Where The Mountains Of Mourne Sweep Down to the Sea

Well, that’s a fairly good description of Newcastle, Co Down, as this picture illustrates.

The Mountains Sweep Down to the Sea

The Mountains Sweep Down to the Sea

Still it was a surprise to find this piece celebrating Percy French, the author of that song on the seafront.
The Man, His Words,

The Man, His Words,

Here is what the sign beside the piece says.
“This piece celebrates the life of the multi-talented entertainer, Percy French, who composed the song “The Mountains of Mourne”. To represent this wistful letter home, the stainless steel is held on the edge and engraved with handwritten lyrics to resemble a page. An iconic image of Percy is subtracted from the sheet, allowing a view of the Mournes and linking the man, the scenery and the song.”
Somehow, I assumed that French must have been a Newcastle man, especially when I saw there was also a hotel (parking for patrons only) with his name. I found it rather touching that a local son was so celebrated. Mother used to have a copy of his songs, but I don’t know where that has gone.
However, when I looked him up courtesy of the internet, I realised that French was a man who had travelled all over Ireland, though his tribute to the Mournes is probably the most significant piece of his writing to survive. I felt a frisson of connection when I found we share the same birthday, though more than a century apart. He also painted wonderful watercolours.
I loved the story about his run in with the West Clare Railway. He wrote a song “Are Ye Right There Michael”, that ridiculed the railway system. The railway company responded with a libel action against him. French arrived late for the hearing. When questioned by the judge on his lateness, he said “Your honour, I travelled by the West Clare Railway.” The case was thrown out.

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