TITLE 03 - The Percy French SocietyFrenchPercy2

The Society was founded in 1983 in the Borough of North Down, Northern Ireland. The promoters were assisted by the local Borough Council. The great Irish singer Brendan O’Dowda, who had popularised the songs of Percy French, was the Society’s first president and the surviving daughters of Percy French, Ettie and Joan, became patrons of the newly created Society.

T. Oscar Rollins (President 1990-2000) was a councillor in the Borough of North Down at that time. Always an admirer of Percy French he arranged a meeting with Brendan O’Dowda and local artist Phyllis Arnold.

Subsequently, after a meeting with the then Mayor, Mrs. Mary O’Fee, an informal committee was formed to ensure that the works of Percy French were not forgotten. Sometime later contact was made with the then surviving daughters of Percy French – Ettie and Joan who in due course provided over 800 pieces of memorabilia and 80 paintings to the archives of the Society which had been formally inaugurated.

The intention of Councillor Rollins and his wife had previously been given extra stimulus when Mrs. Rollins noticed a sign post to Formby in Lancashire during a visit to England. They visited the grave of Percy French at St. Luke’s Church at Formby where having brought a floral tribute they found that an unknown admirer had already placed a bunch of bluebells, Percy French’s favourite flower.

They returned home with some seedlings from a tree beside his grave and with renewed determination to establish a Percy French appreciation society.

The objective of the Society was to ensure that the works of Percy French were not forgotten and that they would reach a wider audience and gain greater appreciation throughout Ireland and other countries such as Great Britain , U.S.A., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Percy French (1854 – 1920) deserved to be recognised not just as a writer of comic songs but also as poet, painter and entertainer.

A_real_English_bluebell_in_Lanacre_Wood_-_geograph.org.uk_-_772332The Society maintains strong links with the County Roscommon Percy French Society (Percy French was born at Cloonyquin near Strokestown, Co. Roscommon where there is an attractive Heritage Centre and a Museum relating to the Famine of the mid 19th Century). The Society also keeps in touch with Societies in Dublin and Galway as well as groups at Cavan (where French lived for five years 1883-88) and at Corofin, Co. Clare (Corofin was a station of the West Clare Railway which was made famous in French’s song ‘Are Ye Right There Michael?’).

In order to achieve its main objective, the Society promotes concerts, exhibitions, lectures, musical evenings and an annual festival. Most events take place in the Borough of North Down, but the Society’s own Concert Party has travelled to centres and festivals all over Ireland. performing the songs, recitations, poems, monologues and sketches which Percy French produced so prolifically in his heyday.