Val Vousden –
- 1930's picture is taken
from the front cover of his
- autobiography 'Val
- Source: Gloria Pattinson March 2007.
William (Bill) McNevin, whose stage
name was Valentine (Val) Vousden was born on 29th January 1885 at
Number 2 College Street in Carlow Town. He made his first stage
appearance at age of six when he played the part of Tiny Tim in a
Christmas Carol in the Town Hall Theatre in Carlow. He had caused
some consternation at home that day as he had been missing for
several hours and he was located in the Town Hall where he was
watching the stage being prepared and the actors rehearsing and
since the touring company had no child to play the part they asked
Val. Thus begun a lifelong interest in entertainment especially
with the theatre.
By the age of ten he was in demand and
he regularly performed impressions of local pulpit oratory for the
students & lecturers of St. Patrick’s College, the entrance to
which is opposite his home on College Street. This early influence
of the church so to speak stayed with him all his life as some of
his main characters were priests. Also in the shadow of his home
on College Street was the Presentation Convent and during his
childhood he regularly served as an alter boy in the Nuns Chapel.
Ironically this part of the now former Convent will be the new
home of Carlow County Museum.
During World War 1 he saw service in
France having enlisted as a private while touring in Wales. He was
later promoted to Regimental Sergeant Major.
During the early decades of the
twentieth century he was undoubtedly one of Ireland’s leading
character actors. He toured regularly and extensively in both
Ireland and the United Kingdom. From 1926 to approximately 1950 he
contributed regularly to Ireland’s national radio station, Radio
Eireann, in fact he presented its’ first light entertainment
programme. As well as acting he also wrote an extensive collection
of monologues and character sketches particularly based around the
ordinary people as well as his own experiences of touring the
- The cover of Val’s book
“Recitations, Monologues & Character Sketches” c1945.
Gloria Pattinson March 2007.
He married Pearl O’Donnell from
Belfast who was an actress and they had three daughters, Sheila,
Mona and Patricia.
Val died in Clonskeagh Hospital,
Dublin on June 6th 1951. His funeral to Glasnevin Cemetery was
attended by a great host of troupers who regarded him highly as
many of them had learned a lot from his acting and stage
behaviour. On the day of his funeral his was the only funeral into
Glasnevin Cemetery, the largest in Ireland, an event that hadn’t
happened for over twenty years previously. As was so often the
case during his life on many occasions he had the stage to
himself, so it was also in death!
There is a Commemorative Plaque
erected over the front door of the McNevin house on College
Street, Carlow Town.
- Private family picture c1945.
- Image by Gloria Pattinson March 2007.
Rathoe is a village located in the
middle of County Carlow and this poem describes an elderly
emigrant in the USA trying to adjust to his new life and finding
that it is a very different world to where he has left and he
comes to the conclusion that he would prefer to be where he knows
best – on the roads around Rathoe!
- 'The Roads Around Rathoe
- My son has brought me over, to end
- Amidst the wealth and comfortin's
that meet my worn-out gaze
- I'm sure the boy manes well enough,
and the wife's treasure, too
- She calls me "Pop" an' "Popkins",
and smiles with eyes of blue
- Upon me every notion, an' sure I've
- She roared at my describin' the
scenes 'round Carlow fair
- Although they do their best to make
me feel at home and safe
- I'd rather tread this moment the
brown of autumn lafe
- That makes the thickened carpet
along where streamlets flow
- I'd rather be a strollin' on the
roads around Rathoe.
- There were forty friends last
evenin' received by the son's wife
- I never felt so out of place in all
my mortal life,
- Oh, glory be - the style o' them
would make your head to ache
- I wonder if the young ones, now, is
any'thin but fake,
- The way their mouths was painted,
an' their eyebrows straked with black
- They had no hair upon their heads
to hould a comb or rack
- Some 0' them you couldn't tell no
difference from the boys,
- An' they kicked up holy ructions -
oh, they made an awful noise,
- If this is called amusement, it's
somethin' I'll forego,
- I'd rather watch them wrestlin' on
the roads around Rathoe.
- They have their breakfasts in their
beds, an' they call me dinner lunch;
- If they're struck with an idea,
sure they say: "I've got a hunch",
- They never seem to walk at all -
it's ayther car or 'plane;
- I sometimes think they've got no
sinse, they seem to be insane,
- They gamble, sure from morn till
night, an' never count the loss
- Tho' none o' them could take a hand
of honest pitch and toss
- An' as for cards, such games they
play, its bates - och, man alive!
- You may as well ax for Heaven as a
game of the ould Twenty-Five.
- They can't address you dacint; if
they're friendly they say "Bo";
- Ah, the spakin's very different on
the roads around Rathoe
- The capers of the ould ones would
make you stand and stare
- You see ould ones of ninety years
with their arms all wrinkled bare;
- The ould lads bate the devil for
makin' sport an' fun
- You should see them in their bathin'
dress - a leppin' in the sun
- They danced like young ones all
last night an' never stopped till four
- And when the band was finished, th'
ould lads shouted out for more
- I think the world has all gone mad,
I'm moidhered sick an' sore
- You never see an' ould time crowd
as we did in the days of yore
- I'm going now to see my son, an' ax
him lave to go
- Across the broad Atlantic, to the
roads around Rathoe
The above it is believed was written
by Peter Cleary from Rathrush, Rathoe, Co. Carlow and not by Val
as many think but it was Val who popularised this poem through his
recording of it and its appearance on the primary school circulium.
Val’s Grand and Great Grand children
on a visit to Carlow for the Val Vousden Commemoration as part of
the Eigse 2004 Arts Festival. Pictured outside the McNevin home on
College Street. Photo Carlow County Museum
Gloria Pattinson March 2007
- Carlow historian Alec Burns says a few words at the
unveiling of Plaque to William MacNevin on 2 College
Street. MacNevin was better known by the stage name Val
Vousden. Also in the picture is Kevin Kennedy and Cecil
Whelan and pupils from the CBS assembled to sing a few
Irish songs. Circa 1990s.
Michael Purcell 2013
Val Vousden –
Short note from Gloria Pattinson
My grandfather, William Francis
Maher McNEVIN, 1885-1951, wrote a short
biography in which he said that his mother, Elizabeth McNEVIN (nee
MAHER) worked at St Joseph's National School, Carlow, before her
marriage in 1873.
When I followed this up some 10
years ago, the Carlow Education Dept. told me that the school was
originally only known as St. Joseph's locally. When it was awarded it's
grant it was named "Carlow Female No.2"; shortly afterwards becoming
"Carlow Infants", before finally becoming St. Joseph's.
My Gt. Grandmother Elizabeth
and her friend Brigit KAVANAGH became Monitors (junior teachers under
the Sister's) at the age of 18 in 1868.
William Francis Maher MacNEVIN,
1885-1951 (aka the actor and author Val Vousden). He was born in College
Street, Carlow, the son of William McNEVIN and Elizabeth MAHER. I am
extremely grateful to the members of Carlow Council and the Curator of
Carlow County Museum who have honoured him as a son of Carlow, on the
Carlow County Museum website
Source: Gloria Pattinson Dec 2006
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