Ballyjamesduff Co. Cavan (Contae an Chabháin)

Marcus Daly was born on the outskirts of Ballyjamesduff and went on to become one of the richest men in America.

He was born in 1841 and left Ireland at fifteen years of age. He travelled first to New York where he earned his passage to the West coast through various jobs. He eventually found himself working in the mining industry in Utah. His employer sent him to Butte, Montana, where he bought a mine on their behalf. He later bought a silver mine for himself and made his fortune when a copper-rich seam was discovered there. He died in 1900 at the age of 58. © National Library of Ireland. I knew a family by the name of Daly during my tenure in the town. I wonder could there be a family connection?

This is just an amazing old photo of the market town that was immortalised in song by Percy French.

Come Back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff…

The Garden of Eden has vanished, they say But I know the lie of it still; Just turn to the left at the bridge of Finea And stop when halfway to Cootehill. Tis there I will find it, I know sure enough When fortune has come to me call, Oh the grass it is green around Ballyjamesduff, And the blue sky is over it all. And tones that are tender and tones that are gruff, Are whispering over the sea,

“Come back, Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff Come home, Paddy Reilly, to me”.

My mother once told me that when I was born The day that I first saw the light, I looked down the street on that very first morn And gave a great crow of delight. Now most newborn babies appear in a huff, And start with a sorrowful squall, But I knew I was born in Ballyjamesduff And that’s why I smiled on them all. The baby’s a man, now he’s toil-worn and tough Still, whispers come over the sea,

“Come back, Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff Come home, Paddy Reilly, to me”.

The night that we danced by the light of the moon, Wid Phil to the fore wid his flute, When Phil threw his lip over “Come Again Soon”, He’s dance the foot out o’ yer boot! The day that I took long Magee by the scruff For slanderin’ Rosie Kilrain, Then, marchin’ him straight out of Ballyjamesduff, Assisted him into a drain. Oh, sweet are the dreams, as the dudeen I puff, Of whisperings over the sea, 
“Come back, Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff Come home, Paddy Reilly, to me”.
I’ve loved the young women of every land, That always came easy to me; Just barrin’ the belles of the Black-a-moor brand  And the chocolate shapes of Feegee. But that sort of love is a moonshiny stuff, And never will addle me brain, For the bells will be ringin’ in Ballyjamesduff For me and me Rosie Kilrain! And through all their glamour, their gas and their guff A whisper comes over the sea,
“Come back, Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff Come home, Paddy Reilly, to me”.
Encore verse: 
I’ve struck oil at last!, I’ve struck work, and I vow I’ve struck some remarkable clothes, I’ve struck a policeman for sayin’ that now, I’d go back to my beautiful Rose. The belles they may blarney, the boys they may bluff But this I will always maintain, No place in the world like Ballyjamesduff No guril (sic) like Rosie Kilrain. I’ve paid for my passage, the sea may be rough But borne on each breeze there will be,
 “Come back, Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff Come home, Paddy Reilly, to me.
 “It is famous for being in the Percy French song “Come back Paddy Reilly to Ballyjamesduff”, which was written about a man from the area who acted as Jarvy (coach driver) for French and decided to emigrate to Scotland. It is said that he drove his horse and cart to Carrick-on-Shannon, parked the horse and cart outside the railway station and took the train to Dublin. Legend has it that the horse ran all across Ireland looking for Paddy, until Paddy Reilly was said to have returned. Paddy Reilly is now supposedly buried in St Joseph’s graveyard, in the town of Ballyjamesduff.” Wiki source.
[There was just a fountain near where seat Percy French is sitting in when I lived there. This is new.]

The following video footage is not very good in the sense of its amateurish out of focus photography. However it’s excellent in depicting Ballyjamesduff, almost as I would have known it. I note that there is no fountain in the centre of the town. So that would men that it was before my time. It even has the daughter of the Jarvey Paddy Reilly whom Percy French writes about talking at the very beginning, which is very interesting from an historical point of view. She would have been a typical sight of older women who wore smock aprons. I remember a family by the name of Quinn in my time who were connected to Paddy Reilly.
I remember going to a house auction at Gambles or was it Faye’s? I bought a brown old fashioned wooden radio. I loved antique stuff. Just now as I’m reminiscing about that auction, I do remember getting a bunch of old post-cards and when I looked at some of them afterwards in my bed-sit over the Rock shop, I saw that some of them were of an elderly dead woman laid out on a four poster bed with flowers strewn all over her corpse. Her arms were criss-crossed. It was not the first time I’d ever seen a dead person depicted in a photo. It’s very natural in the Catholic church to see pictures of dead bodies of saints everywhere. For example, I recently looked at a dead body of an Egyptian Coptic Cardinal, as he lay on his throne. Thousands of mourners were gathered around the body of which was held firmly in place by an official. It’s not an uncommon feature within Catholicism. I lived just around the corner from Gambles that is shown in the video. To be precise – it was just beside where one sees a black dog crossing the road. In fact if one looks very closely at the part of the video that shows the town from a distance, there one can see the black dog, I think, it was crossing over the street to one Mrs. Whyte’s residence. Reilly’s shop that is boarded up belonged to two unmarried sisters who had a sweet shop right next door. There were three separate Reilly families all living next door to each other. Some staff who worked at the Credit Union along side it were also called Reilly. A family whom I frequented right next door to the Market House, see; first photo was also called Reilly. They were all christened with nick-names as there were Reilly’s everywhere.
Living in Ballyjamesduff was akin to living on an Island, as it was completely cut off from any main town. There was mostly no bus service to be had at all. However there was a bus each Friday evening that brought young students home and it collected them on Sunday evening for their departure to Dublin. Life came to it, though, every Tuesday in the form of the farmers mart. All the farmers in the hinterland were to be seen in the town for the whole day trekking in with their animals, tractors and all things agricultural. They brought good business to the shops and pubs. Despite its very small population of approximately 500 in my time before the Celtic Tiger – it’s now risen to over 2.000 according to the 2006 census. – there were 14 pubs in the town. They were booming at night-time. The ratio per capita of population was believed to be the lowest in the whole of Ireland.
[ I lived just across from the one and only Percy French Hotel in BJD.]
They all knew beforehand when the gardai, from a bigger barracks in a bigger town were on call in the town, as it went around like wild-fire to each premises when they were seen driving into the very wide streets and then suddenly seen hitting the nearest pub. I think they crept in via different parts of the town so as to surprise the erring publicans. But the latter had them well-sussed out. It was so comical seeing the owners on look-out duty. Shutters went down like a flash. Ballyjamesduff has the widest street for a town of its size in the whole of Europe. I loved the lay-out of the town. There was a fountain in the centre of it and I always sat on it with little Kieran whom I minded for a Corkonian woman, who married a Cavan man. She was a poultry instructor and travelled every day to work in Co. Monaghan. The singer is the late tenor Brendan O’Dowda. who was known for singing the songs of Percy French. Video: H/t macree01
Lacken Lake, which is not too far away from BJD, was a spot I frequented quite a lot. It is well known that Cavan has a lake for every day of the year. They were everywhere to be seen. Cavan folk are immensely proud of their drumlins and their lakes. What they lack in beaches and mountains, they surely make up in these. Patrick Kavanagh wrote about the drumlins of Co. Monaghan, which is only the next county.
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