MAURICE WALSH REMEMBERED

106

A special event will take place in The Thatch Bar, Lisselton this Saturday September 7th to mark the 140th anniversary of the birth of the great North Kerry writer Maurice Walsh, as part of Listowel International Storytelling & Folklore Festival.

Born in the Parish of Ballydonoghue in 1879, Maurice Walsh was one of ten children, only eight of whom survived. He attended Lisselton National School, and later St. Michael’s College in Listowel. He entered the British Customs & Excise Service in 1901 and was posted to Scotland before the year was out.

Maurice had always been interested in writing and, during his early years in Scotland, this interest started to bear fruit. Two of his stories were published in the Irish Emerald in 1908. That year also saw his marriage in Dufftown, Banffshire, Scotland, to Caroline Begg (always known by her nickname “Toshon”). It was here that he also met the Scottish novelist Neil Gunn and a friendship developed, so much so, that he called one of his sons Neil. With over twenty novels to his credit, Gunn was arguably the most influential Scottish fiction writer of the first half of the 20th century.

When the Irish Free State was formed in 1922, Maurice transferred to its excise service and moved to Dublin. His first novel The Key Above the Door was published in July 1926. Sales of the book grew steadily, especially in the wake of an unsolicited and generous letter of praise from J. M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan.

Maurice retired from government service in 1933 but his success as a writer continued. It was in that year that he first sold a story to the Saturday Evening Post, then a well-known weekly magazine published in the United States. That story (later to be incorporated in the collection of stories published under the title Green Rushes) was The Quiet Man. This was where the American film director John Ford first read it – and the rest, as they say, is cinema history. He secured the film rights shortly after reading it, but it was 1952 before his famous film was released, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.

The event at The Thatch Bar will include a presentation on the life & work of Maurice Walsh, readings of his verse, music and song. “We are delighted that Manus Walsh, grandson of Maurice, and a renowned artist in his own right, will be joining us on the day” said Cara Trant of Kerry Writers’ Museum. Visiting Scottish storyteller Lizzie McDougall will also talk about novelist Neil Gunn and his friendship with Maurice Walsh.

Tickets for the event are €10 each which includes coach transfer from Listowel to Lisselton. Tickets can be booked by contacting Kerry Writers’ Museum on 068 22212 or emailing info@kerrywritersmuseum.com.