Alan Tongue


My first book ‘A Picture of Percy French’ appeared in 1991 and quickly became the standard work on the subject of this Irish songwriter, entertainer, poet and painter.

The book comprised memorabilia from the French family that I had been largely responsible for ensuring its preservation for posterity. I had already been invited by The Percy French Society to direct a festival, after my work on radio and television featuring songs, poems and watercolours by French.

My second book on Percy French is called ‘The Love Letters of Percy French’ Revealed for the first time here is the correspondence that Percy French, one of Ireland’s most influential songwriters, wrote to his fiancée and second wife-to-be, Helen Sheldon, between May 1892 and January 1894, together with copious memorabilia of the period including several of the early French watercolours, theatre programmes, original ink sketches and portraits, and covers from the Irish Cyclist magazine of which French was editor. The letters, written over a period of two years, give a fascinating account of French’s attempts to further his career in writing and painting. With his inimitable humour he describes his travels and his various collaborations. As with my previous book, the pages are arranged chronologically, with careful curation of relevant watercolours, archival photographs, programmes, articles and other memorabilia illuminating the text. This collection of letters was left to me by Ettie French, eldest daughter of the marriage, upon her death.

A handbook of conducting, entitled ‘BEAT IT” is currently undergoing field trials in the USA, at one of the universities.

An interest I have had for many years is the study of the Irish harper and composer Carolan. A book is in preparation.