Hollywood star hails from Rathfriland

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

HAVE you ever watched the television series 'Will and Grace' or the film 'PS I Love You' and appreciated the artistic skills of one Harry Connick Jr?
However, while watching these, has the thought ever entered your mind that you could be watching Rathfriland's own famous son and you could watch him singing in Rathfriland?
Well, if Andy Peters from the Brontė Music Centre gets his way, this could become a reality!
In a documentary television show which aired in the USA last week, Harry Connick Jr traced his ancestors back to Rathfriland.
Andy got in touch with The Outlook to reveal this amazing news and said he would be very excited to get the musician, composer and actor in Rathfriland.
“Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could get him to come and play in his home patch?!" said Andy.
“We will make the Brontė available to him if he wants to come and play - but we would have to work out reasonable ticket prices!"
‘Finding Your Roots' is hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr and is filmed on location in America. The premise behind the programme is to discover who we are and where we come from. In each hour-long episode, Gates Jr takes viewers along for the journey with a pair of celebrities who are bound together by an intimate, sometimes hidden link, and treks through layers of ancestral history, uncovering secrets and surprises in their family trees and share life-altering discoveries.
In the first episode of the new series, Harry Connick Jr is tracing his family tree, which leads to a surprising and unknown link to Northern Ireland, and indeed, our very own Rathfriland.
Tracing the Fowler family line in Harry's family, Gates Jr was able to go back to Connick Jr's fifth great-grandfather, David McCullough, who was born in Rathfriland in 1738, leaving a direct link to the Hollywood star.
David McCullough was a wealthy sea captain and worked as an American privateer (a legal pirate) and owned an infamous ship, 'The Rattlesnake'. At one stage during the American Revolution the British Crown proclaimed 5,000 guineas for McCullough's head, but they never got him.

In the programme, McCullough is referred to as "the original Jack Sparrow", as he sailed the West Indies where it is believed he captured ships and bounty which he would send back to ports in the US.
In the episode which aired on American channel, PBS, on Sunday, 25 March, Gates Jr showed Harry a copy of his family tree, which clearly shows his family line tracing back to David McCullough, from Rathfriland.
When Gates Jr reveals the information known about McCullough, including that he took up arms using his ship to challenge the British Royal Navy, Harry can be seen saying: "That is so cool!"
David McCulloguh, who left Ireland, married Phebe Boyd in 1765 and they went on to have seven children, Margaret, John, Phebe, Jane, William, Ann and Sara.
It is through David's daughter, Phebe, that Harry Connick Jr's connection to Rathfriland comes to light.
Phebe married William Pollard and one of their children, Harriet, married John Fowler. Harriet and John had a number of children, including son, William H Fowler, who married Missouri Alabama Gilder and their son, Harry married Jesse Catherine Potter.
Harry and Jessie had several children, including a daughter, Jessie Catherine Fowler, who married James Paul Connick, and they had four children, including son, Joseph Harry Fowler Connick. He subsequently married Anita Francis Livingston and they had two children, one of whom is Harry Connick Jr.
In the episode, viewed by The Outlook, Connick Jr is seen genuinely amazed at his family tree being traced back some nine generations and revealed he had not previously been aware that the name McCullough had been in his family history.
Little is known of McCullough's parents, other than his mother was called Mary. He had two brothers, James and William and one sister, Elizabeth, all of whom were born in Rathfriland.
McCullough was never to return to Rathfriland. He settled in Philadelphia and died in Savannah, Georgia in July 1795, aged 57.

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