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Johnny Patterson, the Rambler from Clare: The life of the 19th century Irish circus clown by Harry Bradshaw


1. Johnny Patterson’s date of birth taken from his Death Certificate, Custom House, Dublin.

2. As recorded on Patterson’s second marriage certificate.

3. Many details of Johnny Patterson’s family and early life were written down in later years by his son, Johnny Junior. The author was given access to this material which is now in the possession of Patterson’s granddaughter, Mrs. McArdle of Liverpool.

4. From records in The National Army Museum, London.

5. Johnny Junior’s “Memoirs”.

6. Ibid.

7. “The Roving Irish Boy” from a Johnny Patterson song sheet. See No.22.

8. As published by Waltons, Dublin, publishers of many Patterson songs.

9. Details provided by Ben Bono, Dublin, who did considerable research on Patterson’s life in the 1930s and 1940s.

10. From Johnny Junior’s account. A search in the General Register Office, London, failed to locate the marriage certificate.

11. Johnny Junior’s “Memoirs”.

12. Original lyric of “The Garden where the Praties grow” from “Johnny Patterson’s Comic Song Book”. This story concerning the addition of the lost verse to the song was told to me by Billy Carter, a musician who arranged many Patterson songs for Waltons.

13. From Jack Noonan who lives in Killaloe, grandson of Betty Patterson, Johnny’s sister.

14. “The Cunard Line”, published by Clinton T. de Witt, 33, Rose Street, New York in 1878 in a song book entitled, “Johnny Patterson’s Great London Circus Songster”.

15. “More Irish Street Ballads” collected by Colm O’Loughlainn. “Rambler From Clare”, one of the songs in Joyce’s pamphlet “Irish Peasant Songs”, published, 1912.

16. George C.D. Odell’s “Annals of the New York Stage”, p.450, published 1927.

17. The “Miner’s Journal”, Pottsville Pen. (No date available) reprinted in poster. Later used by Patterson in Ireland.

18. From article by Dr. Robert J. Loeffler, published in Sept. 1974 in “The Bandwagon” (Journal of the Circus Historical Society, Columbus).

19. Noted in Circus Poster (see No. 16).

20. From Dr. Loeffler’s article in “The Bandwagon”.

21. Johnny Junior’s “Memoirs”.

22. Dr. Loeffler’s article.

23. Patterson sold ballad sheets of his songs at his shows. This song “Castles in the Air” was one song printed in “Johnny Patterson’s Comic Song Book”, printed at the Derry Journal Steam Printing Works. A copy of this ballad sheet was given to me by the Circus Historian, Anthony Hippisley-Coxe, Devon.

24. From an article published in the “Evening Herald” 30/6/1961 by Ben Bono.

25. From A. Hippisley-Coxe’s files.

26. Printed in a newspaper (title unknown) 30/11/1935. Given to me by circus historian, Robert Elliott, Dungannon.

27. Dr. Loeffler’s article.

28. From “My Circus Life” by James Lloyd, p.76, published by Douglas, London.

29. The “Irish Times”, Monday, March 22nd, 1886.

30. The “Irish Times”, Wednesday, March 31st, 1886.

31. Details by A. Hippisley-Coxe.

32. This bill poster used by Patterson in 1886 is in the possession of A. Hippisley-Coxe.

33. Details of the Circus itinerary kept by the proprietor, Alfred Clarke, and supplied by A. Hippisley-Coxe.

34. Selena Patterson’s death certificate, Custom House, Dublin.

35. Jack Noonan, Killaloe.

36. Robert Elliott’s material, published 7/12/1935. (These articles were written by someone who worked on this show.)

37. Ibid.

38. This building is now Castepollard’s Garda Station.

39. See No. 42.

40. Local tradition in Castlepollard.

41. This marriage took place on July 27th 1887 in Killaloe. Marriage records, Custom House, Dublin.

42. Marriage Certificate, Custom House, Dublin.

43. On March 29th, 1961, a letter appeared in “The Mail” giving details of Johnny Patterson’s & Bridget Murray’s wedding in St. Michael’s Church, Castlepollard. The letter included a description of Bridget (see No. 38) and was signed “yet another old timer 89 years old”.

44. Wehaman’s “Irish Song Book No. 2”, “containing 128 of the most popular comic and sentimental Irish songs”.

45. As published by Waltons, Dublin.

46. In Johnny Junior’s “Memoirs”. Title and a couple of lines are all that remain.

47. From Robert Elliot’s material, published 14/12/1935.

48. I collected an almost similar version from an old circus man, Frederick Corvinio. His parents were circus people and contemporaries of Patterson and told Frederick of the events in Tralee.

49. The name of the secret society was uncovered by Ben Bono.

50. Robert Elliot’s material, published 14/12/1935.

51. Local tradition in Tralee (no doctor’s name appears on the death certificate).

52. Johnny Patterson’s death certificate, Custom House, Dublin.

53. Johnny Junior’s account.

54. Told to Ben Bono by an old Tralee man. Patterson’s unmarked grave was pointed out to me by the caretaker in this cemetery.

55. The “Kerry Sentinel”, June 5th, 1889.

56. The “Clare Journal” Thursday evening, May 30th, 1889. (This account published before Patterson’s death.)

57. Death certificate, Custom House, Dublin.

58. Marriage Certificate issued in Maguiresbridge Church, Nov. 26th, 1889.

59. Robert Elliot’s material, published 14/12/1935.

60. Johnny Junior had 2 children, both of whom are living in England.

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