1854 – Oscar Wilde, playwright, novelist and essayist is born in Dublin

1890 – Michael Collins is born in Clonakilty, Co. Cork

1961 – Opening of Cork Airport

1981 – Ben Dunne, joint managing director of Dunne’s Stores, kidnapped by the IRA

1961 – RTÉ reports on the closure of the West Clare Railway

Are Ye Right There Michael, are ye right?

The West Clare Railway was the topic of Percy French‘s song “Are Ye Right There Michael, are ye right?” (written in 1902), deriding the poor timekeeping and poor track quality of the time. Though amusing, some complained that this jesting nevertheless did little to further the cause for keeping the line open. French wrote the song after successfully suing the railway company for loss of earnings, when a late running train prevented him from attending a performance on time. The company, in turn, appealed the ruling, but French was over an hour late for the court hearing in Ennis. He informed the judge that his lateness was because “I took the West Clare Railway here, your honour“. The railway company’s appeal was unsuccessful.

Many myths have arisen concerning the Percy French incident. The facts are that French had arrived in Kilkee four-and-a-half hours after the scheduled time for a show he was due to give at Moore’s Hall on 10 August 1896. He had been due there at 3.25 pm, having begun his journey at Broadstone Terminus in Dublin that morning. The show was late starting as a result, and with a much reduced audience. French won his case at the Ennis Quarter Sessions in January 1897, and was awarded £10 plus expenses. The Clare Journal’s headline for the court hearing was, ‘An Hour With Percy French “free of charge”’. The case has since been re-enacted by the Corofin Dramatic Society at Ennis Courthouse.[1] His award was subsequently upheld in a reserved judgment when the railway company appealed the case two months later at the Clare Spring Assizes, before the Rt. Hon. Chief Baron Christopher Palles, by which time French had the germ of a song in his head: the line, ‘If you want to get to Kilkee, you must go there by the sea’ was repeated in court although it failed to make it in the song’s final version. The Railway had a disastrous policy of defending litigation. In another case heard on the same day as the Percy French case, Mrs. Mary Ann Butler, from Limerick sued when she was struck by a donkey on the Railway platform in Ennis.[2]

percy

Are Ye Right There Michael, are ye right?

 

You may talk of Columbus’s sailing
Across the Atlantical Sea
But he never tried to go railing
From Ennis as far as Kilkee
You run for the train in the morning
The excursion train startin’ at eight
You’re there when the clock gives the warnin’
But there for an hour you will wait

And as you’re waiting in the train
You’ll hear the guard sing this refrain:

Are ye right there, Michael, are ye right?
Do you think that we’ll be home before the night?
Ah you’ve been so long in startin’
That ye couldn’t say for certain
Still ye might now, Michael 
So ye might!

They find out where the engine’s been hiding
And it drags you to sweet Corofin
Says the guard: “Back her down on the siding
There’s a goods from Kilrush coming in.”
But perhaps it comes in, in two hours
Perhaps it breaks down on the way
“If it does,” says the guard, “be the powers
We’re here for the rest of the day!”

And as you sit and curse your luck
The train backs down into a truck.

Are ye right there, Michael, are ye right?
Have ye got the parcel there for Mrs White?
Oh ye haven’t, oh begorra
Say it’s comin’ down tomorra
And it might now, Michael
So it might

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