Friday, January 1, 2021

Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon

Songs, Stories and a Murder

How did you get over Christmas? I suppose we are not too bad on this island. We have the vaccine now.

It’s thirty years since, Jim Sheridan’s tale of murder, rural codes and the Irish hunger for land was premiered in the Savoy Cinema, Dublin. It became an instant classic on its release, mainly due to outstanding performances by Richard Harris as 'Bull' McCabe and Brenda Fricker as his wife.

But what is the story behind "The Field"?

John B Keane wrote a stage play of the same name in the early sixties. The first professional production, in 1965, was directed by Barry Cassin and starring Ray McAnally as The Bull McCabe.

What inspired the talented Keane to write it?

Dan Foley and Moss Moore were neighbours and friends in Reamore, which is about 15 miles from Listowel. Dan Foley erected a boundary fence along the strip of land between his land and Moore’s. Moore claimed that the fence was on his land and he moved it. Foley moved it back. Moore brought a court case which was to be heard in a Tralee courtroom in December 1958. It was alleged that Foley had said that there would only be one man around for the case.

Where the body was found.

On Thursday, November 6, 1958, Moore disappeared after a night playing cards in a neighbour’s house. Locals reported to GardaĆ­ that Moore had been murdered, not missing. Nine days later his body was found by a stream overgrown with rushes only 35 yards from his house. He had been strangled. Dan Foley was prime suspect. He wasn’t ever charged but was convicted in the court of local opinion. He was Boycotted, bombed and shot at.

John B. wrote "The Field" which is about an obsessive hunger for land.

He drew inspiration y from an unsolved murder of Moss Moore and the character of “The Bull” he based, largely, on Dan Foley.

Ray McAnally the first “Bull” suggested that it be made into a film. Twenty years after the first stage performance following protracted negotiations between John B. and Jim Sheridan (It lasted up to fifteen minutes at the counter in John B’s) a deal was struck and the rest, as they say . . .

It would appear that the great playwright was convinced that Foley was the killer but his son Billy is not so sure. He has produced a documentary entitled The Real Field which was shown by RTE after Christmas. Billy went through the cold case with as much diligence as is possible after more than three score years.

“People still talk about it,” says Billy “I was always interested in the murder case because I felt there was so many loose ends. I was never sure who did it. Everyone said it was Dan Foley. I wasn't completely convinced.”

Billy himself does the narration and he is ideally suited for it. His uncle Eamonn was deemed to have one of the three best speaking voices of the twentieth century; the other two being Dylan Thomas and Richard Burton. Billy says, “There’s elements of a whodunit in the documentary, but it’s the tragedy that takes over. It has always nagged away at me.”

Billy Keane at the site of the disputed land.

Billy concluded that, “Foley can well have been an innocent man.” Dan Foley’s nephew, a contributor to the documentary, implied that someday he would be in a position to name the person whom, his uncle Dan believed, killed Moss Moore.

Look out for "The Real Field." It’s an eye-opener. "The Real Field"

John Hoban, that Castlebar man of many parts who, in his own words, has been, “All over the world and a few other places” has brought out his fifth solo recording, Fad Saol, a double album: the first CD consists of original, covers and traditional songs accompanied by 12-string guitar and mandocello. John has composed words and music of 7 of the 11 tracks on this disc. The second CD is traditional, original, instrumental fiddle music accompanied by mandocello, banjo and mandolin. John has composed 13 of the 15 tracks on this one. The recording captures the quality and energy of a live performance. John says, “It’s taken me 40 years to get to really sound like myself.” He has played music all his life in the Troubadour tradition. He chose to learn his music with care over many years from some of the world’s most respected master musicians. He is an accomplished player of fiddle, banjo, whistles, mandocello, guitar, kora, in addition to being a singer and composer of wonderful songs and music. John is a musical legend at home and abroad

We are back in Kerry. If you listened to Frances Kennedy’s CD Live and Kicking you are aware of her versatility and you will be delighted to hear that she has brought out another one, We Are All Related. This time all proceeds go to Kerry Parents and Friends Association. Details from:

We had the League of Decency, in Ireland, in the 1970s. And aren’t you glad that you didn’t live out in “Island of Saints and scholars” in the 1930s when we had Eamon DeValera’s “Vice Act.”

Happy 2021 and I’ll see you in February.

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

No comments:

Post a Comment