If you know your His-Story
As a daily reader of this channel I sometimes see something that sticks in my imagination. Jimthetim53 has used the phrase “Happy as Larry” on a couple of occasions. Jim’s use of the phrase prompted me to scribble a few words about popular phrases or idioms that followers of Celtic with an Irish ancestry might find of interest.
“As Happy as Larry”
Where did the phrase come from? Who was Larry? A couple of years ago I had a look and found out that the probable origin of the term comes from a guy of Irish parentage in Australia.
Laurence (Larry) Foley was born in 1849 in Bathurst, New South Wales. Larry achieved legendary status as a bare knuckle boxer and later a building contractor. He was the son of Patrick Foley and Mary (née Downs.) It had been thought that Larry might enter the Priesthood, but at 18 he moved to Sydney and became a builder’s labourer.
There he joined one of the ‘larrikin gangs’ which fought each other in the inner suburbs of Sydney, and became a leader of the ‘Green’ or Catholic gang. He also took boxing lessons and began his boxing career as a middleweight.
On 18 March 1871 Foley fought Sandy Ross, leader of the ‘Orange’ or Protestant gang; the fight lasted seventy-one rounds before police intervened.
Sentinel Celts won’t be surprised to read that Larry was on the verge of knocking out Sandy Ross when the police stopped the fight.
At a later rematch, Larry Foley knocked out Sandy Ross after 28 minutes. After the victory Foley’s gang ‘The Green’s’ assumed control of the disputed Sydney gangland territory.
Larry’s place in our lexicon was secured after he defeated Abe Hicken in 1879, in Echuca, Victoria. Hicken retired after 16 bloody rounds. Foley was awarded the purse of £1,000 and his supporters cleaned up at the bookies.
It was reported at the time that Foley’s jubilant supporters were “as happy as Larry.” The name stuck and so Larry Foley indirectly became a household name.
Larry Foley became a successful building contractor and went on to fight in numerous prizefights and exhibitions. He fought all comers and all sizes. Foley also owned a pub and a hotel, he trained many of Australia’s up and coming stars.
He achieved legendary status on the streets, in the ring and in business.
Larry Foley died of heart disease in July 1917, and was buried in the Catholic section of Waverley Cemetery.
“The Life of Reilly”
This phrase has been about for years and is thought to have been brought to America by Irish settlers.
The term dates back to an episode in County Sligo in the late 18th century. A young labourer called Willie Reilly had a relationship with a woman called Helen Foillard. Helen was the daughter of local landowner, Squire Foillard, a Protestant.
The young couple attempted to run away. Foillard and his men pursued them. Reilly was arrested and tried for abduction and theft of jewellery before the local judge, Luke Fox. It was expected that Reilly would hang but to the shock of the Squire and the Judge, Helen Foillard gave evidence to secure Willie Reilly’s freedom.
The story was quickly put into ballad form and Willie Reilly’s fortunate life was immortalised…
“The lady with a tear began, and thus replied she,
“The fault is none of Reilly’s, the blame lies all on me,
I forced him for to leave his place and come along with me,
I loved him out of measure, which wrought our destiny.”
So anytime you hear a reference to “the life of Reilly.” Think of young Willie Reilly and his love Helen Foillard.
The lyrics of the ballad are below.
“Bob’s Your Uncle”
As every Celtic supporter knows Celtic Football Club were founded in St. Mary’s church hall in East Rose Street,Calton,Glasgow, by Irish Marist Brother Walfrid on 6th November 1887. The object being to raise money to alleviate the poverty of the immigrant Irish in Glasgow.
Ireland was reeling from the ravishes of The Great Hunger and the Land Crisis. Evictions and cruelty were the order of the day. See the article below from the Philadelphia Press newspaper, 26th November 1887 highlighting evictions in Ardagh, County Limerick.
On the 7th of March 1887, the British Prime Minister Robert (Bob) Cecil, known to commoners as Lord Salisbury appointed his nephew, Arthur Balfour as Chief Secretary for Ireland. Balfour was inexperienced and unqualified for the demanding position and the decision caused a public outcry.
What made matters worse was the public knowledge that Balfour referred to the Prime Minister as…
From Balfour’s appointment the term “Bob’s your Uncle” was used in any cases of suspected favouritism or nepotism.
It’s funny how certain things persist long after the main protagonists have left the scene. No matter what Balfour or Salisbury ever achieved they are connected to bias. Larry Foley an immigrant of Irish stock is associated with happiness and the bold Willie Reilly, a penniless farmer is eternally linked to love and good fortune.
Guest post by The Gombeen Man. You could help us out with a day off by penning something and sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org