Many myths and halftruths have accumulated around Farrelly and his famous song, and Des MacHale sets out to dispel them in his book and to fill in the background to this remarkable man's life.
'Richard Farrelly, known to his friends as Dick,' writes MacHale, 'was born in Kells, Co. Meath in 1916, a turbulent year in Irish history. His parents were publicans who ran a bar in Church Street, Kells. When he was twenty-three, Richard left Kells for Dublin to join the Irish police force, the Garda Siochana (literally 'guardians of the peace').
He served in various Garda Stations in Ireland throughout his thirty-eight year police career, ending up in the Carriage Office in Dublin Castle, formerly the centre of British rule in Ireland. By all accounts, Richard Farrelly was a gentle and kind man, a good husband to his beautiful wife, Anne, and a loving father to his three daughters and two sons. He was also a gifted songwriter. During his lifetime he wrote over two hundred songs and poems and many of those came to light only after his death. He was, apparently, a very private, modest and shy man and avoided the limelight whenever possible. He seems to have written and composed more for his own satisfaction than for commercial reasons. His songwriting talents came to the fore in 1948 when he wrote the words and music of If I Ever Fall in Love Again, a song that became a British hit for Anne Shelton and a hit for Guy Lombardo in the United States.
It has been widely acknowledged that The Isle of Innisfree is a sumptuously beautiful song with a haunting melody, but questions have been raised about its origins. Now, Des MacHale emphatically answers such questions.
'It is' he asserts, 'totally original and only Irish begrudgery (for which we are justly famous) could have given rise to the many false rumours about its origins. It is definitely not based on an 'old Irish folk melody' (which one?). Nor it is an imitation of Dream of Olwen by Charles Williams from the Edward Dryhurst film While I Live (1947).
'I, and others who have .musical qualifications, have listened to Dream of Olwen many times and can find no similarity or connection between this song and The Isle of Innisfree. We are at a loss to know where this fanciful story first came from and have no difficulty in dismissing it out of hand!
Not surprisingly, The Isle of Innisfree became a smash hit, climbing to number two in the British Top Twenty. When Bing Crosby recorded it in 1952, its popularity went around the world.
Richard Farrelly died in 1990 at the age of 74 years. He was deeply mourned by his family and many friends and was sadly missed by music lovers everywhere. Some time after his death, his son Gerard, a musician, discovered an old suitcase which contained two hundred poems and songs which had been penned by Richard and remained unpublished. Happily, Gerard and his wife, the singer Sinead Stone, put together a selection of these on a CD entitled Legacy of a Quiet Man.
One of the most successful and prolific composers of music for films is John Williams, who was born in Long Island, New York, in 1930. He was the winner of five Oscars and was nominated an amazing forty-one times. Williams was responsible for the music in such films as Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Wars, Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E. T., Jurassic Park, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Minority Report. His musical scores have earned him the kind of recognition that other composers can only dream about.