The official launch of County Leitrim Percy French Society will be a musical, comical and literary treat, in appreciation to the hugely talented man who immortalised the local area of South Leitrim and West Cavan in song and word.
The new society will be launched by Senator David Norris on Friday, July 20 in Hunt Hall, Mohill a venue where the great Percy French himself performed back in 1914.
Percy French has had a huge influence on this region since he brezzed in and out over 100 years ago. We all know his songs, but many may not know that they have local inspiration behind them.
The County Leitrim Percy French Society hopes to educate us all on this man’s amazing observation of ordinary Irish people. There has been a group of Percy French admirers and performers under the direction of Tish Dunleavy for years, but this month the society become official and join the numerous Percy French associations all over Ireland and abroad.
Tish Dunleavy explained that she was “brought up “ on Percy French songs and words. Her family loved his ballads and her uncle Dermot Sean Dunleavy is well known as “The Percy French” from the 1954 Centenary Celebrations in 1954. District Court Judge Dunleavy was a great performer of French’s songs and he sang “Are you right there Michael?” one of Percy French’s best known songs at the closing of the Arigna to Ballinamore railway line in 1959. Tish carried on his tradition and has been performing Percy French’s songs and routines for over 30 years.
Percy French’s maternal grandfather WA Percy was rector of Kiltoghert encompassing Carrick-on-Shannon and the Mohill area. Percy was a “frequent visitor” to Leitrim according to Tish and he visited Mohill, Carrigallen and the Aughawillan – Coraleehen area. He also got much inspiration for his songs from local characters and stories.
Tish explained that Percy would be the equivalent of John B Keane as a observer of life. He covered everything from romance to farming and every comical event. He loved ordinary people and was “dimissive of important people.”
The objective of the new society is for the people of Leitrim to get to know Percy French as he had got to know Leitrim over a century ago. They want to nurture an interest in his songs and writings and try to pass on his creativity to the younger people. Tish hopes to develop the society into a Leitrim Percy French Festival.
She said young people will be able to identify with Percy French as he was the “original texter!” He abbreviated words when writing to his daughters and friends. The new society hopes to hold workshops on his songs and writings for local children and young people.
Those who are attending the official launch of the society on July 20 at 8pm are in for such a treat. In recognition of Percy French’s comical sketch writing - the great composer will be dragged into modern day Leitrim through Frank Cadam’s specially written sketch ‘Sweet Marie.’ Local performers will take on characters touching on everything from fracking to ghostestates, politics to romance. Quotes from Percy French will be used throughout and the result is a 21st century local comedy that Percy French would be proud of. Rehearsals were in full swing last week, and the society with members from Carrick-on-Shannon, Carrigallen, Ballinamore, Aughawillan, Coraleehan, Mohill and Fenagh are working very hard to make this official launch an unforgettable event.
Sweet Marie by the Killyrann Wrackers will produce some laughs - but the amusement does not stop there. The great Percy French will make a return appearance in Hunt Hall, over 100 years since his last performance.
You will be able to shake his hand and tip your hat to the costumed character as he ascends to the stage. Joining, Tish and a host of talented singers on stage, the troupe will bring you on a journey through some of Percy’s best known songs and parodies. Percy French will give an insight behind the creation of the songs before they are each performed - with some surprises and laughs thrown in. You won’t be able to stop yourself from singing along!
Senator David Norris is expected to give a very rousing speech as he launches the society and the whole event is something that should not be missed by admirers of Percy French or of music and song in general.
Anyone interested in joining and getting involved in the Co Leitrim Percy French Society are very welcome - the more the merrier!