Maurice Walsh (1879-1964)

b. Ballydonoghue, 21 April 1879, nr. Listowel, Co. Kerry; son of Land League (though pro-Union) farmer who preferred books and horses to farming, and Elizabeth [née] Buckley; being the eldest son and third 10 children; raised on the farm; ed. Lisselton National School and St. Michael’s College, Listowel - where he prepared for Civil Service Exams; in 1900 he edited St. Patrick’s Day edn. of the Weekly Freeman; entered British Customs and Excise office in Limerick, July 1901; posted to Scotland Highlands in 1902 and afterwards worked in Derbyshire, Staffordshire; Caroline Begg [known as “Toshon”), in Dufftown, Banffshire, 8 Aug. 1908, Yorkshire dales; contrib. stories to the Irish Emerald, 1908; transferred to the new Irish customs service, 1922, to be joined by his family in 1923;
wrote The Key above the Door during his first year in Dublin; at first unsuccessfully entered in a novel competition then published serially in Chambers’ Journal (Dec. 1925-May 1926), and in book-form in July that year; the novel concerns the competition between Tom King, gentleman farmer, and Edward Leng, a home-counties man of great wealth who has rented property in Scotland, for the heart of Agnes de Burc, a beauteous young lady and somewhat Celtic heroine; the novel enacts the struggle of the Celtic and Saxon, and celebrated the virtues of the more morally-developed Celtic type; written out of nostalgia for Scotland; sold 150,000 copies [var. 250k]; an unsolicited letter of praise from J. M. Barrie was used by Chambers in his subsequent publications;
issued Blackcock’s Feather (1932) is set in Elizabethan Ireland; retired in 1933, and settled in Blackrock, Co. Dublin; his best-known story, “The Quiet Man” was first rejected and afterwards publ. in Saturday Evening Post (Feb. 1933) - a journal that also sold in America; the rights were bought by John Ford in 1936 who ultimately paid $10,000 for the author’s co-operation in the film-version - which is marked by a much-altered dram. personae and dialogue-script; filmed by Ford on location at Ashford Castle [and environs], Cong, Co. Galway, 1951, with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in the Victor McLaglen leading roles, and with Barry Fitzgerald and other Irish actors in other roles [released June 1952];
issued And No Quarter (1937) dealing with the wars of Montrose; elected President of PEN, 1938; travelled with Irish Pen to America, 1938; issued Sons of the Swordmaker (1938), a romance based on story of Conaire Mor and Da Derga; with Seán O’Faolain, co-wrote a special article in the Saturday Evening Post (1939) justifying Ireland’s neutrality in World War II; suffered the death of his wife, 1941; d. 18 Feb. 194, Dublin; bur. Esker Cem., Lucan, Co. Dublin; there is a bust of Walsh based on a plaster original by Seamus Murphy in Ballydonoghue; his papers of were acquired for Glucksman Chair of Contemporary Literature by Limerick University Library, Dec. 2002. DIW DIB DIL KUN OCIL

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See Notes on The Quiet Man” (story & film) - as infra.
  • The Key Above the Door (London & Edinburgh: W & R Chambers Ltd. 1926), 264pp.; Do. [another edn.] (London: Pan Books 1973).
  • While Rivers Run (London & Edinburgh: W & R Chambers Ltd. 1928), 394pp. [ten edns. to 1932].
  • The Small Dark Man (London & Edinburgh: W & R Chambers Ltd. 1930) [var. 1929], 304pp., and Do., [another edn] (London: Pan Books 1973).
  • Blackcock’s Feather (London & Edinburgh: Chambers 1932 [edns.]), 380pp.
  • The Road to Nowhere (London & Edinburgh: W & R Chambers Ltd. 1934; edns. incl. 1945).
  • And No Quarter (London & Edinburgh: W & R Chambers Ltd. 1937).
  • Sons of the Swordmaker (Dublin: Talbot Press 1938), 296pp.
  • The Hill is Mine (London & Edinburgh: W & R Chambers Ltd. 1940).
  • The Spanish Lady (London & Edinburgh, W & R Chambers Ltd. 1943).
  • The Man in Brown (London & Edinburgh: W & R Chambers Ltd. 1945).
  • Son of Apple (London & Edinburgh, W & R Chambers Ltd. 1947).
  • Castle Gillian (London & Edinburgh: W & R Chambers Ltd. 1948), 304pp. [var 254pp.].
  • Trouble in the Glen (London & Edinburgh, W & R Chambers Ltd. 1951; rep. Balnain Bks. 1994), 300pp.
  • A Strange Woman’s Daughter (London & Edinburgh: W & R Chambers Ltd. 1956) [var. 1954], 156pp.
  • Danger Under the Moon (London & Edinburgh: W & R Chambers Ltd. 1954) [var. 1956].
  • The Smart Fellow (London & Edinburgh: W & R Chambers Ltd. 1964).
Short stories
  • The Green Rushes (London & Edinburgh: Chambers 1935; Pan 1973; rep. as The Quiet Man and Other Stories (Belfast: Appletree [?1977]).
  • Tomasheen James, Man of No Work (London & Edinburgh: Chambers 1941; 4th imp. 1946), 257pp.
  • Son of a Tinker and Other Tales (London & Edinburgh, Chambers 1952).
  • The Honest Fisherman and Other Stories (London & Edinburgh: Chambers 1954), 150pp.
  • Wrote a foreword to a book by Richard Hayward and was thwe recipient the dedication in another [vars. DIL & IF2].

[ See also Des Byrne, The Quiet Man, Quiz 1000 (Cló Iar-Chonnachta 1992), 100pp. ]

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  • Francis MacManus, [on Maurice Walsh], Capuchin Annual (1965).
  • Joanne L. Henderson, ‘Four Kerry Writers: Fitzmaurice, Walsh, MacMahon, Keane: A Checklist’, in Listowel Writers’, Number of Journal of Irish Literature, 1 (May 1972).
  • Steve Matheson, Maurice Walsh, Storyteller (Dingle: Brandon Press 1985), 166pp.

See also Des MacHale, The Complete Guide to the Quiet Man (Belfast: Appletree Press 2002), 240pp. There is a Quiet Man fan club website [ link].

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See summary & remarks on The Key Above the Door (1926) [infra.]

Michael O’Regan, “Irishman’s Diary” (Irish Times, 1 Aug. 1995) [column], writes about Maurice Walsh: The Quiet Man video sold 250,000; bust by Jim Connolly from plaster by Seamus Murphy raised as memorial in his native Ballydonoghue, Co. Kerry; son of farmer, and member of Land League, though strongly pro-British, who kept a library of classics (‘read all sort of novels, even when I was a child. I suppose that gave me the feeling for romantic fiction’); Ireland’s most popular writer in the 1930s, nine of his books selling 28,146 copies, January to June 1942; notes Francis MacManus’ commentary in Capuchin Annual, 1965 (‘superb storyteller’; ‘the world of strong, adventurous, fighting heroes; beautiful, usually golden-haired heroines; deeply-dyed villains; the open heath, the mountain stream, the flashing rod or the swerving gun ...’); Steve Matheson [op. cit. as supra], gives details of agreements with John Ford in 1936 giving the director full rights for the short story The Quiet Man for $10, later amended to include an inducement of $2,500 plus half the excess of that if Ford managed to sell the story to a film company, and then a third agreement between Ford and Republic Pictures in which the former, to direct, received $10,000 for the rights; Walsh received a total of $6,260, and remarked at the premier in May 1952, ‘The picture is just good entertainment, but the Technicolor of the Connemara is extraordinarily fine. Moreover, Barry Fitzgerald steals the show; Walsh defended Irish neutrality in World War II in an article for the Saturday Evening Post in 1939; quotes Walsh writing of Listowel,

[Maurice Walsh on Listowel:] ‘From the earliest dawn the old square -with its ivied Protestant Church in the middle - had been close-crowded with clumps of cattle each guarded by two or three country lads - lean, shrill-voiced fellows armed with ashplants that they used mercilessly on the beasts that tried to break or trespass [... //] The public houses - and there are fourscore in that town - were reaping their brief harvest; for the breeders having been paid for their cattle, were engaged in soothing long throats strained from hard bargaining, and no farmer would care to leave Listowel with, as they say, the curse of the town on him. Before each and every public house was a row of red-painted, springless country carts harnessed to donkeys or jennets or short-coupled horses with remarkable clean legs; and the hum of the high-pitched Kerry voices came out of the bars like the song of the bees swarming’; he said to Sean O’Faolain, who suggested that his books required a considerable amount of sophistication, ‘I dunno why my books ever sold. They are just yarns. That’s all. Just yarns.’ (called understatement by O’Regan).

Steve Matheson, Maurice Walsh, Storyteller (Dingle: Brandon Press 1985), 166pp, index; amiable biography bears chapter titles corresponding to the whiskey-making process - Mashing, Ag[e]ing & Maturing, etc., and emphasises the Irish feeling in Walsh as a man and as a writer; bibliography of published works (pp.158-60), cites contribs. contribs to the Saturday Evening Post, The Dublin Magazine, The Bell (Vol.1, No.1 only); also 4 articles on whiskey The Irish Press (Oct. 1953).

Seamus Heaney refers to ‘the Maurice Walsh circuit [...] an atmosphere, a sense of bogs and woods’ (Preoccupations, Faber, p.23).

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Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction: A Guide to Irish Novels, Tales, Romances and Folklore [Pt. 2] (Cork: Royal Carbery 1985), lists The Key Above the Door (London & Edinburgh: Chambers 1926), 264pp.; While Rivers Run (London & Edinburgh: Chambers 1928), 394pp.; The Small Dark Man (London & Edinburgh: Chambers 1930), 304pp.; Blackcock’s Feather (London & Edinburgh: Chambers 1932), 380pp.; Sons of the Swordmaker (Dublin: Talbot Press 1938), 296pp; Tomasheen James, Man of No Work (London & Edinburgh: Chambers 1941), 257pp.; Son of Apple (London & Edinburgh: Chambers 1947); Castle Gillian (London & Edinburgh: Chambers 1948) , 254pp.; A Strange Woman’s Daughter (London & Edinburgh: Chambers 1956), 156pp.; Danger Under the Moon (London & Edinburgh: Chambers 1954), 245pp.; The Honest Fisherman and Other Stories (London & Edinburgh: Chambers 1954), 150pp. BIBL, Hogan (Dictionary of Irish Literature, 1979), cites fiction as supra.

Penguin Books: Bio-data from dust-jacket of the 1958 Penguin edn. of The Key Above The Door, b. Listowel, British Civil Service, posted to Scottish Highlands; first short stories appeared in Dublin Magazine; other works including The Quiet Man, a story, later included in Green Rushes; two detective novels, and eighteen books. Settled back in Ireland in the Wicklow hills. The inside cover copies a letter from Sir James Barrie, ‘have spent some very happy hours over it ... rather thrilled that such a fine yarn should have come out of the heather.’

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The Key Above the Door (1926), Tom King on Agnes de Burc: ‘That woman up at my cottage, in spite of numberless generations of what is called gentle breeding, was throw-back to the days when Deirdre grew in beauty amongst the Dalriada hills, when Maeve was Queen of Connacht and mistress of red kine and white; and I could not make up my mind whether I was Cormac, that old king of desire, or Naisi, who had thrown happiness away with both hands.’ (Chambers 1926 edn., 162-63.) Further, King to Agnes: ‘It is because we are men [...] and men in the raw too, for things have come to that pass where you are no longer to be wooed, but only to be won. Edward Leng, the oriental barbarian, will have it so, and I, the Celtic one, am no better. You have proclaimed your very splendid ideals and given us an unmistakeable dismissal, but the ultimate and lustful savage in us has no use for these things. We are going to fight for you [...] and you will be the chattel of the victor. (Maurice Walsh, The Key Above the Door (Ibid., pp.170-71.)

Fair return: ‘We produce, for so small an island, more artists to the square mile, than any other country in the world, and that’s a challenge. In drama, poetry and the novel we have shown that we are a distinct and distinguished people. Indeed, I might say, where England lent us her language, we gave her in return her literature.’ (with Seán O’Faolain, Saturday Evening Post, 1939 [q.d.]; cited in Michael O’Regan, “Irishman’s Diary”, 1 Aug. 1995, as supra.)

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Sons of the Sword (1938), dramatis personae, Cormac, North British King; Ingcel, Prince of Cumbria, his son; Cerbin, chf. of Ormlyth; Tuilchinic, Pictish folk of Strathclyde; Conaire of Tara, son of Eterscel; Face of Stone, the malevolent warrior, who turns out to be Delgaun. Conaire is under a geasa centred on Da Derga, the Destruction of which is the central episode of the narrative; Ingcel gives Fer Rogain the destruction of his father’s house in N. Britain then by agreement they move to Da Derga for a reciprocation; Flann leads them to it, but pleads for the life of Conaire, while Dairne plays the part of Cassandra, warning Conaire on Flann’s behalf.

The Quiet Man”, first publ. in Saturday Evening Post, Feb. 1933 [also Chamber’s Journal], and rep. as a chapter in his portmanteau novel The Green Rushes (1935), a narrative of linking personal stories pertaining to a group of IRA men and one woman coming to terms with memories of the War of Independence, and finding forgiveness and inner peace; ‘The Quiet Man’ was filmed on location at Cong by John Ford, 1951, having bought the right in 1936, with John Wayne, Barry Fitzgerald and other Irish actors; it includes a sub-plot in which a Catholic priest (Ward Bond) helps save the job of a Protestant clergyman (Arthur Shields). [Information supplied by Patrick O’Sullivan; Irish-Diaspora List, Bradford, 1998.]

Two Resumés:

1] In an attempt to escape his past, Sean Thornton (John Wayne) returns to America to reclaim his homestead. Once he is home, his eye is caught by Mary Kate (Maureen O’Hara), a poor maiden with an ill-tempered older brother named Will. Their relationship is constantly on attack by Will (Victor McLaglen), which forms the main plot line, with Sean’s past as the undercurrent. [See IMDb - online]

2] The memorable plot, about the collision course between an anti-materialistic, Irish-American boxer nicknamed “Trooper Thornton” (Wayne) in the town of Innisfree in the land of his Irish birthplace and a local, mean bully (McLaglen) - further entangled when he falls in love with the man's fiesty, red-haired, materialistic sister (O'Hara) who refuses to consummate her marriage without her dowry (350 Irish pounds in gold), was inspired by a Celtic myth about a monumental battle between two sacred kings (gods) who annually fought for the affections of a queen (or goddess). [See AMC Filmsite, which contains a detailed paraphrase with ample quotations from the script and some commentary - online.]

The Quiet Man
Sean Thornton: ‘Innisfree has become another word for heaven to me. When I quit the...when I decided to come here, it was with one thought in mind.’ (Quoted on AMC Filmsite - as supra.)

Then Came the Captain’s Daughter”, story, probably based on incident in Civil War when a Col. Hudson in the Black and Tans was permitted to go fishing by the local Volunteers. (See Books Ireland, Tony Canavan reviewing Kenneth Griffith and Timothy O’Grady, Curious Journey: An Oral History of Ireland’s Unfinished Revolution, Dec. 1998, p.349.)

St. Patrick Day ‘souvenir’ issue of The Freeman’s Journal (1900), ed. by Maurice Walsh, included fourteen short stories together with the usual three serialised short novels. Among other sections were “The Tales of the Campfire” collection, which included stories by Walsh, G. F. Fitzmaurice, E. Kirby, P Meegan, R. M. Sillard, M. F. Sheehan, J. Ralph and W. J. Deasy. (See Una Kealy, George Fitzmaurice, UU PhD Diss., 2005.) See also remarks on the issue in Robert Hogan, ‘Introduction’, The Crows of Mephistopheles and Other Stories (Dublin: Dolmen, 1970), p. 9, cited in Kealy, op. cit., p.41.)

Anthony Cronin (No Laughing Matter, 1989), cites Patrick Kavanagh’s review of Walsh’s novel The Hill is Mine in The Irish Times (20 July 1940), followed by his letter to the Editor of 7 Aug. 1940 (p.120; with comments.)

Books Ireland (Oct. 1992), writes: ‘Apparently if you live in Cong, where the 1951 movie is shown continually ...’.

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