01/18/02 entertainment column

Giving an Irish lad’ his due

The It’s Friday Department is all about giving credit where credit is due.

During the unveiling of the 350-pound bronze statue of a 13-year-old Elvis Presley, Henry Dodge, chairman of the Elvis Presley Memorial Foundation, mentioned that a fan from Ireland suggested the idea for the statue.

That’s what I wrote in the story, but Dodge was more precise than that. In fact, Maurice Colgan of Swords, Ireland, was the fellow who first dreamed up the idea.

Colgan was initially left out of the story for a very important reason: I wasn’t sure how to spell his name.

“Sure,” you say, “but you could have asked somebody.”

I asked a lot of people a lot of things and could have asked that, but it fell through the cracks.

So I get this call the other day from a very nice gentleman with an Irish accent. He says his name is Maurice Colgan.

“I was reading your story about the statue on the Internet,” he says. “You never say whose idea it was.”

“It was you, right?”

“Well,” he says, “I’m such a fan. It would be nice to have it mentioned in Elvis Presley’s hometown paper, you know?”

“How does Friday sound?”

First off, it was pretty cool to get a phone call all the way from Ireland. The guy even waited patiently on hold while I finished up another interview.

Secondly, if everybody who called to complain was as polite as Colgan, I’d be leaving all kinds of names out of the paper.

Thirdly, it’s great to have it reinforced yet again what kind of following that 13-year-old boy eventually commanded.

But Colgan isn’t just your average European Elvis fan. He’s got a personal connection to the King of Rock n’ Roll that few in Tupelo can claim.

It’s all documented at Colgan’s Web site, quicksitebuilder.cnet.com/melvis3, how he was walking down the street during a “lad’s night out in England in 1957,” when he heard an Elvis tune blaring from a nightclub.

He went inside and met the lovely Maureen, and the two danced while a romantic recording of Tupelo’s favorite son provided the soundtrack.

Marriage bells rang in 1959, then trouble hit in 1961. Maureen became critically ill.

Colgan decided to drop the King a line and let him know about his wife’s situation, and less than a week later a pair of letters arrived at the Colgan home.

Maureen’s letter reads: “Just a short note to say I hope you are feeling much better. Take care of yourself and don’t worry – everything will be alright.” It was signed “Elvis Presley.”

Colgan’s letter reads: “I sent your wife a get well message. Take care of her and yourself. May God bless you both.” It was signed “EP.”

Many years later, the Colgans received another letter from another son of Tupelo.

“Your story is indeed very impressive!” wrote Mayor Glenn L. McCullough Jr. “Even in Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis’ birthplace, to have a letter written by Elvis himself is quite unique.”

Colgan, who’s visited Tupelo and Memphis, said he likes to spread word of the letters so people will know that at the height of his fame, Elvis took time out to send encouraging words to complete strangers.

“You hear about the bad things. A lot of people focus on that,” Colgan said. “It’s good to let people know what a good person he was.”

And now there’s a statue that focuses on, as Dodge said, “the humbleness and innocence” of Presley’s Tupelo youth.

There are many people to thank for bringing that 350-pound statue to Tupelo, and Maurice Colgan of Swords, Ireland, certainly deserves his due.

M. Scott Morris is the Daily Journal entertainment writer.