French Family Association

The Official Website of the Surname French

 

Cover of the score of “The Mountains of Mourne” by Percy French

Chart #IREB, French Family of Cloonyquin
Roscommon County, Ireland

Last updated by Mara French on 11/18/08. Numbers in brackets [ ] show the source material and refer to the bibliography at the end of this chart. An asterisk (*) shows continuation of that line. Send corrections or additions to Mara French. Revised 1989, 2008.

Note:

This is a very extensive ffrench family. There is so much information online about them that I plan to include only a small part here. I am mainly trying to research the connection of the French, ffrench, and de Freyne families born in Ireland who immigrated to America. With this particular line, no known families immigrated outside of Ireland.

Contents

History and Research

First Generation

Second Generation

Third Generation

Fourth Generation

Fifth Generation

(William) Percy French

House at Cloonyquin, Elphin, Co. Roscommon

“Mountains of Mourne” in Newcastle

Statue in the Town Square of Ballyjamesduff

Bibliography

Origination of the Surnames ffrench and de Freynes

Surname French in Ireland from Counties Wexford, Roscommon, Galway, Cork, Mayo, etc.

Emigration, Irish Charts

Other Ireland Notes on the Surname French


History and Research

''Burke's Irish Family Records'' states that Arthur French of Tyrone bought Cloonyquin from the Right Honourable William Conolly, who had bought it from the Trustess of Irish Forfeitures. From Arthur French's second marriage to the widow of Iriel Farrell of Cloonyquin descend this branch of the French family. Arthur French of Cloonyquin bought part of the estate of Colonel John Browne of Westport in the barony of Ballymoe, county Galway, in the late 17th century. In 1828 William French of Clooniquin was a member of the Grand Panel of county Roscommon. By the mid 19th century the French estate was in the parish of Elphin, barony of Roscommon. Some of it was leased by Patrick Taaffe of Foxborough. Christopher French of Cloonyquin owned 3,701 acres in county Roscommon in the 1870s. Part of the French estate was conveyed to the Congested Districts' Board in July 1906 [2].

First Generation

The following family of Cloonyquin claims to be the elder branch of the Frenches of Roscommon, and is connected with the Dillons and the Frenches of Frenchpark. No Lords or Barons or de Freyne families appear in this line. None of this family that we know of immigrated to America.

1.1 Christopher French, d. 1676, held lands of Tyrone. He is buried in the monastery of the Friars Mintor “de obserantia” near Galway, with his predecessors. Christopher d. ca. 1718 (will dated 31 Jul 1718). Christopher French of Cloonyquin owned 3,701 acres in county Roscommon in the 1870s.

Second Generation

Children of Christopher French, 1.1

2.1* Arthur French, of Tyrone, eldest son of Christopher French, m1. Mary, m2. Sarah, the widow of Iriell Farrell of Cloonyquin. On 6 Apr 1677, Arthur French was certified to be in possession of the lands of Tyrone previously held by his father Christopher French who d. in 1676. Arthur was Mayor of the Town of Galway in 1691. Arthur d. 1712, having married twice.

2.2 Jeffery French, second brother of Arthur French.

Third Generation

Children of Arthur French and Mary, 2.1

3.1* Christopher French, only son by Arthur’s first wife Mary. Esquire of Cloonyquin, served as high-sheriff, b. 15 Jun 1821, m. 12 Feb 1851 Susan-Emma Percy, dau. of the Rev. W. A. Percy, rector of Carrick-on-Shannon. [6].

Children of Arthur French and Sarah Farrell, 2.1

3.2* Arthur French, succeeded to the Cloonyquin estate and is ancestor of the present family of French of Cloonyquin. He m. 23 Jan 1736 Olivia Usher, eldest dau. of John Usher and Mary St. George, only daughter and heiress of George St. George, 1st Baron St. George of Hatley. Arthur d. 8 May 1779 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Christopher French of Tyrone.

3.3* Simon A. Hyacinth French of Frenchbrook near Elphin, Co. Roscommon. Simon French had twelve sons.

3.4 Jane French. In 1774 Simon’s sister Jane married Captain Joseph Burke of London and Auberries, great uncle of Sir Bernard Burke, Ulster King of Arms and author of Burke's Peerage and Landed Gentry.

3.5 son

3.6 son

3.7 son

Fourth Generation

Children of Christopher French and Susan Percy, 3.1

4.1 Arthur-John-St. George French, b. 24 Feb 1853 [6].

4.2 William “Percy” French, son of Christopher French and Susan Percy, b. 1 May 1854, d. 24 January 1920 [6]. He m1. Ettie Armytage Moore in 1890 and moved to The Mall, Strand Rd. Baldoyle. His first wife died the following year, 1891 in childbirth, and a few days later their baby daughter died. He m2. Helen Lennie Sheldon in 1894 in Burmington, Warwickshire and moved to 35 Mespil Rd., Dublin. On 4 Nov 1894 a daughter was born, Ettie Gwendoline French, followed on 13 Mar 1896 by a second daughter, Mollie Helen French. He moved with his family in 1899, aged 45, to St. John’s Wood, London. On 21 Apr 1905 a third daughter was born, Joan Phyllis French, who d. in 1996. Percy’s final engagement was in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1920. Afterwards, in failing health, he called to a friend at Formby, Liverpool. Unfortunately, he developed pneumonia there on 24 Jan 1920, aged 65, and died. He is buried in St. Luke’s churchyard, Formby. His French line daughtered out. See his Biography below.

4.3 Elizabeth-Jane French [6].

Children of Arthur French and Olivia Usher, 3.2

4.4 Christopher French of Tyrone, b. 13 Apr 1754, who in 1774 assumed the surname of St. George in pursuance of a direction contained in a settlement made by his mother’s father, Baron St. George. He m. in 1778 to Anne Bingham, dau. of Henry Bingham of Newbrook. They had 3 children [7].

This Christopher French St. George's grandson, Christopher St. George of Tyrone, died on 12 November 1877, without male issue, and was succeeded by his two daughters as co-heiresses, namely Josephine St. George who married Andrew Browne of Carnacregg and Katherine St. George who married Kobert Kerr St. George of Woodsgift, Kilkenny. 

4.5 Olivia French, m. 25 Jun 1772 to Anthony Nugent of Pallas, who was b. 1730, d. Sep 1814 [7].

4.6 Julia French, m. Christopher French of Brook Lodge, her cousin [7].

4.7 Nichola French [7].

Children of Simon French, 3.3

Simon had 12 sons.

4.8* Arthur French succeeded his father Simon and married Arabella O'Rourke in 1765. Arthur and Arabella French are stated to have had 6 sons.

4.9 son, a Roman Catholic Bishop, resided at Foxborough and built Foxborough House [6].

4.10 son

4.11 son

4.12 son

4.13 son

4.14 son

4.15 son

4.16 son

4.17 son

4.18 son

4.19 son

Fifth Generation

Children of Christopher French St. George and Anne Bingham, 4.4

5.1 Arthur French St. George of Tyrone, b. 8 Aug 1780, d. 1 Jan 1844, m. 22 Jan 1801 to Harriet St. Lawrence who d. 1830, the dau. of William St. Lawrence, Earl of Howth. He had issue [7].

5.2 Letitia French St. George, m. James Kelly [7].

5.3 Olivia French St. George, m. William Robert Wills of Willsgrove [7].

Children of Arthur French and Arabella O’Rourke, 4.8

Arthur and Arabella French are stated to have had 6 sons.

5.4 Robert Henry French of Innfield and later of Kiltullagh. In 1788 Robert Henry French married a Miss Donnellan and had a son Robert French of Larchgrove. Other descendants intermarried with the Brownes of Mount Browne, Strokestown and Clonfad and Martin J. Blake states that some family members were living at Dangan in the early 20th century [3].

5.5 Jeffrey Martin French of Rocksavage and Toomon. Martin J. Blake writes that Jeffrey M. French married a sister of Peter O'Connor of Toomona and succeeded his brother in law at Toomona. He had a daughter Maria French of Larchgrove, who in the 1870s is recorded as owning 665 acres in county Roscommon [3].

5.6 William French of Frenchlawn. The Frenchlawn branch of the family occupied their estate up to the early 19th century. Papers in the National Archives seem to indicate financial difficulties after this as a receiver was appointed. By the time of Griffith's Valuation, Frenchlawn was part of the Sandford estate and was being leased by the Glancey family [3].

5.7 son

5.8 son

5.9 son

(William) Percy French

Cloonyquin is the home of the French family, including the song writer Percy French, sold by the family in the 1950s and subsequently demolished. Valued at £24 in the mid 19th century. The house was demolished in the 1960s. The former house sat along Cloonyquin Road.

William Percy French, known as Percy French, was b. 1 May 1854, d. 24 January 1920. He was one of Ireland's foremost songwriters and entertainers in his day. In more recent times, he has become recognized for his watercolor paintings as well.

French was born at Cloonyquin House, near Elphin, County Roscommon, the son of a Protestant landlord. He wrote his first successful song while studying at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) in 1877 for a "smoking concert". The song Abdul Abulbul Amir was sold for £5 to an unscrupulous publisher. The song later became hugely popular and was falsely claimed by other authors.

 

Percy French's Birthplace

 

Percy French's Grave in St Luke's Church, Formby, England

He graduated from TCD as a civil engineer in 1881 and joined the Board of Works in County Cavan as an Inspector of Drains. It is said that he wrote his best songs during this period. He also painted: he was a prolific painter of landscape watercolors and during this period considered art to be his true vocation. In fact, when he became well-known later in his life, his paintings from his time as a civil engineer became fashionable and sought after. When the Board reduced its staff around 1887, French turned to journalism as the editor of The Jarvey, a weekly comic paper.

When the paper failed, French's long and successful career as a songwriter and entertainer began. He became renowned for composing and singing comic songs and gained considerable distinction with such songs as Phil the Fluther's Ball, Slattery's Mounted Foot, and The Mountains of Mourne. (This last was one of several written with his friend, stage partner and fellow composer, Dr W. Houston Collisson.) But perhaps one of French's most famous songs is Are Ye Right There Michael, a song ridiculing the state of the rail system in rural County Clare. The song caused such embarrassment to the rail company that it led to a libel action against French, though this ultimately failed. (It is said that French arrived late for the libel hearing at the court, and when questioned by the judge on his lateness, he responded "Your honour, I travelled by the West Clare Railway," resulting in the case being thrown out.)

French took ill while performing in Glasgow and died some days later (from pneumonia) in Formby at the home of his cousin on 24th January 1920, aged 65. His grave is to be found in the churchyard of St. Luke's Parish Church, Formby in Lancashire. A statue of him sits on a park bench in the town center of Ballyjamesduff in honor of him and his famous song, "Come back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff".

The above biography is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Percy_French.

Home of the French family, including the song writer Percy French, sold by the family in the 1950s and subsequently demolished. Valued at £24 in the mid 19th century. The house was demolished in the 1960.

 

Another biography about Percy French, website:
http://fishing_in_ireland.tripod.com/general/percy_french.htm

Percy French (1854-1920)

Percy French was born at Cloonyquin, County Roscommon, Ireland in 1854, the second son of Christopher French, L.D., J.P. and his wife Susan Emma. He entered Trinity College, Dublin in 1872 to study civil engineering. Here, instead of focusing on academic matters, he began to develop his remarkable talents for song writing, dramatics, banjo playing and watercolour painting.. He died over eighty years ago but his songs live on, as do recollections of Percy himself.


After an unusually long number of years French emerged from university with an engineering qualification. He was about to emigrate to Canada in 1883 when he obtained a post on a government drainage scheme in County Cavan where he worked for 8 years. Here, the self-styled 'Inspector Of Drains' also found scope to develop his interest in music and drama whilst a series of spectacular sunsets, caused by the effects of a far distant volcanic eruption, fuelled his enthusiasm for watercolour painting. His time in Cavan also provided inspiration for two of his greatest songs - 'Phil the Fluter's Ball' and 'Slattery's Mounted Fut'.


In Dublin, French was for two years editor of a comic weekly magazine called 'The Jarvey'. He availed of this medium to promote a series of concerts throughout Ireland under the banner of 'The Jarvey Concert Company' and to advertise his ever increasing output of comic songs. Following the demise of 'The Jarvey', French, never far from the footlights, provided the libretto and played the leading role in two comic operas (music by his friend and collaborator, Dr.W.H.Collisson).


In 1891 his young wife, Ettie, died in childbirth just a year after their idyllic marriage and just a few days later their baby daughter died. These tragedies were, apparently, the background for those poignant poems 'Gortnamona', 'Only Goodnight' and 'Not Lost But Gone Before'. 
In 1892 Percy married his second wife Helen (Lennie) Sheldon of Burmington House, Warwickshire, England. They had three daughters - Ettie, Mellie and Joan. Joan, the last surviving daughter died in 1996. 
At this time French turned to the stage for a fulltime career. Encouraged by a friend and erstwhile partner, Richard C. Orpen, he wrote, produced and played the major part in a topical revue called 'Dublin Up To Date'. Consisting of sketches, caricatures, stories and songs, this show was to form the basis of a stage entertainment that would be his future fame and livelihood.


In 1900 following ever greater acclaim in Ireland and now known professionally as 'Percy French' he went to the richer pastures of London, played successfully in the theatres and music halls of the populous cities of Britain. 
The career of Percy French as an entertainer reached its zenith when he and Dr. Collisson toured Canada, U.S.A. and the West Indies in 1910 and received enthusiastic notices in the major cities of the east coast. French also toured the ski resorts of Switzerland from time to time and although based in London from 1900, he returned to play the holiday resorts and towns of Ireland each year without fail. While performing in Glasgow in 1920 he was taken ill and died some days later in Formby, Lancashire.


Today, more than 80 years after his death, Percy French is best remembered as a writer of humorous Irish songs. This activity was, however, merely one of the sidelines of an amazingly varied career that included landscape painting, writing sketches, verse and monologues and the all embracing one of entertaining from the stage and platform - the last named including his lifelong playing of the banjo. 
In his early days French usually composed or arranged the music for his songs himself. Many of his songs were inspired by the characters he met and places he saw on his travels around Ireland. He stayed overnight at that warm and friendly shop cum boarding house that gave rise to 'Drumcolliher' whilst the slow pace of life and concern for the individual in the west of Ireland is reflected in 'Are Ye Right There Michael?' - although the local railway of the time had caused French to be late for a performance in Kilkee on an occasion that led to an amusing court case, on which it is claimed that percy was awarded 10 pounds compasation.


Most of French's later songs were written with music composed or arranged by his friend and erstwhile stage partner Dr.W.Houston Collisson who was a brilliant musician. Songs such as 'Eileen Oge', 'Jim Whelehan's Automobeel', 'Donnegan's Daughter', 'Mrs. Brady' and 'The Mountains o' Mourne' are the fruit of this creative partnership which was also responsible for a highly successful musical comedy 'The Knight of the Road' in 1891. Ernest Hastings composed the music for French's poignant poem 'The Emigrant's Letter' and later still, Philip Green's musical composition fitted to perfection the haunting lines of 'Gortnamona'. French's daughter, the late Ettie, provided the music for 'That's Why We're Burying Him' while more recently still, the famous Irish tenor and performer of Percy French material. Brendan O'Dowda composed the music for French's other moving reminder of the sadness of emigration, 'An Irish Mother'.can be seen Percy French's songs and verse occasionally varied from the comic or humorous towards the sad or poignant and as his life progressed a sometimes wistful note was a distinguishing feature - none more so than his tribute to his jarvey (driver of a horse-drawn cab) of days that had passed - 'Come Back Paddy Reilly, To Ballyjamesduff'.

In addition to his songs Percy French wrote poems, recitations and verse. Like his songs these usually related to his family, friends or acquaintances as well as his experiences and his moods. He would sometimes parody the more grandiloquent poets and his poem "If I Should Die Tonight" is sometimes taken to parody Rudyard Kipling's famous lines about manhood, entitled 'If'. However, it was an adaptation of a poem "If I Should Die" by Benjamin Franklin King (1857-1894). This is French's version : 
"If I should die tonight
And you should come, 
And stand beside me, 
Lying cold and dumb, 
And if while standing there, 
You whispered low, 
'Here's the ten pounds
You lent me years ago,' 
I would arise, although they'd laid me flat, 
And say, 'What's that?'

If I should die tonight 
But rose to count
With trembling fingers,
That long lost amount 
I might live on; 
But when
You said' Here's your umbrella
And your fountain pen,' 
For one short space 
I'd gaze into thy face 
And then 
Drop dead again."
While a guest in the beautifully situated Glenveagh Castle in the centre of County Donegal, French once penned some lines akin to an epitaph: 
"Remember me is all I ask, yet the remembrance prove a task, Forget."
He painted prolifically and often paid for his board and lodgings in such kind. Not known for a desire to accumulate money, he sometimes just gave them to friends or acquaintances. His most sought after scenes depicted the light and character of the Irish landscape in its most evocative moods. This activity, which he perhaps he enjoyed most of all, also provides a colourful record of his tours as an entertainer to Switzerland, Canada, U.S.A. and the West Indies. 
The finest all round collection of Percy French's watercolours is nowadays in the care of The Percy French Society at the North Down Heritage Centre in Northern Ireland. Not surprisingly there are views of those mountains at Newcastle, County Down which French made so forever famous with his song 'The Mountains O' Mourne' and included also are scenes from the west of Ireland whose people and landscape he loved best of all.feel for the west of Ireland as it was a century ago is especially evident in his poem 'To The West' 
"The Midland Great Western is doing its best,
And the circular ticket is safe in my vest; 
But I know that my holiday never begins 
Till I'm in Connemara among the Twelve Pins.

The Bank has no fortune of mine to invest 
But there's money enough for the ones I love best; 
All the gold that I want I shall find on the whins 
When I'm in Connemara among the Twelve Pins.

Down by the Lough I shall wander once more' 
Where the wavelets lap lap round the stones on the shore: 
And the mountainy goats will be wagging their chins 
As they pull at the bracken among the Twelve Pins.

And its welcome I'll be, for no longer I'll meet
The hard pallid faces I find in the street; 
The girl with blue eyes, and the boy with brown shins, 
Will stand for their pictures among the twelve Pins.

Tonight, when all London's with gaslight agleam, 
And the Carlton is filled with society's cream',
I'll be 'takin' me tay' down at ould Johnny Flynn's 
Safe and away in the heart o' the Pins."

He never made much money - but it was all great fun and to his way of thinking that was what mattered. And people loved him. All sorts of people, of every class and creed. They said it was because his jokes never hurt anyone. He never laughed AT people. He laughed with them - which is a very different thing. It is easy to get laughs by poking fun at other people's expense. It takes a clever man - and above all a good man - to make people laugh in the innocent and harmless way that Percy French made them laugh.

It has been claimed by many from Kilkeel that Percy french wrote part of the Mountains of Mourne in the Temperance Hotel, (now the Housing Exective Office) on Newcastle Street. Well who knows.

House at Cloonyquin, Elphin, Co. Roscommon

The birthplace of Percy French, website:
http://www.roscommoncoco.ie/services/heritage/Heritage%20Access%20Audit%20of%20Co.%20Roscommon/Section%204%20Cultural%20Heritage%20Inventory,%204.9%20Famous%20Personalities.pdf

A plain 2 storey 3 bay Georgian house, originally a shooting-lodge but occupied permanently by the Frenches after their original house, about a mile away was burnt; subsequently enlarged at various dates, noticibly by the addition of a single-storey lean-to with a porch at one end of it, and a 2-storey wing. The boyhood home of Percy French, entertainer, writer of immortal Irish songs and watercolourist. Sold ca. 1955 by Mr. H. A. St. George French; afterwards demolished [11]. The photo above does not seem to be a 2-storey house (it may have been replaced); however, one can see the Memorial to Percy French to the left which is shown in detail at the beginning of this page.

“Mountains of Mourne” in Newcastle

The Percy French Restaurant in Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland, was named after him. Newcastle is immortalized in the famous lyrics penned by Percy French, “Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea”. Newcastle plans a statue of the famous writer. The status will be complete in Feb 2008

Statue in the Town Square of Ballyjamesduff

Statue of Percy French in the Town Square of Ballyjamesduff, Baile Sheamais Dhuibh, Cavan, Ireland. This statue is to celebrate Percy French an engineer who worked in Cavan. He was a Poet, Painter and entertainer who composed many Irish songs. Most famous of all is “Come Back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff”. The statue is actually of Fintan Cronin, local shopkeeper. Interestingly enough, no one knew what Percy French looked like, so instead the statue was modeled on Fintan, who was funding the building of the statue. Percy had one of the first bicycles in town of Ballyjamesduff where in lived during the 1880s.

Bibliography

[1] Wikipedia Dictionary, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Percy_French

[2] Estate: French (Cloonyquin),
http://www.landedestates.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/estate-show.jsp?id=1580

[3] Family French of Frenchlawn and Frenchbrook, website:
http://www.landedestates.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/family-show.jsp?id=1548

[4] The Contemplator’s Very Short Biography of Percy French, website:
http://www.contemplator.com/history/pfrench.html

[5] Lisa Williams, l.williams883@ntlworld.com. Hi, I don't know if you can help but I am trying to find information on my great great grandfather, I believe his surname was french, all I know is that he was born in ireland around 1853 and he eloped to england around 1874 with a mary melia and he used the name thomas frayne, my gran told me his surname was De freyne in ireland and he was related to Lords but I think he may have changed his forename too I can not find any records of him, my gran also told me there was ships captain in his family who would take immigrates to other countries. on his marriage certificate it says his father was called patrick and he was a fireman but recently I was looking up the name french and came across pictures of a william percy french from ireland and my father is the spitting image of this person, I think I am connected to this person in some way. Is there anyone that you know of that my gr gr grandfather could of been, if you can not help then I would like to thank you for reading my email. Response: Lisa, there is no Thomas French in this family.

[6] From A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, by Bernard Burke, Published by Harrison, 1858, 1404 pages. Website:
http://books.google.com/books?id=CZNmAAAAMAAJ&dq=Carrorea+Galway+Ireland&source=gbs_summary_s&cad=0

[7] Stirnet, website:
http://www.stirnet.com/main/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=79&startUrl=http://www.stirnet.com/HTML/genie/british/uv/usher01.htm

[8] Howard Killian, Email: Golden6363@aol.com (good in 2003). He is part of the Killian family of Cloonyquin.

[9] Answers.com about Percy French, website:
http://www.answers.com/topic/percy-french

[10] Clare County Library, Percy French, 1854-1920, website:
http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/people/percy.htm

[11] A Guide to Irish Country Houses, by Mark Bence-Jones, 1988.