Last August year marked the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. Since his passing countless articles and books have been written speculating about the myth and the man. Below Jim Devereux gives some answers to the more frequently asked questions about ‘The King’.
Was Elvis Irish?
Probably not. A few years ago, the Irish Sun reported that one of Elvis’s ancestors originated from Hacketstown in County Carlow. The claim was that 200 years ago a William Presley left the village in a hurry after being attacked and beaten and fled to America where he eventually ended up in Carolina.
The far more likely story is that Elvis, at least on his paternal side, originated from Germany. Johannes Valentin Bressler is regarded as the founder of the Presley family in America.
Bressler left Germany with his wife, Anna Christina Franse, in 1669, bound for New York. It was common at the time for German surnames to be Americanised and after the mid-1800s many family members changed their surname to either Pressley or Pressly and by the time of Elvis’s grandfather’s birth, this had been further altered to Presley.
Maternally, Elvis was at least part descended from a full-blood Cherokee Indian, Morning White Dove, who was Elvis’s great-great-great grandmother, who married a settler named William Mansell.
The Mansells originated from Norman France and had then moved to Scotland eventually ending up in Ireland, so perhaps Elvis had some Irish roots on his mother’s side.
Regardless of his ancestry, it was a huge disappointment to his Irish fan base that Elvis never actually visited let alone performed in Ireland. In fact, the closest Elvis got to the country was a brief stopover at Glasgow Prestwick Airport in Scotland, in 1960.
Elvis was stationed in Germany as part of his military service in the 1950s and on his return to the US, his American Airforce plane landed at Prestwick. Forewarned, the airport was besieged by screaming fans. During his fleeting time in Scotland Elvis visited the local NCO (Non-Commissioned Officers) club and the Teenage Club. On departing he promised to make Scotland a destination on a future European tour but that never happened. If you ever visit Prestwick Airport you can have a drink in Presley’s bar named in honour of Elvis’ brief stopover.