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Denny Lane (1818-1895): Renaissance Man | Print |  Email
Friday, 18 November 2005
Scholar, businessman, politician, balladeer - Corkman Denny Lane was Ireland's Renaisance man. Ita Marguet tells how his native city is honouring him.

By Ita Marguet, November 2005

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Against the background of Cork 2005, the city's Archives Institute is showing a dedicated exhibition about the life and works of Corkman Denny Lane. It includes manuscripts from the personal archive of one of Cork's most interesting historical figures - an eminent Corkman, scholar, businessman, politician and perhaps best known for his ballad 'Carrigdhoun', which appeared in The Nation newspaper in 1845.

In 2003 Denny Lane's papers were found in an old biscuit tin amongst the papers of his grandson, Dennis Lane McDonnell. Donated by his great grand-daughters, and deposited in the Cork Archives, they are being properly preserved and made available for research and exhibition. They include school reports, legal papers and letters to Lane from such well known political figures as Thomas Davis, William Smith 0'Brien and Charles Gavan Duffy, dating from the time of Denny Lane's involvement in the nationalist Young Ireland and Irish Confederation movements of the 1840s. He was interned in Cork Gaol for four months because of his involvement with Young Ireland.

Profile in brief

Born on 4 November 1818, Denny Lane was the only child of Maurice Lane and Ellen Madden. His father was proprietor of the Glynntown Distillery in Riverstown, near Glanmore, Co. Cork which his son always regarded as his home ground. He was educated in Cork and at age seventeen received a scholarship to study at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) where he obtained a Master of Arts Degree, continuing his studies to become a barrister (BL). On the death of his father in 1845, Lane finished his career as barrister, returning to Cork where he took up the family business.

Succeeding his father, he was instrumental in persuading the other Cork distillers to amalgamate and establish Cork Distilleries Company. Very active in the business life of the city, he became the first Secretary and Resident Engineer of the Cork Gas Company, a director of Belvelly Brickworks and Springfields Starch Works, Chairman of Macroom Railway Co. and a director of the Cork, Blackrock and Passage Railway Company.

Denny Lane was intensely interested in the arts and in promoting and studying Irish music and culture. He was very active in the Schools of Art, Music and Design. He was a founder member and Vice-President of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society and Chairman of the School of Science. He wrote many songs, the best remembered being the ballads, 'Rose of Araglen' and 'Carrigdhoun' (The Ballad of Carrigdhoun, 1845).

He died peacefully at his home on 29 November 1895 and was buried in his ancestral homeland in Co. Cork. His epitaph reads 'He served his country and loved his kind'.

Remembering Denny Lane

He is remembered as being broad-minded and tolerant, and numbered amongst many of his friends those who opposed him politically, as the passage taken from his political opponents in the Cork Constitution paper shows: "He was a ripe and learned scholar and a man of great research. He seems at times to be an encyclopaedia of knowedge, and illuminated every topic which he touched. He spoke and reasoned and lectured almost without preparation on any subject that could be suggested and he, the layman, seemed to know more than the specialist or advocate … He was a musician, and a severe and valuable critic of art. He was a poet of no mean order … But it is as a friend that Mr. Lane will be remembered by many in this city. He loved dearly when he loved at all and many a man owes his success in life to him." (Cork Constitution, November 1895).


At the launch of the exhibition on 23 September, the Lord Mayor presented bound copies of the Descriptive List of the Denny Lane Papers to Lane's two great grand-daughters, who have ensured that they have been brought back to Cork for its year as Capital of Culture 2005.

Note: Recognition is given to the Cork Archives Institute, Christ Church, South Main Street, and other sources, for material used in preparation of this article.

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