FALLING FROM GRACE; Shane McGowan and the Pogues were one of the most honest and original bands ever. It all began in the streets and pubs of London’s Kings Cross, where punks, anarchists, artists – both piss and real – and musicians lived together as a community. The Pogues were a bunch of misfits that blazed a trail to huge success without seemingly trying, and it all eventually blew up in their faces. This is the story of Shane MacGowan’s rise and fall…rise and fall…rise…. I’LL TELL ME MA;The Clancy Bros. and Tommy Makem were bigger in the USA in 1963 than the Beatles. Bob Dylan to this day claims that Liam Clancy is the best ballad singer he ever heard. Yet they may never have existed if it wasn’t for Diane Hamilton (Guggenheim). She was a wealthy American divorcee with money and influence, and she loved music. In the mid 1950’s she toured Ireland, searching for talent for her new record label, and discovered, among others, Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem. Liam Clancy found himself in the USA, aged 20, learning the music and acting business, courtesy of Diane – and in between trying to keep Diane out of his bed. Diane was so smitten that she attempted suicide one night, after Liam literally kicked her from of his bed in her house in Connecticut. That was when Liam lit out for Greenwich Village, and the Clancy Bros were born.



I see they have sent him down – again

A two stretch this time

I sold a typewriter for him once

And got six months for my trouble

(he got three, but swore it was my idea)


Then there was the time he

Asked me to burn his house down

‘Two hundred quid’ he said ‘easy money’

‘The insurance won’t twig it’

(when I declined, he did the job himself)


After that we lost contact for several years

He removed his wife and daughters to another town,

Where he was just as big a bastard – to them –

And to the world in general


Drinking, gambling, big-mouthing and beating,

Mostly his wife,

Till she put a slit near his throat

With a carving knife


Left to his own devices

He hung misery about him like a shroud;

He went to Knock for a week

And returned a changed man

Flowers from Interflora, presents for the girls,

Flannel for everyone else.

She relented of course.


They don’t speak much about him in the town now

A nudge and a wink

When his wife appears;

‘She must have known what was going on…

Doing that with his girls….

And she had him back!’






NO BLACKS, NO DOGS, NO POLES is about the dysfunctional Kennedy clan, who are having a re-union. There’s the father, Con, a successful building contractor in London who has had to relocate back in Ireland because of tax irregularities in the UK; his long- suffering wife, Marion; his estranged son, Michael, who turns up after five years in Australia with Cathy, his new aborigine wife. And not forgetting his racist nephew, Jimmy, who hasn’t mellowed any as he has got older. BRENDAN BEHAN’S WOMEN… the play is set in the bar of the Chelsea Hotel in New York in 1963 and Beatrice Behan has come over from her home in Dublin to have it out with Brendan ,concerning rumours he is having an affair with Valerie Danby-Smith and is about to divorce her








The ticking clock is silent

Articulating emptiness

Mainspring not busted

Just not required.

Time gulling it over the horizon

Speckled in the distance

The residue left behind

Not worth a light


Over some visionary hill

Virtual reality is real enough

More and more scream the worms

Turning every which way but one

More length, more depth

More leisure, more pleasure

More love, more life

Bur mostly more coin


Nothing prepares us for this

The hand that held the answers

Trembling now before new idols

Knowledge bootless as experience

New waves have old beginnings

But tired dogs own no snap

It’s the rut we’re stuck in, see?

Slow going forward but no going back


Sitting by time’s window

Waiting for the daily rebuff

To come winging by

Sifting little crumbs of comfort

From the embers

Screaming all the way……




Terry, Chris and Larry are three Irish friends in the London of the 1960’s with little in common except their liking for ‘dishonest work’. Chris is a pickpocket in the West End; the time of the first race determines what time Larry gets out of bed; Terry’s aversion to manual labour is so strong that he says ‘I’d rather starve than work on the fucking buildings’. Then there is Bannaher, the big man, the ‘subby’, who is publicising his new pub venture by having a friend of theirs temporarily buried alive in the pub’s back garden. ‘A charity lie-in’, he calls it. Into this mix comes Tessa, blonde, English and ‘out to screw the world before it screws me’. Before she is finished all their lives have changed irrevocably.
It’s a tale of greed and deception that trawls the pubs and building sites of Kilburn and Cricklewood, and the mean street of Limerick.





 He sat on a seafront  pew
A loaf of bread and a can of Special Brew
By his side
Speaking to someone who wasn’t there.
Though these day you can never tell
Whether they are or not;
He may have had a mobile phone in his ear.
Then he spoke to me;
What are you fucking looking at, blue?
Yeah, I thought, that figures

And a happy New Year to you too!                                                                                                    


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THE SHINY RED HONDA is about growing up in rural Ireland in the 1950/60’s, a time of great rural upheaval and change. The creamery, the horse and cart, cross-road dancing, travelling shows, the threshing machine…all their days were numbered. Going to school across the Mass-Path, thinning turnips for a shilling a drill, watching Audie Murphy and Randolph Scott in films that broke down half-way through every reel, being an Altar boy and ‘fiddling’ the church collection boxes, learning to dance with a broomstick as a partner…rare memories of an age of innocence. Who flattened Fr. Sinnott in the sacristy? What was the initiation ceremony at Flahavans Mills? Who was the trombone player in the band who couldn’t play a note? It is also about dreams and aspirations: a young man’s entry into the world of work, and his brief flirtation with the music biz. A story told honestly and uncompromisingly. As it was – warts and all.

Amazon review
5.0 out of 5 starsLaughter and tears on Tom’s journey from boy to man
5 September 2013Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
A wonderful coming-of-age story set in the Ireland of the late fifties and early sixties,The Shiny Red Honda evokes images of a more innocent time, when life was lived at a more gentle pace and people were stoical in the face of hardship, taking the bad with the good as simply part of life’s cycle. Tom O’Brien’s writing is stark and vivid and straight to the point, but always tempered with a wry humour, never taking himself too seriously. We travel with him through his upbringing on a small-holding in County Waterford, sometimes hard, but mostly carefree, and then his emergence from fumbling adolescent to a young working man who played guitar in his spare time in the newly emerging pop/rock band scene of that era. Tom describes everything so beautifully that I found myself re-reading some pages, just for the sheer joy of it. This is one of the best autobiographical books I’ve read in ages, if not THE best, and I can’t wait to read more of Tom O’Brien’s work.