seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Cavan O’Connor, “The Singing Vagabond”

Clarence Patrick O’Connor, British singer of Irish heritage known professionally as Cavan O’Connor, is born on July 1, 1899 in Carlton, Nottinghamshire, England. He is most popular in the 1930s and 1940s, when he is billed as “The Singing Vagabond” or “The Vagabond Lover.”

O’Connor is born to parents of Irish origin. His father dies when he is young, and he leaves school at an early age to work in the printing trade. He serves in World War I as a gunner and signaler in the Royal Artillery, after first being rejected by the Royal Navy when it is discovered that he had pretended to be three years older than his real age. He is wounded in the war, aged 16, while serving with the Royal Artillery. After the war he returns to Nottingham where he works in a music shop. He starts singing in clubs and at concerts, before deciding to turn professional in the early 1920s.

O’Connor wins a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London, where he meets his wife, Rita Tate (real name Margherita Odoli), a niece of the opera singer Maggie Teyte. He makes his first recordings, as Cavan O’Connor, for the Vocalion label in 1925, including “I’m Only a Strolling Vagabond” from the operetta The Cousin from Nowhere, which becomes his signature song. Noted for his fine tenor voice, well suited for recording, he appears on many British dance band recordings in the 1920s and 1930s, and uses a wide variety of pseudonyms, including Harry Carlton, Terence O’Brien, and Allan O’Sullivan. He also joins Nigel Playfair‘s revue company at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith, before moving on to playing lead roles in opera productions at The Old Vic, often performing in French, Italian and Spanish.

O’Connor turns increasingly toward light entertainment, largely for financial reasons. He starts appearing in variety shows around the country, often performing Irish folk songs. Having made his first radio broadcasts for BBC Radio in 1926, he continues to feature occasionally, but makes his breakthrough when he is billed, initially anonymously, as “The Strolling Vagabond” and “The Vagabond Lover” on a series of radio programmes produced by Eric Maschwitz in 1935. This is the first British radio series based around a solo singer, and when it becomes known that he is the performer, makes him a star, “one of Britain’s highest paid radio personalities.” The series continues for over ten years. From 1946, his Sunday lunchtime radio series, The Strolling Vagabond, is heard by up to 14 million listeners.

O’Connor consistently tours and continues to broadcast regularly. During World War II he settles in Bangor, Gwynedd, north Wales, and regularly appears on the Irish Half Hour radio programmes. His most popular songs include “The World Is Mine Tonight,” written for O’Connor by Maschwitz and George Posford, “Danny Boy” and “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen,” an American song widely assumed to be Irish. He records frequently for at least 15 record labels over his career, including Decca Records, at one point recording 40 songs in five days. He makes over 800 recordings in total, both under his own name and pseudonyms, and also appears in two films, Ourselves Alone (1936) and Under New Management (known in the U.S. as Honeymoon Hotel, 1946).

After the war, O’Connor returns to live in London, and tours in Australia and South Africa as well as in Don Ross‘s Thanks for the Memory tours. He retires at one point to set up an electrical goods business, but then resumes his music career in the Avonmore Trio with his wife and son, to give occasional performances and make recordings, the last in 1984.

O’Connor dies at the age of 97 in London on January 11, 1997.


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Birth of Richard Downey, Archbishop of Liverpool

Richard Downey, English prelate of the Roman Catholic Church, is born in Kilkenny, County Kilkenny on May 5, 1881. He serves as Archbishop of Liverpool from 1928 until his death.

Downey is ordained to the priesthood on May 25, 1907 at St. Joseph Seminary, Up Holland, Skelmersdale, Lancashire. He is Professor of Philosophy at Sacred Heart College, Hammersmith, and then Professor of Dogmatic Theology at St. Joseph’s College, Up Holland, where he is also Vice-Rector. On August 3, 1928, he is appointed Archbishop of Liverpool by Pope Pius XI, succeeding the late Frederick William Keating. He receives his Episcopal consecration on the following September 21 from Cardinal Francis Bourne, with Bishops Robert Dobson and Francis Vaughan serving as co-consecrators.

Downey’s tenure sees the construction and dedication of the crypt of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, built to a design by Sir Edwin Lutyens, although the Cathedral itself is never completed as he had envisaged. A picture of Lutyens proposed cathedral is printed on postcards sold to raise funds.

In 1929, before the actual construction begins, Downey states, “Hitherto all cathedrals have been dedicated to saints. I hope this one will be dedicated to Christ himself with a great figure surmounted on the cathedral, visible for many a mile out at sea.” He also declares that while the Cathedral will not be medieval and Gothic, neither will it be as modern as the works of Jacob Epstein, a statement somewhat at odds with the design that is finally realised after his death.

In 1933, after the urn containing the bones of King Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York is removed from Westminster Abbey for examination and then returned with an Anglican burial service, Downey says, “It is difficult to see what moral justification there can be for reading a Protestant service over the remains of these Roman Catholic princes, even though it were done on the plea of legal continuity of the present Anglican Church with the pre-Reformation Church of Britain.”

Downey dies in Liverpool at the age of 72 on June 16, 1953, having served as Liverpool’s archbishop for twenty-four years. His remains are interred in a crypt at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, Liverpool.


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Death of Alan Rickman, Actor & Director

alan-rickmanAlan Sidney Patrick Rickman, English actor and director, dies in London on January 14, 2016.

Rickman is born into a working class family of Irish and Welsh descent in Hammersmith, London, on February 21, 1946. Rickman attends Derwentwater Primary School in Acton, and then Latymer Upper School in London through the Direct Grant system, where he becomes involved in drama. After leaving Latymer, he attends Chelsea College of Art and Design and then the Royal College of Art. After graduation, Rickman and several friends open a graphic design studio called Graphiti, but after three years of successful business, he decides that he is going to pursue acting professionally. He writes to request an audition with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), which he attends from 1972 until 1974.

Upon leaving the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Rickman becomes a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, performing in modern and classical theatre productions. His first big television role comes in 1982, but his big break is as the Vicomte de Valmont in the stage production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses in 1985, for which he is nominated for a Tony Award.

Rickman’s first film role is as the German terrorist leader Hans Gruber in Die Hard (1988). His other film roles include the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), for which he receives the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Elliott Marston in Quigley Down Under (1990), Jamie in Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990), P.L. O’Hara in An Awfully Big Adventure (1995), Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (1995), Éamon de Valera in Neil Jordan‘s Michael Collins (1996), Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest (1999), Harry in Love Actually (2003) and Judge Turpin in the film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim‘s musical of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007). He gains further notice for his film performances as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series. He also stars in television films, playing the title character in Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny (1996), which wins him a Golden Globe Award, an Emmy Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award, and Dr. Alfred Blalock in the Emmy-winning Something the Lord Made (2004). His final film roles are as Lieutenant General Frank Benson in the thriller Eye in the Sky (2015), and the voice of Absolem, the caterpillar in Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016).

In August 2015, Rickman suffers a minor stroke, which leads to the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. He reveals the fact that he has terminal cancer to only his closest confidants. He dies of pancreatic cancer on January 14, 2016 at the age of 69. His remains are cremated on February 3, 2016 in the West London Crematorium in Kensal Green. His ashes are given to his wife, Rima Horton. His final two films, Eye in the Sky and Alice Through the Looking Glass, are dedicated to his memory.


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Birth of Irish Writer Arthur Murphy

arthur-murphyArthur Murphy, Irish writer also known by the pseudonym Charles Ranger, is born at Cloonyquin, County Roscommon, on December 27, 1727, the son of Richard Murphy and Jane French.

Murphy studies at Saint-Omer in France, and is a gifted student of the Latin and Greek classics. He works as an actor in the theatre, becomes a barrister, a journalist and finally a playwright. He edits Gray’s Inn Journal between 1752 and 1754. As Henry Thrale‘s oldest and dearest friend, he introduces Samuel Johnson to the Thrales in January 1765. He is appointed Commissioner of Bankruptcy in 1803.

Murphy is known for his translations of Tacitus in 1753, which are still published as late as 1922. He also writes three biographies – Fielding‘s Works (1762), An Essay on the Life and Genius of Samuel Johnson (1792), and Life of David Garrick (1801).

An example of Murphy’s theatrical writings is The Citizen, a farce, first produced at Drury Lane in 1761. Philpot, a wealthy skinflint, has bargained with Sir Jasper Wilding for his son Young Philpot to marry Maria Wilding, and for his daughter Sally to marry Wilding’s son, for settlements and twenty thousand pounds paid to Sir Jasper. Young Philpot has lost a fortune, but borrows money from his father and embarks on an insurance fraud involving shipwrecked goods. Maria plans to marry Beaufort, who loves her. As Young Philpot tries to propose, she convinces him she is half-witted, and he spurns her. In the second act, Philpot senior is visiting Corinna, a lady of loose virtue, but hides under the table when his son calls upon her. He overhears as Young Philpot tells her how he has cajoled the money out of his father. Maria’s brother surprises them, and old Philpot is also discovered, to their mutual shame. In the final scene Sir Jasper with a lawyer obtains Philpot’s signature to the agreements, but meanwhile Maria, an educated girl, shows her strong character to Young Philpot and he again refuses to propose. Having signed away his rights old Philpot offers to marry her, but the lawyer reveals himself as Beaufort, and explains that he has swapped the deeds, so that Philpot has unwittingly signed his agreement for Maria to marry Beaufort.

Murphy is thought to have coined the legal term “wilful misconstruction” whilst representing the Donaldson v. Becket appeal to the House of Lords in 1774 against the perpetual possession of copyright.

Arthur Murphy dies at Knightsbridge, London, on June 18, 1805 and is buried at Hammersmith, London. A biography is written in 1811 by Dr. Jesse Foot. Nathaniel Dance-Holland paints Murphy’s portrait which is thought to now be in the Irish National Portrait Collection.

(Pictured: 1777 portrait of Arthur Murphy by Nathaniel Dance-Holland)