“Why don’t you write more songs” was Thomas Davis enthusiastic reaction to the publication in “The Nation” newspaper on the 15th February, 1845, of Denny Lanes composition “Lament of the Irish Maiden”, a brigade ballad or “Carraigdhoun” as it was soon afterwards to be popularly titled.
He was born in 1818, into a wealthy Cork Distilling family, earned a Master f Arts Degree at Trinity College, Dublin, and was called to the bar after studies at the Inner Temple London. He was a friend of both Charles Gavin Duffy and Thomas Davis, and was imprisoned in Sundays Well in 1848 for his connection with the Young Irelanders.
On his release from prison, he became acting managing director of the Cork Gas Company, and he also set up various industries in and around his native city.
The Silversprings Factory in Glanmire produced a high quality starch, good enough to compete with British products in the English Market, and they had to lower their prices in Ireland in order to compete with the “Silversprings Starch”
Another project which he tried was a brewery for light beer, but this was only partially successful, as the taste for heavier beer had been firmly established. With Dr. W. O Sullivan, he envisaged the production of electricity from turf, and the extraction of sugar from beet which was another project which interested him.
He was brilliant at engineering feats, and exhibited a model of an electric clock at a British Association meeting in Dublin. He also designed and tested a gas incubator for chickens. Because of his achievements in this field, he was appointed president of the society of Gas Engineers, though not himself an engineer.
He was a prominent member of the Cork Literary and Scientific, and a founder member and late Vice President of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society. Perhaps, however, Denny Lane is best remembered by the general public as the author of some charming sentimental ballads which have firmly established themselves as part of our folk music.
His two most notable songs were “Kate of Araglen”, and “Lament of the Irish Maiden”.
He wrote for technical journals and also published an interesting account of his youth in Cork City in 1830’s. He stood for Parliament as Home Rule candidate but was defeated in a triangular contest, owing to the splitting of the nationalist vote between himself and John Daly.
He was chairman of the Macroom Railway Company, and he was also a director of the Blackpool and Passage Railway Company.
Denny Lane died in his seventy seventh year, a highly respected citizen of Cork, at his residence, No. 72 South Mall, Cork City, on the 29th November, 1895, and is buried in Matehy Cemetery near Blarney.