seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Brian Cleeve, Writer of Novels & Short Stories

Brian Brendon Talbot Cleeve, writer whose published works include twenty-one novels and over a hundred short stories, is born in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, England, on November 22, 1921. He is also an award-winning television broadcaster on RTÉ One.

Cleeve is the second of three sons to Charles Edward Cleeve and his wife Josephine (née Talbot). His father, who was born in Limerick, County Limerick, is a scion of a famous and wealthy family that runs several successful Irish enterprises in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His mother is a native of Essex. The Cleeves came from Canada originally and emigrated to Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century. As a result of labour troubles and the effects of the Irish Civil War, the Cleeve business fails and the family moves to England.

Cleeve’s mother dies in 1924 and his maternal grandparents, Alfred and Gertrude Talbot, take over responsibility for his upbringing. At age eight, he is sent as a boarder to Selwyn House in Kent, followed at age 12 by three years at St. Edward’s School, Oxford. He is by nature a free-thinker and rejects the assumptions and prejudices that are then part of upper-middle class English life. His unwillingness to conform means that school life is very difficult for him. In the late summer of 1938, he decides not to return to St. Edward’s for his final year. Instead, he runs away to sea.

Cleeve leads an eventful life during the next fifteen years. He serves on the RMS Queen Mary as a commis waiter for several months. At age 17 he joins the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders as a private soldier, and, because of his age, just misses being sent to Europe as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) when World War II breaks out. In 1940, he is selected for officer training, is commissioned into the Somerset Light Infantry, and sent to Kenya as a second lieutenant in the King’s African Rifles. A year later he is court-martialed as a result of his objections to the treatment by colleagues of an African prisoner. Stripped of his commission and sentenced to three years’ penal servitude, he is transferred to Wakefield Prison in West Yorkshire. There, through the intervention of Sir Alexander Paterson, he is offered parole if he agrees to work for British Intelligence. For the remainder of the war he serves as a counter-spy in neutral ports such as Lisbon and Dublin. As cover, he works as an ordinary seaman in the Merchant Navy.

In 1945, Cleeve takes an Irish passport and comes to Ireland where, in the space of three weeks, he meets and marries Veronica McAdie. A year later, they leave Ireland with baby daughter Berenice on a protracted odyssey that takes them to London, Sweden, the West Indies, and finally South Africa. In 1948, the family settles in Johannesburg where they set up their own perfume business. A second daughter, Tanga, is born to the couple there in 1953. As a result of his friendship with Fr. Trevor Huddleston, he witnesses the conditions in which the black population has to live in townships such as Sophiatown. He becomes an outspoken critic of Apartheid, and, in 1954, he is branded by the authorities as a ‘political intractable’ and ordered to leave South Africa. He returns to Ireland where he lives for the remainder of his life.

Cleeve starts writing poems in his teens, a few of which are published in his school paper, the St. Edward’s Chronicle. During the war he continues to produce poems of a spiritual or metaphysical nature, most of which are never published. In 1945, he turns to novel-writing. After his first two attempts are rejected, his third novel, The Far Hills, is published in 1952. Two further novels about South Africa follow and their unvarnished descriptions of the reality of life for the native population probably contributes to his eventual expulsion from the country.

In the mid-1950s, Cleeve begins to concentrate on the short story form. During the next 15 years over 100 of his short stories are published in magazines and periodicals across five continents. He sells nearly thirty to The Saturday Evening Post alone. In 1966, his story Foxer is honoured with a scroll at the annual Edgar Awards.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Cleeve returns to writing novels with considerable success. He produced a series of well-received mystery and spy thrillers that do not sacrifice character to plot. In 1971, he publishes Cry of Morning, his most controversial and successful novel to date. It is a panoramic depiction of the economic and social changes that affected Ireland during the 1960s as seen through the eyes of a disparate collection of well-drawn characters. He subsequently achieves even greater commercial success, especially in the United States, with a number of historical novels featuring a strong female character as protagonist.

Cleeve also writes several works of non-fiction, principally the Dictionary of Irish Writers. This is a 20-year project to provide to scholars and the general public alike a comprehensive resource on Irish writers at an affordable price. It is a labour of love that consumes a great deal of his time and is effectively subsidised by his more commercial pursuits. The last edition is published in 1985.

On December 31, 1961, Telefís Éireann is launched as the Republic of Ireland‘s first indigenous television station. Cleeve joins the station as a part-time interviewer on the current affairs programme, Broadsheet. Following appearances on two additional programmes, Telefís Éireann does not renew his contract when it expires in 1973.

Following his wife’s death in 1999, Cleeve moves to the village of Shankill, Dublin. His health deteriorates rapidly following a series of small strokes. In November 2001, he marries his second wife, Patricia Ledwidge, and she cares for him during his final months. He suddenly dies of a heart attack on March 11, 2003. His body now lies under a headstone bearing the inscription “Servant of God.”


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Birth of Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, American novelist, essayist, short story and screenwriter, is born into an Irish Catholic family on September 24, 1896 in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He is best known for his novels depicting the flamboyance and excess of the Jazz Age, a term he popularized. During his lifetime, he publishes four novels, four collections of short stories, and 164 short stories. Although he achieves temporary popular success and fortune in the 1920s, he receives critical acclaim only after his death, and is now widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century.

The son of middle-class Irish Catholics Edward and Mary McQuillan Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald is raised primarily in New York. He attends Princeton University, but owing to a failed relationship with socialite Ginevra King and a preoccupation with writing, he drops out in 1917 to join the United States Army. While stationed in Alabama, he romances Zelda Sayre, a Southern debutante who belongs to Montgomery‘s exclusive country-club set. Although she rejects Fitzgerald initially, because of his lack of financial prospects, she agrees to marry him after he publishes the commercially successful This Side of Paradise (1920). The novel becomes a cultural sensation and cements his reputation as one of the eminent writers of the decade.

Fitzgerald’s second novel, The Beautiful and Damned (1922), propels him further into the cultural elite. To maintain his affluent lifestyle, he writes numerous stories for popular magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s: The National Weekly, and Esquire. During this period, he frequents Europe, where he befriends modernist writers and artists of the “Lost Generation” expatriate community, including Ernest Hemingway. His third novel, The Great Gatsby (1925), receives generally favorable reviews but is a commercial failure, selling fewer than 23,000 copies in its first year. Despite its lackluster debut, The Great Gatsby is now widely praised, with some labeling it the “Great American Novel.” Following the deterioration of his wife’s mental health and her placement in a mental institute for schizophrenia, he completes his final novel, Tender Is the Night (1934).

Struggling financially because of the declining popularity of his works amid the Great Depression, Fitzgerald turns to Hollywood, writing and revising screenplays. While living in Hollywood, he cohabits with columnist Sheilah Graham, his final companion before his death. After a long struggle with alcoholism, he attains sobriety only to die of a heart attack on December 21, 1940, at the age of 44. His friend Edmund Wilson completes and publishes an unfinished fifth novel, The Last Tycoon (1941), after Fitzgerald’s death.

At the time of his death, the Roman Catholic Church denies the family’s request that Fitzgerald, a non-practicing Catholic, be buried in the family plot in the Catholic St. Mary’s Cemetery in Rockville, Maryland. He is buried instead with a simple Protestant service at Rockville Union Cemetery. When Zelda Fitzgerald dies in a fire at the Highland Mental Hospital in 1948, she is originally buried next to him at Rockville Union. In 1975, Fitzgerald’s daughter Scottie successfully petitions to have the earlier decision revisited and her parents’ remains are moved to the family plot in Saint Mary’s.


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Birth of Irish Novelist Arthur Joyce Lunel Cary

arthur-joyce-lunel-caryIrish novelist Arthur Joyce Lunel Cary is born in a hospital in Derry, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland on December 7, 1888. Shortly after his birth the family moved to London.

Cary is born into an old Anglo-Irish family, and at age 16 he studies painting in Edinburgh and then in Paris. From 1909 to 1912 he is at Trinity College, Oxford, where he reads law. Having joined the colonial service in 1914, he serves in the Nigeria Regiment during World War I. He is wounded while fighting in Cameroon and returns to civil duty in Nigeria in 1917 as a district officer. West Africa becomes the locale of his early novels.

Resolved to become a writer, Cary settles in Oxford in 1920. Although that year he publishes ten short stories in The Saturday Evening Post, he decides he knows too little about philosophy, ethics, and history to continue writing in good conscience. Study occupies the next several years, and it is only in 1932 that his first novel, Aissa Saved, appears. The story of an African girl converted to Christianity but still retaining pagan elements in her faith, it is followed by three more African novels — An American Visitor (1933), The African Witch (1936), and Mister Johnson (1939) — and a novel about the decline of the British Empire, Castle Corner (1938). Childhood is the theme of his next two novels, his own in A House of Children (1941) and that of a cockney wartime evacuee in the country in Charley Is My Darling (1940).

Cary’s trilogy on art begins with the first-person narration of a woman, Sara Monday, in Herself Surprised (1941) and follows with that of two men in her life, the lawyer Tom Wilcher in To Be a Pilgrim (1942) and the artist Gulley Jimson in The Horse’s Mouth (1944), his best-known novel. Monday is portrayed as a warm-hearted, generous woman who is victimized both by the conservative upper-class Wilcher and by the talented but disreputable painter Jimson. The latter character is a social rebel and visionary artist whose humorous philosophy and picaresque adventures in The Horse’s Mouth helped make him one of the best-known characters in 20th-century fiction.

Similarly, Cary’s other trilogy is seen from the vantage of a politician’s wife in A Prisoner of Grace (1952), the politician himself in Except the Lord (1953), and the wife’s second husband in Not Honour More (1955).

In 1952, Cary has some muscle problems which are originally diagnosed as bursitis, but as more symptoms are noted over the next two years, the diagnosis is changed to that of motor neuron disease (known as Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) in North America), a wasting and gradual paralysis that is terminal. As his physical powers fail, Cary has to have a pen tied to his hand and his arm supported by a rope to write. Finally, he resorts to dictation until unable to speak, and then ceases writing for the first time since 1912. His last work, The Captive and the Free (1959), first volume of a projected trilogy on religion, is unfinished at his death on March 29, 1957. His short stories are collected in Spring Song (1960).


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Birth of Maurice Walsh, Author of “The Quiet Man”

maurice-walshMaurice Walsh, Irish novelist best known for the short story The Quiet Man which is later made into an Oscar-winning movie, is born on April 21, 1879 in Ballydonoghue near Listowel, County Kerry.

Walsh is the third child of ten and the first son born to John Walsh, a local farmer, and his wife Elizabeth Buckley who live in a three-room thatched farmhouse. John Walsh’s main interests are books and horses and he himself does little work about the farm, preferring to have a hired man. The most famous of these hired men is Paddy Bawn Enright, whose name is immortalised by Walsh in his story The Quiet Man, although the name is not used in the later motion picture. John Walsh passes on to his son not only a love of books but also legends and folk tales that are later featured of many of Walsh’s books.

Walsh goes to school in Lisselton, a mile or so up the road from Ballydonoghue, and later goes to St. Michael’s College in Listowel to prepare for the Civil Service examination. He enters the service on July 2, 1901 as an Assistant Revenue Officer in the Customs and Excise Service. He is posted to Scotland before the year is out and, although he subsequently has a number of postings outside Scotland, he spends most of his time there while in the British service.

Walsh has a life-long interest in writing and, during his early years in Scotland, this interest starts to bear fruit. He submits some of his stories and has two published in the Irish Emerald in 1908. Later that year, on August 8, 1908, Walsh marries Caroline Begg in Dufftown, Banffshire, Scotland.

When the Irish Free State is formed in 1922, Walsh transfers to its excise service and moves to Dublin. Fighting is still going on there at the time and he leaves his family in Scotland until it is safe for them to join him in 1923. The story The Key Above the Door is written during the months of separation although it is not published until some years later, appearing first in Chambers Journal as a serial between December 1925 and May 1926 and then in book form, published by W & R Chambers Ltd., in July 1926.

Sales of Walsh’s books grow steadily, especially in the wake of an unsolicited and generous letter from J. M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, praising The Key Above the Door, which Chambers is subsequently able to use on dust covers of Walsh’s books.

Walsh retires from government service in 1933 but his success as a writer continues. In that same year he sells a story to The Saturday Evening Post, then a well-known weekly magazine published in the United States. That story, later to be incorporated in the collection of stories published under the title Green Rushes, is The Quiet Man.

Director John Ford reads the story in 1933 and soon purchases the rights to it for $10. Walsh is paid another $2,500 when Republic Pictures buys the idea and receives a final payment of $3,750 when the film is actually made. Filming commences on June 7, 1951 with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in the leading roles. All of the outdoor scenes are shot on location in County Mayo and County Galway. The inside scenes are filmed in late July at the Republic Studios in Hollywood. The Quiet Man wins the Academy Award for Best Director for John Ford, his fourth, and for Best Cinematography.

Walsh becomes President of the Irish branch of PEN International in 1938 and visits the United States for an international meeting that year as the Irish delegate. His wife Caroline is able to accompany him although she has been in failing health for some years and ultimately dies in January 1941. Walsh himself dies on February 18, 1964 in Blackrock, a suburb of Dublin, and is buried in the Esker cemetery at Lucan, County Dublin. President Éamon de Valera attended Walsh’s funeral Mass.

In 2013, The Quiet Man is selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”