christopher Palles, Jr., the adult son of Lord Chief Baron. The sender of the card, who signed the postcard "T. E", I reckon the "E" stands for Elizabeth as in Elizabeth Palles, the niece of Lord Chief Baron, who ran the household affairs of Mountanville House. And on this trip to Kilkee, she would have been the guardian of "Master Palles" and thus it makes perfect sense that if her cousin was cold at Kilkee, that she would send for the old coat that he wore on winter evenings. And Elizabeth Palles would have been used to leaving notes of instruction to their many domestic servants at Mountanville House. Not sure about the "T.", possibly the most she could manage of "Thank you"? The Kilkee postcard could not be more annotated if it was Ulysses by James Joyce. The only remaining mystery is the identity of the three socially distanced men standing upon the Natural Bridge at Ross in Kilkee.

At the Clare Spring Assizes in 1897, the 23 members of the Grand Jury were from the great landed estates in County Clare, presumably mostly Protestants. So I was a little surprised to learn that the Lord Chief Baron was a Catholic.
The Lord Chief Baron and Miss Palles gave their usual Christmas entertainments to the children of Dundrum Parish on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Four hundred and ninety children were regaled and sent home loaded with gifts and prizes.

Irish Times, Thursday, 21 December 1905
Christopher Palles attended the Jesuit run Clongowes Wood College in County Kildare, and then Trinity College, Dublin. James Joyce also attended Clongowes Wood College from 1888 until 1892 when his father could no longer afford the tuition. Lord Chief Baron Christopher Palles would later become president of the Clongowes Union, an alumni organization.
At the annual general meeting held at Clongowes Wood College on Sunday the Lord Chief Baron announced his intention to present a gold medal yearly for excellence in mathematical studies. Referring to Dublin University, the Chief Baron and Trinity College was now open to all, and for those scholars who wished to obtain a fellowship in Trinity College mathematics was essential. As in the generality of schools, there were students who desired a fellowship in Trinity College, the subject of mathematics must necessarily be made at least a first-class subject, if not the most prominent school.
Londonderry Sentinel, 6 June 1906
Several Irish newspapers tried to stir up trouble with this speech of Chief Baron. Apparently, although the Catholic graduates of Clongowes Wood College could now attend Trinity College, they were not eligible to apply for a fellowship — Chief Baron would have to clarify his remarks in the newspapers. The winner of the Palles Gold Medal in Mathematics would be announced annually in the newspapers. His niece, Elizabeth Palles, who died in 1925, bequeathed "£300 to her trustees on trust for investment, and to apply the income for the presentation of a medal, to be called the "Palles medal," each year to encourage proficiency in Mathematics at Clongowes College, stating that this prize was instituted by her late uncle, the Lord Chief Baron Palles, and that she had continued it since his death, and desired that it should be perpetuated." (Kildare Observer, 11 July 1925). I wonder if the "Palles medal" has continued to this day. In 2018, the auction house Whyte's sold a Clongowes Wood College gold medal in mathematics for €1,400. ... offset=314

Sheila, in 1904, June of 1904, do you know that story about chief Baron Palles? It was at the royal university dinner. Everything was going swimmingly . . .

On Sunday, under the most delightfully agreeable circumstances, the annual general meeting of the Clongowes Union took place at the College. There is no event of the kind that has a fascination, especially to those immediately interested, greater than that which this gathering invariably suggests. The position of the College as a famous educational centre, the distinguished names which are on the roll of its past students, the equipment for success which it curriculum has been the means of imparting to its students through the splendid staff of its teachers, all tend to make the name of Clongowes one preeminently great. Much has often been said and written of the pleasant social side of the reunion. Indeed, the subject is one of a tempting nature, for it means the bringing together of many former pupils in pleasant intercourse after years of separation in the battle of life, of younger students to fight their school controversies over again, and of the parents and friends to join once again in kindly greeting with the Jesuit Fathers, who never forget those who have been under their care, and are most assuredly never forgotten by those whose proud privilege it has been to have had them for their friends and guides.

A special train left Kingsbridge at half-past eleven o'clock with over a hundred and sixty members of the Union and guests. The drive from Sallins was, as usual, an experience of some enjoyment and merriment, and, on this occasion of unlimited dust. But an eloquent penman would revel in a description of the hawthorn hedgerows, white and red, the drive through the famous wooded approach to the great College, and the sylvan beauties which the scene on all sides presents. But by this time all that may well be taken for granted. Suffice it therefore to say that the Very Rev. Rector, Father James Brennan, S J, and the community welcomed the visitors with the "Cead Mile Failte," and that everybody was delighted with the opportunity given of reviving one of the most delightful experiences of all the year.

At the annual meeting of the Union in the Aula Maxima the chair was occupied by the President, Lord Chief Baron Palles.

. . . [reading of minutes from last meeting, membership at about 160, re-election of officers, committee members, long speeches] . . .

The President [Lord Chief Baron Palles] said it would not be right on such a day for him to occupy their time more than a few minutes, and he would, therefore, do no more than to ask their acceptance of a vote of thanks to the Very Rev Rector, Father Brennan and the [Jesuit] Community for their kindness in allowing them all to assemble there that day, and for the uniform, assistance they had give to the Union (applause). This Union would not exist if it were not for the kindness of the Rector and the Community in allowing them to assemble there (hear, hear). The Clongowes Union without the privilege of meeting in the College would be nothing. It would be, indeed, like the play of Hamlet with the part of the Prince of Denmark left out (hear, hear): and speaking as he did to persons who had been during the greater part of their lives—he did not say identified with—but certainly very closely acquainted with the body of Jesuits, it would be idle for him to say more. He, therefore, proposed the thanks of the meeting to the Rector and the Community. The members of Union ought to congratulate themselves on having so successfully encountered the difficulties that they were all aware of having met them during the course of the year. An epidemic [smallpox] in a school so large as this was always a difficulty of very considerable magnitude, and they would all be glad to hear—if they were not already aware of it—that, notwithstanding the existence of that epidemic, the College continues to progress with equal, if not increased, acceptance from the public (hear, hear). Notwithstanding an epidemic of a character which they were aware very often reduces its numbers to one-half or one-fourth the College had hardly been put in a condition that students could be put in condition that students could be re-invited to it when the applications or acceptances were more even than the Community could comply with. He cordially proposed a vote of thanks to the Rector and Community of Clongowes (applause).

The Very Rev Rector, who was received with applause, said he once more returned to the Lord Chief Baron their hearty and grateful thanks for his kind vote of thanks. This vote of thanks, indeed, improved as the years went on. The Union was now a strong and lusty youth, and it would never have reached that most admirable stage of perfection, but for the lead, the wisdom, and the kindness of the Lord Chief Baron (applause), aided no doubt by the brilliant talents and devotion of Dr Joseph McGrath (hear, hear). He took this opportunity of welcoming again the Lord Chief Baron, and he hoped he might long, indeed, hold the position of their leader and President (applause). They hoped he would long fill the chair he now occupied (applause). His Lordship was good enough to allude to the efforts made to meet the [smallpox] epidemic that broke out there last Christmas term. Well, they had done what they could (hear, hear). But he would like to assure them that they never would have succeeded in meeting the position of the college in the country if it were not for the splendid spirit and the kind sympathy and co-operation which they received from the parents of the pupils of the College (hear, hear). If the College was in the position it occupied to-day—and he hoped it had not gone back an inch (hear, hear)—It was due mainly to the kind support of the parents. He assured them that during the epidemic things came under his notice in the support of parents that were heroic, and publicly and gratefully and will full heart he thanked them all on the splendid support they had extended to the College, and the practical sympathy they had given to it in the hour of its trial (applause). He wished to say one word more in conclusion—namely, to return sincere thanks to the new and valued the College has secure in Sir Charles Cameron (applause). He was glad to publicly take the opportunity of returning him thanks, for it was to his efforts and those of his skilled staff that the epidemic was blotted out completely (applause). Therefore it was but right that they should return Sir Charles their thanks for his kind assistance in their hour of trial (applause).

. . . [letters of regret for not being able to attend] . . .

Subsequently the members and their friends were entertained at luncheon in the gymnasium, which was very gaily decorated. The following was the menu:—Salade a la Russe, cotelettes de bœuf a la Francaise, poulet a la Normandie, jambon de Limerick, langue de bœuf, agneau. Entremets—Gelee, Maraschino, Noyau, Macedoine de fruits, creme Italienne tartes de fruits, Grosseilles, poires, apricots, prunes. Dessert—Claret, claret rup, hock cup, port, sherry, mineral waters.

. . . [sporting events, 100 yard race etc] . . .

The band of the 11th (Prince Albert's Own) Hussars played a capital selection of popular promenade music during the afternoon.

The following were present or invited—The Lord Chief Baron and Miss Palles, Surgeon and Mrs M'Ardle, Count Plunkett, Countess Plunkett . . .[long list of names] . . .

The Freeman's Journal, Dublin, Monday, 6 June 1904
#1 Betsey, #2 Eliza, #3 Libby McNamara, To Be Continued Later

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Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Sduddy » Sun Nov 21, 2021 11:20 am

Hi Jimbo

Thank you for your explanation of the jury system. I had only a very poor grasp of it.

I agree with you that the experience of Libby McNamara in 1850 would have had very little in common with that of people who sailed to America 50 or 60 years later. I agree that Brendan O’Dowda’s preamble to the song Emigrant’s Letter should not have conflated the experience of the early emigrants with that of the later emigrants. And I’m sure there were many emigrants, in both sets, who were not in the least bit misty-eyed when leaving Ireland, but all emigrants, I imagine, experience hurt and loneliness, and it was this well of loneliness that the songwriters drew from, and which brought us so many songs for over a hundred years, starting with Tom Moore’s The last glimpse of Erin (c1834) and going right up to Richard (Dick) Farrelly’s The Isle of Innisfree (1950).
I think Percy French was using poetic license when he brought “cutting the corn in Creeslagh today” into the story of an emigrant leaving Queenstown in 1910. He probably never imagined that his story would be checked out and that it would be found to be quite unlikely. I imagine that he had heard the phrase at one time, and jotted it in his notebook, meaning to use it in the future - the moment came with the Emigrant’s Letter. The image of the golden corn lights up every verse and that’s what makes the song memorable.
Going for the position of the most sentimental of all those songs is Johnny Patterson’s Goodbye Johnny Dear, but it also has the most grasping, most flinty line of any song ever: “Don’t forget your dear old mother far across the sea; Write a letter now and then and send her all you can.” Truly, those poor emigrants were under a lot of pressure to send money home.
All those songs were very unfashionable from the 1960s on, but the singer, Frank Hart, came to a better understanding them when he went to America. I find Frank Hart’s singing voice too nasal, but I think his comments here on John Bowman’s radio programme are good:

Jimbo, I had never heard of Chief Baron Palles until I read the piece by Myles Dungan. Yes, it’s clear the person who needed the evening jacket in Kilkee was his son – thanks to your research and your annotation of the postcard.
Count Plunkett and Countess Plunkett, who attended the dinner in 1904, were the parents Joseph Plunkett, one of the leaders of the 1916 Rising.


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Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Jimbo » Tue Nov 23, 2021 4:19 am

Hi Sheila,

I reckon Percy French probably never imagined that we would view his songs through the lens of Brendan O'Dowda, a very thick lens. Not only has O'Dowda conflated "The Emigrant's Letter" with the Great Famine, but he modified the original lyrics to be much more sentimental. The emigrant wrote in the letter to his friend Danny that if Katey Farrell, the sweetheart he left behind in Donegal, "is courted by Patsey or Mick, put a word in for me with a lump of a stick, don't kill Patsey outright, he has no sort of chance, but Mickey's a rogue you might murder at once". The Irish emigrant on his way to Quebec, and thankfully not to the United States, was a psychopath. This entire verse was eliminated in "The Emigrant's Letter" popularized by Brendan O'Dowda. The origin myth and lyrics of "Are you right there, Michael?" appear to have gotten a similar treatment, which is worth exploring further. But first my riddle. Are you ready?

—Wait a moment, professor MacHugh said, raising two quiet claws. We mustn't be led away by words, by sounds of words. We think of Rome, imperial, imperious, imperative.

He extended elocutionary arms from frayed stained shirt-cuffs, pausing:
—What was their civilization? Vast, I allow: but vile. Coasæ: sewers. The Jews in the wilderness and on the mountaintop said: It is meet to be here. Let us build an altar to Jehovah. The Roman, like the Englishman who follows in his footsteps, brought to every new shore on which he set his foot (on our shore he never set it) only his cloacal obsession. He gazed about him in his toga and he said: It is meet to be here. Let us construct a watercloset.
—Which they accordingly did do, Lenehan said. Our old ancient ancestors, as we read in the first chapter of Guinness's, were partial to the running stream.
—The were nature's gentlemen, J.J. O'Molloy murmured. But we have also Roman law.
—And Pontius Pilate is its prophet, professor MacHugh responded.
—Do you know that story about chief Baron Palles? J. J. O'Molloy asked. It was at the royal university dinner. Everything was going swimmingly . . .
—First my riddle, Lenehan said. Are you ready?
Mr. O'Madden Burke, tall in copious grey of Donegal tweed, came in from the hallway. Stephen Dedalus, behind him, uncovered as he entered. . . .

Ulysses, James Joyce, from episode 7, Aeolus, (p 129)
Ulysses has sat on my bookshelf for many years. During the 2020 lockdowns it had been a goal to finally read it, but I never got around to it. My edition states that it is the "#1 Novel of the Twentieth Century", but I have to wonder how many people have actually read the book. It's very difficult with so many references that I don't understand. So was surprised to read that Chief Baron Palles gets a mention in Ulysses and obtained an annotated version from the library.
7.502 (131.26), * chief Baron Pallis — Christopher Palles (1831-1920), Irish barrister and lord chief baron of the Exchequer, that is, the chief judge in the court of Exchequer, a division of the High Court of Justice on Ireland.

7.503 (131:27) , the royal university — Not an institution of higher learning, but an examining and degree-granting institution in Dublin. It was established by the University Education Act of 1879 and organized in 1880 to align higher education in Ireland with English academic standards.

Ulysses Annotated, by Dan Gifford (1988)

Very disappointing that there was no explanation whatsoever about "the story about chief Baron Palles". The events in Ulysses all occur on 16 June 1904. When Lenehan asks "do you know about that story" which occurred at the "royal university dinner", surely Joyce is referring to the Clongowes Union luncheon held at Clongowes Wood College on 5 June 1904. However, from the Freeman's Journal article (the "Aeolus" episode takes place at the office of the Freeman's Journal), everything appears to have gone "swimmingly" or as the FJ article states "delightfully". Joyce never explains the anecdote about the "story" in Ulysses because, I reckon, everything went very well at the Clongowes reunion.

The annotations for Roman law and Pontius Pilate were interesting:
7.500 (131:23), Roman law — The blend of common law and legislation that governed the citizens of Rome. In modern English usage, the term "civil law" designates all the existing systems of private law that are in the main based on Roman law.

7.501 (131.24), Pontius Pilate is its prophet — As Jesus was the prophet whose "kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36), so Pilate is the prophet whose kingdom is of this world. When asked to condemn Jesus, Pilate asserts "I find in him no fault at all" (John 18:38). In spite of this legal finding, Pilate condemned Jesus in order to forestall what Pilate regarded as the threat of insurrection in Jerusalem. MacHugh's remark echoes the Moslem profession of faith: "There is no god but God [Allah] and Mohammed is his Prophet."

When O'Molloy and MacHugh together state that Ireland has Roman law and Pontius Pilate is its prophet (judge), I believe that this is a further pun conjoining "Pontius Pilate" with "Palles", who was frequently described as "the greatest of Ireland's judges of the 19th and early 20th centuries". Pontius Pilate Palles; imperial, imperious, imperative; bullockbefriending bard (the last sentence under "The Grandeur that was Rome"). I could be wrong on this theory, or perhaps the connection is so obvious that it doesn't get a mention by the Ulysses scholars in their annotations.

But upon searching the British newspaper archive, my theory on "Pontius Pilate Palles" is absolutely correct. This name was first coined in 1887 by the parish priest Canon Thomas Doyle of County Wexford during the plan of campaign (1886-1891). Canon Doyle was known for being politically active and an agrarian agitator:
The pen of Canon Doyle, of Ramagrange, has assuredly not lost its force or cunning. In a letter addressed to the promoters of the Enniscorthy meeting he deals with the political situation in a characteristically bold and truthful way. There is no beating about the bush, no turning aside from the truth. The very rev. canon goes right direct for the author of all those harrowing atrocities, the recital of which is making honest English Conservatives declare that if the Government persist in lending the forces of the Crown to assist in the perpetration of those criminal enormities, these Tories will at once become ultra-Radical. Chief Baron Palles is the man on whom rests the responsibility of egging on the Government to connivance at the misdeeds of unfeeling landlords. This cold-blooded official [Palles] Canon Doyle transfixes with a historical appellation, the appropriateness of which everybody must admit, "Pontius Pilate Palles" is not only pleasantly alliterative as a phrase, but the comparison suggested has the advantage of being borne out in all its features. Pontius Pilate was a great upholder of the strict letter of the law, rather than infringe which he proved himself ready to allow the innocent man to be punished. "It won't do," says Canon Doyle, "for Pontius Palles to wash his hands like his prototype and say he is innocent, let the Parliament look to it." If an injustice is done at all by fixing the name Pontius Pilate on the parchment-hearted, ink-blooded legal pedant, we believe that the Roman governor is decidedly the sufferer, as he showed some disinclinations to pass the unjust sentence. But Mr. Palles absolutely revelled in the work, and not content with doing with savage ferocity the business which came before him in the course of the assizes, he hounded on the Government to take part in assisting cruel landlords in the work of incendiarism and extermination. There is a ring about the name Pontius Pilate Palles—a creepiness, a cold, sour suggestiveness that makes us think it has hit the mark and will stick. Pontius Pilate Palles—a right good name, and one which, we dare to say, will not soon lapse from public memory.

Dublin Weekly Nation, Saturday, 22 January 1887
In July 1889 Canon Doyle and six other local men were charged with criminal conspiracy to prevent the payment of rent in a proclaimed district of County Wexford, where tenants on the estates of Colonel Charles G. Tottenham adopted the plan of campaign under Doyle's counsel after their demand of a 25 per cent rent reduction was refused. The case against the men was dismissed in early August as all crown witnesses refused to give evidence. (Dictionary of Irish Biography, link above)
Ramsgrange, Arthurstown, August 28, 1889

DEAR SIR—Be so kind as to allow me to thank the Enniscorthy Board of Guardians for their too complimentary resolution regarding the defeat of the Government in the late Arthurstown prosecutions. We are told in the Acts of the Apostles that . . .[a long speech questioning why the newly freed prisoners (including David Foley, Father John Browne, Mr. Wm O'Brien, and Canon Doyle himself) had been imprisoned in the common jail] . . .Yet Mr. O'Brien, for having advised this most natural, just, and proper course is to spend four months in "the common jail." "However," says Removable Irwin [a nickname, but not sure who], unctuously, "that is the law, and we magistrates are bound to obey the law, whether that law be a good law or a bad law, a just law or an unjust law." And he piously fortifies himself by the definition ex-cathedra of Chief Baron Palles. Why is this man "clothed in purple and fine linen," and carrying on his shoulders the ermine-symbol of purity and truth, suffered unreprimanded to preach false doctrine from the very seat of justice? The great St. Thomas—"the Angels of the Schools"—a man admitted even by those outside the Church, to have possessed one of the greatest and most comprehensive intellects the world has ever produced, say, "and unjust law is not law, but a corruption of law"—"corruptio legis." Yet the angel of the Four Courts (it seems a very pious man) declares we are bound to administer "a corruption of law!"

Pontius Pilate said, "I find no cause in this just man, do you look to it," and he sought to wash his hand out of the dreadful business.

Pontius Palles says, I see no cause why these honest, upright tenants should be evicted—why "sentence of death" should be pronounced on them, yet I hand them over to the executioners. For the life of me I cannot see the difference between Pilate and Palles, except greatly in favour of the former. Pilate condemned and disapproved of the wickedness and sought to wash his hands out of it. Palles aids and abets the guilty conduct of the oppressors and destroyers of the poor—he signs writs and warrants for the destruction of countless innocent children, and so far from being ashamed of his unholy ministry and of trying to wash the crimson stain from his hands, he ascends to his richly furnished oratory, and from his luxurious prie dieu, raises his eyes to heaven and thanks God his is not like the rest of men. Pilate was chief governor of Judea and was afraid of losing his position and the friendship of Caesar. Palles is chief baron of the Exchequer, and is afraid to lose five thousand a year, paid quarterly, and is entre to the Castle. Pilate weakly permitted the Jews to commit a crime the real guilt of which they did not know—"they know not what they do." Palles not merely tolerates but actively and efficiently aids and abets a crime—the oppression of the poor, which cries to heaven for vengeance. "I was hungry and you gave me not to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me not to drink. I was naked and you did not clothe me. I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me." Eh ! There is not one word here about evicting the poor, about trampling on the poor, about crushing the poor, about "grinding the faces of the poor," about scattering the poor to the four winds of heaven, about sweeping the poor like vermin from the land, and driving innocent little boys and girls into the back lanes, slums and hells, of London, Liverpool and New York. If those who only neglect the poor are doomed to eternal torments into what hell will the oppressors of the poor, their aiders and abettors descend ? I'd like to know Chief Baron Palles' opinion on the subject.—
Yours, &c.,

Wexford People, Saturday, 31 August 1889
The nickname "Pontius Pilate Palles", despite having a nice ring to it, doesn't appear to have been used by anyone except for Canon Thomas Doyle, and soon lapsed from the public memory. The above article in August 1889 appears to be its last usage in an Irish newspaper. James Joyce was known to have an excellent memory and knowledge of historical events. Joyce obviously had knowledge of "Pontius Pilate Palles", but in Ulysses left as a puzzle how the Chief Baron Palles was connected to Pontius Pilate. "That story" anecdote by J.J. O'Molloy was never about the "royal university dinner" because everything in fact did go "swimmingly" at the Clongowes Union luncheon on 5 June 1904. This was just a clever ruse by James Joyce to throw the Ulysses "scholars" off the scent from the true story—that Lord Chief Baron during his controversial court judgments during the plan of campaign in 1887 and 1889 was called out by Canon Thomas Doyle for being "Pontius Pilate Palles". Mysteriously, it was only due to my purchase of a postcard mailed on 13 August 1906 from Kilkee in County Clare to Mountanville House in Dublin requesting an old evening coat belonging to the son of the Lord Chief Baron that this puzzle has been finally solved.

Reflect, ponder, excogitate, reply.

“I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant.” James Joyce

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Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Sduddy » Tue Nov 23, 2021 11:26 am

Hi Jimbo

Well done indeed finding that connection between "Pontius Pilate" in Ulysses and Chief Baron Palles. You are now a Joycean scholar. This is what comes of buying postcards.

I am reminded that, when searching for something else (on the internet), I found that there's a reference to Micks Hotel in Finnegans Wake (Chapter 3): "When Phislin Phil wants throws his lip 'tis pholly to be fortune flonting and whoever's gone to mix Hotel by the salt say water there's nix to nothing we can do for he's never again to sea."
Jimbo, I've only ever read parts of Ulysses* and have never set myself the task of reading the whole, because it would be a task, and much too difficult for me. In 2020, I did not set any goal for myself, but I achieved one by chance: I came upon Tibetan Foothold, by Dervla Murphy, and was hooked. I went on to read 23 more of her books, including Full Tilt, her first book, which I had read long ago (she cycled on her own to India in 1965). She is a great travel writer. She has survived many dangerous situations and will have her 90th birthday this Sunday (28th November).

*I've read the "Cyclops" episode, famous for its caricature of a nationalist, thought to be based on Michael Cusack (a founder of the Gaelic Athletic Association, Cusack was born in Carron, Co. Clare):

Thank you for that interesting posting on the never-told story of Pontius Pilate Palles. If it had been told, I fear Palles would not have come well out of it. But J.J. O'Molloy never got to tell the story, so I think you have done all the excogitating we can do.


P.S. Have you seen the transcription of Glendree National School enrolment book (1904 - 1921), by Jane O'Halloran, on What's New? I've only just now noticed it: ... ree_ns.htm

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Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Jimbo » Sun Nov 28, 2021 10:42 pm

Hi Sheila,

Thank you for the reply and sharing the reference to Mick's Hotel by the salt say water in Finnegans Wake. As a newly minted Joycean scholar I've been reading "Parody, James Joyce and an Irish Tradition" by Vivian Mercier that appeared in the periodical Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review (Volume 45, no. 178 (1956): 194–218). The entire third chapter (pages 209 through 215) relates to the parody by James Joyce of Percy French, particularly of "Phil the Fluter's Ball" in Finnegans Wake. "Are ye right there, Michael?" was only parodied twice (pages 66, 296). Also, "Come back, baddy wrily, to Bullydamestough!". Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review is freely available on the jstor website, you just need to register:

In his opening paragraph describing Percy French, Mercier states how a "London publisher pirated and copyrighted the song [Abdullah Bulbul Ameer], so that French never earned a penny by it and never even had the satisfaction of being acknowledged as its author". This was published in a 1956 journal, so the wikipedia article for Percy French stating that this was discovered by "research in the 1980s by the Irish tenor Brendan O'Dowda" is clearly incorrect. These many obvious mistakes on the wikipedia entries associated with Percy French and the West Clare Railway; the random facts such as "the case has been reenacted by the Corofin Dramatic Society"; and source references with links to fictional reenactments of the trial that are for sale on Kindle, all led me to question the reliability of anything stated. But Percy French at the Ennis quarter sessions in January 1897 did indeed sue the Clare West Railway for lost ticket sales for his Kilkee entertainment on 10 August 1896 due to the train being so late — thank you Sheila for providing this evidence. Looking forward to see what the Lord Chief Baron will have to say on the matter when the Clare West Railway appealed the earlier verdict at the Clare Spring Assizes in March 1897. The Dictionary of Irish Biography describes the belief that Percy French was sued by the Clare West Railway for libel over "Are you right there, Michael?" as "the apocryphal myth". The origin of this myth was interesting to research:

Myth: (1) late for Kilkee entertainment (2) Percy French writes "Are you right there, Michael?" (3) West Clare railway sues Percy French for libel, and loses (4) Percy French counter sues and wins.

Reality: (1) late for Kilkee entertainment (2) Percy French sues West Clare railway and wins (3) West Clare Railway appeals and loses (4) Percy French writes "Are you right there, Michael?"

First, I have a strong suspicion that the version of the song popularized by Brendan O'Dowda may have deleted at least one verse, and perhaps several. Mrs. Amy Brady, a Kilkee Commissioner, testified as a witness in 1907 at the railway commission and made reference to lyrics of the song "Are your right there, Michael?" (see testimony a few postings back). But she also "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 its cage, and the tram stopped while she tried to capture the bird (laughter)". This "interesting anecdote" sounds identical to the below description of song lyrics by Percy French noted in an American newspaper back in 1912:

You have often heard in the United States of the light railways made in certain parts of Ireland, where it is impossible to lay the ordinary railways. They have been tremendous boons to the people living in isolated places, who, before their institution, were unable to market their farm produce.

Judge Wakeley, a humorist on the Irish bench, made the court laugh the other day by telling a story of these railways, which showed that in some instances the designation "light" might be applied to them in a double sense.

. . .[a story by Judge Wakely about the branch line from Enfield and Edenderry in County Meath] . . .

This is not the first time that fun has been poked at our Irish railways, both the light and the ordinary kind. The West Clare railway has become world-famous through a comic song written about it by Percy French, a clever Irish writer of comic songs. Anyone really conversant with the conditions in Ireland would not be offended at the fun which is gently poked in the song, but would laugh heartily over it. This style of Irish humor is quite different from stage Irish buffoonery, which we naturally object to because it depletes an Irishman as a cross between an ape and a gorilla. But the characters in Percy French's song are true to life. The counterpart of the guard, who, in Mr. French's song, stops the train for the lady passenger whose canary has flown out of the window, and who accompanied all the passengers, engine driver and porters in the search, has often been met by the writer during her visits to the West.

Like the Spaniards the Irish hate to be bound down by red tape, and consider that the graces and courtesies of life are more important than keeping strictly to rules and regulations. If an Irishman had to choose between obliging a lady and having his train on time he would certainly choose the former alternative.

Pittsburgh Daily, Pennsylvania, 16 June 1912
Similar to "The Emigrant's Letter" sung by Brendan O'Dowda which deleted the verse about murdering Patsey and Mick back in Donegal, I reckon O'Dowda's version of "Are you right there, Michael?" deleted an entire verse about a lost parrot which delayed the train to Kilkee. The North Down Museum in Bangor has the sheet music of the original lyrics by Percy French and music by Dr. Collisson for "Are your right there, Michael?" in their Percy French archive (box 22), which would hopefully confirm if the lady passenger and her missing parrot were included in the original song published in 1902.

In 1921, the myth that the Clare West Railway had sued Percy French for libel had not yet been created:
Mention of songs brings to mind the fact that when the late Mr. Percy French achieved success with his amusing skit on the undeveloped condition of some backward Irish railways, the Board of Directors responsible for the management of the line known as the West Clare, running from Ennis to Kilkee was said to have actually had it in contemplation to apply for legal stoppage of the song; but the idea was soon relinquished, and "Are you right there, Michael?" is still a prime favourite among exponents of humorous compositions. The little playlet, "A Minute's Wait," so frequently performed at the Abbey Theatre, presents a marked similarity to the theme of Mr. French's song.

Irish Society, Dublin, Saturday, 16 April 1921
An American newspaper reporter from the Boston Globe passed through County Clare in 1946 and provides the first reporting of the myth that Percy French was sued by the West Clare Railway for libel. By 1946, this myth might have been decades old, but this was the first I could find of any reference in a newspaper. The article is long but I found his description of shortages and their impact on Irish transportation in the post WWII period interesting.
Shure, and He's Bogged Down in Athenry, Galway
But There's a Bit of Poetry and Castle and a Broth of a Boy Before the Train
By William de Lue

Athenry, County Galway—Last night in Limerick, I was talking with a couple of commercial travelers out of Dublin, I remarked that I expected to go to Westport next day.

"By bus?" they wanted to know, and I said no, I couldn't get to Galway, there were no buses from Galway to Westport on Mondays—and tomorrow would be Monday.

"So I'm going by train," I said.
They shook their heads and laughed very sadly.
"Well," said one, "you'll see Athenry."
And then they laughed again.

They were not casting aspersions on this little town, which once was a great town—Ath-na-Riagh, the Ford of Kings—but on the railway service that landed me here. For here I am, and here I have been for these last four hours, waiting for a train from Dublin which is to carry me on to the north.

Eire's railroad and bus services are still suffering from the shortages of coal and gasoline—shortages which, at one time in the war days, were so acute that all transportation was close to shutdown.

Things are better now—much better: but schedules are still restricted. The long wait at Athenry is right in the time table; and the four-a-week buses are all that limited supplies of "petrol" can provide on some routes.

England Sending Poor Coal
"England's giving us some additional coal now," said a man who road up in the compartment with me, "though it's about the poorest quality there is. But you should have been riding when things were bad. At one time there was nothing but turf to burn in the engines—turf, with a few bits of wood. They couldn't keep steam up, and the trains just crawled, the stopped, and crawled again. The some coal came through and in a way it was better. But the coal was so poor it clogged the grates. It was quite a usual thing to have trains stop for an hour or so while the enginemen dumped the fires, cleaned the grates and got up steam again."

Our train this morning from Limerick, which carried on bravely through County Clare, wasn't too bad. At least it got us into Athenry well in advance of lunch time; and if it was not exactly speedy, neither was it in a class with its one-time notorious branch line, the West Clare Railroad.

That Old West Clare Line
It is told of the West Clare line—which ran, and perhaps still runs [it closed in 1961], off to the westward from Ennis, to meander a 60-mile course along the Clare coast to Kilkee and Kilrush on the Shannon's estuary—that it had an heroic disdain of time schedules. So William Percy French, poet, songster and shanachie, having ridden on it, promptly added to his entertainment repertory a little ditty about life on the West Clare. The general idea of the piece can be gathered from a few of its lines.

Are ye right there, Michael, are ye right?
D'ye think that we'll be there before the night?
Och! it all depinds on whither
The ould ingin houlds togither—
An' it might then, Michael, sure it might!

The railroad sued French, claiming he was ruining the line's reputation and business. The judge threw the action out. Then French sued the railroad, claiming it had got him to Kilkee too late to fill an engagement—and he collected damages.

The ride to Athenry is through a pleasant countryside—the rolling hills of Clare with their neat farm cottages; home, you'll perhaps recall to that
Mister O'Brien from Clare,
— How quare!
It's little for blushing they care
— Down there.

who wooed the famous Widow Malone of Charles Lever's song, and has ever since been famous.

Through Gort
As we go north beyond Ennis the country becomes bolder; a stony country, with its lands marked out by walls that would be the pride of any New England hillside. We come to Gort, in Galway, whence the name of that line of peers of which Lord Gort of World War II fame is sixth. And then in due course to Athenry. . . . .

The Boston Globe, Massachusetts, Tuesday, 9 April 1946
I reckon it was the 1961 production of the musical "The Golden Years", "the unique story of how seven of Percy French's best-known songs came to be written", which promoted the "apocryphal myth" that Percy French was sued by the West Clare Railway for libel. The musical may also explain why the train delay caused by the search for the lost parrot may have been dropped from the song "Are you right there, Michael?" as I reckon that scene would be difficult for a theatre production (would need to see the original lyric sheet from 1902 to confirm this theory).
Liverpool Premiere For "The Golden Years"

The name of Percy French may not be familiar to many people, particularly the younger ones, but he wrote more best-selling songs than any present-day "pop" song writer can claim and many of them, such as "Phil the Fluter's Ball" and "The Mountains of Mourne" are still sung all over the world.

Percy French and his songs are the subject of a new musical, "The Golden Years," written by TV playwright Donal Giltinan with musical settings by Eric Rogers which has its premiere at the Royal Court beginning on Monday.

In its cast are Barrie Ingram, Lally Bowers, Jane Wenham, Denise Hurst, John Hewer and Milo O'Shea. The producer is Denis Carey and sets have been designed by Pat Robertson.

"The Golden Years" is described as neither sordid nor sugary, but full of comedy and the joy of life in the more spacious days of the 1880's.

Plays with a background in Irish life rarely seem to get away from the stock figures of the peasant, the tinker, the slum dweller. The other side of the picture is seldom dealt with—the life of the Anglo-Irish, at that time enjoying the delights of the most carefree and timeless existence in Europe.

Percy French belonged to both sides. Graduating from Trinity College, Dublin, he broke with his career as a civil engineer and with his background in county society and as a travelling entertainer and song-writer became the most sought-after figure in his field not only in his own country, but also all over the United Kingdom.

The basis of the book of "The Golden Years" is the unique story of how seven of Percy French's best-known songs came to be written, and the various contretemps which they involved him in. And since French had so many facets to his talent and led so uniquely varied a life, the story, opening in Trinity College, Dublin, proceeds by way of Punchestown Races, Dublin street scenes of the period, a tennis party in a county town, a Jubilee picnic, the editorial office of a humorous periodical and an eventful journey on the famous West Clare Railway to the hilarious scenes in court when Percy French is sued by the railway company for libel, alleged in one of his songs.

Some seventy years ago [in fact, fifty years] at the Savage Club a send-off dinner was given to the young song writer and entertainer, Percy French, on the eve of his first American tour. Recently a small gathering met in the Savage Club to launch the new musical based on the uniquely comic circumstances of Percy French's career. The concerned were Donal Giltinan, Eric Rogers, Pat Robertson, Denis Carey and Max Kester, whose initiative had brought them together to meet Louis Elliman of the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, who for many years had wished to present a musical play on this theme.

It is appropriate that Liverpool should have the premiere of this new musical for Percy French died at Formby while on a visit to a friend, the vicar, Canon J B Richardson, and is buried there.

Liverpool Echo, Friday, 23 June 1961
Sheila, your previous comment that these old songs were unfashionable in the 1960's was very evident in the next review by The Guardian newspaper. It also explains why the world premier of "The Golden Years" was in Liverpool and not Dublin.
The Golden Years
Royal Court, Liverpool

It is easy to understand why, but for a strike of back stage workers, this new musical by Donal Giltinan and Eric Rogers would have opened in Dublin instead of Liverpool. Only, one suspects, across the Irish Sea would its tired 'Oirishness and Phil-the-Flutery, which predates Synge let alone Behan, be tolerated.

It has been based on the life of Percy French, the Irish song writer whose ballads—he is best known for "Mountains of Mourne"—paved the way for all the sticky sentiment of "Galway Bay" sung by American crooners in assumed Irish accents. To be fair, however, he was also a comic-song writer with a vigour which is in the best Edwardian tradition. Perhaps the only merit of this musical is its reminder of the identity of the author of the splendidly irreverent "Abdul the Bulbul Amir."

Mr. Roger's original music stands little chance at the side of "Phil the Fluter's Ball," which received a first act encore, and the rest of French's music. Not that even on its own it would have been particularly distinctive and the best of the non-French numbers is a Cowardish piece about engineering's contribution to British imperialism. The singing depends on the nostalgia evoked by most of the numbers to lull the audience to uncritical applause.

And the dancing is unoriginal. Only some colourful settings and costumes provide a satisfactory distraction from the banalities of the stage.

John Mapplebeck.
The Guardian, London, 27 June 1961
"American crooners" must have included Bing Crosby who had a hit in 1947 with "Galway Bay". A very unkind review. I suspect that the Guardian reviewer would even have the same "sticky sentiment" criticism of the 1945 Christmas classic "The Bells of St. Mary's", my all-time favorite. "The Golden Years" musical moved to the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin later that summer. Bing Crosby and his wife attended a "Golden Years" performance in Dublin with the American ambassador in September 1961. Bing Crosby did not sing "Galway Bay" in an "assumed Irish accent":

In April 1962, a production of "The Golden Years" was both at the Arts Theatre in Belfast and the Royal Cinema in Roscommon (the birthplace of Percy French). The Belfast Telegraph reported that "Miss Ettie French, daughter of the late Percy French, crossed specially to Belfast last night for the performance of "The Golden Years" in the Arts Theatre. Today, Miss French travelled to Roscommon for a performance by an amateur company, and she will later go to Cork for a performance there" (Belfast Telegraph, 14 April 1962). I suspect there was a rivalry between the different productions since the "amateur company" in Roscommon included Brendan O'Dowda as Percy French and Milo O'Shea as Phil the Fluther (he had the same role in Liverpool), according to an advertisement for its upcoming 6th to 15th April run at the Royal Cinema (Sligo Champion, 31 March 1962).

When "The Golden Years" was performed at New Hall in Ennis by the Ennis Franciscan Musical Society in March of 1964, Percy French was played by Dermot Kelly and Phil the Fluther by Paddy Browne. ... years.html

#1 Betsey, #2 Eliza, #3 Libby McNamara, To Be Continued

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Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Sduddy » Tue Nov 30, 2021 11:19 am

Hi Jimbo,

Your continued interest in Percy French and the West Clare Railway makes me want to go to Ennis and check the Clare Journal of 8th March, 1897, but I must wait I think.

Your mention of Galway Bay reminded me of the somewhat older Galway Bay (sung here by Dolores Keane: ). I love that line “but time nor tide nor waters wide.” It was composed by Francis Arthur Fahy (1854 – 1935). He was born in Kinvara, Co. Galway in 1854, but it is only right that he be mentioned in Clare Past Forum as both his parents were from Co. Clare. His mother, Celia Marlborough, is usually described as being from near Gort (Co. Galway), but* gives Rathorpe as her birthplace. Rathorpe House stood in the townland of Attyslaney North in the parish of Kilkeedy (Tubber) and Rathorpe was often used as another name for the townlands of Attyslaney North and Attyslaney South. Griffith’s Valuation shows Patrick Marlborough leasing land from Patrick Geoghegan in Attyslaney South, and I think Celia might have been Patrick’s sister. I will allow that those Marlboroughs may have come from Co. Galway originally – when I visited Kilmacduagh I noticed their headstone there. Francis’s father, Thomas Fahy, was from a village called Burren (Boirinn) west of Kinvara, according to I think Burren is now an “unofficial” townland near New Quay, but it was once more important than New Quay - the Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland, 1845, describes New-Quay as a small harbour, in the vicinity of the village of Burren: ... y_1845.htm

Jimbo, I think Brendan O’Dowda, who did not have the benefit of the internet at the time that his programme on Percy French was made in the 1980s, sincerely believed that he had found the evidence for the story that Percy French’s song Abullah Bulbul Ameer had been pirated.


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Re: Information is wanted of Thomas McNamara, of Glandree,

Post by Jimbo » Mon Dec 06, 2021 5:07 am


This was an appeal by the West Clare Railway Company, from a decision of the County Court Judge, giving a decree of £10, in an action at the suit of Mr. Percy French, the well known entertainer, for loss and damage sustained by reason of respondent having been delayed whilst travelling on the line to Kilkee.

Mr Redmond Barry, B.L., and Mr Murphy, B.L., instructed by Mr W. Healy, soir, appeared for the appellants.

Mr H.C. Cullinan, B.L., instructed by Mr J. Cullinan, C.S., appeared for the plaintiff.

The plaintiff deposed that on the 10th day of August last he had advertised a variety entertainment at Kilkee, to commence at 8 p.m. o'clock. He arrived in Ennis from Dublin the same day, and left by the 12:30 train for Kilkee. The train was timed to arrive at Kilkee at 3:30 p.m. The train slowed up coming into Miltown Malbay, and pulled up altogether when it came into the station. He was compelled to remain there for five hours before he could proceed on his journey and when he arrived at Kilkee it was 8:30 o'clock. His luggage did not arrive until 9 o'clock, and consequently he could only give a part of his entertainment. When he arrived at the Concert Hall, Kilkee, he found the receipts were only £3, a large number of people having gone away for want of someone to open the doors in his absence. He had given performances in Kilkee before this occasion, and often realised £14 in a single night.

His Lordship [Lord Chief Baron Christopher Palles] asked what was the nature of the entertainment.

Plaintiff—The title of the entertainment was "Society Sketches."

His Lordship—It took in all objects?

Plaintiff—Very suitable for seaside resorts.

His Lordship—And no doubt the society were in Kilkee?

Cross-examined by Mr Barry—"Our Railways" was one of the items on the programme for that night (a laugh).

Plaintiff here remarked he had written a song on the West Clare railway in consequence of the mishap, and repeated a few lines as follows:—
If you want to get to Kilkee
You must go there by the sea,
And not by the wild West Clare.

(laughter). He meant to have the song sung at the next entertainment.

His Lordship—Do you mean to tell me you were so impressed by the incident that you wrote a song about it?

Plaintiff—Well, I was not impressed at the time (a laugh).

Cross-examination continued—He would probably have taken a car from Miltown, but he was told an engine was coming on to take them to Kilkee.

His Lordship said plaintiff was not bound to take a car. He had agreed to travel by the railway.

Plaintiff continued—I telephoned to my agent in Kilkee about the accident to the train, and told him I was going on.

His Lordship—You have read in Pickwick where he represents the trials on the stage?

Plaintiff—I have, my Lord.

His Lordship—Well, when you go back to give your next entertainment, take care you don't present this trial (laughter).

Mr George Hopkins, Locomotive Engineer, West Clare Railway, deposed that the engine attached to the train on the day in question was the best engine the company had. The driver of the train on that day in question found when he reached Lahinch that the water in the boiler was giving out and compelled to put up at Miltown-Malbay. He attributed the accident to some weeds having got into the injectors when the boiler was being filled with water.

Further evidence having been heard, His Lordship said he would look into the law, and reserved his decision.

Clare Journal, Monday, 8 March 1897 (per Percy French Archive)
Dublin Evening Telegraph, Wednesday, 10 March 1897 (nearly identical except for first sentence)
Hi Sheila, there is no longer any need to make a special trip to the Ennis library! A few weeks back I purchased a used copy of "A Picture of Percy French: an illustrated life of the Irish Songwriter, Entertainer, Poet and Painter" by Alan Tongue (Greystone Books, 1990) and it arrived yesterday. Fortunately the book includes copies of both Clare Journal news articles, the one you already posted and the one above. "A Picture of Percy French" is exceptionally well done utilizing family photos, newspaper clippings, engagement diaries and programs, music sheets, as well as his paintings. Many items are from the Percy French Society archive at the North Down Museum.

The appeal by the West Clare Railway at the Clare Spring Assizes in March 1897 appears to have been heard directly by Lord Chief Baron Palles, and did not pass through a grand jury and then a trial jury. Perhaps this was the norm for all civil cases? Percy French was not late for this hearing. The final outcome of the appeal is still unknown since Chief Baron Palles "would look into the law, and reserved his decision".

And searching the British Newspaper archive for "George Hopkins" (the locomotive engineer witness) in 1897 led to the Dublin Evening Telegraph article which was identical to the Clare Journal, except for the opening sentence. "Percy French" had been transcribed incorrectly by the newspaper archive. This solves the mystery why no Dublin newspapers appeared to have reported on the March 1897 appeal by the West Clare railway.

"A Picture of Percy French" is in chronological order, and "Are ye right there, Michael?" appears in 1901/1902, but unfortunately the complete lyrics are not provided, only the famous chorus. The original music sheet (cover page only), with music by Collisson, was included on the same page as the below paragraph:
Where are you for, man? Kilrush? Change at Moyasta Junction. Coming back to-night? — let me see if there's a train — 6:30, Saturdays only 8:00. Ay! if the Express is over an hour late you'll just catch it. Tickets ready! Tickets —lost your ticket! where are ye for? — Galway! —yer in the wrong train, man! Over the bridge with ye. Run, ye duck legged nonentity—that 's right, break yer neck! Howld on there Peter, there's another passenger for ye! Bedad he'd have missed the train if he hadn't slipped on the top of the stairs. (Sung) While you're waiting in the train, ye'll hear the guard sing this refrain. Are ye right there, Michael, are ye right?
"A Picture of Percy French", by Alan Tongue, Greystone Books (1990)
No explanation is provided for the above; possibly part of the original lyrics? Percy French songs can be very long, such as Mick's Hotel with four verses. The Percy French songs used in "The Golden Years" musical from 1961 were likely shortened. And the shortened version would have been sung by Brendan O'Dowda when he appeared in "The Golden Years" and later in his own recordings. This would also explain the missing lyrics related to the "missing parrot" referred to in my last posting. It would be good to get a copy of the original music sheets from "Are ye right there, Michael?" from April 1902.

The Percy French Society's collection located in County Down includes the original engagement diaries for Percy French kept by his wife. Copies of many individual months are included in the "A Picture of Percy French". In the summer tourist season, Percy French appears to have had an annual performance in Kilkee. The year 1906 was not included, but Percy French likely performed in Kilkee in August of 1906. As such the Palles household, who sent the Kilkee postcard on 13 August 1906 to Mountanville House in Dublin requesting the old evening coat for Master Palles, quite possibly attended a Percy French entertainment during their holidays.

Percy French's trip with Dr. Houston Collisson to North America in 1910/1911 has its own chapter "Across the Atlantical Sea" which was very well done, and includes his paintings during this time. Just a few minor comments. This chapter begins with "The North American tour of 1910. After a send-off at Paddington Station, French, aged 56, and Collisson, aged 45, left from Southampton on Michaelmas Day, 29th September" (page 68). Southampton? This contradicts the shipping records, from a few postings ago, with their departure on the Royal Edward from Bristol. French and Houston returned to England arriving in Southampton on 17 April 1911.

"The Emigrant's Letter" music sheet appears on this same page for 1910, introducing their North American trip with: "The words of two songs were written on board ship. The Emigrant's Letter was inspired by a remark heard on board. 'Well then, Mick, they'll be cuttin' the corn in Creshlough the day.' Ernest Hastings wrote the music" (ibid, page 68). A commonly told myth? "The Emigrant's Letter" song was not published until 1912. I discovered a different origin story which was reported in a 1913 review of a Percy French performance at Omagh:
Mr. Percy French in Omagh

Mr. Percy French, the well-known humorous song and art recitalist, paid his annual visit to Omagh on Wednesday evening, when he gave a highly successful performance in the Courthouse to a fairly large and select audience. Mr. French provided an excellent programme, all of which was new and refreshing to an Omagh audience, and his numerous witticisms, character sketches, and humorous songs and recitals kept up a continuous roar of laughter. His clever drawings with chalk and charcoal were of more than ordinary interest as he, in many instances, preferred executing them upside down and afterwards reversing the picture when the audience showed their appreciation by rounds of applause. . . . His humorous songs, "I've taken an objection to the Army," "That's why we're burying him," "Come back Paddy Reilly" (a ballad of Ballyjamesduff), into which the audience heartily joined in the chorus, "Mick's Hotel," and "Francis Farrelly" were the favourites. "The Emigrant's Letter," another song composed by Mr. French, had reference to Creeslough, Co. Donegal, where in passing that railway station some time ago the writer heard the words from an emigrant which formed the basis for his song. The character sketches... There was not a dull moment on the programme from beginning to end. During intervals . . .

Strabane Weekly News, Saturday, 29 March 1913
The Letterkenny and Burtonport Extension Railway (1903 - 1947) did indeed leave Letterkenny and travel north to Creeslough and then south to Burtonport (see map in below link). "A Picture of Percy French" has a listing of places in Ireland where Percy French was known to have performed. He performed in Gweedore, so very likely he took this railway and passed through Creeslough. A far more likely origin story, I reckon, then meeting an Irish immigrant from Donegal on a ship leaving Bristol in 1910. ... ly_Railway

In August 1914, the engagement calendar for Percy French has him performing in Kilkee on Wednesday the 19th, in Lahinch on the 20th, and Lisdoonvarna on the 21st. In large writing "war" was written across the calendar page as the Great War started in August of 1914. The war pretty much put an end to Percy French's entertainments.

Highly recommend "A Picture of Percy French".

Sheila, investigating the origin myths of "The Emigrant's Letter", especially the small towns that the Donegal railways stopped at, reminded me of a trip to Ireland in late May and early June of 1996. Since there were no longer any trains in Donegal, I brought my bicycle over to Ireland. My cycling journey started in Sligo, then Donegal, mostly sticking to coastal roads, then the Causeway coast in Antrim, and down the coast road passing the Antrim glens to Belfast. On one of the clear weather days in Donegal, I cycled upon a most unusual scene with snow falling upon a group of old thatched cottages. Along the roadway were about a dozen Irish ladies of a certain age who seemed terribly excited and could hardly speak to tell me what was going on. Some Irish crooner was shooting a music video and singing about returning home from London and that his heart would always lead him back to Donegal? The Guardian review of "The Golden Years" also reminded me of this day as surely it is not only "American crooners" who sing with the "sticky sentiment of Galway Bay":

Snowy scene of thatched cottages in Donegal (1996).jpg
Snowy scene of thatched cottages in Donegal (1996).jpg (152.94 KiB) Viewed 3134 times


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