Francis Fahy, poet and songwriter; 1854-1935

Francis A Fahy Francis Arthur Fahy was born in Kinvara, Co Galway, on 29 Sept 1854 into a family of 17, eight of whom survived. His father, Thomas, came from the Burren area and his mother was Celia Marlborough, who was born near Gort. A very bright lad at school, he was appointed monitor at Northampton National School in 1866. Three years later he became an assistant teacher in Kinvara Boys School. He was only 15. That Christmas, 1869, his first play, The Last of the O'Learys in which he played the lead role, was performed at Kinvara Courthouse as a fund-raiser for the dependants of Fenian prisoners. The cast included J. St George Joyce, Joseph Fahy and Hyacinth Kilkelly. His poem, The Exile was published in the newspaper, The Nation on December 24, 1870.

Francis Fahy took a civil service exam and emigrated to England in 1873. In 1878, his father, Thomas, sold the family hotel. Both parents then emigrated to England to live with their son.

While on a return visit in 1889, Francis met his future wife, Agnes Duff from Limerick. His poem, Maid of Garryowen, dedicated to her, was published by the Limerick Leader that year. They married in the summer of 1891. He was 37 years of age.

They lived in Clapham, London, and Agnes bore four sons, one of whom, Dermot, unveiled the commemorative plaque at Fahy's place of birth in Kinvara (now Griffin's pub) in 1967.

Francis Fahy by all accounts was a very energetic man, fired with enthusiasm and nostalgia for his native country. No sooner had he arrived in England, when, together with others, he founded the Southwark Literary Club, to engender a love of Irish culture amongst the children of Irish emigrants. This became the Irish Literary Society, and later, the Irish Texts Society, being addressed by such luminaries as W.B. Yeats and Bernard Shaw.

In 1896, he became president of the emerging Conradh na Gaeilge (Gaelic League) in London, a position he held until 1908. Described as a small, brisk man, his enthusiasm and energy knew no bounds. He retired from the Civil Service at 65, and died on April 1st, 1935, aged 81.

Francis Fahy's most memorable poems and songs include The Ould Plaid Shawl, The Queen of Connemara, the original Galway Bay, and The Tide Full In. His publications included: The Child's Irish Song Book (1881); The Irish Reciter (1882); Irish History in Rhyme (1882) and Irish Songs and Poems (1887).

From Kinvara, A Seaport Town on Galway Bay (Tíreolas 1998)


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