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Original 'The Quiet Man’ short story turns 80

Did you know that the John Ford film was based on a short story written by a Kerryman? Now the original manuscript of the story is on display in Listowel.

The Quiet Man film poster
The Quiet Man film poster
Image: Lucas Spade via YouTube

THE FILM IS well known around the world for its depiction of love and life in Ireland – and not least for starring Hollywood greats John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara – but some may not realise that the Quiet Man was a short story before it became a movie.

It was written by Kerry author Maurice Walsh (1879-1964) 80 years ago, and was included in his short story collection Green Rushes.

The Quiet Man was first published in the Saturday Evening Post in the United States on 11 February 1933. This was where the American film director John Ford first read it – and the rest, as they say, is cinema history. He secured the film rights shortly after reading it, but it was 1952 before his famous film was released.


Now people will be given the opportunity to see the manuscript of that first short story as its 80th anniversary is celebrated, thanks to the Seanchaí Kerry Writers Museum in Listowel, which will host items lent to it by the University of Limerick Glucksman Library.

The original drafts of the iconic story are among the items in the exhibition, which will run until St Patrick’s Day.

Cara Trant, the manager of the centre, told TheJournal.ie that they were delighted that the University of Limerick had agreed to host the items at the museum.

Visitors can view two final drafts of the story and the final manuscript, as well as an original copy of the very newspaper Ford read the story in. There are also some copies of the volume of short stories, Green Rushes, and photos and memorabilia of Maurice Walsh donated by local woman Betty Hartnett, a relation of Walsh’s who set up the Maurice Walsh Society.

“We’re absolutely delighted – it’s something that we want to do more of,” said Trant.

Unfortunately a lot of people tend to forget that the film was based on a short story.

She said that the character of Sean Thornton in the film (Sean Kelvin in the book) was based on a local man Paddy “Bawn” Enright.

The daughter of the original Enright attended the launch last night. Trant said she hopes that the exhibition will help make people aware that this film “that is now an international phenomenon was originally a story based in the hills of North Kerry”.

It’s good to keep that alive and make people more aware of that. It does tend to be forgotten.

While the film and book do differ in some ways, Trant pointed out that a lot of the characters are the same and the overall theme is the same.

Walsh wrote over 25 novels and was successful in his time, but most of his books are now sadly out of print – except for Green Rushes, which is now called The Quiet Man. It is hoped that the exhibition will help to raise more awareness of Walsh’s work and his contribution to Irish literary history.


The event was launched by Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, who said:

I had the privilege of launching the inaugural Quiet Man Festival, in Cong County Mayo, in recent years and it was still palpable from the people there the tremendous legacy that the making of the film has for this village almost 60 years later. Many visitors cite seeing “The Quiet Man” as one of the reasons why they thought about coming to Ireland. And it all started with the manuscript we have on exhibition here in Listowel this evening.

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