My Writing Life



Falling in love with a poet
May be the closest you will come to living forever
Be the wild card in his pack
In a world where lonely queens never say never
Go live in the desert rather than a fancy hotel
Eat with rusty cutlery, drink cider instead of Muscatel
Visit no mans land, but once only
Then come back and you will never feel lonely
Remember that underground city that once glowed
Red in the dark
Go limber up in hilly Montmartre
Then go barefoot in Gaudi Park
Dance with demons and devils on some remote island
Then go toss some cabers in the godless Scottish Highlands
All this you must do, while your poet’s mouth opens and closes
As you dance along some cobbled street singing
Oh, for the days of wine and roses.

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Review by Liam Murphy Munster Express

Since the opening of the Deise Greenway, I have found several locations to visit and revisit, but my preference is for the viaduct stretch at Kilmacthomas and the various walks in and around that beautiful town. I sensed an untold history of the place, those who remembered the railway, the factory, the football pitch, the pubs and the Rainbow Hall of the sixties and later. All those unconnected thoughts came flooding back when I read a new play with music by the prolific Tom O’Brien, who grew up near there and emigrated to England and is now living in Hastings. His plays have been staged and well-received in the Irish community in London, but in recent years only Stagemad Theatre Company have staged any of his work in this area, which is indeed a pity.
This new play with music recreates in a raw, visceral way what it must have been like growing up and knowing you wanted to, and had to emigrate to develop or even survive. The home place can forget you so easily, like, out of sight out of mind. Put Your Sweet Lips… recreates the early beginnings of a group of young men in a small rural town that has a factory processing oats and packing them for distribution. It begins in the nineties, with the Narrator T.C. (Tommy Cassidy) looking back to an emerging and energised summer of 1963, a time of expectation when a group of local youths got together to form a showband – The Young Devils, to get them away from Mill work and packing oatlets. A young English girl, Sandra, comes home to visit relations and she can sing and play an instrument.
Very quickly, she is the trigger for rivalry, dissension, wild dreams, loose talk, crude talk and an aping of rock and roll lifestyles as imagined by this group of eager young hopefuls.
There is, of course, the expected clash with family, confused and angry parents, as well as the priest, the teachers and a local Garda. The first act develops the hopeful side of the dream and only slowly do the cracks appear. However, in the second act events accelerate with some dense plotting. Tom O’Brien writes with nostalgia and perhaps a desire to be better recognised in his home place, but that aspiration perhaps has sailed with him on the emigrant boat. But still, the tug of the heart is there, and the raw immediacy of his language cuts through the sentimental nostalgia with perhaps too many revelations and skeletons in the closet. It might be that such hidden secrets were and are there but in theatrical terms, this would require a cast of about seven musicians in their early twenties, and if they could play the tunes of the era it would be better than using pre-recorded tapes or click tracks.
If there is a flaw in this play it is the emphasis on the ‘madness’ of one character who speaks the ‘truth’, but that could be easily adjusted in performance.

Available to buy on Amazon





 The Comeragh girl sang a song…she sang a song of love

She sang about the curlew in the skies high above

She sang about the sunrise, and the burning feel of heather

And the long lonely sunsets in every kind of weather


(chorus) But she never sang about the times we danced together

How we kissed in the moonlight and pledged true love forever

Oh yes, we kissed in the moonlight and pledged true love for ever


The Comeragh girl said she had to go…go and find some lost treasure

I said I would go with her, that it would be my greatest pleasure

But she said she had to go, and go alone or not at all

And I heard her singing softly above the curlew’s lonely call


(chorus) But she never sang about the times we danced together

How we kissed in the moonlight and pledged true love forever

Oh yes, we kissed in the moonlight and pledged true love for ever


The Comeragh girl came home last week, and the crowds all lined the way

To see her Mahon valley homeland she had left for far away

No more she’ll sing about the curlew, or the boats out in the bay

But my Comeragh girl is home…she is finally home to stay


(chorus) But she never sang about the times we danced together

How we kissed in the moonlight and pledged true love forever

Oh yes, we kissed in the moonlight and pledged true love for ever

(C) Tom O’Brien





Yeah, I met Giggs
He was a bosun wasn’t he?
Plying the East India route
Yeah, that’s right
Rebooting the particle smasher he was.
I saw him doing it once;
Not much scope for that kind of malarkey out here
I thought at the time.
And what did the rebooting do?
What did it find?
Nothing that I could see.
Maybe because there was something else on his mind
And now they call it the Bosun Giggs Collider.
Large Haddock Collider, I think you will find
So what happened to Giggs?
Giggs? Oh he disappeared somewhere in the South China Seas.
Now he tells me! Do you mind if I sing?
If I die tonight just bury me
In my favourite yellow patent leather shoes
With a mummified cat and a cone-like hat
‘Cos I’ve got the Giggs Bosun Blues…









Perhaps I walked across the water,

(or was it on it?) as they say.

My wet suit bereft of the labels

So designer-desirable today.


My voice remains conspicuous by its absence;

My nationality a puzzle too.

Do I look like someone

Who is familiar to you?


Maybe I am just a con man

Who got tired of walking.

Please, can I have a piano?

So my fingers can do the talking.



I’m famous for being fat.

(Well, I used to weigh thirty five stone)

I realized that I was different

When a taxi driver

Suggested I hire a crane

To get myself home.


Fame comes packaged in every shape and size

I can’t walk down the street now

Without being recognized

People stopping to stare,

There goes that…that



But fame has its downside, let me tell you

And not least the ‘reality’ the TV men want to sell you

Up at the crack, feeding the camera till noon

Then a trip to the trick-cyclist

(And meet others who howl at the moon)

It’s all in the mind apparently, this eating lark

Then off for more fun with the TV men

Nibbling grass in the park.


Alas, now I’m smaller, the adulation has gone

Not half the man he was… All skin and bone

Nineteen stone men are ten a penny, it seems

When it comes to newsworthiness on our TV screens.

But if you weighed half a ton, said the last one,

We could make you bigger than Andy Fordham!