Tuesday 19 March 2019

No harm in recounting Stoker as a charmin' singer

Sean Diffley

Has Bram Stoker's reputation as the chronicler of the hideous blood-drinking, hide-under-the-bed Dracula got a bit out of hand -- or, if you like, out of throat?

A hundred years dead and the personality of the man who left Marino in Clontarf when he was 31 and lived thereafter in London, where he aligned himself with Henry Irving and the Lyceum Theatre, is burdened with the features of a professional villain, like Peter Lorre or Christopher Lee.

But in fact and, certainly in his younger days, Stoker was a gifted athlete and a noted rugby player, and I would hazard a guess, warm and charming.

My reasoning is that he was a member of the Trinity rugby team in those formative years of 1869-70 and again in 1870-71 and the evidence is -- yes, I know, I wasn't around then, and neither were you -- that the young men who wore the Trinity jerseys were products of their time and well able to belt out a song or two.

I would speculate that Stoker, who was later to write about the nefarious activities in Transylvania, was capable, in a post-rugby match setting, of belting out a verse or two of 'Father O'Flynn'.

And why not. His team-mate in Trinity in those days was Arthur Graves, who composed the famous old ballad.

"Of priests we can offer a charmin' variety far renowned for learnin' and piety.

Still I'd advance ye without impropriety Father O'Flynn as the flower of them all"

And who was Arthur Graves? He was son of Reverend Charles Graves, long-reigning Bishop of Limerick, and Arthur was later a schools inspector and Gaelic scholar and father of the poet Robert Graves, the famed author of such as 'I Cladius'.

Robert Graves lived in Majorca and had little time for Limerick and his family there.

In Limerick a statue was erected as a tribute to the long reign of Bishop Graves, and son Arthur was one of three to have their tributes to the bishop inscribed.

The other two were Douglas Hyde, whose contribution is in Irish, and the third was RC Tyrrell, a vice-provost of Trinity.

Robert Graves didn't bother to attend the ceremony for his grandfather.

It is important, I believe, to remember our history and the personalities who, too often, are forgotten or ignored.

And a bit of speculation is no harm, like Bram Stoker singing 'Father O'Flynn'. And the contributions of the Graves should not be neglected either.

As for 'Father O'Flynn', it was the party piece for the baritone version by Billy Morton, usually in a hospitable saloon after one of his famous athletic promotions.

Irish Independent

The Throw-In: Dublin's issues, Corofin's greatness and Waterford's quiet development

In association with Allianz

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport