MY NEW PLAY – JOHNJO – IS NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK ON AMAZON
A darkened stage. We hear the sounds of a busy building site. Then a voice…
VOICE: Jaysus, Blondie…that’s a…a…
Then another sound – an explosion.
The light’s come up, to reveal JOHNJO sitting on a rock on a hill. The hill looks down on some windswept, craggy fields, and, in the distance, faint outlines of farm buildings (unseen). Johnjo is in his fifties, weather-beaten, but well-dressed…(suit, polished shoes etc) He is singing softly at lights-up.
JOHNJO: (THE ROCKS OF BAWN)
Come all ye loyal heroes and listen on to me.
Don’t hire with any farmer till you know
what your work will be
You will rise up in the morning
from the clear daylight till dawn
And you never will be able
For to plough the rocks of bawn
My father was always singing bits of that song.
I don’t know, maybe he didn’t know any more of it,
but those are the only words that stick in my mind…
I suppose, though, they had a certain ring…
(he gets up and looks around)
I mean, look at it…
More rocks than bawn…
By God, if I had a penny for every stone we picked…
For every furze bush we cut down…
(imitates his father)
Fifty acres, boy…and five of them is a hill.
What good is a lump of limestone to a farmer?
You can’t feed beasts on rocks. By God, if I
had my way, I’d blast the whole lot to kingdom
(laughs, sings I AM A LITTLE BEGGARMAN)
I am a little beggerman
and begging I have been
For three score and more
In this little isle of green
With me sikidder-e-idle- di
And me skidder-e-idle-do
Everybody knows me
By the name of Johnny Dhu.
That was his favourite song
He would sometimes sit me on his knee…
Johnjo ‘hears’ a woman’s voice calling.
‘VOICE’: Johhny, Johnny where are you?
Out there in the cold with the child!
Come on in now and milk the cows…
Johnjo takes on his father’s persona; He searches betwen some rocks and finds a bottle of poteen, then sits on a rock, the imaginary Johnjo balanced on his knees.
JOHNJO: We’ll be as quiet as two mice, boy.
(he takes a drink of poteen, then rubs some
on ‘Johnjo’s’ lips)
Better than mother’s milk, that is…
Did I ever tell you about the time Finn Macool
picked up The Giants Causeway
and threw it into the sea? He huffed and he
puffed, and he humped and he jumped…
(sings MY BROTHER SYLVEST)
Have you heard about my Brother Sylvest?
Got a row of forty medals on his chest
It takes all the army and the navy
To put the wind up Sylvest.
Anyway, he finally managed to get a hould of
the Causeway in his arms and he… (demonstrates)
heaved it into the water. (laughs)
He only did it so he could walk all the way to
(laughs) ’twas a long way to go for a job…
‘VOICE’: Johnny…what ould rubbish are you filling
his head with now?…
JOHNJO: Shhh… (pause)
All quiet on the western front again.
Your mother is like Epsom Salts…
best taken in small doses.
(takes another drink)
De Valera is up there now,boy.
Sittin’ on the throne.
The one he’s always wanted.
I only hope he knows what he’s doing.
‘VOICE’: You and your ‘Up Dev’. When he gives
us the extra land that he promised, then
you can sing all about…Mr De Valera.
JOHNJO: Have no fear, Dev is here…
VOICE: Come down from there you drunken
fool. And bring the child with you…
JOHNJO: (reverting to himself)
‘Course the extra land never materialised.
Politicians don’t change, do they? Oh,
some got a few acres here and there;(laughs)
maybe they knew Dev’s mother-in-law, or
bought an ass from his cousin. But most, like
my father, got sweet f-all. (laughs) Mind you,
Jackie Nugent, over in Carrickbeg, got some.
‘How much?’, I heard my father ask him one
day. ‘Fifteen acres’, he says…’when the
tide is out’
Johnjo laughs at this and shakes his head. He searches about and locates a bottle of Guinness. He uncaps it, then takes a sip.
JOHNJO: I like a drop of deisel. I always have. There’s no
harm in having a little of what you fancy. (beat)
Or a lot. (he looks out across the hill)
You can see three counties from here. That’s
Tipperary over there…(indicates) Up Tipp!
And Kilkenny(indicates, sings CARRICKFERGUS)
And in Kilkenny it is reported
They have marble stones as black as ink
With gold and silver I will support her
But I’ll sing no more now till I get a drink.
Cos I’m drunk today and I’m seldom sober…
Up the Black and Amber, boys!.
Them’s the Comeraghs there…see?
(he reaches out) I can almost touch them…
And up there…look! Crotty’s Eye.
That’s where Crotty used to hide,
waiting for his chance to rob the poor feckers
passing by below…
(sings WHISKEY IN THE JAR)
As I was going over the
The lonely Comeragh mountains
I met with Captain Farrell
And his money he was counting
With me ri-fal-a-tour-a-lee
And me ri-fal-a-tour-a-laa
There’s whiskey in the jar.
I might have been a highwayman in
different times. Well, why not? Not
much hope for disenfranchised young Irishmen
to do in those days, was there?
Not like Crotty, though.
He was stupid; he got hung for his troubles.
In Waterford City.
The English…they loved hanging Irish people.
(beat) Still do, given half a chance, I expect.
(pause ,then points)
And there, see…that’s
Croughamore…all two thousand acres of it.
You can just pick out Croughamore House…
See…over there, where those trees are…
well, what’s left of it, anyway…
(he picks up a rock)
There’s no rocks in Croughamore.
Least not unwanted ones…(throws rock away)
And the grass is so sweet the cows bellies
are almost touching the ground…
And Lord Croughamore – or whatever his
title was – was an English bastard, born
(he takes another drink)
Burn everything British, ‘cept their coal – that’s
what I say…
The Big House, that’s what we called it.
Everyone did. It stood for something. A symbol.
Of…everything English. I would come up here
with father and watch him look at it with loathing.
We used to throw stones at it…and it two miles
away for fuck sake!
(takes on his father’s persona again)
See that place, boy? Your ancestors and my
ancestors were thrun off that land by his
ancestors. Never forget that. Put out on to
the side of the road, and their biteen of a
house sent tumbling down behind them
There was nearly fifty families received the
same treatment…all tenant-farmers like our-
selves. Mind you, they did get two pounds
each in compensation…
And what was it all in aid of? Greed, boy.
The more land they had, the more they wanted.
(laughs) Not that it’s changed much since…
Land does something to a man…affects his
brain. Men have been known to kill for a
bit of ould bog. (beat) Look at the
range wars in America…and the wiping out
of the Indians and the buffalos…wasn’t that
only about one thing? Land.
And when countries invade other countries…
what’s that about only land?
Ah Jesus, boy, I wish I had some land…real
land. And when I had it, I’d let no…bastard
take it away.
(he resumes his own persona)
He was never going to get it…not that he’d
know what do with it, anyway. He was
a farmer in name only; by nature he was a…
…I’d say he was a throwback to the
Tuatha De Dannan. Able to do
many things well…but not farming. He could
tell stories; he could sing; he could dance.
(he sings I AM A LITTLE BEGGERMAN and dances a few steps)
Of all the trades a going, sure begging is the best
When a man is tired, he can sit down and rest
He can beg for his dinner, he has nothing else to do
But to slip around the corner with his old rigadoo
Mother knew him only too well; I suppose
that’s why she kept on at him. Who knows
what he might have done if she hadn’t? The
only thing she couldn’t control was this…
(he picks up the bottle of poteen)
And the Woodbines. He’d smoke Woodbines
till the cows come home…(he lights up on
Then the war came and everything was rationed. He’d
cycle into Town every now and again. Fifteen miles!
she would say. Fifteen miles for a fag, and you
wouldn’t walk half a mile to get a loaf of bread for
Sometimes he’d be gone for days…and I would
be sent to find him.
He was usually down
the quay, watching the ships coming and going