George Nugent Reynolds

Life
?1770-1802; b. Letterfyan, Co. Leitrim; namesake son of Catholic landowner who entertained Turlough O’Carolan and was murdered by Robert Keon, a lawyer; wrote The Panthead: An Heroic Poem (Dublin 1794); also Bantry Bay (London 1797), a musical interlude; contrib. to Sentimental and Masonic Magazine, and W. P. Carey’s Evening Star and Watty Cox’s Irish Magazine; Bantry Bay is loyal in tone; wrote the song “Kathleen O’More”; held by Hercules Ellis and others to be the real author of “The Exile of Erin”, more generally attributed to Thomas Campbell; d. of a chill at Stowe while visiting the Duke of Buckingham on his way to London to study law. PI ODNB DBIV JMC FDA OCIL

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Commentary
Frank Molloy, ‘Campbell’s “Exile of Erin”’ [unpublished paper]: ‘[...; R. R.] Madden’s investigation was thorough, and he published his explanation for supporting Campbell ’s authorship in Ireland. He concluded that the Irish claim was based on confusion and faulty memories rather than on maliciousness. George Reynolds had indeed composed a ballad in the 1790s entitled “The Exiled Irishman’s Lamentation”. This was a tale of a refugee from evictions in Armagh , and its anti Orange Order theme made it popular in the years leading up to the Rebellion. It too was sung to the air “Savoumeen Deelish”, the verses were in the same metre as the “Exile of Erin”, and the phrase “Erin go bragh” was often repeated. Both ballads had been published in a song book, Paddy’s Resource, released in 1803, and both had circulated as broadsides. After a lapse of over thirty years, many people simply confused the two poems, or accepted that Reynolds had composed both. Since evidence of the “Exile of Erin” in Reynolds’ handwriting was never produced, Madden deplored the tendency of his fellow countrymen to rely on oral testimony, and criticised their willingness to lay “grave charges against honourable men” without checking for accuracy. / He did not however completely exonerate Campbell , arguing that the poet probably knew the Reynolds song, had adapted the subject matter for his own ballad, used some of its phrases, and wrote it with the same air in mind [...] ’ (For full text, see “Archives”, infra.)

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References
Dictionary of National Biography, bio-data calls him son of landowner (namesake) of Letterfyan, Co. Leitrim; his father entertained O’Carolan; the elder Reynolds murdered by an attorney (see Report on the Trial of Robert Keon, 1788); wrote ballads, ‘Kathleen O’More’ running through thirteen editions in 1800; The Panthead, in four cantos; Bantry Bay performed at Covent Gdn.; wrote an abusive letter to Lord Clare with good reason, subsequently published by Watty Cox; d. at Stowe while visiting the Duke of Buckingham, on his way to study law in London; the song ‘King James’s Welcome to Ireland,’ attributed to him falsely while ‘Exile of Erin’, though claimed by his family, is actually by Campbell. Note that the entry is by D. J. O’Donoghue.

M. J. Barry, Songs of Ireland (Dublin: James Duffy 1845) [23 Anglesea St.]; sole appendix contains text of letter from Hercules Ellis [229-38] effectively contesting the authorship of “Exile of Erin”, claimed by Mr. Campbell.

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John Cooke, ed., Dublin Book of Irish Verse 1728-1909 (Dublin: Hodges, Figgis 1909), bio-dates: 1770-1802; quotes “Kathleen O’More” [‘My love, still I think that I see her once more …’]; “Mary le More” [‘As I stray’d o’er the common on Cork’s rugged border / While the dew drops of morn the sweet primrose array’d, / I saw a poor maiden whose mental disorder, / Her quick-glancing eye and wild aspect betray’d. ... Her charm by keen blasts of sorrow were faded, / Yet the soft tinge of beauty still play’d on her cheek [her brother has been flogged by the soldiers] we’ll have vengeance for these dreadful lashes ... Erin’s daughter, away! ... With an overcharged bosom I slowly departed, / And sigh’d for the wrongs of poor Mary le More.’)

Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1 selects “Kathleen O’Moore” [sic]; and gives biographical details pp.492, 497.

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Notes
James Hardiman, Irish Minstrelsy (1831; IUP rep. edn. 1971), contains an extended footnote reference to Letterfian, the home of ‘the last male descendent of the MAC RANALD family [...] the late George Nugent Reynolds, Esq. of Letterfian, so justly celebrated for his wit, talents, and patriotism’ (pp.xlvi-xlvii). The note is mostly concerned with a tumulus associated with the ‘good people’ [fairies] and with Fionn Mac Cubhail [sic for Cumhaill]. Carolan composed “Planxty Reynolds” ‘for his friend’ [i.e., G. R. Nugent; p.xlviii.]

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