John McGahern on John D. Sheridan

This interview with John McGahern references John D Sheridan.

There was a very popular writer in Ireland at the time called John D. Sheridan, who wrote for the Irish Independent, which was the most popular newspaper.

My father was always suspicious of my writing and he was always saying – because John D. Sheridan was a humorist – you should write like John D. Sheridan.

My father didn’t read or didn’t approve of writing, but he liked giving advice, and John D. Sheridan was his god. What he didn’t know was that Sheridan was a serious man who had written textbooks on Shakespeare.

And it must have been a disastrous day for my father when he opened his favourite newspaper. Across the top of the book page he saw “Classical tragedy comes to The Barracks.” John D. Sheridan was the reviewer.

John D. Sheridan was never referred to again in the house.

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The Irish Times on the death of John D. Sheridan

Paradise Alley by John D. SheridanFollowing John D Sheridan’s death in 1980 The Irish Times stated:

Like that other great Scottish-born Irishman, James Connolly, he had a deep sympathy with Dublin’s working people. But his task was not to politicise them, nor to caricature them with bold pigments, but rather to cherish their warm particularities, and portray their idiosyncrasies. This, too, was to conserve and advance their humanity. How much, indeed, do the people of “Strumpet City” owe to the denizens of “Paradise Alley”?

I’ll be coming back to Sheridan’s “Paradise Alley” in later blog posts, a book frequently described as “a great Dublin novel”, covering the time of the 1913 Lockout.

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On trams disappearing from Dublin streets – John D. Sheridan

In a book, The Legendary ‘Lugs Branigan’ – Ireland’s Most Famed Garda: How One Man became Dublin’s Tough Justice Legend‘, by Kevin C. Kearns, Sheridan is quoted in a column about “The Passing of the Tramcar”. In it, Sheridan:

soulfully lamented the loss of something so “majestic”, which glided gracefully along its tracks, noting wistfully: “I grew up with tramcars … and I hate to see them go”.

 

 

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Baby Mice – John D. Sheridan

The little baby mice
Live underneath the floor.
In a dark, dark house
That has no hall door.
No hall door?
Then how do they get in?
They squeeze through a little hole.
They’re very, very thin.
No hall door?
Then how do they get out?
Out through the same hole
When pussy’s not about.
And the little baby mice
Have a horrid, horrid time.
With no mud for mud pies
And no trees to climb.
They don’t get any money
They can’t slide down the stairs,
And they never, never, never, NEVER
Say their prayers.

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Granny Knows – John D. Sheridan

When I want to ask a question
I nearly always to go
To my Granny; for there’s not a thing
Granny doesn’t know.
When Mother’s very busy
She bids me run and play,
And when my Dad is tired
I know I’m in the way;
But I always get an answer from my Granny.

I asked her why the stars
Come only in the night,
And she said that, in the evening,
When the sun turns off his light,
They draw a big big curtain
Over all the sky,
Till you only see the black,
And you don’t see any blue-
Well, the stars are little holes
Where the sky shines through.

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Spring Song – John D. Sheridan

There is going to be a dance,
I can feel it in the air-
What kind of frock will the daffodil wear?
Gold for the sun and green for the clover;
Spring is on the way
And the winter’s nearly over.

A soft little wind
Out behind the hill
Is practising tunes
For the shy daffodil.

He daren’t start yet
To play with all his might;
He daren’t start yet,
For the time isn’t right;
He daren’t start yet,
For the frocks aren’t made,
And the fairy needles flash
In the green forest glade.
Green thread, gold thread, laughing all together-
Heigh for the dance and the bright spring weather.

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The Priestin’ of Father John – John D. Sheridan

They’ll be priestin’ him the morra –
Troth it’s a quare world too!
For I min’ the rascal that he was,
And the things he used to do.
Many’s a time I chased him
When the strawberries were ripe
Though I own I never caught him –
He was faster nor a snipe.
He hit me wi’ a snowball once,
And that same very hand
Will be blessin’ me the morra –
Troth it’s hard to understand.

Long Richard from Kircrubbin,
Who a sort of far-out frien’,
Is struttin’ round this fortnight back,
Just like a hatchin’ hen.
McAllister from Cargey,
Who’s no more to him nor me,
You’d think to hear the chat of him
He reared him on his knee.
Tom the Tailor’s nearly bet
From hurryin’ on new suits,
And there’s powerful heavy buyin’
On caps and yella boots.
The square is thick with buntin’ –
Man dear there’ll be a sight
When the late bus from Downpatrrick
Gets in the morra night.

Oul’ Canon Dan, God bless him,
Will be fussin’ fit to burst,
And the women batin’ other
To get the blessin’ first.
But, Canon or no Canon
And I’d say this till his face,
For all his bit o’ purple
He’ll take the second place.
Sure even if the Bishop came
Wi’ yon big mitre on
He wouldn’t get the welcome
That we’ll give to Father John.

The pains are at me constant now
I seldom cross the door –
But I’m crossin’ it the morra
If I never cross it more.
You can quit your scoldin’ , Julia
An’ sayin’ I’m not wise –
Sure the sight of him will ease me heart
An’ gladden me oul’ eyes
It won’t be easy bendin’,
An’ the oul’ knees will hurt
But I’ll get down there fornenst him
In all the mud and dirt.

And if I get the chance at all
I’ll whisper in his ear
(Och I’ll do it nice and quiet
so that no one else will hear) :
“If anything should happen me
before you go away,
it’s no one but yourself I want
to shrive me on the clay.
Th’ oul’ Canon mightn’t like it
For he’s still hale and strong,
And I’m sure if he anointed me
He wouldn’t do it wrong.
But I’d feel more contented
If the hand to bless me when I go
Was the hand that threw the snowball
Twenty years ago.

 


 

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Old Mr Nogginson – John D. Sheridan

Old Mr Nogginson from Stirabout Lane
doesn’t like sunshine and doesn’t like rain
ice cream and lollipops he just can’t stand
and he sticks out his tongue at the Stirabout band
He hates little girls no matter how nice
He won’t have little boys at any price
But one thing he does like and that’s quite plain
he likes old Mr Nogginson from Stirabout Lane.

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A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols

A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols

A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols

Last week I wrote a little about Donald Crowhurst and his tragic attempt to sail around the world singlehandedly.

I first encountered Donald Crowhurst in another seafaring book that I’d highly recommend, A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols.
From that link, here’s the description of the book:
In 1968, nine sailors set off on the most daring race ever held: to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe nonstop. It was a feat that had never been accomplished and one that would forever change the face of sailing. Ten months later, only one of the nine men would cross the finish line and earn fame, wealth, and glory. For the others, the reward was madness, failure, and death.
In this extraordinary book, Peter Nichols chronicles a contest of the individual against the sea, waged at a time before cell phones, satellite dishes, and electronic positioning systems. A Voyage for Madmen is a tale of sailors driven by their own dreams and demons, of horrific storms in the Southern Ocean, and of those riveting moments when a split-second decision means the difference between life and death.
The book is an amazing read of what man will go through to achieve new and great things. It’s a gripping read, provides no little inspiration on even achieving things in your own day to day life, and is even just provides an informative window on the time.
If you want, by the way, to read a review of the book that includes a very personal take on what it means to him and his working life, check out this from Wil Wheaton.
For me though, the standout aspect from this book was the story of Donald Crowhurst. If you haven’t read my notes on that book, check them out here.
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