Johnny Patterson, the Irish singing clown who met a tragic end

Clever songsmith’s irreverent wit was informed by his fluent Irish

Roger Gregg, Little John Nee and Bryan Burroughs in Barabbas production of ‘Johnny Patterson the Singing Irish Clown’. Photograph: Patrick Redmond

Roger Gregg, Little John Nee and Bryan Burroughs in Barabbas production of ‘Johnny Patterson the Singing Irish Clown’. Photograph: Patrick Redmond

Images of Johnny Patterson, Ireland’s famous singing clown, often betray a certain wistfulness around the eyes, as if he was a man born with a strong sense that life held sorrow, as well as success, in store.

Born John Francis Patterson in 1840 in Kilbarron, Co Clare, both his parents died by the time he was three. Johnny was sent to live with a surviving uncle in the town of Ennis.

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