Bryan Mac Mahon – Man of Listowel

Bryan MacMahon

Irish playwright, folklorist, novelist, short story writer and teacher, Bryan MacMahon (29th September, 1909 – 13th February, 1998) grew up and lived in the heritage North Kerry town of Listowel. He was a gifted man, as he expressed his creative ability in both his Irish native tongue and the English language.

He married Kitty Ryan in 1936 and they reared their children in Church St, Listowel, she passed away before Bryan’s death in 1998.

His scholar years were in Scoil Réalta na Maidine, Lios Tuathail, St Michael’s College, Listowel and St Patrick’s Teacher Training College in Drumcondra, Dublin. Following his education, Bryan returned to Listowel where he taught as Principal teacher in Scoil Réalta na Maidine, Listowel.

Bryan was a fluent Irish speaker, lover of his native language and spoke it freely with those he met on the street with the ‘cúpla fócal’ and wrote radio features, plays and television scripts. Locally, he was an actively involved with drama group, ‘The Listowel Players’.

Among his books, Bryan MacMahon published his autobiography, The Master, The Talleystick and A Final Fling. Other works include The Lion Tamer, The Red Petticoat and ‘he Sound of Hooves, his novels; ‘Children of the Rainbow’, ‘The Honey Spike’, ‘Hero Town’.Children of the Rainbow’ was published in Ireland, Canada and the U.S.A. He also published the children’s book, ‘Patsy-O and his Wonderful Pets’ in 1970.

He translated the 1974 autobiography of Irish book, ‘Péig Sayers, of the Great Blasket Island’, into the English language. Péig Sayers was an Irish author and seanchaí originally from The Blasket Island and later Dunquin, Co. Kerry and this book was used on the Irish Leaving Cert curriculum.

One of Bryan’s plays, ’The Bugle in the Blood’ was produced in March 1949 in ‘The Abbey Theatre’, Dublin.

A collector of native music Bryan wrote ‘The Town of Listowel’ which was about the Listowel Races and ‘My Silver River Feale’ about the local river that runs through the town.

Bryan was a co-founder of the international literary festival, ‘Listowel Writers’ Week’ in 1970 and later introduced the first of the now successful and internationally attended creative writing workshops.

‘Listowel Writers’ Week where everyone has a tale to tell’ warmly welcomes everyone, nationally and internationally, to their wonderful programme of creative writing workshops which guide and mentor participants through one/two/three day workshops in a setting which enables them to make the most of the cornucopia of literary events in the historic and heritage town of Listowel.

He was a member of Aosdána – an Irish organisation supporting the creative arts, President of the Irish P.E.N., a committee member of the Academy of Irish Letters and a member of various Government Commissions.

Among the accolades that Bryan was recipient of  the ‘Kerryman of the Year, 1987’, ‘American Ireland Fund Literary Award 1993’. Also in recognition for his services to Irish literature, in 1972, he was awarded an L.L.D. (Hon. causa) from the National University of Ireland.

Listen to this clip;  where Bryan chats with Gay Byrne, on Ireland’s well known weekly Friday night television programme in 1989, ‘The Late Late Show’. The two minute clip includes a telephone call from ex-pupil and Listowel man Damian Stack who describes the late Bryan MacMahon as a fair teacher who inspired his pupils with an interest to learn.



Listowel Writers’ Week will take place between 30th May and 3rd June 2018