My radio documentary BUSY WITH WORDS will be air on Newstalk 106-108fm on Sunday February 18th at 7.00 a.m. and will be repeated on Saturday February 24th. at 9.00 p.m. It can also be listened to as a podcast after the broadcast at Documentary on Newstalk.
BUSY WITH WORDS is a documentary about the resurgence of interest in the life and times of writer John D Sheridan. Featuring performances by renowned actor Des Keogh, and with contributions from Sheridan’s surviving family, the programme explores the life of this once famous humourist and novelist, and also looks at how the community in East Wall reclaimed a part of their cultural heritage, by republishing Paradise Alley, one of Sheridan’s books that was set in the area.
Tracing the author’s life from when his Donegal family arrived in early twentieth century Dublin, we hear from historian Sean Boyne about Sheridan’s attending O’Connell’s school during the 1916 era, and from Caitriona Ni Cassaithe about social conditions, and his teacher training, in the then very conservative St Patrick’s college.
Joe Mooney of the East Wall Historical society tells of how John D Sheridan taught in East Wall school, and we hear colourful reminisces from 90 year-old past pupil Charlie O’Leary, who went on the be the kitman for the Ireland soccer squad during the Jack Charlton era.
Joe Mooney recalls how Sheridan’s novel Paradise Alley pre-dated Strumpet City by twenty years in dealing with the 1913 Lockout, and present-day pupils from East Wall school read one of Sheridan’s light-hearted poems.
Actor Des Keogh, who adapted many of John D Sheridan’s humorous essays for the stage, reads one of his most famous pieces, I Know How You Feel.
John P Sheridan, the author’s son, reflects on what it was like living with a famous father, and Joe Mooney tells of how everyday life in East Wall found its way into Sheridan’s fiction. Poverty and bad working conditions were serious problems in the East Wall of that era, and Sheridan’s righteous anger at the lack of opportunities afforded his pupils comes across in readings from Paradise Alley, by Brendan Laird, an actor and past of the school.
Caitriona Ni Cassaithe and Joe Mooney tell of the local reaction to the republishing of the novel, and the last word is left to Charlie O’Leary, who compares Sheridan to James Joyce and Sean O’Casey, and who states that we can’t do enough to bring John D Sheridan back to the forefront.
Quotes from BUSY WITH WORDS:
“I’m only meeting him for the first time, and I nearly fell in love with the man after one day. It shows you how a child can be affected.” Charlie O’Leary, former Ireland kitman and past pupil.
“If anyone were to ask me to name one person who I think of as a supreme essayist, it would be John D. Sheridan”. Des Keogh, actor and broadcaster.
“The main characteristics that were imbued in the students were that they had to be middle-class, religious, show few signs of dissent and be manly.” Caitriona Ni Cassaithe, St Patrick’s College.
“The houses were probably the first houses in Ireland, designed by women, to suit women.” Joe Mooney, East Wall Historical Society.
“You don’t think of your father as a very famous man…he was just somebody you might be kicking football with in the back garden.” John P. Sheridan, author’s son.
BUSY WITH WORDS was edited and produced by Brian Gallagher. The programme was funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the Television License Fee.