JOHNJO – an extract




 scene one

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…


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.

Up Dev.

‘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…


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

Whack-fol -mi-daddy-o

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

and bred.

(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

and smokes)

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

the table…(pause)

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

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