Sunday, March 17, 2013

Charles P. O'Conor: An Irish Poet in Deptford

A little St Patrick's Day post:

Charles P. O'Conor's collection of poems, Songs of a Life, was printed at the Kentish Mercury office in Blackheath Road in 1875 and reviewed by Matthew Arnold in the Pall Mall Gazette in June 1875.

In Arnold's essay, A Deptford Poet, O'Conor is described as 'an Irish workingman settled at Deptford' whose poetry 'has gaiety, tune, pathos; it invigorates...We are told that Mr O'Conor's songs are sung by Irish workmen, and we are not surprised at it. He is best when his themes are Irish, drawn from his native country and his intimate experience... here is a poor Irishman with a soul for refinement and delight, whose lot is to work with his hands down at Deptford, with frail health, work uncertain, and a wife and children to maintain; yet he managees to feel and to illustrate the truth of Schiller's excellent saying that "all art is dedicated to joy".

According to Catherine Reilly's 'Mid-Victorian Poetry, 1860-1879' (1999): Charles Patrick O'Conor was born  in County Cork in 1837 to 'poor parents'. He 'went to England in his youth, writing verse for newspapers and songs for music. Appointed to a government clerkship in Canada, but soon retired owing to ill health. Known as 'The Irish Peasant Poet'. He lived in Lewisham for many years and was often thought of as a Kentish poet. Received a civil list pension of £50 a year'. As well as 'Songs of a life: Wayside chants; Fatherland' publsihed in 1875 (96 pages), he had a collection called 'Wreaths of fancy' published by George Vickers, London, 1870 (92 pages)

So clearly there's a large body of work, only a little of which seems to be available online at present. I did though come across one of his songs that was included in a 1932 anthology LYRA CELTICA

Maura Du of Ballyshannon by Charles P. O'Conor

Maura du of Ballyshannon!
Maura du, my flower of flowers!
Can you hear me there out seaward,
Calling back the bygone hours?
Maura du, my own, my honey!
With wild passion still aglow,
I am singing you the old songs
That I sung you long ago.
And you mind, love, how it ran on--
"In your eyes asthore machree!
All my Heaven there I see,
And that's true!
Maura du!
Maura du of Ballyshannon!"

Maura du of Ballyshannon!
Maura du, my soul's one queen!
Big with love my heart is flying,
Where the grass is growing green.
Maura du, my own, my honey!
That I love you, well you know,
And still sing for you the old song,
That I sung you long ago.
And you mind, love, how it ran on--
"In your eyes asthore machree!
All my Heaven there I see,
And that's true!
Maura du!
Maura du of Ballyshannon!"

Maura du of Ballyshannon,
Maura du, the day is drear!
Ah, the night is long and weary,
Far away from you, my dear!
Maura du, my own, my honey!
Still let winds blow high or low,
I must sing to you the old song,
That I sung you long ago,
And you mind, love, how it ran on--
"In your eyes asthore machree!
All my Heaven there I see,
And that's true!
Maura du!
Maura du of Ballyshannonl

Maura du of Ballyshannon!
Maura du, when winds blow south,
I will with the birds fly homeward,
There to kiss your Irish mouth.
Maura du, my own, my honey!
When time is no longer foe,
By your side I'll sing the old song,
That I sung you long ago,
And you mind, love, how it ran on--
"In your eyes asthore machree!
All my Heaven there I see,
And that's true!
Maura du!
Maura du of Ballyshannon!"

(*asthore machree, "The darling of my heart.")

Lots more Transpontine South London Irish history and culture posts here

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Delightful piece for St Patrick's Day & thanks for bringing to wider attention the works of Charles P O 'Connor.. from quick glance at the NWKFHS records.. family grave in Ladywell & Brockley cemetery.. so may well find a much merited place on future guided walks once located..

Regards

Mike Guilfoyle
Vice-Chair : Foblc

Anonymous said...

Charles patrick O'Conor was my great grandfather, how wonderful to hear that his poetry is remembered. sally

Anonymous said...

Charles Patrick O'Conor was my great grandfather. I'm very happy that his poetry is still being enjoyed. Sally.