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Search for Stolen Percy French Papers

"Are Ye Right There Michael, Are Ye Right?". "Phil the Fluter's Ball". "Slattery's Mounted Fut". "Come back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff", and "The Mountains O' Mourne", the last in collaboration with a friend, Dr.W.Houston Collisson

These were but a few of the songs written by one of the most beloved Irish entertainers of all time, Percy French, who was also a watercolour artist of repute, a poet, and a right good fellow.

Twenty-one boxes of French memorabilia were housed at the North Down Heritage Centre in Bangor, County Down, during an exhibition of the artist's life and work held in the Fall of 2002. They included batches of cuttings about French's trips to Canada, the United States, and West Indies. Now it has been revealed that seven of the boxes are missing.

The centre houses a unique collection of letters, diaries and programs, original watercolours and photographs alongside an illuminating depiction of French's life and career, and attracts upwards of 70,000 visitors annually.

A spokesman, David McShane , said the memorabilia missing were the heart of the collection. "It is Percy's dairies, his personal letters to his daughters, his personal letters to friends. It's all something we can't replace. You can see, it's something special."

An investigation led by police detective J. Clarke has failed to trace the missing boxes to date. He suspects they may have been taken outside the country, and is interested in finding information on them in the United States.

Because of French's link to Canada, this web page wishes to help by exhorting those who take a delight in his work to be on the look out for any of the missing memorabilia which may turn up in this country, and report it to the authorities.

Percy French was born in 1854 at Clooneyquin in County Roscommon, Ireland, and died in England in 1910. He is buried in Formby, Lancashire.

The richness of his humour and the poignancy of his sadness were captured by Irish singer Brendan O'Dowda on an LP record, an original copy of which is a collectible of worth.

Watercolours by French, many painted in the west of Ireland and in Donegal, have risen in value in recent years. Only a sample is included in the following list of titles: Wooded Pathway; Bogland Landscape; Sailing Boats; Two Fishermen in a Currach; Bogland in West of Ireland; Pathway through the Forest; In Donegal; Peat Stacks; View of Bundoran; and Portrush; Co. Antrim.

As a closing note, Percy French was a young undergraduate at Trinity College, Dublin, when he wrote one of his greatest successes, "Abdulla Bulbul Ameer". Two versions are given of its fate, one that he sold the copyright for a mere £5 sterling, the second that he failed to register copyright and, as a result, it was pirated throughout the English-speaking world.

Readers may consult the World Wide Web for further details on his career and works, including the Princess Grace Irish Library (Monaco), a much overlooked resource for researchers interested in things Irish.

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