Patrick Carroll | Major Wiley
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Major Wiley

Major Wiley


In a number of the posts on this website I have referred to those who have died as having “gone under the wire”.  I glommed this phrase from A.J. Liebling’s friend and subject, J.A.S. Macdonald – a.k.a, Col. John R. Stingo, a.a.k.a., The Honest Rainmaker.  It is a horse racing term meaning those who have passed the finishing line.  In Major’s case the usage is not entirely inappropriate as he was known to have an occasional flutter on the gee-gees during visits to what his son, when young, would refer to as ‘the horse bank’.  When I last saw Major during his final visit to Cornwall he told me he was in dispute with the Betfred chain over a substantial four-figure sum which they were initially refusing to pay out. In the end he got his money.

Major figures prominently in several posts on this website.  In the Memoir Category there is a paragraph in Chapter 3 – Dropout, that describes our meeting on the first day of classes at New York’s High School of Commerce – now itself “gone under the wire”.  On that day in September 1958, the round, dark brown humorous face of the boy at the desk in front of mine turned and asked, “Haven’t I seen you around Washington Square?”  I said it was very likely as I lived in Greenwich Village and was often in the Square.  Major also makes notable appearances in Memoirs’ Chapter 9 – Back in Bohemia, and Chapter 10 – Good Old Music.  A more recent post, Dublin 50 Years On, recounts several episodia (another Col. Stingo-ism) from Major’s visit to Ireland in 1971.

Since Major’s death I have had occasion to say in various places and to various people that during our 57-plus year friendship no one outside my immediate families had a greater or more lasting impact and influence on my life than Major Wiley.  I loved him dearly and will not forget him until I “go under the wire” myself.

I’ve looked at this short post again today, the 5th of February 2017. which would have been Major’s 75th birthday. 

  • Vince Wade

    I have just learned of the death of Major. I am so upset. I was harmonica player with major for some time. You and I met on a number of occasions (liitle fella with a beard). Please would it be Ok to have an e-mail address for you. I won’t be a nuisance, but a litle information would help a lot.
    I have two e-mails; (about to close), and Thank you.

    25th August 2016 at 5:59 pm
  • amy lieberman

    hello patrick –

    yesterday i viewed a zoom piece on the history of woodstock, ny, (wonderful) – where i knew major wiley.

    i was considered a part time ‘townie’ there – my family bought a house there when i was a young teenager. woodstock to this day was where i felt i was born. and to this day i still have very dear friends who still live there. it was a quiet town before 1969 and it seemed like everyone knew each other then.
    in ’69 i went to europe for the summer starting out in london for a couple weeks. it turned out major was on the same flight as me. coincidence. we ended up bonding a bit on that flight and saw each other a little more my first days there; then went our separate ways. i’m a bit younger than he (and you), just turned 70 a couple weeks ago, and back then that made me REALLY young – too young for anything but a sweet, brief friendship, both in woodstock and on that trip.

    well i saw his name on a poster that was in this zoom piece. wow! memories!!! so i googled him –
    i always wondered if he stayed in england – many years ago i would ask, on occasion, if anyone knew what happened to him. noone knew.

    googling him i found you.

    i’m not even sure why i write except to say from what i remember of him, you are a very lucky man to have had him in your life for so very long. and to tell you how much i’m enjoying this very young girls memory (mine) of someone i really looked up to and admired. i always felt he was someone very special.

    thanks for listening. i wish you all the best. i’m so sorry you lost a very special person in your life.

    22nd April 2021 at 12:41 am

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