By Martin Gleeson
Based on its musical and lyrical style, it is most likely that The Wexford Carol was composed in the 15th or 16th century. Sometimes called The Enniscorthy Carol, it is also known by its first line, Good People, All This Christmas Time.
It is not known who wrote the carol, but it came to prominence in the 19th century when the renowned Irish composer, William Grattan Flood, heard a local singer performing it.
Flood was the organist at St. Aidan’s Cathedral in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford. He immediately added the carol to his repertoire when he played for the parishioners in the Cathedral. Its popularity spread far and wide and it was included in the Oxford Book of Carols. This caused it to become known worldwide.
William Grattan Flood was born in November, 1859, in Lismore, Co. Waterford. He received his elementary education in his grandfather’s boys academy in Lismore. His aunt, Elizabeth, gave him music lessons and he was an accomplished pianist at the age of nine!
Flood studied in Mount Melleray, Dungarvan, from 1872 until 1876. He intended becoming a priest but changed his mind and decided on a career as a musician and historian.
He worked as the organist in St. Peter’s Pro-Cathedral, in Belfast, from 1878 until 1882; in the Cathedral of the Assumption in Thurles, Co. Tipperary from 1882 until 1888; in Monaghan Cathedral from 1888 until 1894 and in St. Aidan’s Cathedral, Enniscorthy from September 1895 until 1928.
He was employed as a music teacher in schools such as St. Macartan’s College, Mullamurphy, Co. Monaghan, St. Kieran’s College in the city of Kilkenny, and Clongowes Wood College, Clane, Co. Kildare.
It was while he was in Enniscorthy that he transcribed the Wexford Carol and got it published.
Flood was given an honorary Doctor of Music from the Royal University of Ireland in 1907.
In 1917, he was awarded the Papal Cross, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, by Pope Benedict XV, and in 1922 he was elevated by Pope Leo XIII to the Order of St. Gregory. He married in 1898, and had six children.
William Grattan Flood died at his home in Rosemount, Enniscorthy in August, 1928.
Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own