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The Songs of Percy French

17 Jun 01 - 10:13 AM (#485399)
Subject: Percy French


Also see

17 Jun 01 - 10:42 AM (#485406)
Subject: RE: Percy French
From: Noreen

Er- yes... it's a good subject... :0)

17 Jun 01 - 10:57 AM (#485414)
Subject: RE: Percy French
From: Sorcha

hmmm. Vedddy intarrestink.

17 Jun 01 - 12:22 PM (#485452)
Subject: RE: Percy French
From: Anglo

Percy French? Well, no… Irish.

17 Jun 01 - 01:10 PM (#485484)
Subject: RE: Percy French
From: Spud Murphy


Abdul Abulbul Amir

check DT


17 Jun 01 - 01:10 PM (#485485)
Subject: RE: Percy French
From: John J at home

French eh?

18 Jun 01 - 01:08 AM (#485794)
Subject: RE: Percy French
From: paddymac

He wrote sooooo many great satires, but I think my fav is "Are Ye Right There, Michael, Are Ye There." The West Clare RR sued him over it and he lost, being fined #10. However, he swore that if they ever tried to collect it, he'd write another song about them. Marvelous sense of humour, and credited by many with popularizing the banjo in Ireland.

18 Jun 01 - 01:08 AM (#485795)
Subject: RE: Percy French
From: Jimmy C

William Percy French was born at Cloonyquin House, Co. Roscommon on May 1st, 1854. Led a privileged life as the son of a Doctor of Law and a Justice of the Peace.Went to College in England (Windemere) when he was 13 years of age, then to Trinity colege Dublin. He and fellow student Charles Mansergh were buskers at Punchestown Races as dixie minstrels. Eight years later he gained his engineering degree. Worked as an engineer in Co. Cavan. Married Ettie Armitage-Moore in 1890, gave up engineering to become editior of a humourous magazine "the Jarvey". His wife died in childbirth one year after the marriage. Before her death he wrote an Opera " The Knight of the Road" later called "The Irish Girl". He started to enterain about this tine and became very popular.He then met Helen Mat Sheldon who became his second wife. Years later he moved to London and lived at 27 Clifton Hill. He died in 24 January 1920 and is buried in the churchyard of Formby about 10 miles from Liverpool. Some of his best Irish songs include the following.
The Mountains of Mourne
Come Back, Paddy Reilly
Phil the Fluter's Ball
Ach, I Dunno
Eileen Oge
An Irish Mother
To The West
Whistlin Phil McHugh
Mrs. Brady
Are ye right there Michael ?.
Darling Girl from Clarwe
McBreen's Heifer
In Exile
Rafferty's Racing Mare
Abdul Abulbul Ameer
Song of William, Inspector of Drains
The Mary Ann Mc Hugh
Mother's Fairies
The Killyran Wrackers
Carmody's Mare
Sweet Marie
Father O'Callaghan
Mathew Hnaigan's Aunt
The Night Miss Cooney Eloped
Donegan's Daughter
The Emigrant's Letter

18 Jun 01 - 12:22 PM (#486004)
Subject: RE: Percy French
From: McGrath of Harlow

Now that was a good answer. Of course we don't yet know what the question was.

18 Jun 01 - 01:55 PM (#486141)
Subject: RE: Percy French
From: M.Ted

Sometimes it's better not to have a question at all, as it gets in the way of the facts.

18 Jun 01 - 06:24 PM (#486429)
Subject: RE: Percy French
From: mandomad

Is it the same as a French Kiss? Or am I on the wrong track?

18 Jun 01 - 06:27 PM (#486435)
Subject: RE: Percy French
From: mousethief

Sounds like a fine track, mandomad.


19 Jun 01 - 12:46 AM (#486674)
Subject: RE: Percy French
From: alison

Great songwriter...

Jimmy have you got the words to "Mother's fairies"?.... I know.. start a new thread alison..... I will if I ahve to.. the title just intrigued me...



19 Jun 01 - 01:03 AM (#486679)
Subject: Lyr Add: MOTHER'S FAIRIES (Percy French)
From: Jimmy C

Alison, Here they are, unfortunately I don't have the music, and I don't know of anyone having recorded it, not even Brendan O'Dowda, who recorded most of French's songs.

Mother's Fairies
(Percy French)

When we children are in bed,
We hear them calling
Fairies dressed in green and red
Help with might and main,
Toys that were left behind the sofa
Left behind the great enormous sofa
Books that were lying open wide


To and from when twilight shades are falling
To and fro when falls the pearly dew
Sweet and low I hear the fairies calling
Is there any work for little people, left for us to do ?

There's a sock that baby lost,
Found in the morning,
And the ball that Freddie tossed
Into the street
Bricks that were left down in the airy
Picked up by the busy little fairy,
Placed in their boxes, all in a row
Ain't those fairies sweet


Mother is the fairy queen,
We must obey her.
Everywhere that she has been,
All is put right
She must employ a lot of fairies,
Oh! a lot of busy little fairies.
Who are at her beck and call
All through the night




19 Jun 01 - 04:24 AM (#486764)
Subject: RE: Percy French
From: GUEST,Roger the skiffler

"I used to think a percy French was a "Monica with tongue" until I discovered the Mudcat". (Apologies to the advertisers of Smirnoff vodka and the easily offended)>

19 Jun 01 - 09:20 AM (#486875)
Subject: RE: Percy French
From: alison

Awwww... that was cute... thanks Jimmy

my dad had a Brendan O'Dowda LP... that's how I got introduced to Percy French... it has been made onto CD.. but last time I looked it was unavailable.....

I picked up a book of songs and tunes last year when I was home...... unfortunately it doesn't include that one.. so we're none the wiser as to the tune.....



23 Jan 03 - 02:37 PM (#873089)
Subject: RE: Percy French
From: Joe Offer

While I was doing crosslinks, I found Emigrant's Letter, another song by French. Here's another: Sweet MarieI grouped most of the songs in a single Percy French group, but a few had so many threads that I had to give them their own groups.
Also see Did I miss any?
-Joe Offer-

23 Jan 03 - 10:30 PM (#873502)
Subject: RE: Percy French
From: dick greenhaus

The afore mentioned banjo, it should be noted, was a 5-stringer.

24 Jan 03 - 03:19 PM (#874031)
Subject: RE: Percy French
From: Felipa

In the Brendan O'Dowda thread Fiolar writes of a request he made "I posted under the heading "The Three Francies" and "Ard Macha" was kind enough to send me the words of the correct version "The Three Farrelys." But I can't find the Three Francies thread so I leave it to you to continue the search.

28 Sep 08 - 03:13 AM (#2451977)
Subject: RE: The Songs of Percy French
From: Joe Offer

Oh, and here's a Percy French songbook index I posted in another thread. I've tried to add links to the songs we have posted here.

The Songs of Percy French
Editor: James N. Healy
Publisher: Ossian Publications, Cork, 1996
Paperback, 80 pages, 44 songs

1. Abdulla Bulbul Ameer (DT) (page 9)
Written in 1877, it is the earliest recorded song by Percy French. Composed for a 'smoking concert' while a student at Trinity, he sold it to an unscrupulous publisher for £5. Later it became very popular, and the names of others appeared as author, but French never drew a ha'penny in royalties. This is the original version.
2. Sweet Marie (page 10)
Written as a 'take off' of a popular American tune, it nevertheless is redolent of French's youth in the west of Ireland, and like the song following breathes the spirit of the Irish 'Point- to-Point' races.
3. Rafferty's Racin' Mare (page 12)
Another lively song about an Irish race-meeting.
4. The Hoodoo (page 14)
The 'Nigger Minstrel' shows were enjoying a period of great popularity in French's early days. In his own district, and later with a troupe called 'The Kinniepottle Komics' in Cavan, he took part in the craze. This number was in later years used in a London show.
5. The Oklahoma Rose (page 15)
Written in 1910, but also harking back to the 'Blackface' days. The banjo, associated with such troupes, was the instrument French used to accompany himself.
6. Phil the Fluther's Ball (DT) (page 17)
A product of Cavan days: an early song and one of the liveliest and best. 'Phil' was a real character on the Leitrim-Sligo border who gave parties in his home in an attempt to pay the rent.
7. Come Back Paddy Reilly (DT) (page 18)
Written in 1912, but really a memory of his days in Cavan. Paddy Reilly also was a real life person who had left his home town of Ballyjamesduff to go abroad. A splendid song in any context.
8. (Slattery's) Shlathery's Mounted Fut (DT-flawed) (page 20)
The idea of a national Irish Army emerging (as it did thirty years after this song was written in 1889) would have been thought unlikely, to say the least, in French's day, especially in the society to which he naturally belonged; but he himself was not political, and he shared a mutual respect with the country people about whom he wrote. So there was nothing derogatory in his mind when writing about 'Shlathery' — it is purely a comic song of great life and spirit.
9. Andy McElroe (page 22)
While, as said, a national army was not envisaged at the time many Irishmen joined the existing British army and served abroad. Andy was one of several such in Percy's songs — a 'hero' out for divilment who was sure to strike terror into the heart of any foe. 'J. Ross' his collaborator was Sir John Ross. It was, in 1888, French's first song to be published after 'Abdulla Bulbul Ameer'.
10. Fighting McGuire (page 24)
French obviously did not like bullies or windbags. McGuire is one such who is taught a lesson. The tune was lost until about twenty years ago when it was found in the British Museum.
11. The Girl on a Big Black Mare (page 26)
An apparently straightforward love song tempered by the logic of the last few lines.
12. Mat Hannigan's Aunt (page 26)
Written in 1892 for a topical review called Dublin—Up-to-Date which he performed with Richard Orpen, later an architect, and Orpen's younger brother William, who was to become famous as a painter, and be knighted.
13. Little Brigid Flynn (DT-flawed) (page 28)
A charming number with a plaintive tune on one of French's favourite song themes — the prospective suitor sighing in a wryly-comic way about the bride he would like to have: effective because he never over-lapsed into sentiment — there was always a twinkle in the eye.
14. Mick's Hotel (page 29)
One of the few occasions when French satirised in genuine anger — written after he had been overcharged for very poor service in an hotel while on his travels through Ireland. However, he would never reveal the name, or location, of the offending hostelry!
15. The Mountains of Mourne (DT) (page 31)
Probably Percy French's most famous song. It has been sung, and parodied, thousands of times, but still retains its original charm. He wrote it one clear day in 1896 when the Mourne Mountains were visible on the horizon from the Hill of Howth, and sent the lyric to Collisson on the back of a postcard.
16. When Erin Wakes (page 33)
The naïve side of Percy's nature. He saw nothing contradictory in writing this apparently patriotic song in 1900, and in the same year writing another welcoming King Edward to Ireland most effusively! It proved nothing except he loved Ireland and wished the country well on all counts.
17. McBreen's Heifer (page 34)
Again one of the very best songs, with a typical Irish countryside situation. Should Jamesy take the good-looking daughter on her own, or take the ugly one with a heifer thrown in? In the end he took too long to make up his mind.
18. The Fortunes of Finnegan (page 35)
Finnegan was one of those tough, enduring Irishmen for whom French showed cautious respect. The date of the song is uncertain, but it was written in collaboration with Collisson for one of their London concert seasons.
19. Mulligan's Masquerade (page 37)
The song, of good-natured chaos at an Irish country party, may have been based on the memory of a real occasion: at any rate I have been to some like it! There are similar songs by other authors, such as 'The Tipperary Christening', 'McCarthy's Party', and even 'Lannigans Ball'.
20. The Night that Miss Cooney Eloped (page 39)
Percy French first performed this number at a concert in the midlands, and was surprised when almost the entire front row walked out: but even more so at the hysterical laughter and cheers with which the rest of the audience greeted his efforts. What he did not know was that those who departed were the local Cooney family, big wigs in their own minds, who had lately endured an almost identical trauma to that described in the song. In fact he had never heard of them before, and had written about an imaginary situation.
21. Drumcolliher (page 41)
Based on an older ballad called 'Kildorrery'. Drumcolliher is to the east, and Kildorrery
about equidistant to the west, from Charleville.
22. Jim Wheelahan's Automobeel (page 43)
'Automobiles', as motor cars were known in early days, were a new wonder in French's time, and regarded with some distrust. They were rare objects but were beginning to make their noisy presence heard on roads which had formerly been quiet byways. French seemed to mistrust things mechanical as will be seen in some of the later songs.
23. 'Are Ye Right There, Michael?' (DT) (page 45)
Again one of the gems of Percy French songwriting, based on a genuine incident. The train carrying him from Ennis to Kilkee broke down and he was late for the concert. This was in 1897; French took an action for 'loss of profits', was awarded £10 and the company lost an appeal. The song came out in 1902 and although the company contemplated a libel action they wisely thought better of it. They had had enough.
24. Eileen Oge (DT-Pride of Petrovar) (page 46)
Again, one of Percy's best songs on the locale nearest his heart — the countryside of his beloved west of Ireland. Ruefully and comically he presents the story of the disappointed suitor.
25. Donegan's Daughter (DT-no tune) (page 48)
A first-class number which, strangely, is not heard as often as some of the others. Donegan's daughter from the 'States' is not, as glamorous as at first appeared.
26. Father O'Callaghan (page 50)
Collisson, a Protestant clergyman, had many friends among the Catholic priesthood and he asked French to write some verses so that he could set them to music as a tribute to one of his priest friends.
27. Maguire's Motor Bike (page 52)
Again, we hear of French's mistrust of anything mechanical, particularly those noisy two- wheeled machines which continue to be a curse and potential danger on our roads today. The bike was all right in the end, but Maguire was buried beside it!
28. Phistlin' Phil McHugh (page 54)
A charming number which, like 'Donegan's Daughter', is not as frequently heard as some of the others. Phil was a typical French rover who came home to roost in the end.
29. No More of Yer Golfin' for Me (page 55)
French was no bad sportsman, but could never understand people being so anxious about winning. The fascination of golf was, however, a mystery to him.
30. The Darlin' Girl from Clare (page 57)
The county of Clare was one of Percy's happiest hunting grounds and he performed at Kilkee whenever he could, using the occasion to make water-colours in the wonderfully clear air of the area. 'The Darlin' Girl' is a charming song. He made a ladies' version for his singing partner of later years, May Laffan.
31. Pretendy Land (DT-no tune) (page 59)
Written in 1907 for Noah's Ark, a Christmas fairy play with music by J. A. Robertson. It reflects the love of children which French exhibited so strongly with his own family, and which has been reflected back to him by them through all the years since.
32. Mrs Brady (page 60)
Composed for a London concert season, and which Collisson apparently sang well. One has a feeling, however, that some of these late songs, with music composed especially by Collision, do not have the spontaneity of the earlier purely French numbers.
33. Flaherty's Drake (page 62)
Based on the same idea as the much older ballad 'Ned, or Nell, Flaherty's Drake' but bearing no resemblance to it in construction.
54. The Mary Ann McHugh (page 63)
Again based on the idea of an older ballad 'The Cruise of the Calabar' but the late Philip Green wrote new music to it in 1962. I have restored the original music which was partly the tune of 'Limerick is Beautiful' as this was French's original intention, and completed the rest of the tune myself.
35. The Kerry Courting (page 65)
French wrote this lively little miniature operetta for four voices in 1909. I give the opening number about the 'Rose of Tralee'.
36. A Sailor Courted a Farmer's Daughter (Percy French parody version should be posted here (click))(page 66)
Take off of the traditional Irish countryside singers come-all-ye style and very amusing.
37. Tullinahaw (page 68)
One of the better neglected lyrics, although the music does not, perhaps, come up to the
words. Probably written about 1910.
38. The Emigrant's Letter (DT-no tune) (page 69) [also see this thread (click)]
In 1910 there was a great adventure for the two little men, French and Collisson — French was only five feet four inches and Collisson was shorter — when they set out on an American tour. The steamer called at Cobh where it took on the inevitable emigrants. As a fresh young fellow was saying goodbye to his relatives he said ruefully, 'They'll be cutting the corn in Creeshla the day.' It was autumn and the harvest was coming in.
39. Kitty Gallagher (page 72)
In French's litany of love affairs the prize usually goes to the bold-hearted lover, as in 'Eileen Oge' and 'The Darlin' Girl from Clare'; however, Kitty chooses the man who gets knocked out for her sake.
40. Flanagan's Flying Machine (page 73)
Written in 1911. It further demonstrates his mistrust of the mechanical — he preferred the open road and his bicycle. Nevertheless, by the last verse, he seems to accept the inevitability of the future.
41. 'Who said the Hook never hurted the Worms?' (page 75)
42. I Fought a Fierce Hyena (page 76)
Two numbers from Freda and the Fairies, a delightful miniature 'opera' suitable for children of junior school, with music by Caroline Maude (Viscountess Hawarden), and some of the lyrics by Cecily Fox-Smith. The first number seems to speak up against cruelty to animals, and the second to foreshadow by many years 'I can do anything' from Annie Get Your Gun.
43. The Killyran Wrackers (page 77)
The tune of this number had been lost, but when writing Percy French and His Songs in the early sixties I got in touch with Vincent Sheils of Loughrea through my friend Michael Collins-Powell, and he was able to supply part of it from memory. In order to complete the number I have taken the liberty of finishing the tune in the same manner.
By 1914 the First World War had come, and French wrote several songs favouring the Allied side. French continued to entertain during war time, on one occasion right through a Zeppelin raid. When this passed off he commented calmly to the audience, 'Now wasn't that a nice Air Raid?'
44. Larry Mick McGarry (page 79)
The last song Percy French wrote — in 1915. He gave the cook a ticket for the concert at which he was to sing it for the first time, and when she came home the family were naturally anxious to discover how things had gone. Her reply, as she went stamping downstairs, was 'He did that ou'l song he's been practisin' up there for the last days without end!'

During his last years French wrote no more, depending from then on the large repertory he had built up over the years. As has been said, he died in 1920 performing almost to the end. However, as long as his songs survive he will be remembered, and one hopes this little book will help him to be remembered for some time longer. You won't go too far wrong at a party with a Percy French song.

14 Aug 09 - 05:32 AM (#2700042)
Subject: RE: The Songs of Percy French
From: ard mhacha

West Clare Railway back on track,railway enthusiasts restore the famous Slieve Callan train. Percy French would be pleased, then again he might not have been.

14 Aug 09 - 09:51 AM (#2700176)
Subject: RE: The Songs of Percy French
From: GUEST,machree01

Here's Brendan O'Dowda singing Percy French's
Abdulla Bulbul Ameer.

14 Aug 09 - 03:36 PM (#2700374)
Subject: RE: The Songs of Percy French
From: Jim Carroll

For the record; the facts surrounding 'Are You Right There Michael' as follows.
French was not sued, but rather it was he who sued the railway authorities for making him late for an appointment - and won.
The incident still causes bad feeling down in Moyaster, where the railway is commemorated.
These are notes I made on the incident for a talk on song and history.
Jim Carroll

On July 2nd 1887 a steam railway was opened here in West Clare, the first sod of the construction being turned by Charles Stewart Parnell using a silver spade which is still on view at the DeValera Museum. Running between Ennis and Kilrush, the railway provided a vital service to those living along its rout and employed around 70 people from Ennis alone. The complete journey took around three hours and the railway ran successfully up to World War II when the development of new roads began to affect its usage. Despite decisions to close it, it continued to run at a loss up to January 31st 1961, when it finally closed down forever.
On 10th August 1896, songwriter and entertainer Percy French set out from Dublin to attend a concert he was due to give at 8 0-clock that evening in Kilkee. He boarded the West Clare train at Ennis, which left on time but, due to technical problems was delayed here at Miltown Malbay, resulting in his being 20 minutes late for his concert. French successfully sued the owners of The West Clare Railway and was awarded £10 and expenses. He wrote the song "Are You Right There Michael", presumably as an act of revenge. Despite the popularity of the song, or perhaps because of it, the affair is still capable of provoking bitter feelings.
There were three or four songs written about The West Clare Railway apart from French's; this is one we recorded from Michael "Straighty" Flanagan of Inagh, during a singing session in Marrianan's 25 years ago.

17 Aug 09 - 11:46 AM (#2702260)
Subject: RE: The Songs of Percy French
From: ard mhacha

Brendan O`Dowda singing Are you right there Michael, on an 1958 recording,

04 Feb 11 - 08:44 AM (#3088520)
Subject: RE: The Songs of Percy French
From: GUEST,machree01

Brendan O'Dowda profiling the life of Percy French, 1854 -- 1920, from his art-work, poems and most of all the songs Percy French had written. Also the wonderful singing voice of Brendan O'Dowda. Get a cup of tea and a few biscuits, sit-down relax and watch this brilliant 50 minute documentry.

04 Feb 11 - 10:59 AM (#3088591)
Subject: RE: The Songs of Percy French
From: Bernard

I'd heard that the twist in the story about the West Clare Railway's appeal was that Percy French was late for the hearing... because he was travelling to the hearing by West Clare Railway... and the train was late!

09 Apr 12 - 03:41 PM (#3335883)
Subject: RE: The Songs of Percy French

re are you right michael the board o the west clare railway wanted to percy french for deformation but he counterclaimed for loss of earnings so they awarded him £10 to avoid any embarrasment to them selves....... eileen oge the pride of 'petravore'

14 May 13 - 02:35 PM (#3515048)
Subject: RE: The Songs of Percy French

the farlley

04 Jan 14 - 02:04 AM (#3588893)
Subject: RE: The Songs of Percy French
From: GUEST,Seamoke

Does anyone have or know where I can get a copy of the words for 'I fought a fierce hyena'?

04 Jan 14 - 05:25 AM (#3588927)
Subject: ADD: I Fought a Fierce Hyena (Percy French)
From: Joe Offer

(Percy French)

I've fought a fierce hyena,
He was just as high as high!
    So have I, so have I!
    Mine was higher than the sky.
Only fancy killing something that was higher than the sky.

I have killed a hipperpotomus
Much bigger than a wall.
    Is that all? That was small,
    Mine was nearly twice as tall.
Just fancy killing something that was nearly twice as tall.
I know you don't believe me,
That is plain enough to see,
But once I killed a beetle,
And I've often killed a bee.
They know we don't believe them,
That is plain enough to see,
But once they've killed a beetle,
And they've often killed a bee.

I killed a dreadful dragon
That drank up the Forth of Firth.
    So did mine, so did mine!
    He just swallowed up the earth.
Only fancy killing something that could swallow up the earth.

I have killed a great sea-serpent,
Yes, I killed it with an axe.
    I killed six, with some bricks,
    And a bit of cobbler's wax.
How clever to kill serpents with a bit of cobbler's wax.

I know you don't believe me, etc...

I only use a pop-gun
When I kill a tiger-cat.
    I killed mine with some twine -
    Just about as long as that.
Killing tiger-cats with pop-guns and a string as long as that.

I was fishing off an ice-berg,
And I caught an 'normous whale.
    I caught five, all alive,
    And I keep them in a pail.
How wonderful to keep 'normous fishes in a pail.
I know you don't believe me, etc...

#42 in The Songs of Percy French, selected and edited by James N. Healy (Ossian Press, 1996)

Two numbers from Freda and the Fairies, a delightful miniature 'opera' suitable for children of junior school, with music by Caroline Maude (Viscountess Hawarden), and some of the lyrics by Cecily Fox-Smith. The first number seems to speak up against cruelty to animals, and the second to foreshadow by many years 'I can do anything' from Annie Get Your Gun.

04 Jan 14 - 02:06 PM (#3589064)
Subject: RE: The Songs of Percy French
From: Joe Offer

I thought we had posted all the songs in The Songs of Percy French, but I guess we haven't. I hope we can get that done in the future.