This is a deeply moving, engaging and remarkable story of a lesser-known, Irish hero John Boyle O’Reilly (1844-1890); in both spoken word and song; mapping his life and work. Pickled (in places) with Tyrrell’s own observations on our own times and condition, leaving no doubt as to the passion, respect and high esteem in which he beholds his all time hero. A man whose poems are as relevant now as they were when first written; the title poem and song being a perfect example. Tracing his journey from early childhood, set against a backdrop of famine, revolution, and penal servitude for life in Australia.
The first man to escape from the penal colony in Australia on a whaling ship to the USA, O’Reilly settled in Boston and became the most influential Irishman in America of his day. He numbered among his friends and admirers Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain and Wendell Phillips; He was commissioned by Joseph Pulitzer to write a poem for the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty; As an editor and part owner of The Pilot newspaper, he championed Native and African American rights and spoke out against anti-Semitism. Prophesied the EEC and a black president of the USA. It was O’Reilly who devised the plan that rescued the other Fenians in Fremantle prison on board an American whaling ship the Catalpa.
Romantic; Visionary; Poet; heart of a rebel; Courage of a freedom fighter; Commitment of a civil rights activist, O’Reilly had the blood of a true born Irishman.
Songs in the show allow Tyrrell connect history of the 19th century and modern times in a seamless way. Song lyrics are drawn from a wide variety of sources: Oscar Wilde, Francis Ledwidge, Bob Dylan, Bobby Sands, John Lennon and many more. These are the integral part of the tale and illustrate how O’Reilly was a man way ahead of his time and a majestic human being. Using an array of instruments, Tyrrell weaves effortlessly between narrative, instrumental and song.
Already, set in motion, are plans for a docu./drama adaptation of the show. It is hoped the show will tour all of the places that O’Reilly visited in his short incredible life. John Boyle O’Reilly 1844-1890. Persecuted, condemned and banished from Ireland to the Penal Colonies in Australia, all for his political beliefs and activities.