Anniversary concert at resting place of renowned songwriter, Percy French

There will be a special concert to celebrate the 102nd anniversary of the passing of Percy French this Monday 24 January.

Percy French is widely regarded as one of Ireland’s greatest songwriters and all round entertainers.

The concert will be a collaboration between Formby Civic Society, Parish of St. Luke’s in Formby, Percy French Society in Ireland, Consulate General of Ireland to the North of England and Triskellion Theatre Company.

It will take place at St. Luke’s Church in Formby where French is buried.

Percy French wrote The Mountains of Mourne which has been covered by artists as diverse as Don McLean and Daniel O’Donnell.

Among his other songs to become classics are Phil The Fluther’s Ball and Come Back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff.

He was also a successful singer and performed in concert halls all over Ireland and the UK right up until his death at the age of 65.

French was also an artist and his paintings are still popular and being sold for large amounts today.

French was born on 1 May 1854 near Elphin in County Roscommon. He was the son of a landlord but although his upbringing was comfortable, the family were not particularly wealthy.

French was a very sociable, gregarious young man with no airs or graces. He got on well with everyone regardless of class, religion or background.

In spite of his middle class upbringing, he enjoyed meeting and talking to local villagers and farm workers.

He had a great ear for speech patterns or a good story and he got ideas for many of his best songs from the ordinary people he met on his travels.

However, he never became rich from this talents as he was known for his generosity. He was also naïve when he started out and famously sold his first great song Abdul Abulbul Amir for just £5. It went on to be hugely successful but French never made any more money from it.

French went to school at Foyle College in Derry and then went on to study civil engineering at Trinity College Dublin.

Even when unwell in his later years, French refused to cancel shows. It was after a show in Glasgow that he stopped in Formby, Lancashire as he was not feeling well. Within days he had developed pneumonia and died from heart failure on 24 January 1920.

He was buried in the churchyard of St. Luke’s Parish Church, Formby.

That is where the ceremony will begin at 12 noon on Monday with a memorial by the graveside by Rev Dr Matt Davis and Sarah Mangan, Irish Consul General to the North of England, laying flowers.

In the church, Asa Murphy will perform Mountains of Mourne. Gerry Molumby will follow with Ach I Dunno.

John Phillips will talk about French’s connection to Formby.

Gerry Molumby will then perform Little Brigid Flynn.

Councillor Joe Riley will talk about the blue plaque in French’s honour outside the house where he died.

There will be closing remarks by Sarah Mangan and a final blessing by Rev Dt Matt Davis followed by refreshments in the hall.