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Who was John D. Sheridan?

It’s 18 months now since we moved house to Hollybank Road in Dublin, and soon afterwards one of our neighbours who’s lived on the street all her life told me that the house was the birthplace of the writer John D Sheridan.

He wasn’t an author I was aware of. Though, that’s not helped by what my friends describe as my phobia towards reading Irish writers of any kind (but that’s for another day). So, I started a little investigating.

My dad knew the work of Sheridan through his columns in the Irish Independent. He also thought that there might be a Sheridan book somewhere amongst the collection built up by my grandfather (more on that at a later date).

An initial review of Wikipedia gave very little away at all:

John Desmond Sheridan (1903–1980) was an Irish novelist, short story writer, and humourist. He was a frequent contributor to the Irish Independent newspaper. In addition to his novels and essays, he also published several books of poetry, and authored a biography of poet James Clarence Mangan in 1937.

Sheridan released several short stories. Most of his stories are of a humorous nature and are often about his phobias or pet hates. Sheridan also wrote short pieces of poetry which were used by elocution teachers.

The Wikipedia entry gave direction to the entry for Sheridan in the Irish Writers Online Concise Dictionary of Irish Writers. True to their word, the entry confirmed a birth in 1903 and death in 1980 (May, according to this ), but also included a listing of publications categorised as novels, a biography, and humorous work.

The only reference I can find to his birth or upbringing on Hollybank Road was from an Irish Times article online, Home is where the fiction is, which is undated as far as I can make out. As part of a series called “City of Words – Dublin and its writers”, the article had this short reference to Sheridan:

Walking Drumcondra Road, I think of Anthony Cronin’s great poem for his father set there, and of Patrick Kavanagh in a bedsit, waiting for John Betjeman to collect him during the second World War. Passing Hollybank Road, I recall John D Sheridan, who died writing an essay remembering his childhood there.

I seem to remember finding out somewhere that Sheridan died while living in Dalkey, but he was buried back closer to his home place in Glasnevin Cemetery (both to be confirmed when I can find my original notes).

I’m going to write more about John D Sheridan here as I find out more. As one particular website that makes reference to one of his books comments, there’s very little available online about the man. As a successor of his living in his old house in Dublin 9, I’d like to find out more about him so I”ll gather as much information together here as I can in the coming months.

26 comments On Who was John D. Sheridan?

  • Hi Diarmuid, I’ve just started trying to find out about John D also after reading ‘The Rest is Silence’. Its a book I found in an old box which must have come from my Granny’s house in the Sperrin Mountains when we left it in the 70’s and no-one has lived there since. The strange coincidence is that after years of wandering, about 20 in London I moved back to Ireland, to Donegal and built a house and then found this book, a part of which is set less than a mile away as the crow flys in Glenvar or ‘the Glen’ as its known and as its called in the book. Its quite an out of the way place and I couldn’t believe it could be set there with the coincidence of that book being one of the rare tomes in our house when I was wee. He describes it as if he knew it, including the surrounding area and even the names of the people and there are a lot of Sheridans living here so i have a feeling there is some connection beyond the book. If you find out more about him please let me know and likewise if i come across anything I’ll let you know, good luck with this, he’s a fine writer.

    • Hi Aodan,

      You are absolutely right about the family connection with Glenvar. John D. Sheridan was my father.

      His father was Thomas Sheridan from Newton, Corradoan, outside Rathmullan (the house is currently for sale). His mother was Ellen Deeney from Glenvar, daughter of Charles Deeney of Inniskill and Sara McGinley of Fanad. My father’s Auntie Maggie (younger sister of Ellen) was the school teacher and postmistress of Glenvar for years. She never married. Her nephews and nieces from Dublin and Scotland used to go on summer holidays to Glenvar to stay with her, which explains how he knew so much about Glenvar.

      • Angela B Johnson

        Hello Mary, me & my sisters are always quoting John D Sheridan. We used to have elocution lessons in the late 60s & early 70s! All our children can recite ‘The moon’s Gift’ & whenever the moon leaves a ‘silver mat outside my door’, I think of your Father. Last week I went to a reading by the poet Simon Armitage & my great-nephew asked me, ‘what’s he like Aunty Ange? Is he as good as John D Sheridan? What could I say? Kindest regards to you, Angela B Johnson

      • Hi Mary. I was a great fan of your father’s weekly articles on Saturdays in the Irish Independent, and have a couple of collections on the bookshelf beside me: “Half in Earnest” and “The Right Time”. We had his “Outline Geography” in school. He paid a visit to my class one day (Muckross). Unfortunately, I was in the library at the time and missed his visit. “Write to him”, said Sister Patrick; so I did. And he wrote back, a lovely letter. I kept it for years, sellotaped into the back of my autograph book. Then I lent the autograph book to someone and never got it back.

      • Hi Mary !
        It now being October 2018 ( I was age 82 last Sunday ) I imagine that you may not be further interested in this webpage, but I’ll continue…
        Because I was born in Millmount Villas, Drumcondra in 1936, I like John D. Sheridan, ‘fished for pinkeens in the River Tolka (not yellow bellied eels, as he did too !)’and going to St Patricks BN School in Drumcondra, I too had a connection with St Patricks Training College within the same grounds…in the College John D was commended on “writes his name very well ” !
        I wrote to your dad when he lived in THe Rise , Glasnevin ( I was a teenager ) , and in 1970s I visited him in Wasdale Park, and later wrote an item on that visit. (a copy is your’s if interested ).I guess it was your Mum , Eileen. “Who likes the black crust best ” ? I had all John D’s books once, but gave all my library away to friends. Loved his ‘bird alone’ when the 4 year old meets the old man and ‘ both were equi-distant from the Kingdom of God’…so beautiful ! It was you who ‘ thought it was thunder, but it was ONLY an airplane’ !
        I remember John often in tears of joy for his wonderful words E.G, ‘…his greeting, for he shouted it through the letterbox’ (New Years Eve Long Ago ). with love and prayers. Sincerely.– -Arthur — –

  • John D Sheridan was not born in Hollybank Road. In fact he was born in Glasgow.
    His father came from outside Rathmullan Co. Donegal and emigrated to Donegal. At least three were born in Glasgow before they returned to Ireland.
    I am not sure if their first home in Dublin was Hollybank Road. It did however become their family home and was for many years. My father John D’s younger brother certainly regarded it as home after Duke Street where he and John D were born in Glasgow

    • Hi Niall , my Grandfather was John D Sheridan and he had a brother Charlie Sheridan who lived in Glasgow and in Duke Street ! What was your fathers first name ? cheers John Sheridan

  • Primary school poem still in my head almost 50 years later

    “Dan the watchman doesn’t go to bed,
    He sleeps in his little wooden hut instead.
    With his old coke fire and his old ………”

    Can’t find any trace of it on Google.

    • Hi Paul,

      Dan the Watchman – from the book called “Stirabout Lane” by John D. Sheridan;

      Dan the Watchman
      Doesn’t go to bed
      He sits in a little wooden hut
      At a little coke-fire,
      Half red, half blue,
      Listening to the owls
      Go “Whoo! Whoo! Whoo!”
      And the Town clock
      Strike half-past two.

      When the moon sits on top
      Of the grey church spire,
      He piles more coke
      On his red-and-blue fire;
      When the old mill pond
      Begins to freeze,
      He eats his supper of bread-and-cheese.

      I’d like to go out
      In the middle of the night,
      When the little coke-fire
      Is shining bright,
      When the flames burn blue,
      And the flames burn red,
      And everyone else in the world is in bed.

      Then I’d sit in the little wooden hut with Dan,
      And drink strong tea from his black billycan.

      All the verses in Stirabout Lane came from the schoolbooks produced by the Educational Company. My father, John D. Sheridan, wrote all the stories but found it hard to get good children’s poems suitable for Irish children, so he wrote some of his own. These were collected together and published in book form in 1955 and illustrated by Eileen Coghlan, who also did the illustrations in the schoolbooks (Reading Time, Road to Reading, Day by Day).

  • Hello there , I have relations that lived on Hollybank Road and also my family came from Glasgow, however my relation that lived on Hollybank was in the cattle business as was my family, john Sheridan had a brother called Joe who is famous for inventing Irish Coffee there is a bar in Shannon airport named after him as is Sheridan Liquer ,

  • Hi Niall , I had a relation John D Sheridan who lived on Hollybank Road , he also was from Glasgow and had connections with Duke Street in Glasgow.

  • Marjorie Callaghan

    My maiden name was Logue from Glenvar. As a child growing up in Glenvar I remember reading a book by the author John D Sheridan.I was fascinated by the stories about Glenvar. Sadly the book went missing. I have searched in vain for the book but until now I could not find it. The book contained a lot of history about the area.

  • Marjorie Callaghan

    My maiden name was Logue from Glenvar. As a child growing up in Glenvar I remember reading a book by the author John D Sheridan. I was fascinated by the stories about folklore in Glenvar. It was quite a small book with a pale blue cover. Sadly I cannot remember the name of the book. I would love to find it again.

  • I am trying to find the poem Sums in my Head by John D Sheridan.

    Any ideas ?

  • Hello,

    My Father died in May and we are going through old things and I found a letter from John to my great Aunt. If you would like me to send it onto you I would gladly do. The letter is dated Sept 8th 1965 and his address was 25 Wasdale Park, Terenure,Dublin at the time.

  • Marjorie Callaghan

    By any chance would you have any information on a little book about Glenvar written by John D Sherdian probably in the fifties. A small book with a pale blue cover on it

  • I have just finished reading ‘The Rest is Silence’ and I found it enthralling. It is one of the old books that somehow or other I have hung onto through house moves, My mother must have had it or it might have been my father’s because his was the Irish background. It made a big impression on me – the story of a man called Paddy Doherty, now in America nearing the end of his life and going to Rome stopping over in Donegal,reminiscing his time there, the land of his birth, remembering his time in Scotland before gojng to America, speaking of his visit to Rome. I am a Scot of Irish and Scottish background and lived many years in Italy, two of which in Rome. So much of what John D Sheridan says really speaks to me. I vaguely remember a conversation regarding how good this story was, when I was just a child. Sheridan’s comments on how the world was changing for the worse seem to be very pertinent regarding where we now are.

  • I have a couple of well worn-books by John D Sheridan sitting on my shelves, and they given a regular airing (My Hat Blew Off”, “The Right Time” & “Joking Apart”), I also remember reading “God Made Little Apples”, but the one I most wish to find is the wee hardbacked version of “Stirabout Lane” which my father gave me as a kid. It was magical. I particularly remember the illustration of the bass drummer of the local pipe band parading through the street in his leopardskin wiht the awestuck kids looking on… I suspect the book got thrown out of the house when my mother was on a cleaning rampage at some stage, but would be thrilled to get my hands on a copy again now.

  • I was looking for the words of poem ‘sums in my head’ and surprised to see others seeking same. I was trying to teach it to grandchild but forget some of the wods. Anybody have any luck in findinding the words

  • The Rest is Silence, what a beautiful book. My mother gave it to me about 15 years ago to read, just out of the blue and I thought it was one of the loveliest and most beautifully written things I ever read, I must see if she still has it and read it again if she does.

  • Hi Marjorie. The book is called Little Green Apples. It’s available on Amazon.

  • In primary school we had English books called The Land of Youth Reader which were, I think, edited by John D Sheridan. In one of them was a humorous little poem called Timothy Dan. We also had a Geography book called Outline Geography. Did he edit a book called New Progress Arithmetic? Nearly all the books we had were, to my best recollection, written/edited by John D Sheridan. We had a teacher called Miss Sheridan and we used to think that John D was a relation of hers and that was why we had all the John D books? Does any one know if copies of those schoolbooks are still in existence. I know that the Land of Youth Reader is in the National Library

  • Hello everyone. I’m trying to find the name of a short story/essay that I believe was written by John D Sheridan. It is a humorous piece and describes a small child referring to himself in the third person. The point of the story is that small children can completely disarm you when you’re exasperated with them. In this instance, the little culprit – about to be chastised – disarms the adult by innocently saying ‘isn’t he the limit’. Is it ringing a bell with anyone?

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