Tones that are…

9781843516675The Tones That are Tender: Percy French 1854-1920

Berrie O’Neill

Available at the Heritage Museum North Down

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Review from ‘The Jarvey’ the newsletter of the Percy French Society –

Written as a labour of love for the Percy French Society this richly and colourfully illustrated biography of Percy French brings a renewed focus on the life of the great Irish songwriter, poet, parodist, artist and entertainer. A sense of the value of social history and a growing belief that Percy French was undervalued in the fullness of his overall cultural legacy were also motivating factors for the author.

The author successfully explores the ancestry and full family background of one who is often described in simplified terms as a Protestant son of an Irish landlord or sometimes, on the other hand, as Renaissance man.

The title, ‘Tones that are Tender’, reflects perfectly not only French’s innocuous, charismatic personality but also the nature of his watercolours with their generally gentle shades. Moreover, his writings infused with acute observation, reflection and humour, were never hurtful or offensive.

We are unobtrusively enlightened about the social history of French’s time and the reader will surely be impressed by the in depth knowledge we gain of French as a person and we are made aware, among other things, of his likes and dislikes, his eccentricities, deep love of family, sense of humour, financial concerns, but especially what a kindly, unselfish individual he was.

The book is attractively presented with the author’s copious use of well-chosen colourful illustrations and appropriate quotations evidencing the multi-talents of this underestimated Irish figure. A very comprehensive life story it is a ‘must have’ for those with an interest in Irish literature, social history and of course, Percy French.

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