Maurice Walsh is the quintessential Irish storyteller. As Steve Matheson remarks in the only published biography of the author ever written of which we’re aware, Walsh’s stories are the epitomy of characters who act with honour and dignity. The characters themselves are drawn with a fidelity which are no longer the standards to which heroes and heroines are supposed to reach. A Matheson puts it, “Qualities like those were a little like good clothes that have gone shabby, to be used when they could be but discarded if they could not.”
His writing is unashamedly in the old romantic style. By the time Castle Gillian was published in 1948, Walsh had already come to accept that his style was out of fashion. But the story was already formed in his head. It came to fruition through “his natural resilience and belief in the essential goodness of humanity”.
Without reservation, it is exactly these same qualities in the human condition that compel us to tell the story of Castle Gillian as a stage musical.
The novels of Maurice Walsh can be roughly divided into those set in Scotlandº, those set in Ireland*; the four period-adventure stories and the short stories collections (including numerous yarns about the eponymous Thomasheen James).
Most can be found for purchase on Antiquarian bookseller sites (i.e., abebooks.com etc.). The most comprehensive in-store or online selection (through abebooks) I have seen in my travels can be found at Leakeys Bookshop Ltd. in Inverness, Scotland.
My advice is to read them all in the order of their publication. If time does not permit such an indulgence, then the following stories are must-reads: the first three ‘Scottish’ novels, The Road To Nowhere, Green Rushes, The Hill Is Mine, Castle Gillian and Trouble in the Glen. Those eight novels are the foundation of a Maurice Walsh collection.
Chronologically as they appeared in novel form (published by W. & A. R. Chambers Ltd) they are:
1926 – The Key Above The Door º
1928 – While Rivers Runº
1929 – The Small Dark Manº (the first appearance of the character, Hugh Forbes)
1932 – Blackcock’s Feather† (The first of four period adventure stories)
1934 – The Road To Nowhere* (includes characters first seen in While Rivers Run)
1935 – Green Rushes* (from which the film ‘The Quiet Man’ was adapted by John Ford)
1937 – And No Quarter† (a period adventure novel)
1938 – Sons of the Swordmaker†
1940 – The Hill Is Mineº
1941 – Thomasheen James, Man-of-no-Work (short stories)
1943 – The Spanish Ladyº
1945 – The Man In Brown (A Detective Crime Thriller written in collaboration with journalist David Sears)
1947 – Son of Apple†
1948 – Castle Gillian*
1950 – Trouble in the Glenº
1951 – Son of a Tinker (short stories)
1953 – The Honest Fisherman (short stories)
1953 – A Strange Woman’s Daughter*
1956 – Danger Under The Moon
1964 – The Smart Fellow (short stories)