Music by Hon. D. Roche;
words by Thomas Crofton Croker, Esq.
T. Crofton Croker was an early and sympathetic collector of folk material, the source of a number of Thomas Moore's melodies, and the author of song collections championing Ireland's glorious past. Below is a biography of Croker from Charles A. Read's The Cabinet of Irish Literature.
Thomas Crofton Croker, the son of Major Croker of the 38th regiment of Foot, was born in Buckingham Square, Cork, on the 15th of January, 1798. It seems that when a mere child he displayed a singular taste for antiguities. His biographer in the Dublin University Magazine relates that, when his sister was shown some toy which she believed to be curious and interesting, she suddenly exclaimed, "Oh, pray give me that, sir, for my brother; he is such an antiquarian." In 1813 young Croker, by the advice of his relative Sir William Dillon, was placed in a counting-house; yet, while engaged in the firm of Messrs. Lecky and Mark of Cork, he found time to take occasional rambles in company with a Quaker gentleman of tastes similar to his own, for the purpose of sketching the many objects of interest in that picturesque county, It was in these excursions that he gained that intimate knowledge of the people, their ideas, traditions, and tales, which he was afterwards destined to turn to such good account. The first literary effort of his that attracted attention was a poem translated from the Irish which appeared in the Morning Post, the poet Crabbe, amongst others, being favourably impressed with the merit of these verses. To Tom Moore, who, at this time, was collecting airs for his songs, Croker supplied a great number; which service the poet gratefully acknowledged. It was about this time, too, he drew the sketch in a lady's album of "Sunday's Well," near Cork, o'ershadowed by some fine old trees. It was on the page opposite to this sketch that Father Prout, some years afterwards, penned the well-known lines[*] in which are sung the beauties of a spot dear to him as well as to Croker, in a style characteristic of the gifted and eccentric writer.
In 1817 we find Croker exhibiting as an artist in the Fine Art Exhibition of his native city. As an artist, too, he took a place in the Literary Examiner, a periodical which had a short-lived existence in Cork. In this publication it was Irish antiquities which worthily furnished subjects for his pencil.
On his father's death in 1818 he bade farewell to his native country and proceeded to London, and at once received an appointment in the admiralty from his well-known namesake, John Wilson Croker. Three years afterwards he visited Ireland, and the result was the production, in 1824, of his Researches in the South of Ireland. This work was modestly represented by the author as merely an arrangement of notes made during several excursions in the south of Ireland. An eminent critic, less diffident than Croker, states that the "volume contains a large amount of valuable information respecting the manners and superstitions of the Irish peasantry, scenery, architectural remains, &c." Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland appeared in 1825. This work sold so rapidly that in a few days the first edition was disposed of, and Mr. Murray, the publisher, advised his departure for Ireland forthwith, as the author put it, "to glean the remainder of the fairy legends and traditions which he suspected were still to be found lurking among its glens." Mr. Croker tells us he started from London with a determination to make the acquaintance of O'Donoghue's shade on May morning at sunrise, and "till the day previous to that fixed on for our personal introduction, making the most of my time in hunting up and bagging all the old 'gray superstitions' I could fall in with."
In 1828 Legends of the Lakes, a new arrangement of A Tour to the Lakes, which had been published in 1825, appeared, followed by Daniel O'Rourke. This tale met with great success, and during the same year was translated into both French and German. Mr. Croker was a member of the Society of Antiquaries, and in the year 1828 he was elected president. Barney Mahoney, My Village versus Our Village, both of which appeared in 1832, though published in Croker's name, were, we are told by his son, written by his wife; she, with wifely affection, insisting that the stories should be put to the credit of her husband.
Mr. Croker took an active part in the formation of two literary associations, namely the Camden Society, founded in 1839, and the Percy Society in 1840; and Historical Songs of Ireland, with an Introduction and Notes by T. Crofton Croker, formed part of the third year's issue by the former of those two learned bodies.
The Popular Songs of Ireland appeared in 1839. The Naval and Military Gazette describes this book as "a publication of real value as illustrative of the past and present condition, both mental and moral, of the most singular people of the world." So much for the critic's opinion of the "ancient race." The Memoir of Joseph Holt, General of the Irish Rebels in '98, edited from the original MS. in the possession of Sir William Bentham, next appeared, and "is wild, eccentric, and adventurous," says the New Monthly Magazine, "as the adventures of an Irish rebel outght to be." "We heartily recommend the general and his editor, whose notes are copious and interesting," says the Athenæum. In 1844 the Tour of M. Boullaye le Gouz through Ireland was published. Mr. Croker also contributed sixteen drawings to the first volume of Mr. and Mrs. S.C. Hall's Ireland. An Autobiography of Mary, Countess of Warwick, from a manuscript in the possession of Lord Brooke, published as the May issue for 1848 of the Percy Society — and a lost play, supposed to be the production of Massinger, also issued by the same society in 1849 — were both edited by Mr. Croker.
"Yet, with all these pursuits," says his biographer, "literary, scientific, antiquarian, and pictorial, Mr. Crofton Croker has obtained the character of being a good man of business, and an active, intelligent, and efficient officer of the admiralty. Literature and art may be considered merely as the playthings used by him wherewith to relax his mind from the strain of the duties of office, and yet how much has perseverance and industry effected with such noble toying."
Mr. Croker retired from his official post in 1850 on a pension of £580 a year. Four years afterwards he died at his residence in Gloucester Road, Old Brompton, London, on the 8th of August, 1854, aged fifty-six, and was buried in the Brompton Cemetary. An interesting memoir, on which we have drawn largely, by his son, Mr. T.F. Dillon Croker, is prefixed to Tegg's edition of his Fairy Legends.
(There follow two items, both from Fairy Legends and Traditions, the first — "The Soul Cages" — in prose; the second — "The Lord of Dunkerron" — in verse.)
Above excerpt is from
Read, Charles A. (ed): The Cabinet of Irish Literature, Vol. III, pp. 137-139. New York: P. Murphy & Son, 1903.