Sunday, 27 April 2014

Woverton Rd

Nick Geraghty has done some extensive research into his family's history and has kindly shared the parts relevant to being Irish in Leicester…

Thomas Geraghty c1898 

"My grandfather, Thomas Geraghty (24th Feb 1867-1953) left from the townland of Gorteenacammdil (Gurcheen) near the village of Cloonfad on the borders of Mayo/Roscommon & Galway in Ireland (the nearest town is Ballyhaunis Co Mayo). This would have been around 1890 & he was bound for Leicester or a least he ended up here.

He was one of at least 5 children of Patrick & Bridget Geraghty (nee Kirrawn). His siblings were Mary c1854 (nee Hunt), John c1859 (who married Anne Regan), Catherine c1869 and Honor c 1870 (neither of whom we have been able to trace). I know for sure he had cousins in the nearby village of Garrenlahan/Granlahan in the townland of Spring Gardens, who in turn I believe were from Upper Clougher & Lower Clogher. All of these places are within a 3 mile radius of each other.

There is a record on the 1901 census of two Geraghtys, Patrick & Thomas, aged 24 & 26 respectively in accommodation on Baker St. in the Parish of St Margaret's, Leicester. They were together with other members of the Irish community although I am not sure of the relationship but would guess a cousins or possibly nephews. Otherwise all of his other nieces & nephews left Ireland in the 1920’s never to return with the exception of one. Similarly Thomas never ever returned to Ireland. 

By all accounts he was here for labouring work and may have had family connections here but not that I am aware of as such. I was led to believe that he was a navvy and that he worked for some time with a local firm by the  name of H. Wheway.

A member of the family from Spring Garden - John Geraghty, came and stayed with them a while whilst he worked as a roundsman for Kirby & West - (the recent picture on Leicester Memories facebook page could easily be him!)

His wife's family, the Martins, had also migrated into the city & her parents were originally described as agricultural workers from Uppingham in Rutland. They were initially in the All Saints area of the city and subsequently moved to Western Rd & became involved in the worsted textile business - I presume from a home base, having a machine in the house which was still not uncommon in those days. Margaret (1867 -1947) Tom's wife to be, converted to become a Catholic and they married on Boxing Day 1898 at Holy Cross on New Walk. Leicester.

Thomas & Margaret c1898

They initially lived on Andrews St. off Hinckley Rd; and started their family and I believe they would have attended St. Peters Church as I understand some of my elder cousins did also.

 Thomas, Margaret & their first three children (in order of age)
Bernard, Percy Patrick & Cyril Martin c1905.

Subsequently they moved to Woverton Rd,(no.110 or 112) off the Narborough Rd and the rest of the family were born and brought up in this area. Most of their children would have attended the school on the corner of Narborough Rd/Upperton Rd.

 Thomas & Margaret & 5 children ( in order of age) Bernard, Percy, Cyril, Norah or Kathleen at 110 or 112? Wolverton Rd; off Narborough Rd; c1912

Their children (my Uncles, Aunt and Father* were:

Bernard Martin Geraghty      (1899 - c1950’s) Military service
Percy Patrick Geraghty        (1900 - 1972)     Military service & Train driver/ JP
Cyril Martin Geraghty            (1904 - 1983)     Leicester Constabulary
Norah Butlin (nee Geraghty) (1908 - 1984)     House- wife & care worker
Kathleen Selina Patricia Cassidy (nee Geraghty) 1909 - 1989) Millinery merchandiser/ buyer
*John Alfred Geraghty 1910 (1910 - 1985)     Military service/Clerk post war.

Family Group c 1920. Ft row seated  l-r  Bernard, Thomas, Margaret,
Bk Row standing l-r Cyril, Kathleen, John, Norah & Percy.

Margaret became the local "nurse" & I posted a picture of her in her "uniform" in the Leicester Mercury some years ago and was astonished at the number of people who recalled her "bringing them into the world" &/or "laying out their parents" ("hatch batch and dispatch"  I think they referred to it as). Incidentally, her sister, Selina Martin, ran the old post office on Braunstone Lane before the war and before the Braunstone Estate was built"

“Nurse” Margaret

Whilst Thomas never returned to Ireland some of his sons, his daughter and indeed his English wife did make several trips to Spring Gardens (the family from Gorteenacammdil /Gurcheen by now either passed on or in Chicago). One of the nephews of my grandfather Thomas, did subsequently return to Gorteenacammadil and he too was another Thomas and I had the great privilege and pleasure of tracking his son, my 2nd cousin John and his family, down in the early 1980’s. Sadly he too is no longer with us.

If you'd like to be involved in The Irish in Leicester project contact us on 0116 276 9186 

or pop in to: The Emerald Centre, Gipsy Lane, Leicester. LE5 OTB or Duffy's, Pocklington's Walk, Leicester, LE1 6BU

We're now also on Twitter: follow me on  @irishleicester or join The Irish in Leicester group on Facebook.

Click here to view a map of The Irish in Leicester. 

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Prebend St

A recent request for information prompted me to ask the Irish in Leicester what they knew about a certain doctor….

"I have being searching for a doctor who lived and worked in Highfields in the 1940s who wrote a famous Irish song that was recorded by Bing Crosby".

The response was fast ….

"The song is Galway Bay. The name of the Doctor who wrote it was Arthur Colahan (not sure of the spelling).  In fact there's a plaque on the wall of the old Prebend Hotel outside your old school. ( Collegiate Girls) Can't remember if it says old Artie wrote it there."

Then from the Irish in Leicester group on Facebook...

"If you Google his name you will find his details are on Wikipedia. Fascinating man. He actually survived a mustard gas attack in World War 1. "

 And finally this amazing response from Austin Ruddy, Mr. Leicester at the Leicester Mercury….

Mr Leicester 10.4.1998:

IN HIS home town of Galway he lies in an unmarked grave, but in Leicester, where he lived for most of his working life, a blue memorial plaque proudly marks the site of his home in Prebend Street, off London Road.
Arthur Colahan was a doctor, the plate on his London Road offices described him as a 'neurologist' and he worked most prominently for Leicester Prison and police service. But what made him famous was his hobby as a songwriter.
For Arthur Colahan wrote many hit songs and sentimental ballads, mostly with the Irish touch, like Cade Ring and Macushla Mine. But his greatest hit was Galway Bay, sung still by Irish exiles everywhere around the world, but recorded and made famous by Bing Crosby.
Legend has it that Colahan wrote the song in memory of a brother drowned in Galway Bay, and it did the rounds for years before a publisher heard Colahan singing it himself while on a trip home to Ireland from Leicester.
Crosby's recording made it the best selling popular song in 1950, and scores of other performers recorded it too. But it remained the composer's own party piece at gatherings of family and friends.
Arthur Colahan came from a medical family, and graduated in 1913. He served in the British Army Medical Corps in India during World War 1, and returned home to settle in Leicester, renting professional accommodation on London Road (now demolished and replaced with a bank) and remaining in the city for the rest of his life.
Music was his greatest relaxation from the stresses of his work, and most of his hit songs were written in Leicester, where he died in September 1952, aged 67.

Mr Leicester: 26.9.2002:

Cecilia’s fond memories of the composer of Galway Bay song
The sentimental evergreen popular song Galway Bay written in Leicester by famous Irish composer Dr. Arthur Colahan who died 50 years ago this month (as recalled recently on my page) has fond family associations for retired school teacher Mrs. Cecilia Teresa Upton (nee Lardner), of Whitwick.
One reason is Dr. Colahan and his wife Maisin became Mrs. Upton’s godparents in 1930.
Four years earlier the Colahans were staying at St. Joseph’s Guest House at Whitwick while visiting Mount St. Bernard Abbey. They happened to mention to a friend of Mrs. Upton’s parents they were looking for a young person to help out with some domestic duties and as a receptionist for patients who came to the surgery at their home in Prebend Street, Leicester.
“The friend recommended my sister Mary, aged 14, who had recently left school and was unhappy working in a factory,’’ explains Mrs. Upton.
Mary got the job, which proved a happy arrangement not least because she had a lovely singing voice. She would sing the new compositions as Dr Colahan wrote them.
Not too long afterwards Mary’s sister Anne joined her at the Colahan home. Later when Mary eventually left there her sister Monica replaced her.
“Dr. and Mrs. Colahan (who in later years separated) became good friends with my parents Tom and Mary Lardner who originated from Galway and lived in New Street, Whitwick. They often came over to visit on Sunday evenings,’’ continues Mrs. Upton.
She was told they were very kind to her family when her little brother was tragically killed in a motorbus accident a few months before she was born.
“My parents asked them to be my godparents and I was given Mrs. Colahan’s middle name Teresa,’’ says Mrs. Upton.
When she was older she learnt how on the day of the christening the godparents’ late arrival caused considerable panic – particularly as they were bringing the christening robe and shawl.
Eventually their car (which always caused a stir in 1930 Whitwick) was sighted as it approached 15 minutes before the christening started.
They brought the robe and shawl carefully folded around a hotwater bottle – it being a chilly November day.
Mrs. Upton remembers Dr. Colahan as a jolly man, but who was sometimes moody.
She points out his full name was Arthur Nicholas Whistler Colahan – his third forename inspired by the American painter.
At Mrs. Upton’s retirement from Whitwick’s Holy Cross School in 1990 a mock-up of the TV programme “This is Your Life” was staged. It included a rendering of the song Galway Bay which understandably proved very nostalgic especially with her sister Mary present.

And 22.8.2007:
Mention on this page a few weeks ago of Dr. Arthur Colahan has prompted Arthur Bassett, of Leicester, to write to me about him.
Mr. Bassett says: “Leicester City Council has not really done him justice with the blue plaque on the wall of his house in Prebend Street, because he was more than ‘the man who wrote the song Galway Bay’.
“This song was published in 1942, but wasn’t popular until 1948 when Bing Crosby and many others recorded it.
“This version of the song is a rearrangement of a song (composed by Dr. Colahan) in memory of his brother who drowned in Galway Bay in 1912.”
Mr. Bassett has sent me this photograph which shows Dr. Colahan outside his house in Prebend Street, Leicester, where he practised neurology.”
He says Dr. Colahan wrote several books on the subject. One of them – The Miracle of the Human Body, published by Odhams about 1950 – belongs to the widow of a friend of the doctor’s. The friend sent the photograph to the doctor at Christmas 1948.
Mr. Bassett adds: “The photograph came with the sheet music of another of Dr Colahan’s songs, The Claddagh (wedding) Ring, which was published in 1946, but I can’t find a recording of it.
“I have Bing Crosby, Michael O’Duffy, Bill Johnson and Josef Locke singing the second version but only Scottish singer Robert Wilson (also of 1946) singing the original 1912 version of the song.”

And 27.7.1913:

Galway Bay’s a song that’s been carousing the homesick Irish for generations. And it’s easy to see why. It has an uncomplicated melody and all the subtlety of a tourist board montage...the gentle ripple of the trout stream, the murmur of coastal Gaelic, breezes perfumed by heather...
So it may surprise you to learn that this evocative, well-known ditty was written in a city residential street by a doctor who cared for Leicester prison’s neurologically- impaired.
Dr. Arthur Nicholas Whistler Colahan penned Galway Bay when he was living at 9 Prebend Street, Highfields.
The imagery of this soporific standard couldn’t have been in greater contrast to the cold steel bars and high walls that he knew while walking the dim corridors of HMP Leicester.
In 2002, the Leicester Mercury had the good fortune to speak with Cecilia Upton (nee Lardner), a retired teacher living in Whitwick.
She revealed that in 1930, Dr. Colahan and his wife, Maisin, became her godparents. Significantly, Cecilia’s parents Tom and Mary Lardner, who lived in New Street, Whitwick, also heralded from Galway.
Mrs. Upton told us that when her sister, Mary, was 14 she went to work for the Colahans at their three-storey Victorian home and surgery in Leicester.
It was there Mary carried out domestic duties and worked on reception. It just so happens that young Mary Lardner had a splendid singing voice and, as soon as Dr. Colahan penned something new, he would get this Leicestershire songbird to give it the once over.
However, it wasn’t the Whitwick teenager who made Galway Bay a 1947 classic. That was down to the silken tonsils of crooners’ crooner Bing Crosby.
Dr. Colahan, who was born in Enniskillen and had spent his formative years in Galway, died at home in Leicester on September 15, 1952.
His body was to make the final journey back to Ireland’s west coast, where, today, his bones lie buried in an unmarked grave at Bohermore cemetery.
In Leicester, we managed to go one better and erected a plaque to this musical man of medicine outside his city home.

And now over to Bing…

Huge thanks to everyone who responded to the call for help. If you're interested in similar local history stories then join the fantastic Mr. Leicester group on Facebook for regular updates and stories about Leicester. 

If you'd like to be involved in The Irish in Leicester project contact us on 0116 276 9186 

or pop in to: The Emerald Centre, Gipsy Lane, Leicester. LE5 OTB or Duffy's, Pocklington's Walk, Leicester, LE1 6BU

We're now also on Twitter: follow me on  @irishleicester or join The Irish in Leicester group on Facebook.

Click here to view a map of The Irish in Leicester.