Sunday, 6 March 2011

Maurice Walsh, whose anniversary occurs about this time.

Well, 18th February 1964 to be precise but dates have a habit of slipping past me these days. Maurice Walsh, you say? Who the h**l is he?
Well, he was a writer of extraordinary flair who was gentle with the pen despite each and every one of his novels having a violent plot. If you are Irish, Scottish or American and a Romatic to boot, you should read this man.
Best known for his novel "The Quiet Man" later made into a film by Hollywood and featuring John Wayne in the title role it told the story of a returning expatriate Irishman pugilist who seeks peace and quiet in his native land but finds that he cannot achieve it without one last famous fight. The book is good, the film is schmaltzy Irish where every sentence is followed by a "diddly-aye-dum-doodleyay" type of mindless Gaelspeak that those who come from America's northern region seem to think is the way Irish folk speak. A sort of green and leafy Barry Fitzgerald type of world capped only by a local priest who likes a pint of stout and a good bit of rough and tumble in a manly sort of way.

Walsh's other novels are much, much better. The Small Dark Man and The Key above the Door are classics set in the Highlands as are so many of his works. Nearly all feature an Irish hero, a Scottish hero, an American hero and an English villain, but that's life as they say. Thank the Lord I'm half Irish!
It used to be said of him that: "All his heroes have a touch of the villain and all his villains a touch of the hero" I think that is probably true. His world was the louche world of the 1930s nouveau riche with an underbelly of old world gentility normally provided by impoverished gentry or disenfranchised teachers (teaching was respected profession in those days). Think 2008 male banker meets Miss Jean Brodie only to be won over at the last by Ben it?

Not the best of Walsh's books but still a good read
 At any rate, Maurice Walsh was a great novelist if you like a book that contains a bit of action, the Scottish countryside, a hint of darkness and a clean cut hero.
His best line in my opinion comes late at night in a  Scottish laird's family home where the hero is offered a second nightcap of good malt whisky and utters the immortal words:
"I went to my bed after the second malt before the white maggots of wisdom began to wriggle in my brain" That's my paraphrase, Walsh put it more succinctly.


  1. I'm sorry but I can't agree with your dismissive comments about Ford's film. I'm sure the book has its own well-deserved merits, but the film stands on its own and can only be really understood in the light of Ford's own approach to both his Irish background and to humanity in general. Yes, it is "Oirish" but there is much in the film that is overlooked if it is only seen as a kind of nostalgic unreal piece of Holywood. It is actually none of those things. Ford knew what he was about and it is necessary to see below the "blarney" to see his real message. I think people instictively warm to the film without really knowing why, but that is part of Ford's genius.

  2. I picked up The Honest Fisherman last summer, out of idle curiosity, and loved it. Thanks for this.