Irish-American Standards: My Wild Irish Rose

"My Wild Irish Rose," photo of sheet music by modernpoetry on Etsy.

“My Wild Irish Rose,” photo of sheet music by modernpoetry on Etsy.

“My Wild Irish Rose” was written by Irish-American songwriter Chauncey Olcott in 1898. Olcott was also the author of “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.”

From the Saginaw News, October 15, 1904.

From the Saginaw News, October 15, 1904.

The song was composed for a musical titled “A Romance Of Athlone,” which debuted at the Fourteenth Street Theatre in New York in January of 1899. The play is set in Athlone in the year 1800, a turgid romance set, in part, in an Irish Traveller’s camp.

 

From the Muskegon Chronicle, August 21, 1903.

From the Muskegon Chronicle, August 21, 1903.

 

Grand Rapids Press from October 24, 1903 told the following story of the creation of the song:

Five years ago when Mr. Olcott and his mother were in Ireland spending the vacation months, they were sailing on a pretty Irish lake. The mother spied some beautiful flowers. She asked the boatman what they were. He told her they were wild Irish roses.

“What a pretty name for a song,” she said.

“It is that,” the actor cried, “and I’ll write one to fit the title.”

“My Wild Irish Rose” was the title of a 1922 silent film, but the film was based on “The Shaughraun” by Dion Boucicault, and not Olcott’s play.

Olcott died in 1932 in Monte Carlo at 71. His funeral services were held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. On his death, it was revealed that Olcott had spent his life collecting cigar store wooden Indians.

A jubilee of joy, apparently.

A jubilee of joy, apparently.

There was also a film titled “My Wild Irish Rose” in 1947; this one retold the life of Olcott, based on “Song in His Heart,” a memoir by Olcott’s widow, Rita. Despite some dismal reviews, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture.

Although the film starred Dennis Morgan, Olcott’s singing voice was provided by singer and radio personality Dennis Day.

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Max Sparber

Max Sparber is a playwright, journalist, and history detective in Omaha, Nebraska.