Eamon Kelly

Life
1914-2001 [Edmund Kelly]; b.1914, Sliabh Luachra, nr. village of Rathmore on Cork/Kerry border [east of Killarney], son of Ned Kelly and Johanna (née Cashman; delicate in childhood; left school at 14; apprentice carpenter to his father, a wheelwright; attracted to drama by fit-up production of Juno and the Paycock; studied at night classes in Killarney; schol. to Bolton St [DIT], and trainee woodcutter and later worked as a woodwork instructor in the National College of Art (Kildare St.); moved to work for a year in Listowel, Co. Kerry and participated in Listowel Players, succeeding Bryan MacMahon as director; m. Maura O’Sullivan, opposite whom he played in Synge’s Playboy, 1951; joined Radio Eireann Players with his wife (who was playing the part of Pegeen Mike when he met her), 1952; discovered as a story-teller by Mícheál Ó hAodha, then Director of Drama and Variety, following an informal performance at a REP party following the production of Peer Gynt by Tyrone Power; became established as the resident seanachie at RTÉ, presenting ‘The Rambling House’ programme; cast as S. B. O’Donnell in Hilton Edward’s production of Friel’s Philadephia (Gaiety 1962), his first professional stage role; transferred to Broadway, 1996 and became the Irish first Broadway hit since the war; nominated for a Tony; played An Piscín Piaclach in An Béal Bocht (Peacock July 1967); played again in Tomás Mac Anna’s revival of Philadelphia (1972); also in The Playboy, Kobe, Translations, The Cherry Orchard, The Man from Clare, and Boss Grade’s Boys; played Dandy in The Field (touring to Russia); King Oedipus in Edinburgh; The Well of the Saints, dir. Patrick Mason; played Old Gob in Merchant of Venice (1984); Simon Doodles in Ulysses in Nighttown (1990); Brother Duffy in Silver Dollar Boys, and Pozzo in Waiting for Godot with Peter O’Toole and Donal McCann; Pats Babock in Sive, a two-hander adapted for him and his wife from The Tailor and Ansty (1968), and Stone Mad, dir. Sean McCarthy and adapted by Fergus Linehan from Seamus Murphy’s book; his last role was Father Willow in Marina Carr’s The Bog of Cats (1998); wrote Scéal Scéalaí with Tomas Mac Anna, an Irish Theatre Story series; also authored his own storytelling shows, In My Father’s Time, Bless Me Father, The Rub of the Relic, The Story Goes …, English That for Me (1980; NY TADA 1989), A Rogue of Low Degree, and Your Humble Servant; toured with Field Day production of Three Sisters (1981); ITC’s production of On Baile’s Strand and Sharon’s Grave; appeared in Sebastian Barry’s Boss Grady’s Boys (1989); played Philadelphia at the London Lyric, 1992, and Colleen Bawn at Manchester Royal Exchange; recorded Legends of Ireland with Rosaleen Linehan (1985), distrib. to 3,000 schools; awards incl. Kerry Person of the Year, 1984, Harvey Special Services Award, 1986; National Entertainment Hall of Fame award, 1991; hon. doct. NUI, and Gradam Amharclann na Mainistreach [Abbey premier award], 1991; issued an autobiography, The Apprentice (Marino 1995), of which instalments appeared in Sunday Independent (17 & 24 Dec. 1995); d. 24 Oct. 2001; survived by Maura, and their children Eoin, Brian and Sinead; brs. Johnny Laurence and sistas Hannah and Bridie.

[ top ]

Works
The Bridge of Feathers
(Dublin: Poolbeg Press 1990), 120pp.; English That for Me and Your Humble Servant (Cork: Mercier Press 1990), 139pp.; The Enchanted Cake (Dublin: Poolbeg 1992), 122pp.; According to Custom (Cork: Mercier 1995), 80pp.; The Apprentice (Dublin: Marino 1995; pb. 1996), 191pp.; The Journeyman (Dublin: Marino 1998), 240pp.; Ireland’s Master Stortyteller: The Collected Stories (Dublin: Marino 1998), 368pp. [Check bio-dates and chk. for author of the same name.]

Reprints, The Storyteller (Cork: Mercier Press 2004), 352pp. [prev. as 2 vols., 1995, 1998].

[ top ]

Commentary
John Devitt notices The Apprentice (Mercier 1995); remarks that versions of the stories of Frank O’Connor’s The Guests of the Nation, and Synge’s Shadow of the Glen can be found here.

Anna Cooke has warm praise for Ireland’s Master Stortyteller (1998) in Books Ireland, Oct. 1999 (p.278), quoting: ‘The other two girls had got married, he had no trouble getting rid of ‘’em, but there was no demand for nell on account of she couldn’t talk.’

The Irish Times (Obituary): Eamon Kelly, d. 24 Oct. 2001; b.1914, nr. village of Rathmore on Cork/Kerry border, son of Ned Kelly and Johanna (née Cashman; delicate in childhood; left school at 14; apprentice carpenter to his father; night classes in Killarney; schol. to Bolton St [DIT]; acted with Listowel Players, succeeding Bryan MacMahon as director; m. Maura O’Sullivan, 1951; joined Radio Eireann Players with his wife (who was playing the part of Pegeen Mike when he met her), 1952; discovered as a story-teller by Mícheál Ó hAodha, then Director of Drama and Variety, following an informal performance at a REP party following the production of Peer Gynt by Tyrone Power; cast as S. B. O’Donnell in Hilton Edward’s production of Friel’s Philadephia (Gaiety 1962), his first professional stage role; transferred to Broadway, 1996, and nominated for a Tony; played An Piscín Piaclach in An Béal Bocht (Peacock July 1967); played again in Tomás Mac Anna’s revival of Philadelphia (1972); also in The Playboy, Kobe, Translations, The Cherry Orchard, The Man from Clare, and Boss Grade’s Boys; played Dandy in The Field (touring to Russia); King Oedipus in Edinburgh; The Well of the Saints, dir. Patrick Mason, Old Vice; played Old Gob in Merchant of Venice (1984); Simon Doodles in Ulysses in Nighttown (1990); Brother Duffy in Silver Dollar Boys, and Pozzo in Waiting for Godot with Peter O’Toole and Donal McCann; Pats Babock in Sive, a two-hander adapted for him and his wife from The Tailor and Ansty (1968), and Stone Mad from Murphy’s book; his last role was Father Willow in Marina Carr’s The Bog of Cats (1998); wrote Scéal Scéalaí with Tomas Mac Anna, an Irish Theatre Story series; also authored his own storytelling shows, In My Father’s Time, Bless Me Father, The Rub of the Relic, The Story Goes …, English That for Me (1980; NY TADA 1989), A Rogue of Low Degree, and Your Humble Servant; toured with Field Day production of Three Sisters (1981); ITC’s production of On Baile’s Strand and Sharon’s Grave; played Philadelphia at the Lyric (London), 1992, and Colleen Bawn (Royal Exchange, Manchester); recorded Legends of Ireland with Rosaleen Linehan (1985), distrib. to 3,000 schools; awards incl. Kerry Person of the Year, 1984, Harvey Special Services Award, 1986; National Entertainment Hall of Fame award, 1991; hon. doct. NUI, and Gradam Amharclann na Mainistreach [Abbey premier award], 1991; survived by Maura, and their children Eoin, Brian and Sinead; brs. Johnny Laurence and sistas Hannah and Bridie. (The Irish Times [Weekend], 27 Oct., 2001, p.16.)

[ top ]