John B. Keane1928-2002


Life
b. 21 July 1928, 45 Church Street, Listowel, Co. Kerry; son of William B. Keane, a school-teacher, and Hannah [née Purtill] Keane, fourth child in family of five boys and four girls among whom a br. Eamon, the actor; ed. St. Michael’s College to 1946; apprenticed to pharmaceutical chemist to A. H. Jones, 1946; took work in Northampton, 1952, where his jobs included furnace-operator at Timkins; began writing and returned to Listowel; married Mary O’Connor, 5 Jan. 1955 (with whom William, Conor, John and Joanna); bought pub at 37 William St. that year;
 
JBK reputedly inspired to write Sive, a play about a young girl who is to be married off to a lecherous old man, by a play of Joseph Tomelty (All Souls' Night, 1955); completed Sive in 1958; rejected for the Abbey Theatre by Ernest Blythe; refused again, with encouragements, by Micheál Ó hAodha at Radio Éireann; submitted to Listowel Drama Group, with required some changes; first staged Listowel 1959; played in Cork by Southern Th. Group; winner of All-Ireland Prize at Athlone Amateur Drama Festival, 1959; JBK elected President/Director Listowel Writers’ Week; wrote his only play set in England, Hut 42 (prem. Abbey Th. 1962);
 
JBK issued The Field (Gemini Prods., Olympia Th., 1 Nov. 1965), based on a contemporary event and originally written as The Field by the River, centred on the Bull McCabe and his son (‘we’ll be important people, yet, boy!’) who visit violence upon a neighbour; played Olympia 1965, with Ray McAnally in the lead as the returning American determined to buy the field (‘he smelt like a man who smelt of dung’ - Keane); printed 1966; revised in two-acts for Abbey in 1987, and again revived in 1996;
 

Sive finally produced at the Abbey by Joe Dowling in 1984; JBK wrote Big Maggie (1969), centred on the recently widowed and tough-minded Maggie Polpin who manages her family ruthlessly, [‘Like all wives, I kept my mind to myself. Prise and ignorance and religion! Those were the chains around me’); produced by Phyllis Ryan, and originally intended for Anna Mahahan; founder-member of Society of Irish Playwrights; The Field filmed by Jim Sheridan, with Richard Harris in the lead, supported by Sean Bean;

 
early Member of Aosdana; elected honorary member of RDS, 1991; sometime winner of Irish PEN/AT Cross Lit. Award for life-time achievement, 1999; suffered cancer and underwent radiology, 1995, with initial success; Big Maggie revived at the Abbey Theatre, with Marie Mullen in the title role, 2001 (dir. Gary Hynes); d. 23 May 2002; The Field revived with Mick Lally and Mary McEvoy (SFX 2003); d. his papers were bought by TCD; d. 23 May 2002 [var. 30th May];
 
The Field was revived at the Olympia Th., Dublin, dir. by Joe Dowling, with Brian Dennehy in the central role, supported by Brendan Conroy and Derbhle Crotty (as Mamie), Jan.-Feb. 2011; Druid revivals incl. Sive (2002), Sharon's Grave (2003), and The Field (Nov. 2011); Keane was a staunch supporter of Fine Gael; Fergal Keane is his nephew. DIW DIL WJM

[ top ]

Works
Plays
  • Sive (Dublin: Progress House 1959);
  • Sharon’s Grave [Southern Th. Group, Cork] (Dublin: Progress House 1960);
  • The Highest House on the Mountain [Southern Th. Group, Cork] (Dublin: Progress House 1961);
  • No More in Dust (1961), unpublished;
  • Hut 42 ([Dublin: Progress House] 1962; Dixon, California: Proscenium 1968);
  • Many Young Men of Twenty [Southern Th. Group, Cork] (Dublin: Progress House 1961) [musical], rep. in Robert Hogan, ed., Seven Irish Plays (Minneapolis UP 1967) [with Sharon’s Grave, et al.];
  • The Man from Clare (Cork: Mercier Press 1962) [childhood obsession with sport];
  • The Year of the Hiker (Cork: Mercier Press 1963); Do., with production notes by James N. Healy [2nd edn.] (Cork: Mercier Press 1978), 94pp., and Do., ed. Ben Barnes [new & rev. edn.] (Cork: Mercier Press 1991), 92pp. [4 men & 3 women];
  • The Field: A Play in Three Acts (Cork: Mercier Press 1966; 2nd edn. 1976), 76pp.; and Do., ed. Ben Barnes, with notes by James Walsh [new rev. text] (Cork: Mercier Press 1991), 81pp.;
  • The Rain at the End of Summer (Dublin: Progress House 1967);
  • Big Maggie: A Play in Three Acts (Cork: Mercier Press 1969, 1978), 94pp.; Do. [another edn.] A Drama in Two Acts [sic] (London: Samuel French 1983), 87pp.
  • The Change in Madam Fadden (Cork: Mercier Press 1972); Moll (Cork: Mercier Press 1972);
  • The One-Way Ticket (Illinois, Performance Publishing 1972) [one-act play];
  • Values (Cork: Mercier Press 1973) [three ‘trivial’ one-act plays];
  • The Crazy Wall (Cork: Mercier Press 1973), 88pp. [for 8 men & 2 women];
  • The Change in Mame Fadden: A Play in Two Acts (Cork: Mercier Press 1973), 104pp.
  • The Good Thing (Newark: Proscenium 1978) [check play by J. B. Keane in Journal of Irish Literature, Vol. VII, No.2.]
  • The Buds Of Ballybunion: a Playa in Three Acts (Dublin: Mercier Press 1979), 94pp. [with music].
  • The Chastitute: A Play in Two Acts (Cork: Mercier Press 1981), 71pp.

[ top ]

Works of Keane have been regularily reprinted; omnibus rep. edns. incl. Sharon’s Grave, The Crazy Wall, and The Man from Clare (Dublin & Cork: Mercier Press 1995); Moll; The Chastitude; Many Young Men of Twenty (Dublin & Cork: Mercier Press 1999), 176pp.

Fiction
  • Death be Not Proud and Other Stories (Cork: Mercier Press 1976), 94pp.;
  • More Irish Short Stories (Cork: Mercier Press 1981);
  • The Bodhrán Makers (Cork: Mercier Press 1986);
  • Man of the Triple Name (Cork: Mercier Press 1984), [rep. as Dan Paddy Andy, The Matchmaker, 2003, 160pp. - see note.]
  • Owl Sandwiches (Cork: Mercier Press 1985) [reminiscence];
  • Durango: A Novel (Cork: Mercier Press 1992), 329pp.
  • The Contractors (Cork: Mercier Press 1993), 319pp. [Irish builders in England in the 1950s];
  • Christmas Tales (Cork: Mercier Press 1993), 160pp. [see contents];
  • Innocent Bystanders (Cork: Mercier Press 1994), 158pp. [stories/pieces];
  • The Voice of an Angel and Other Christmas Stories (Cork: Mercier Press 1995) [see contents];
  • Collected Short Stories (Cork: Mercier Press 1997)
  • A Warm Bed on a Cold Night and Other Stories (Cork: Mercier Press 1997), 144pp.
[ top ]
Poetry
  • The Street and Other Poems (Dublin: Progress House 1961; rep. Cork: Mercier Press 2003), 96pp.
  • Dán Pheadí Aindí (Dublin & Cork: Mercier Press 1977).
‘Letters’ Series
  • Letters of a Successful TD (Cork: Mercier Press 1968);
  • Letters of an Irish Parish Priest (Cork: Mercier Press 1972);
  • Letters of an Irish Publican (Cork: Mercier Press 1974);
  • Letters of a Love-Hungry Farmer (Cork: Mercier Press 1974; rep. 1991);
  • Letters of a Matchmaker (Cork: Mercier Press 1975);
  • Letters of a Civic Guard (Cork: Mercier Press 1976);
  • Letters of a Country Postman (Cork: Mercier Press 1977; rep. 1993), 93pp.;
  • Letters of an Irish Minister of State (Cork: Mercier [1978]) [career of Tull McAdoo];
  • Letters to the Brain [?1st edn.] (Dingle: Brandon 1993);
[ top ]
Miscellaneous
  • Strong Tea (Cork: Mercier Press 1963); Self-Portrait (Cork: Mercier Press 1964);
  • The Gentle Art of Matchmaking and Other Important Things (Cork: Mercier Press 1973);
  • Unlawful Sex and Other Testy Matters (Cork: Mercier Press 1978);
  • Is the Holy Ghost Really a Kerryman? and Other Items of Interest (Cork: Mercier [q.d.]);
  • Inlaws and Outlaws (Cork: Mercier Press 1995), 160pp.;
 

See ‘The Best Christmas Dinner’, extract from The Voice of an Angel, in Sunday Independent (31 Dec. 1995) [backpage main section].

 
Collected Editions
  • The Celebrated Letters of John B. Keane (Cork: Mercier Press 1996) [omnibus of 5 collections];
  • John B. Keane’s Christmas (Cork: Mercier Press 1997), 188pp.
  • Best of John B. Keane: Collected Humorous Writings (Cork: Mercier Press 1999), 365pp.;
  • More Celebrated Letters (Cork: Mercier 2000), 368pp.;
  • An Irish Christmas Feast: The Best of John B. Keane (Cork: Mercier Press 2004), 352pp.;
  • Pints of Porter: Selected Essays and Writings, foreword by Conor Keane (Mercier 2004), 128pp. [32 uncoll pieces].

[ top ]

Bibliographical details
Christmas Tales (Cork: Mercier Press 1993), 160pp. CONTENTS: include “The Contractors”, “Letters of a Love-Hungry Farmer”, “The Bodhran Makers”, “Sive”, “The Chastitute”, and “The Field”. [See COPAC online - prob. citing other titles by the author rather than story-versions of same.]

The Voice of an Angel and Other Christmas Stories (Cork: Mercier Press 1995), 188pp. CONTENTS: “Christmas Noses”, “A Christmas Diversion”, “The Woman Who Hated Christmas”, “The Best Christmas Dinner” and “A Last Christmas Gift”. John B. Keane is the author of “Durango”, “The Contractors”, “A High Meadow” and “Letters of a Love-Hungry Farmer”.

[ top ]

Criticism
  • Robert Hogan, ‘The Hidden Ireland of John B. Keane’, Éire-Ireland, 3, 2 (Summer 1968), pp. 14-26;
  • John M. Feehan, ed., Fifty Years Young, A Tribute to John B. Keane ([1978]);
  • Anthony Roche, ‘John B. Keane: Respectability at Last!’, in Theatre Ireland, 18 (April-June, 1989), pp.29-32;
  • John B. Gus Smith & Des Hickey, John B: The Real Keane (Cork: Mercier Press 1992), and Do. [rev. as] John B. (Dublin: Mercier Press 2002, 2004), 352pp., ills. [16pp. of photos; see extract];
  • ‘Critics, Who Needs them!’, interview with John B. Keane, Books Ireland, 176 (April, 1994), pp.73-74 [see extract];
  • Fintan O’Toole, ‘In Primitive Territory’, in “2nd Opinion” [occas. col.] (The Irish Times, 8 Aug. 1995) [see extract];
  • Sr. Mary Hubert Kealy, ‘John B. Keane’ in Bernice Schrank & William Demastes, ed., Irish Playwrights, 1880-1995: A Research and Production Sourcebook (CT: Greenwood Press 1997), pp.135-44;
  • Kathy Sheridan, interview with John B. Keane on his 73rd birthday (Irish Times, 21 July 2001), Weekend, cover story [see extract];
  • Michael Scott [interview], in Theatre Talk: Voices of Irish Theatre Practitioners, ed. Lilian Chambers, Ger Fitzgibbon, Eamonn Jordan, et al. (Blackrock: Carysfort Press 2001), pp.220-23;
  • [anon.,] Obituary in The Irish Times ([Sat. 27] May 2002) [see extract];
  • Gabriel Fitzmaurice, ed., Come All Good Men and True: Essays from the John B. Keane Symposium (Cork: Mercier Press 2004), 144pp.;
  • [n. auth.,] John B. Keane: Playwright of the People - A Collection of Tributes to John B. Keane (N. Kerry Literary Trust 2004) [with CD];
  • Vincent Browne, interview with J. B. Keane [1 June 1998], in Village (1-16 June 2005), pp.22, 23-25 [see extract].
  • Peter Crawley, ‘The Keane edge: raw psychology, unflinching honesty, social criticism’ [feature-article], in The Irish Times (19 Nov. 2011), Weekend, p.1. [coincides with revival of Big Maggie at Town Hall Th., Galway].

[ top ]

Commentary

Shirley Kelly
Smyth & Hickey
Fintan O’Toole
Kathy Sheridan
Irish Times (obit.)
Brendan Kennelly
Vincent Browne

[Shirley Kelly,] ‘Critics, Who Needs them!’, interview with John B. Keane, in Books Ireland, 176 (April, 1994), pp.73-74: ‘Flashes of outrage and indignation betray his sensitivity to the opinions of his critics, and he’s not inclined to forget those who cross him.’ Keane dismissed the Smith-Hickey biography as ‘very shallow, a terrible book’. On the writing of The Bodhrán Makers, ‘I’m just at the age where a man can write a couple of novels. [...] The tragedy is that I didn’t know I could write a novel. I had made several attempts and they all went astray. But in this case I was writing about people I knew, people who lived about two miles from Listowel, and that I’d grown up with. They’re all gone now, but they made me their spokesperson and I felt a responsibility to tell their story, to preserve a wonderful tradition in written form.’ The novel, a lasting success, marked his move from Mercier to Oliver MacDonogh [sic] at Brandon and a firm editorial hand; Phoenix found that ‘the book was not the usual limp comic stuff, but a novel of some depth and accomplishment’; relationship with MacDonogh shortlived, here ascribed to Keane’s famous temper; he sent Durango to MacDonogh, and got back 16 type script pages of suggestions (‘I couldn’t make head nor tail of them, so I left the book alone for a while before sending it off to mary Feehan at Mercier, who though it was great stuff. So I made some very minor changes, and it did very well.’ Tells the story of a small farmers’ campaign to break a jobber’s cartel by driving their own cattle to the fair; John Dunne called it ‘full of the ... oul’ guff’ ... should have been edited with a chain-saw’. Third novel, The Contractors topped bestseller list twice; set in Irish community in London in the ‘50s; due March 1994, The High Meadows (Cork: Mercier Press 1994) [var. A High Meadow]; resurrects ‘the Ram of God’, a character from an earlier short story; called by Keane ‘a man who had been going for the Church for a period and, because of his nature, was kicked out. You could say he had a sublime interest in women as well as a physical one and the idea is that he represents the opposite of the Lamb of God’; takes its theme from his belief in the need for traditional values; small town humorous characters. Kelly recounts details of Keane’s attention to Listowel types, and Keane’s atttitude to their humour, ‘I listen rather than speak, but I would never write down what they say to me. I’d leae it fester for a while first, and the longer it sits there, the better it turns out. In writing at least, a good memory is better than a bad pencil.’ On his life-style, ‘I’ve always been a great man for the booze, and I have hundreds of friends, so the minute I go into a pub I’m established there for the night’; recently lost two brothers, a sister, and a daughter-in-law of 25; claims that the grief colours his writing ‘as sugar sweetens my coffee’; sustained by his happy marriage to Mary, ‘we still have a very romantic relationship which is priceless. There is no other means of transport through this life than a happy relationship and peace of mind. I know this from experience.’

Theres is a photograph of John B. Keane handing a play-script in a notebook to Micheál Ó hAodha of Radio Éireann (See Peter Crawley [feature-article], The Irish Times, (19 Nov. 2011), Weekend Review, p.1.

[ top ]

Gus Smyth & Des Hickey, John B - The Real Keane (Cork: Mercier Press 1992): Keane is described by Brendan Kennelly as ‘a poetic playwright’; son of schoolteacher and former Cumann na mBan member; brutal schooldays; short spell of emigration in Britain; bought public house; Southern theatre group produced Sive; raw brutal theme and daring melodrama of its language break from drama of fifties. Taken up by director Barry Casson and producer Phyllis Ryan; The Field with Ray McAnally, 1965; not seen as a classic of the Irish stage, has survived because it speaks directly to its audience; Kennelly describes him as ‘detached poet’, both ‘outsider and insider’; first produced at Abbey by Joe Dowling; Dowling regards the book are portentious in style and unduly inclusive of incident. A chapter in the form of an interview with Brendan Kennelly on Keane as Kerryman recognises his importance in the Irish literary canon. (Review Joe Dowling, Irish Times, 21 Nov. 1992.)

Fintan O’Toole, ‘In Primitive Territory’, in “2nd Opinion” col.] (The Irish Times, 8 Aug. 1995): Sharon’s Grave rejected 1959, as being considered by Ernest Blythe as ‘too grotesque for words’; J. B. Keane, O’Toole remarks ‘its mad concoction of Irish myth and grand guignol’, in reviewing Ben Barnes ‘imaginative reinvention of the text 35 years after; revised version of Sharon’s Grave published by Mercier with The Crazy Wall and The Man from Clare. (Irish Times ).

[ top ]

Kathy Sheridan, interview with John B. Keane on his 73rd birthday (Irish Times, 21 July 2001), Weekend, cover story, remarks on ‘darkness and savagery […] of his work diluted in what he calls the “shoddy productions” of the early days; further: ‘He was probably born scrappy. He puts it down to a “turbulence” within him’; quotes: ‘There was always this turbulent thing there, even as a young lad. I’d be studying and I suddenly just couldn’t comprehend what I’d be looking at. I had this thing inside me.’; Keane draws attention to the expression ‘Don’t mind him, he has a hurt’; Sheridan calls it ‘part of that Keane north-Kerry dreamtime’ and remarks ‘they wisely made a space for it’; quotes: ‘As you get older. you expect it to go away; it doesn’t quite. No. It reappears, not like a ghost, but an old worry’; calls it ‘a worry for the security of others. I was greatly concerned always for my friends’, adding: ‘I would say that anyone with artistic tendencies would have this turbulence. It’s like, I suppose, the change of the tide in the sea. When it ebbs and flows, the precise time that it changes, that’s the time for turbulencfe and I think it’s the same with man.’; Keane in England dreamed of writing the Great Irish Novel; a ‘fierce hiding in a laneway in Northampton’ administered by a group of men changed him; his meeting with his wife Mary further ‘dissipated’ the wildness and accelerated the progress ‘from youth to real manhood’. Keane speaks of the critical panning of his plays (‘crucified’); not produced by the national theatre (Abbey) until mid-1980s under the hands of Joe Dowling; winner of Gradam award of the National Theatre Society, 1998; recounts nervous tension and rashes on his hands occasioned by Dublin Theatre Festival; ‘The worst thing was to be successful. […] in Ireland [that] breeds resentment’; speaks of his habit of removing himself into silence in some wild place like Brandon during a period of depression, a therapy suggested to him by his wife, as having a ‘huge influence’; started at around 35 and now ‘his saviour’; retains unswerving faith in prayer and the afterlife’ ‘I can honestly say I’ve had a full life’; believes his to be ‘gentle writing’ that makes no enemies; expresses desire to ‘write a good few poems yet’; knows he is loved; considers the treatment of abuse, greed and the craving for security in his plays (Big Maggie, Matchmaker) ‘may have been before its time’; picks out Marina Carr and Martin McDonagh in current generation; quotes a recent poem, “The Land of Lyre”: As he went through the land of Lyre / The beaded dews did the fields attire, / And the old, grey world was turned to fire / In the month of May in the morning. … Lark and linnet and long-tailed tit … Sang for the love of the newborn day / Sang for the blossoming buds of May / And sang for the rude and the randy; / Sangf for the soul who had never loved; / Sang for a spirit too long reproved / As over the Ivy Bridge he roved / To the land of Dan Paddy Andy.’ Also quotes: ‘Different .. .different .. a totally different world. I didn’t know it in the 1950s when I started writing seriously but I was recording faithfully a life that would disappear forever. The characters are true to their time and place. I was one of them.’ (p.1.)

[ top ]

[Anon.,] Obituary in The Irish Times ([Sat. 27] May 2002): J. B. Keane, d. 23 May 2002; aetat. 73rd; ‘He was steeped in the traditions and lore of his native Kerry, and they formed the basis of much of his work. For some, his plays had an uncomfortable reality at a time reality at a time in Ireland when the raw side of rural life was frequently ignored for the more acceptable version of Eamon de Valera’s vision of happy maidens and cosy homesteads. Loneliness, greed and sexual repression were themes he explored with considerable skill and courage.’ Keane was influence by the people of Lyreacrompane, in Stacks Mts. between Listowel and Castleisland, where he spent early childhood summers; found their language to be an eloquent mixture, half-English and half-Irish [quotes:] “It had an extraordinary influence on my early plays and on own speech hereafter [sic]. For all its raciness it was still a very measured language.” Sive was directed by Joe Dowling at the Abbey twenty-five years after its first rejection in the era of Blythe; his papers held in TCD; survived by wife Mary; sons Billy, Conor and John; dg. Joanna; brs. Michael and Denis; sis., Peg, Sheila and Anne.

[ top ]

Brendan Kennelly: ‘He had an extraordinary memory. He could recall whole conversations; he could recreate conversations as if they were small dramas, little one-act plays stitched together with humour, compassion and unfailing skill. [...] when I think of im, I see him laughing, his head thrown back, the joy and pleasure pouring out of him.’ (“Plot Summary”, panel in Vincent Browne [interview], Village, 10-16 June 2005, p.25.)

[ top ]

Vincent Browne [interview with J. B. Keane; dated 1 June 1998], rep. in in Village (1-16 June 2005), pp.22, 23-25; captions: “Letters of a parish priest; “Nearly beaten to death [for opposing GAA ban]”; “Influences and teachers’; “Writing, religion and love’; “Cheek-to-cheek dancing”; “God-given gift”; “Politics and politicians”; “Pride in the work”; “Regrets and mortality”.] ‘I’d start at midnight when the pub was shut, I’d drink three or four pints of stout and start writing until the dawn. Sometimes during the night, I would go out and walk around the square, which we see outside the window here but I had to give it up because I saw so many chastening things that It became frightening. In this square and in the street. I saw men and women where they should not be. I met scared women at night, scared of their own homes. I met men who were afrai of their own women, really. I met all of these people, but yet they were there and it was so sad a sight that I often cried my eyes out when I went hom at what I saw, the cruelty of people towards each other who had tremendous capacity for love, which they never expressed.’

[ top ]

Quotations
Big Maggie: interviewed on BBC3 (9 Feb. 1993), John B. Keane reflects, in connection with the English premier of Big Maggie in Birmingham, on his not writing plays any more that society has being ‘cheapened’. The monologue with which that play ends was conceived at the suggestion of Brenda Fricker in conversation in the Gresham Hotel in Dublin at the time of the first production.

[ top ]

Self-portrait (1964): ‘[When I] boarded the train at Listowel that morning it seeemd as if everyone was leaning. It was the same at every train station along the way. […] Dun Laoghaire, for the first time, was a heartbreaking experience - the goodbyes to husbands going back after Christmas, chubby-faced boys and girls leaving home for the first time, bewilderment written all over them, hard-faced old-stagers who never let on but who felt it worst of all because they knew only to well what lay before them.’ (Many a Young Man of Twenty, [Mercier Press] 1961, p.32.) [Cont.]

[ top ]

Self-portrait (1964) - cont.: ‘The tourist fawned over and spoiled, but they can’t wait to deposit the departing Paddy on the other side.’ (p.35.) (‘It was the same at every station along the way, Danger. ’Twould make anybody cry. Young boys and girls leaving home for the first time. Fathers and mothers heartbroken, turnin’ their heads away to hide the tears. Twould turn you against railway stations.’ (p.155; the foregoing all quoted in E. Delaney, 'In a Strange Land’, in The Irish in Post-War Britain, OUP 2007, p.47-49.)

[ top ]

References
D. E. S. Maxwell, Modern Irish Drama (Cambridge UP 1984), lists Sive, staged Listowel, 1951 [sic, denoting err. all other sources] & London 1961 (printed 1959); The Man from Clare (printed 1963); Hut 42 (Abbey 1963; printed 1963); also The Year of the Hiker (Cork: Mercier Press 1964); The Field, Dublin 1965, NY 1976 (Cork: Mercier Press 1966), and Big Maggie (Cork: Mercier Press 1969).

[ top ]

Wikipedia lists:
Plays
  • Many Young Men of Twenty (1946)
  • Sive (1959)
  • Sharon's Grave (1960)
  • The Highest House on the Mountain (1961)
  • The Man From Clare (1962)
  • The Year of the Hiker (1963)
  • The Field (1966)
  • Hut 42 (1968)
  • The Rain at the End of the Summer (1968)
  • Big Maggie (1969)
  • The One-Way Ticket (1972)
  • Values (1973)
  • The Change in Mame Fadden (1973)
  • Letters of a Matchmaker (1975)
  • The Buds of Ballybunion: a Play in Three Acts (1979)
  • The Chastitute (1981)
  • The Bodhran Makers (1986)
  • Moll (1991)
Wikipedia - online; accessed 20.11.2011.

Katie Donovan, et al., ed., Ireland’s Women [Anthology] (19954), cites The Buds of Ballybunion (1978), a play; extract from Letters of a Parish Priest (1972), in which an Irish wife complains that her husband has become attached to an inflatable woman sent from America.

Helena Sheehan, Irish Television Drama, A Society and Its Stories (RTE 1987), RTE films, Field, The, 91, 97, 100, 105, 107, 138, John B. Keane/Donall Farmer (1968); Tales of Kilnavarna [6 epis], John B. Keane, adpt. Joe O’Donnell/Bill Keating (1984); Year of the Hiker, The, 314-16, 410, 418, JB Keane/Louis Lentin (1965).

[ top ]

Brandon Press (Catalogue 1994) lists John B. Keane, Letters to the Brain (Brandon 1993), 157pp. [various body parts of Thomas Scam address his brain with their different interests]; J. B. Keane, Owl Sandwiches (Brandon), 125pp. [amusing anecdotes and essays, reprinted from 1985]; reprint edns. incl. The Bodhrán Makers [1986], 353pp. [0 86322 085 1], cites review: ‘This powerful and poignant novel provides John B Keane with a passport to the highest levels of Irish literature.’; The Bodhrán Makers [1994]; Man of the Triple Name [1994]; Owl Sandwiches [1994]; Letters to the Brain [1994]; and Power of the Word [1994], with cartoons by ‘Doll’.

[ top ]

Notes
Sive
first staged by Listowel Drama Group, 2 Feb 1959, rejected by Abbey but won all-Ireland amateur award, 1959; staged professionally by Southern Theatre Group and received 1000 performances.

The Field (1965) is based on an actual murder of 1958 treated as ‘The Kerry Killing’ in the series Thou Shalt Not (RTE, Thurs. 24 Nov. 1994). Keane’s play was film by Jim Sheridan (dir.) in what is generally thought to be his least valuable outing, though a first-feature break for Brendan Gleeson.

[ top ]

The Field: Leenane, Co. Galway is the location of the 30-acre farmland and cottage which was used as the setting for the film version of John B. Keane’s play The Field. The cottage failed to sell at auction at a highest bid of Ir£250,000 and was withdrawn in August 2000. The farm was capable of attracting EU headage payments of up to £22,000 if fencing problems were addressed. (Irish Times, 26 Aug. 2000.)

Moll, in which the title-character is a hard-headed priest’s housekeeper who secures employment in Kerry parish, and secures her revenue by catering to the PP’s stomach and starving the two curates, gaining control of the Mass card revenue; revived at the Gaiety, Mar. 1995, with Mick Lally as the Canon, Barry McGovern as senior curate and Ronan Smith as junior; Maria McDermottroe as Moll, Martin Dempsey as bishop (bit-part); dir. Brian de Salvo.

[ top ]

Letters of a Love Hungry Farmer: eponymous character John Bosco McLane dies by suicide brought on bythe ‘woeful futility of trying to grasp the evasive wisp which is the loveliness and beauty of women.’ (p.88).

The Matchmaker returns to the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin from 2-6 April [date?], with Anna Manahan and Des Keogh in the leading roles.

Man of the Triple Name (Cork: Mercier Press 1984) - rep. as Dan Paddy Andy, The Matchmaker, Mercier 2003, 160pp.: ‘At a time when priests patrolled the narrow country lanes at night, searching with sticks and even with dogs, for courting couples, Dan Paddy Andy came in for ringing denunciations from the Church. Archdeacon Browne intoned from the pulpit: “There is a wild man after descending from the mountains and it is the man of the triple name: Dan Paddy Andy.” A constant source of anecdotes, he lived by his wits and by his skill in repartee. It was in his later years that his fame spread far and wide, from his native Kerry, when the television cameras of RTE, BBC and ITV came to his door.’ (See COPAC online.) Note: Another edition in Irish as Dan Pheaidí Aindí (1977, 1998).

Family traditions: The actor Eamon Keane is a brother of John B. Keane; acc. to J. B. Keane, he learned to drink from his father, a man ‘who was fond of a drink and used to back horses [and] went on a skite with my good self on many occasions and my brother and the others.’ Keane calls his brother Eamon ‘a hopeless alcoholic, who damaged himself more than anybody else because he was a fine actor and my father used always say to Eamon that he used to go on monumental boozes and then go to bed for long periods so that he would accumulate enough health to go on another skite. My father’s binge’s used to last four or five days. I was different. [...]’ (Interview with Vincent Browne, The Village, 10-16 June 2005, p.23.)

[ top ]

Michael Hartnett dedicated his poem “The Man Who Wrote Yeats, The Man Who Wrote Mozart” to J. B. Keane (See Patrick Crotty, ed., Modern Irish Poetry, Blackstaff Press 1994, p.239.)

Gabriel Fitzmaurice was advised by J. B. Keane: ‘in order for me to develop as a writer, a hard frost would have to develop along the river.’ (Skin the Goat, p.136; see Paula Murphy, reviewing Beat the Goat, in The Irish Book Review, Summer 2006, p.19.)

California deaths: Among the six Irish students on J1-A visas who tragically died when a balcony collapsed in California during a party was Niccolai (“Nick”) Schuster, a grandson of Peg Keane Schuster who was a sister of John B. Keane. His father John Schuster manages Bushy Park Rangers football club. A friend and fellow-player Conor Flynn was among those who survived with injuries. Alexei Schuster a brother. (Irish Times, 19.06.2015.)

[ top ]