Friday, July 1, 2022

Irish Eyes


By Mattie Lennon

The Dead House
And Tales From The Fraud Squad

Listowel Writers' Week was back, opened on June 01st, by actor, director and musician Dominic West, after the turbulent times of the pandemic. Literature played an important part in recovery during lockdowns, social isolation etc. It was great to witness a massive reunion of the literati in the culture capital. 



       Dominic West                                                     

It would be impossible to catch all the events at this wonderful festival but I did my best. I attended six fantastic plays in Saint John's arts centre and one stood out. The Dead House. It is a full-length one-man monologue play written and performed by Martin (“Beanz”) Warde a gay Traveller. The play tells the story of a man who returns home for the wake and funeral of his grandmother (one of the “elders.”) He had been alienated from his family because he didn’t fit in with their traditions. On the day of the wake stories from the family’s past which had been buried for years re-surfaced and brought with them memories of trauma, loss, and despair. It covers all aspects of the tradition on which the play is expertly based.

The narrator is “Patrick”. Such an effect did the play have on me that I wondered if it was autobiographical. There was only one person to ask. Martin told me, “I researched the play through speaking to my parents and Traveller elders. It's not autobiographical but there are bits of real life thrown in. I think the truest part of the play is that Patrick, like myself, is gay. We both feel a disconnect from the culture but Patrick has the added issue of being emotionally traumatized, which makes reconnecting more difficult.”

There is no mystery about the actor/playwright’s middle-name, “The name “Beanz” was just a childhood nickname. No one got out of a council estate as an adult without a nickname.”

Martin Beanz Warde

This is a brilliant work and yet you may be wondering if there is a laugh in it. Well, you won’t be disappointed. Don’t forget that it is written and performed by the man who once said, “I don’t know which was tougher, coming out as gay or as a comedian.”

Having been riveted to my seat for the performance and the intelligent and informative answers at the Q and A session I felt that the words of Stella Adler couldn’t be more appropriate, “The theatre was created to tell people the truth about life and the social situation.”

The Dead House would travel well if it comes in the direction of a theatre near you don’t miss it.

* * * * *

I have lost count of the number of books of poetry that poet Gabriel Fitzmaurice has published and so has he. But I know that they number more than forty and he was presented with a Lifetime Award at Writers' Week.

Gabriel Fitzmaurice accepted his Lifetime Achievement Award from Evan Mc Auliffe on behalf of the sponsor, Lyrath Estate

* * * * *

Thanks to Listowel resident, Listowel Connection blogger, and ace photographer Mary Cogan, I can give the following to you, which she brought back from her native Cork.

"This lady bought a robotic lawnmower. It is scheduled to mow the lawn at a given time every day, hail, rain or shine. She took pity on it on the first wet day." (see pic.)

* * * * *

Many jokes have been made about Mayo not winning an all-Ireland final for more than 60 years. One wag even went so far as to say that “If Lee Harvey Oswald had been a Mayo man JFK would still be alive.”

But the following, from a former Mayo county player may go some way to explain, “We were always a bit naïve. We didn’t have it drilled into us to win at all costs. It was a case of go out and play the game the way it’s meant to be played and the net effect was that we let the other team play too. Many a time we could have stopped a forward coming through if we’d been blatant enough about it, but we didn’t, and it’s one reason why we lost a lot of close games.” The words of Willie (‘Four Goal’) McGee from his book Tales from the Fraud Squad. In 182 pages he tells the story of his life. It’s all there from his childhood in Newport, County Mayo to his ascent in the GAA and his glowing career- climbing in An Garda Siochána all the way to Head of the Fraud Squad.

When the State was being threatened with the release of Foot and Mouth he was foremost in the investigation. And how was a detective supposed to deal with a Nigerian con man who ate a $56 million dollar bank draft to destroy evidence? Another fraudster actually forged Garda paychecks – and there was even one perpetrator who went as far as impersonating Willie McGee to gain free entry and refreshments at the Galway Races! The author deals with everything from the smallest type of confidence trickster to former Taoiseach Charles Haughey when Charlie was under the spotlight of a tribunal; He worked with the US Secret Service and other American federal agencies.

Willie McGee has a fantastic memory and like most of us, it isn’t always the big issues in his life that come to his mind first. He vividly remembers the year of his leaving Cert. Sister Mechtilde had banned himself and Christy Loftus from playing football in preparation for the exam despite the fact that they were both on the Mayo minor team. They disobeyed and thanks to the Mayo newspapers the good Sister found out. She gave them the father and mother of a beating. While he doesn’t hold any resentment this is how he describes her use of the cane, ” By the time she was finished with us she was red in the face and out of breath and actually frothing at the mouth, nearly like she was getting pleasure out of it.”

And how could he ever forget the morning in Late July twenty-one years ago when he was busy sitting at his desk in Harcourt Square and the phone rang. It was Chief Superintendent Tom Monaghan who asked, “Are you at the Galway Races?” Willie’s reply, “ I wish I was. Why are you asking?” Prompted the reply, “Because, there’s a fella down here claiming to be Superintendent Willie McGee.” It turned out that the “fella” was a retired Garda. It’s an interesting story and I won’t go into it here. I couldn’t do it justice; you’ll have to read it.

After retiring from the Garda he went on to lead the first specific fraud investigative unit for a national insurance company. As Willie puts it, ‘money is never free and those who were caught paid a severe price for thinking that it was’.

This well-written book of 21 stories is not to be missed.

Tales from the Fraud Squad is published by Merrion Press. The author suffered a near-fatal stroke but made a remarkable recovery and as a result, the Irish Heart Foundation will benefit from the book’s sales.

I’ll see you in August

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


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