SIXTY YEARS OF SIVE
By Mattie Lennon.
“There’s a book in everyone. It’s not always necessary to publish it and if you can’t write it yourself, you should let it be drawn out of you by somebody. Afterwards, the world will have a fuller understanding of you and many things about you will be explained in a way that is not possible by expiring silently with the whole secret of your life locked up within you and the whole complicated and monumental tale on its way to total decay, for bones don’t speak and the dust is also silent.” (John B. Keane.)
One night, sixty years ago, 30 year old John B. Keane went, with his wife Mary, to the Listowel Drama Group’s production of All Souls Night by Joseph Tomelty. On the way home he said to Mary, “I could write as good a play as that.” On arriving home he reached for his favourite Biro. By 6.30 next mornings, as dawn was breaking over Gurtenard wood, he had completed Scene One of Sive. (The idea for the play came to him some time previously when he had an experience as a haggard old man entered the bar, ordered a drink, and told everybody in earshot that a match had been made for him and that he would be getting married soon. He asked John B. to accompany him to the jewellers to choose a ring for his new bride. The ever-obliging young publican, who through no fault of his own was not in possession of all the facts, went with him. Months later John B. learned that the old man had married a very young girl who had since had a nervous breakdown and was in an institution. John B’s daughter Joanna says it,” Troubled my father for a long time after.”)
A fortnight later he had finished the first draft of Sive. He showed it to a few close friends and, as if with one voice, they told him that it wouldn’t work. He was given different reasons by different people; the names of the characters were ridicules. The theme was outgrown. The language was too flowery. He re-wrote it and submitted it to the Abbey Theatre. The script was returned to him without any comment. It was first staged by the Listowel Drama Group in Walshe’s Ballroom, Listowel on February 02nd 1959. They later put it on in the Abbey Theatre for one week. (When the Abbey Company eventually produced the play in 1985 John B. said,” They got the harshness, the bitterness, the poverty of the period . . . At long last a few elderly and semi-elderly playwrights are getting *Cothrom na Feinne “)
There was an Off-Broadway production but John B. was probably more impressed when the Listowel Drama Group won the All Ireland Drama Final in Athlone with it. When the group was touring north Kerry with the play the playwright was playing Carthalawn, the singing tinker. He gave an unforgettable performance in Ballylongford. One unscripted scene drew mixed reaction from the audience. As the slender John B. was about to exit at the end of Act two his borrowed trousers, which were several sizes too big for him, headed towards Australia. Despite frantic, whispered, instructions to “get off ye eejit” he stood his ground and sang an additional verse of the theme-song with his trousers around his ankles.
In the original script the two tinker characters are a father and son. In a new Druid production they are a mother and daughter. A couple of reviewers, who can’t ever be pleased with any play, have been critical with this gender change. But in my humble opinion it certainly doesn’t take from the drama. John B. once wrote, “Whatever chance a writer has of getting a good review in the London Times or the Herald Tribune he has no chance at all in a provincial paper.” He was on the ball at the time but the provincial press has for many decades been forced to change its mind.
Sive , by Druid Theatre Company, has been playing to packed houses for more than a month at the Gaiety Theatre. The current run is due to finish on March 03rd. Sive tells a story lust, greed conniving and deceit. John B. always had his finger on the pulse of human nature and used his native Kerry as a blackboard to explain universal emotions and especially the role of women in society. Every character in Sive is a complex individual who displays all the emotions to which the human race is heir. It has long won a place in the country’s literary history, cited in The Irish Times’ ‘Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks’ in 2015. The play has stood the test of time over the decades and has remained popular with amateur and professional drama groups and it would be hard to find a parish hall in Ireland where it hasn’t been staged. The time-proof dialogue is still relevant after almost sixty years; like when Mike Glavin points out to his mother that it is very difficult to be a good son and a good husband, “under the one roof.” Everything about this production is first class. Thanks to the digital revolution in the theatre, which some call “tecnodrama” as a sort of mixed compliment, a computer-generated scene in the final act transports the audience to the bog hole so central to the plot.
In 1964 Listowel’s favourite son wrote,” I am a kind of writer. Nobody knows what kind of writer I am, least of all myself. My ambition is that people will say, ‘He was a kind of writer. He said things a different way from others’ ”. In the past fifty-four years that modest ambition has been realised many, many, times.
John B’s son Billy, a literary giant in his own right, who was a nominee for the Kerry Person of the Year 2018, put out a call on RTE radio asking any actress, amateur or professional, who played Sive at any time in the last fifty-nine years to make contact. This search for Sives resulted in an assembly of 50 “Sives” in the Gaiety Theatre on Sunday 11th February. They ranged in ages from . . . Well! This national gathering of Sives met each other over a cup of tea in the John B. Bar and had a group photograph taken on the Gaiety stage. The group included Margaret Ward who played Sive in that very first production and Gráinne Good who plays the role in the Druid’s latest production.
Mattie Lennon email@example.com
THE KERRY BABIES
By Mattie Lennon
“Murder cannot be hid long.” (Shakespeare.)
Contrary to what the Bard said some murders can be hidden for decades. A murder investigation has been mounted last month into a killing which took place 34 years ago.
Chief Superintendent Walter O ‘Sullivan says they are investigating the death, “ . . as if it happened today.”
On Saturday 14th April 1984 a dead baby with 28 stab wounds and a broken neck was found on the beach of White Strand, County Kerry. A murder hunt got under way led by Superintendent J. P. Sullivan. On Thursday 26th April Detective Sergeant Gerry O ‘Carroll of the then “Murder Squad” arrived from Dublin.
Almost every female of child-bearing age in the Caherciveen area was treated as a suspect. Then it was established that Joanne Hayes from Drumcunning Lower, Abbeydorney, almost 40 miles away, had given birth but there was no baby as a result. Detective Superintended John Courtney and Detective P.J. Browne, both from the Murder Squad, (known as “The Heavy Gang” in Dublin), arrived in Kerry on 29th April. All three Murder Squad Gardai were Kerrymen. Courtney was from Anascaul, the native place of explorer Tom Crean and O ‘Carroll and Brown were both natives of Listowel; a market town in north Kerry famous for fiction-writers. Joanne Hayes along with three members of her family were taken to Tralee Garda station where Joanne Signed a confession that she had killed the “Cahirciveen baby” and her family signed statements that they had witnessed the killing and driven 40 miles to dispose of the body. (Journalist Joe Joyce says, “The statements had the kind of flourish well known to those of us familiar at the time with confessions in garda stations . . .”) The Hayes family could not have committed the crimes that they allegedly confessed to.
Joanne had told the detectives that she did have a baby, that it died at birth and she had buried it on the family farm. She gave an exact location of where she put it. More than once she offered to accompany detectives to the scene. Was her offer(s) accepted? No. The Gardai conducted a half-assed search and, of course, found nothing. Members of her family located the baby’s body exactly where she had said it was. Blood tests proved that she was not the mother of the “Caherciveen baby” but the Gardai proceeded to charge her with the murder. (I can’t find any evidence that a file had been sent to the DPP.) When the case came to court the state announced that it was not proceeding.
When it was established that Joanne Hayes was telling the truth about the death of her baby and the disposal of its body the Gardaí had to take a different track. They put forward the superfecundation theory whereby Joanne could have had twins be two different fathers.
A subsequent internal garda enquiry failed and a public tribunal of enquiry, chaired by Mr. Justice Kevin Lynch, started in January 1985. It lasted 84 days, 109 witnesses were called and 61,000 questions were asked (One lawyer asked Joanne 2,216 personal questions). Ostensibly the tribunal was an examination of Garda behaviour during the interrogation of the Hayes family but turned out to be a concerted effort to humiliate, embarrass and devastate Joanne Hayes and her family. Kerry’s Eye editor Ger Colleran says, “Everyone knew Joanne was innocent but if that was proved then a lot of very powerful and important people would be shown to have misbehaved badly. The system would have been rocked, and careers ruined. So there was only one option – to destroy her.” When the decent people of north Kerry, and further afield, decided to stage a peaceful protest Justice Lynch threatened to jail them if they disrupted the tribunal. The learned Dublin-born judge described them as “raucous, ignorant, urban dwellers” and Detective P.J. Browne knocked great fun out of describing Abbeydorney as “Babby-dorney.”
In his report Justice Lynch accused the Hayes family of “barefaced lies and blatant perjury” but the Gardaí only “gilded the lily” and Detective Superintendent John Courtney simply, “elevated wishful thinking to the status of fact.” Justice Minister, Michael Noonan agreed with Justice Lynch’s report and likened his powers of deduction to those of Sherlock Holmes. However not all politicians felt that Justice Lynch had anything in common with the sleuth of Baker Street. Senator Mary Robinson who was to become President Of Ireland and later United Nations High Commissioner, asked how the Hayes family came to give signed confessions to the murder of a baby which, “ . . .for scientific reasons among others, they were not in a position to have carried out or to have any part in.” The Dáil committee on women’s rights described the questioning of Joanne as “insensitive, harrowing, horrific and shameful”.
Kevin Lynch worked hard to protect the establishment and he was well rewarded for it. He became a Judge of the Supreme Court in 1996.
Gerry O ‘Carroll, who was later promoted to Inspector, spent years calling for a DNA test which he claimed would prove that Joanne Hayes had twins. He knows now. In late 2017 a DNA test proved beyond all doubt that Joanne Hayes was not the mother of the “Caherciveen baby.” And there is no match between the baby and anyone Whose DNA is held on the State’s DNA database.
On January 16th Superintendent Flor Murphy offered a public apology on behalf of the Garda Siochana, to Joanne Hayes for the “stress and pain” she suffered as a result of being wrongly accused of killing the “Caversiveen baby.” He said, “I believed it was important to exonerate Joanne Hayes once and for all. A wrong had been visited on her and saying sorry was the right thing to do.” And Acting Garda Commissioner Donal O Cualain sent a letter of apology followed by a phone call to Joanne Hayes.
On the same day Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he wanted to, “. . . reiterate the apology the Gardaí made to Joanne Hayes and also to make that apology on behalf of the State as well”. He went on to say that Ms Hayes was,” Very badly treated by our State and by our society.” Mr Varadkar said: “I can’t offer compensation here now but it’s something that I think we can discuss with her representatives in the period ahead.”
The Garda’s serious crime review team (SCRT) have now launched a murder inquiry into the “Caherciveen baby’s” death and Superintendent Murphy has asked for the public’s help.
When I was writing the above a paragraph in Ireland’s Own jumped out at me. I don’t think the author was thinking of the Kerry Babies when he wrote it but I believe it’s worth including, “A time comes when the damage done to us has to be acknowledged and realised. Who knows what surprises may come our way when we clear out the space for them. The arrival of February is an especially apt time to take stock in this way, the best kind of spring cleaning.”
Mattie Lennon firstname.lastname@example.org
SISTERS IN CRIME DESERT SLEUTHS CHAPTER and PHOENIX COLLEGE- PRESENTS “Building Unforgettable Stories from Compelling Characters”
SISTERS IN CRIME DESERT SLEUTHS CHAPTER
and PHOENIX COLLEGE PRESENTS:
“Building Unforgettable Stories from Compelling Characters”
Instructor: DAVID CORBETT
Date and Time: March 3, 2018 – 9:30 am – 3:30 pm
Location: Phoenix College, Osborn Site, Willo Conference Room –
3310 N. 10th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85013 – (NE corner of 11th Ave & Flower)
In this one-day workshop, award-winning novelist DAVID CORBETT, author of The Art of Character, will guide participants through a variety of techniques that will not only enhance their characterization skills, but deepen their understanding of motivation, conflict, and story. Participants can expect to learn:
- Where to find inspiration for intriguing characters.
- How to build compelling characters from the inside out, using the conflict between Yearning and Resistance.
- How to create compelling back stories, how to use them to create behavior, and when to use that information in the story.
- How to explore the character’s physical, psychological, and sociological natures for greatest dramatic effect.
- How to use Secrets, Contradictions, and Vulnerability to intensify reader engagement.
- Strategies for what to reveal about a character and what to withhold.
- A methodology for creating meaningful secondary characters, and how to create a character web that maximizes cooperation, competition, and conflict.
- Specific techniques relevant to the mystery/crime genre—i.e., creating complex heroes and villains, as well as developing secondary characters unique to the genre.
DAVID CORBETT is the Award-Winning author of six novels, including 2015’s The Mercy of the Night and the upcoming The Long-Lost Love Letters of Doc Holliday, as well as the novella The Devil Prayed and Darkness Fell, the story collection Thirteen Confessions (2016), and the writing guide The Art of Character (“A writer’s bible” –Elizabeth Brundage). His short fiction has been selected twice for Best American Mystery Stories, and his non-fiction has appeared in the New York Times, Narrative, Bright Ideas, and Writer’s Digest, where he is a contributing editor. For more about our instructor, visit: www.davidcorbett.com
Registration Fee: $50.00 for Desert Sleuths Chapter Members, $75.00 for non-members (snacks and lunch included).
For further details and to register, please visit: http://desertsleuths.com/davidcorbettworkshop/
The National Writers Union will be hosting a reading and open mic on Monday, November 20, starting at 6:00 p.m. This month Starr Sanders will read from her new novel, Pinkwashed, an anti-fracking drama whose protagonist is a headstrong councilwoman caught up in a political world rife with corruption and mayhem who finds herself convicted of fraud while simultaneously fighting to survive breast cancer.
This will be followed by an open mic that is for spoken word only, but is open to all forms of spoken word (fiction, essays, poetry, articles, polemics, etc.). So bring something to read!
The event will be held at the AFSCME/SEIU Union Hall at 877 S. Alvernon Way in Tucson. The building is on the east side of the street (opposite the Randolph Park golf range) and is a couple of blocks north of 22nd Street. There is ample parking. The room is on the first floor and we will have signs up to point the way.