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Irish eyes crying

Books | August Issue

The Vagabond Lover: A Father-Son Memoir by Garry O'Connor, reviewed by Beneditct Nighingale

Garry O’Connor has written biographies of Alec Guinness and Ralph Richardson, Paul Scofield and Sean O’Casey, Peggy Ashcroft and Dame Maggie Teyte, who was his mother’s aunt and rumoured, actually, to be her mother. That once-renowned soprano was both a majestic eccentric who would cry out when she dried during a performance – ‘Stop, I’ve swallowed my eyelashes’ – and a shrewd observer who took a grim view of O’Connor’s father and the prime subject of his latest, most deeply felt biography. Cavan O’Connor was, she declared, an ‘unhappy man’; this book shows that, despite and even because of his enormous success as a singer, he was very unhappy indeed. Though you can still hear on YouTube the lilting Irish tenor he brought to ‘I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen’, Cavan is little remembered today. But, between 1920 and 1935, he made thousands of records and stage appearances. With the...

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