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West Country Poets

THOMAS JOSEPH McCARTNEY (died 1894)

Whether or not this lately-deceased writer was a native of Devonshire we have been unable to discover, but he was certainly a resident in Plymouth and neighbourhood for many years, and until his death, which took place in October, 1894, aged 48.

In early life he was in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, holding the nominal rank of a corporal, but in reality engaged in the clerical work of the regiment.  On retiring from the service he joined for a time the ranks of journalism, and assisted in the editorial office of one of the Plymouth papers.  After that he started in business as a licensed victualler, of one of the Plymouth papers.  After that he started in business as a licensed victualler, and was the manager or proprietor of several hotels in the Three Towns.  he was President of the Three Towns Licensed Victuallers'  Association for some years, and was very much respected in that capacity.  He was, for his position, a well-read and well-informed man, an excellent speaker and practised elocutionist, and a skilful writer.

Several poetical works emanated from his pen.  'The Queen's Lament, and other Poems' (1875); 'Nelson, a Drama' (1876); 'Isandula, a Descriptive Ballad' (1879); 'Tel-el-Kebnir, a Ballad' (1883), and 'A Bid for the Laureateship,' with portrait (1889).  The latter title appears at first sight as rather a presumptuous straining for notoriety on the part of a minor verse writer, and so we were disposed to regard it when it was first issued from the press.  Whatever aspirations our departed friend had when formulating his title and penning his explanatory introduction, his claims are now for ever silenced in the grave; therefore we will not now criticise his motives, but rather weave a chaplet for his tomb.  He certainly understood the art of verse-making, even though his poetic talents were not of a high order.  We will leave our readers to judge of his merits as a writer from the poem which follows, which is one of the most spirited in the collected volume to which we have already alluded.  For some years the exigencies of a busy commercial life prevented Mr. McCARTNEY from still further cultivating the Muses, but he as left on record quite enough good solid literary matter to warrant his inclusion amongst West Country Poets.  His powers of description were certainly of a high order, and this is distinctly proved in his various war ballads; while the 'Queen's Lament' is a very graceful tribute to Her Majesty on the death of the Prince Consort.  'Per Mare, per Terram,' is in honour of his old corps, that being the proud motto of the Royal Marine Light Infantry.

'Nelson' is a well-constructed little drama in three acts, and quite worthy of a far more famous penman.

THE CAPITULATION OF PARIS
SUPPOSED UTTERANCE OF A PARISIAN IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE CAPITULATION

From a subdued battlements I looked
  On Paris as she slept,
Except her German sentinels
  Who ceaseless vigils kept.
Enveloped in the deepest gloom,
  With all but honour fled,

[. . . continued . . .]

Transcribed by Sandra Windeatt from: Wright, W. H. K.,(1896) West-Country Poets: Their Lives and Works. London: Elliot Stock, pp.48-51

Last updated 22 Jul 2011 - Brian Randell.

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