Both of Moore’s parents were Roman Catholics, and naturally Moore was brought up as a Catholic. Rosetti describes John Moore as a tradesman, a grocer and spirit dealer. My Mother (who was a daughter of Margaret Moore and John Hanrahan) told me John Moore worked in Tralee as a draper’s clerk and moved from there to Dublin. The Moores met a fate that was not unusual. Under British rule they were evicted, the land is now owned by Liam Nolan. My great-grandfather moved to Ahalahanna, in his death certificate he is described as a Weaver.
Thomas Moore was a man of small stature, but in his school days has been described as intelligent and lively. His primary school teacher was a Mr. Samuel Whyte who encouraged a taste for drama among the boys and Moore was a favourite of his. At the age of 14 Moore wrote a Sonnet to Mr. Whyte (his teacher) and it was published in a Dublin magazine.
The parents of Moore hailed the French Revolution, no doubt embittered by the experience and the knowledge of wrongs imposed on the native Irish. Moore entered Trinity College in 1794, which was a year after the Irish Parliament had it opened to Catholics. In College he became friendly with Robert Emmet and many others who would have aspirations kindred to those of Emmet. Even though Moore had not joined in anything that the college authorities would regard as a rebellious act, he was reprimanded and interrogated, but honourably refused to implicate his friends. Through his acquaintance with Emmet he joined The Oratorical Society, and also The Historical Society. He graduated at Trinity in November 1799.
His mother was the major influence in pressing Thomas to the Bar. His parents felt there was no future in poetry or in literature. Thomas went to England in 1799 and studied in the Middle Temple. He was called to the Bar but never practised, as he followed what his innate nature lured him to follow. Still we find Moore constantly associated with men and women of fashionable society. There was no doubt a stigma, a feeling of Moore’s desires to be among those who regarded themselves as the top echelon of society. In fairness to Moore we must note that among Emmet and his friends he never got the least inclination to partake in any organised or physical uprising, so it is reasonable to assume that Moore would and did (in the words of Kipling) “Walk with Kings nor lose the common touch”.
In 1802 Moore published his first volume of original verse, “Poetic works of the late Thomas Little”. He received £60. In 1803, he was elected to the post of Registrar to the Admiralty Court of Bermuda. He reached here in January 1804. In March he appointed a substitute and left for a tour of the United States and Canada. He was not over impressed by his experience in America, perhaps his own more than their fault. He was impressed by Jefferson.
He came back to England in 1806, and was at one stage on the verge of a duel, but it was only a bottle of smoke. He met and had a disagreement with Lord Byron, but they reconciled. Moore was still patronised among the houses of fashion. The official substitute appointed by Moore in Bermuda was dishonest and as it was Moore’s responsibility, Moore had to pay £6,000, which he did. In 1811, Moore married Miss Besssy Dyke, and it was a life-long mutual love. At a Thomas Moore Festival in Kilkenny City, I asked why a Moore festival, I was told it was in Kilkenny he first met Bessy Dyke.
He moved some time later from London to Derbyshire. He continued to write and publish many other pieces and all enriched him financially and otherwise.
His “Irish Melodies” had begun in 1799 when he got a publication of Irish Melodies by Bunting, Moore sought to preserve the tunes by writing the lyrics and his rendering of the songs or melodies enhanced his prestige. Rossetti also says his voice had hoarseness but was flute like in his singing. Longman, the publisher, paid in advance the large sum of £3,150 for Moore’s poem “Lalla Rookh”. “Lalla Rookh” was princess out in some oriental country that would be easier visit than get your tongue around the names of places and people.
In 1831, he wrote a like of Lord Edward Fitzgerald. In his latter years he resided at Sloperton Cottage in Wiltshire. One of his sons died in Algeria, another in 1842 of consumption. His mental powers collapsed and he died of Alzheimer’s disease on 25th February 1852. It is my opinion that all his children pre-deceased him.
It is claimed that at one stage he said he was annoyed by his Kerry cousins asking for favours. It is also claimed that he never came to Moyvane even though he travelled the Mail Road and passed by Darrigone Cross. So he never visited his father’s birthplace. He did visit the great house in Kilmeaney during the reign of the O’Mahonys.
The general belief is that it was while there he heard of Fitzgerald losing his way and falling in love with a McCormack girl whom he married. It is also claimed the Dauphine of France was a descendant of theirs.
They were the subject of Moore’s poem entitled “Desmond Song” whose opening line is “By Feale’s Wave benighted”.
Whatever about his association with people of high society, his patriotic views were manifest in many of his poems. The Song of O’Ruark, closes with the lines “On our side is virtue and Erin, on theirs is guilt”. “She is far from the Land” was referring to Sarah Curran, Robert Emmet’s sweet heart. I remember my Aunt Kate Keane (Mrs O’Connor) when I was young reciting, “When vanquished Erin wept beside the Boyne’s ill-fated river”, and also, “The last Rose of Summer”. My mother’s favourite seemed to be “Oft in the Stilly Night”. Personally I have a great love of the sweetness, the tenderness and the lovely flow of Moore’s Melodies.
There was a man from Moyvane by the name of Connie Nolan who I got to know through our mutual interest in poetry. I asked him has poetry any virtues apart from flowery language? He replied – it has a refining influence on the mind. Certainly Moore’s poems are within that category full of feeling and refinement.
P.S. The £6,000 debt was reduced to £750.
The Minstrel BoyAn emotionally stirring and inspirational song, The Minstrel Boy was written by Thomas Moore who set it to the melody of The Moreen, an old Irish aire. It is believed by many that Moore composed the song as a memorial to several of his friends he had met while a student at Trinity College and who had participated in the 1798 rebellion of the United Irishmen. Due to the songs popularity, it was a favorite of the many Irishmen who fought during the U.S. Civil War, primarily on the Union side.
The Minstrel Boy to the war is gone
In the ranks of death you will find him;
His father’s sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;
“Land of Song!” said the warrior bard,
“Tho’ all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!”
The Minstrel fell! But the foeman’s chain
Could not bring that proud soul under;
The harp he lov’d ne’er spoke again,
For he tore its chords asunder;
And said “No chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and brav’ry!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free,
They shall never sound in slavery!”