From Carlow to Graceland
By Mattie Lennon
|William Presley came from Hacketstown,
At the foot of Eagle Hill.
The stones from his house
You’ll see them in the field there still.
I’ll tell you the story,
So Listen if you can,
And I will tell you how Elvis
Became a Carlow man.
© Richie Kavanagh.
People from Co. Carlow are famous worldwide: Cardinal Francis Moran,
William Dargan, Myles Keogh and John Tyndall. But how much do you hear
about William Presley?
Everybody is familiar with songs by and about Elvis Presley. There’s
Richie Kavanagh’s, How Elvis Became a Carlow Man and Richard Thompson’s
to Graceland. And I’ll bet you often gave an off-key rendition of Wooden
Heart, while gyrating and throwing shapes with your pelvic area at
2 a.m. in the morning. But how much did you know about, what is the most
important aspect of man or beast – his pedigree? In my neck of the woods,
you’d often hear it said of a person, "If he was a greyhound pup, I wouldn’t
Elvis had a good solid Irish pedigree. His ancestors came from Hacketstown,
Co. Carlow. (One journalist suggested that Elvis should have been singing
William Presley, because of a land dispute in 1775, was forced to flee
William Presley lived in Hacketstown and emigrated to the States circa
1775. An Australian claims that Elvis great-great-great grandfather was
German and that Elvis Irish connection might be a Mansell who also emigrated
to the U.S. at the same time, meaning that Elvis Scottish-Irish roots would
be on the mother's side. But Carlow historian Michael Purcell has disproved
that and has some strong documentation to back up his claim
, " . . . a band of yeomen and many other evil disposed persons did
riotously, routously and unlawfully make an assault and did beat, wound
and ill treat him so that his life was greatly despaired of.’
The facts, printed on faded parchment records, show that the attack
took place with swords and sticks and the attackers were of the Morris,
Wilson and Maher families. "William sought the protection of the King in
Carlow," explained Michael Purcell.
20th August 1775.
Andrew Morris of Micilannashea in the County of Wicklow, yeoman,
Francis Morris of Whiterock in the County of Wicklow, yeoman, Samuel Morris
of Crossin in the County of Wicklow, yeoman, Thomas Morris late of Hacketstown
in the County of Carlow, yeoman, William Wilson and Thomas Mathers both
late of Hacketstown, Carlow, yeomen, with many other evil disposed Persons
and Disturbers of the Peace of our said Lord the King, whose Names the
Jurors aforesaid are ignorant of, on the seventeenth Day of August in the
fifteenth Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Third, by
the Grace of God of Great-Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender
of the Faith, and so forth, with Force and Arms, that is to say , with
Swords, Sticks, and so forth at Hacketstown in the said County of Carlow
did riotously, routously and unlawfully assemble and associate themselves
together, and the said Persons being then and there so riotously, routously
and unlawfully assembled and associated, in and upon one William Presley
a true and faithful subject of our Lord the King in the peace of God and
of our said Lord the King then and there being did make an Assault and
him then and there did beat wound and ill treat so that his life was greatly
despaired of and other wrongs to him then and there did Contrary to the
peace of our said Lord the King his Crown and Dignity.
And, according to Michael, William could just as easily have been one
of our own, A Wicklow man; Michael says, " . . . despite his address being
in both Wicklow and Carlow, when push came to shove he considered himself
a true Carlovian."
Fast forward to 1913 when William’s great-great grandson, Jessie, married
Minnie May. Their son, Vernon, married Gladys Love Smith in 1933 and Elvis
Aaron Presley was born in January, 1935. Of course if William hadn’t emigrated,
we’d probably have Diarmuid O’Leary, Elvis and the Bards."
Michael Purcell’s findings have been confirmed by eminent historians
Turtle Bunbury and Ivor Casey, author of Elvis in Ireland.
Kilkenny man, Myles Kavanagh, who has devoted his life to the King and
wears an Elvis costume every day. Myles and a few others, including Cork
singer/entertainer David McCarthy, are mounting a campaign to have a plaque
erected in Hacketstown to honor "the King."
This plaque would be erected in a public place where anyone could view
it free of charge. A man in the Irish midlands has offered to donate a
statue of Elvis and Carlow Councilor, Denis Foley told me that he is 100%
behind the project. When David McCarthy wrote to Graceland to ask if there
were any objections, let’s just say his letter wasn’t returned marked Return