Dick Farrelly's musical legacy

“The harp that once through Tara’s Hall the soul of music shed now hangs as mute on Tara’s walls as if that soul were fled” - so wrote the poet, Thomas Moore, in the long ago. Little did the poet dream then that haunting melodies, such as his own, would emanate from Royal Meath in the generations to follow-melodies which would bring joy and elation to the Irish race both at home and abroad.

I read recently that the Band of An Garda Siochana had given one of its many outstanding performances in the parish of Crosserlough, Co Cavan. This brought to mind memories of days marching and performing drills to the rhythm of the Garda Bank in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, away back in 1945. Among my comrades then were brothers, Frank and PJ Farrelly, who hailed from Ardglassen, Crossakiel, Co Meath. Both have since gone to their Eternal Rewards, but it is another of a Farrelly clan from Co Meath who is the subject of this article-namely, Richard (Dick) Farrelly.
It was obvious to all of us, recruits, that the Garda Bank was, indeed, a very small section of the Force as a whole, but containing gifted musicians, instrumentalists, singers etc. However, within the Force and not attached to the Band were many more endowed with the gift of music. One such was the late Richard (Dick) Farrelly.

Dick was a native of Kells, Co Meath. He was born in 1916 and 1939 joined an Taca Síochána when aged 23. Later, he and his comrades were absorbed into an Gárda Síochána and became fully-fledged members. Stationed first at Pearse Street, Dublin for a number of years, he was promoted to Sergeant rank and transferred to Administration (Financial Branch) in Dublin Castle. He was responsible for what was known as “The Payments Office” dealing with banks and making payments to his colleagues. While serving in the Castle he was allowed to wear plain clothes.

In his youth, the late Mr Farrelly studied piano and wrote songs and poetry. Later it was he who, on one of his journeys between Kells and Dublin, composed the tune “Isle of Innisfree” which the Film Director, John Forde, adopted as the theme tune for his famous film “The Quiet Man” which was made at Cong, Co Mayo and parts of Co. Galway, in 1953. Then stationed at Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo, which is approximately six statute miles from Cong, I knew many of the characters involved in the making of the film, including the late Paddy O’Donnell (train driver) and the late Joe Mellotte, The Neale, who acted as a stand-in for John Wayne on occasions. I recall Maureen O’Hara attending mass in Ballinrobe. It was little wonder that I heard the “Isle of Innisfree” sung and played so often, and learned of the goings-on in Cong.

Earlier, in 1948 Dick Farrelly had success with a song he wrote for a British singer, Anne Shelton - “If you ever fall in love again”. He is also remembered for songs on the Waltons radio programmes, such as “The Cottage by the Lee”. Patrick O’Hagan won a Castlebar song contest with one of Dick’s songs - “There’s only one Killarney” - Joseph Locke recorded another of his songs - “The Rose of Slievenamon”. His last song was “we dreamed our dreams” which was taken up by the Furey Brothers and Davy Arthur in 1988.

In all, he wrote over two hundred poems and songs.

Dick Farrelly retired from An Garda Síochana in 1977. He died on the 11th August 1990, and is buried in Shanganagh cemetery, where a monument to his memory now stands. At the time of his death he was survived by his wife, sister, brother, three daughters and two sons.

It is believed that one of his sons, Gerard, discovered a number of old hand-written manuscripts of songs after his father’s death. With singer Sinéad Stone, they have brought out a new CD which is called “Legacy of a Quiet Man”. This is available from Gael Linn or from Gerard himself, and will serve to perpetuate the memory of a great composer.

Guest musicians include Gerard’s brother, guitarist Richard M Farrelly, who has worked with Doleres Keane and Van Morrison. Also featuring are Colum Sands (of the Sands family) and Brendan Monaghan of the Phil Coulter Orchestra. Gerard’s musical backing is creative and sensitive. Sinéad Stone adds the colour of her truly exquisite voice to each song. From heartfelt ballads such as “Annaghdown” and the “Isle of Innisfree” through the catchy number “People like you and me” and the last number previously mentioned. “We dreamed our dreams” written by Dick Farrelly shortly before his death, the collection captures an unforgettable performance which salutes the legacy of a quite man. The album was recorded in the Farrelly’s home, situated in Bayview Avenue, near North Strand and borrowed mattresses were used as acoustic insulation. Gerard played the piano in the recording session. The sound engineer was Billy Robinson, who had worked with Mary Black and Altan. The disc was successfully cut.

Reverting to the film “The Quiet Man” which was adapted from Maurice Walsh’s book “Green Rushes” set in the 1920’s, the theme song “Isle of Innisfree” was recorded by Bing Crosby and became an international hit. It is widely accepted that the movie could not have been the success that it was without “The Isle of Innisfree”.

Sadly, even though the tune was played eleven times throughout the film, neither Richard Farrelly’s name, nor the name of the composition appeared in the production credits. Victor Young was credited with the penning of the full orchestration of the musical score.

All those who even knew Richard Farrelly, affectionately known as “Dick” agree that he was an unassuming and quiet gentleman. Solas na bhFlaitheas dá anam uasal.

According to an article submitted by Garda Peter M Kenny to a Garda Magazine, Det. Garda Joseph Cummiskey from Kells, Co Meath retired 15/5/1988, was interested in music and singing since his childhood days, took part in several Gilbert & Sullivan productions in his native Kells. Joe’s claim to fame is that shortly after Dick Farrelly composed the ‘Isle of Innisfree’ he gave the original manuscript to Joe’s sister Vera, for Joe to perform the song in public for the very first time. He sang it for the first time on 17th March, 1953, in the Vincent de Paul Hall in Kells.

“I’ve met some folks who say that I’m a dreamer and i’ve no doubt there’s truth in what they say. But sure a body’s bound to be a dreamer when all the things he loves are far away.”