Now one of Bing Crosby’s biggest fans believes he has pinpointed, for the first time, the ruins of the legendary crooner’s ancestral home in West Cork.
The news emerged yesterday on the 110th anniversary of Bing’s birth.
Dr Noel Buckley, an historical archivist who lives in Cork City, said if the site of Bing’s ancestral home just outside Schull was developed, it could become a huge attraction for his legions of fans around the world.
“All that is left now is a ruined ivy-clad wall — the gable end of the family home,” said Dr Buckley.
“But if proper interpretive signs were installed, or if a plaque was erected, it could become a massive attraction in the area.
“The site of the ancestral home is located overlooking the Atlantic.
“To tour around the area within a quarter mile of the site gives wonderful views of Carbery’s 100 isles.
“And with 90m Americans of Irish descent in the US and Canada, the site, if developed with the consent of the landowners, could become a huge attraction for them.”
However, the family which owns the land, upon which the ruin stands, is reluctant at this stage to allow the exact location site to be publicly identified.
They have spoken to Dr Buckley and are aware of its potential as a site of pilgrimage for Bing’s fans.
But they said they need time to consider how best to manage the site, amid concerns about insurance and public liability issues.
Dr Buckley said that, in the meantime, there is an opportunity for the people of Schull to honour their famous son with a plaque or a statue in the village centre.
He has spent years researching Bing’s Irish roots, drawing mainly on information published by US author Joseph King, who almost 30 years ago traced Bing’s Irish ancestors to a specific townland in Schull.
Dr Buckley interviewed local people in Schull and now believes he has finally, and definitively, identified the exact location of Bing’s ancestral home.
According to King’s research, records show that Bing Crosby’s maternal great-grandfather, Dennis Harrigan, was living in Schull parish in the late spring of 1831.
The 51-year-old farmer and carpenter decided to relocate with his wife Catherine, who was in her early 40s, and their 10 children to Canada.
The family boarded a timber sailing ship, which would have sailed from West Cork to New Brunswick, where they set about building a new life.
Catherine gave birth on Sept 6, 1832, to her 11th child, Dennis Jr — Bing’s maternal grandfather.
One of Dennis Jr’s children, Katie, passed on her love of music and singing to her fourth-born and first daughter, Catherine Helen Harrigan, who was born on Feb 7, 1873.
She gave birth to Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby on May 3, 1903.
He would grow up to become one of the greatest recording stars of all time. He died in Oct 14, 1977.
Dr Buckley believes the ruin he has identified in the field outside Schull is the house where the family lived before they emigrated.
It is about half a mile off a quiet country road, on sweeping farmland with stunning sea views.
Although the remains of the gable end of the house are overgrown with briars and ivy, a shelf-like structure built in to the wall is clearly visible.
Dr Buckley believes this is where Mr Harrigan would have stored the family groceries and the parents’ clay smoking pipes. Bing also liked to smoke a pipe.
His claim that this is Bing’s ancestral home is further supported by the fact that a collection of coastal rocks nearby are named after the family, who would have had the rights to harvest seaweed in the area for use as nutrients for potato growing on their land.
“About two years ago, I heard that Bing came from a particular town land outside Schull,” he said.
“I heard it again a year ago and made enquiries down there but nobody had heard anything about Bing’s connection.
“Then one day, I arrived in Schull, and enquired about this particular townland and was told it was a few miles outside the village.
“I called to a house and made enquiries there. They knew nothing but suggested I should call to another house nearby.
“I called to the lady there and told her about my quest.
“She produced two books which she allowed me take away, and I spent about two weeks researching them.
“It was following this that I managed to track down the family which now owns the land.
“At the peak of his fame, Bing was asked what was the secret to his success. He attribute it all to his mother’s prayers.”
Bing Crosby was a giant of 20th century entertainment — one of the first great multimedia stars — who from 1934 to 1954 was a leader in record sales, radio ratings, and motion picture grosses.
He is widely recognised as the most successful recording artist of all time with his trademark voice making him one of the best-selling recording artists of the 20th century, with over 500m records.
He influenced the styles of many of the other singers including Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin.
But he was also a pioneer when it came to pushing the technology boundaries in the entertainment industry.
His biggest hit, his recording of Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’, which was first broadcast on radio on Christmas Day 1941 is one of the best-selling singles of all time.
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