Brian Moore – the Donegal connection

Belfast-born Brian Moore left Ireland a young man, and spent more than fifty years In Canada and the US. However, as Martin McKinley found out (belatedly he had strong links with Dongle. The great Brian Moore and the Dongle connection So I mention to Muriel that I’m doing an article about Brian Moore, the writer, and she says, “His mother was from Dongle, wasn’t she? ” It seems that the world has been aware for some time that the man regarded as one of the great Irish novelists had Dongle connections and, even better, Courthouse connections.
If only I’d known that when I saw him read in a lecture theatre in Queen’s university in Belfast, more than ten years ago. I could have asked him something original, like about the influence of Courthouse on his work. Instead, I asked him if he’d thought about coming back to live in Belfast. I mean, the man lived in Malibu at the time. He died there In January, 1 999, which was a shame for people like myself who waited for his new novel every two years or so. It was hard to believe there would never be another Brian Moore book. But he had a long publishing career.
His first novel, ‘The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearse’, from 1955, Is probably still the one he’s best known for. Four others were also made into films – The Luck of Ginger Coffey, ‘Catholics’, ‘Cold Heaven’ and ‘Black Robe’. He won many literary prizes, and was shortlist three times for the Booker Prize. He also worked with Alfred Hitchcock, writing the screenplay for Torn Curtain’, starring Paul Newman and Julie Andrews. It’s not really regarded as a classic, but Brian liked to take the credit for a particularly drawn-out – and famous – murder scene.

He told Hitchcock he had learned from his father, a actor, that “people didn’t always die as quickly as they did in movies. ” Hitchcock took him at his word. Dentally Lodge The story of Brian Moor’s Dongle connection begins back in another age, 1889, when his mother Eileen McFadden was born outside Courthouse, apparently in the download of Clashes. Her parents were Pat and Grace (nee McGee). She was among the youngest of a large family, and grew up in the family home in Dentally, a little way along the Courthouse to Carrier road.
The McFadden were quite a notable family. Linen’s grandfather Edward had a corn mill at Dentally. His brother was FRR Hugh McFadden UP Challenge, who died in 1868. He was the priest who accompanied some of those evicted in Terry. ‘each to Dublin on the first leg of their dinner arranged for them in a Dublin hotel. Linen’s father Pat had two brothers who also became parish priests in the Arapaho diocese – Dean Hugh McFadden, UP Dongle and Vicar General, who died in 1908, and Archdeacon James, UP Challenge, who was known as ‘James of Glenda’.
Eileen Moore attended Loretta Convent in Lettermen. She would have been fifteen when her father Pat died in 1905. As was fairly common in those days, she spent some time living with a relative, n her case Dean Hugh McFadden. It seems that he left her some money when he died and she used this to fund her nurse’s training in Belfast. FRR John Silks, the well- known historian and diocesan archivist, recalls his mother Susan (nee McKinley from Boomer in Courthouse) telling of three girls from the parish who went to Belfast and all “married well”.
One of them was Eileen McFadden. In 1915, when she was 25, she married a doctor more than twenty years her senior, James B. Moore, a Bellman man who worked in the Mater Hospital. In the next 12 years she had nine children, with Brian coming in number four on 25th August, 1921. The family lived in no 11 Clifton Street in North Belfast until they were bombed out of the house by the Germans in the Second World War. The house was eventually demolished in 1995, in spite of a campaign to save it because of its associations with Brian Moore.
Briar’s father also came from a strong Catholic background, if it was a bit more unusual than most. James Bi’s father, James B. Senior, was a Presbyterian law clerk in Bellman who decided to become a Catholic even before he got married to one, Eleanor O’Hare. Their house was stoned every year on the Twelfth. It seems James B. Enron brought up his family with the zeal of a convert. All in all, it seems hardly surprising that Brian Moore spent a good part of his writing career exploring the whole idea of Catholicism, religion and the question of the afterlife.
Holidays in Courthouse Growing up in the ass and ass, Brian spent quite a bit of time on holiday around Dentally and Courthouse. His sister Nun Maguire, who lives in Alular, says he had very fond memories of it. He stayed in Dentally with his mother’s brother Jim Pat and his wife Martha. Patricia Craig writes – “The farmhouse was called Dentally and stood above a glen; it contained a stone-floored kitchen with huge iron cooking-pot; it was pervaded by the pungent smell of turf-smoke, and not far away was the fifteenth- century Doe Castle, an enticing ruin in those days . ” Brian himself wrote – “l seemed to be in an older Ireland, a place where life was elemental and harsh, yet close to a reality which was timeless and true. I would see a pig slaughtered, its blood running in rivulets in the yard outside the kitchen door. I would see a stallion mount a mare, its hooves scraping at the barrel of her rib-cage … I would be butted by allow-eyed goats, kicked by donkeys when I tried to climb on their backs. I would see people drink tea, not from teacups as in Belfast, but from large china bowls I nth eighteenth-century manner.
I would sit by the hob of the kitchen turf fire watching as floury potatoes were doled out to the men coming in from the fields for their noonday dinner . I would see long white clay pipes and plugs of tobacco laid out near Jugs Jim McFadden, a grandson of Linen’s brother Jim Pat, is one of the older McFadden, and has a well-known shop in Strange. He doesn’t really remember Brian at Dentally, but does recall the McFadden getting ready for the Mores’ visits a few times. “One thing I do remember – Dry Moore smoked cigars.
It was a very unusual thing for me to see anybody smoking cigars in those days. ” Jim thought that the Mores didn’t really feel at home in Dentally. “It wasn’t really what they were used to, although the house was a lot better than most of us had at the time. ” It may have been the profits from the McFadden cornmeal which helped the family build Dentally well over a hundred years ago. It was regarded as one of the finest houses in the rear, certainly a cut above the ordinary with its sitting room, bedrooms and an outside toilet.
Michael McFadden, who lives in the modern Dentally now with his wife Caroline and their children Bobbie (12), Doran (6) and Michael (5), says wedding receptions used to be held in the sitting room. A couple recently returned to mark their golden wedding anniversary by getting their photograph taken in front of the marble fireplace. However, as Brian Moore recalled it in an article in 1980, Courthouse was still a big change from city life – “Dongle is an extremely wild and rocky-looking place in the west of Ireland. I used to go there when I was a boy, to a farm owned by a poor Irish subsistence farmer.
I would move from our middle-class world to an absolutely peasant environment. ” Loved the country Jim recalls him going to a farm belonging to an uncle-in-laws brother around Darwinian to help out during the summer. “l don’t think he liked it very well – I think he said they cut the bread too thick! ” But Brian Moor’s sister Nun Maguire says he had very fond memories of Dentally. “He loved the country. Going there on his holidays as a child gave him a great sense of freedom. We grew up in a four storey house in Belfast, but we had no garden. The freedom in Dongle appealed very much to him.
He could wander about in a way that we wouldn’t be allowed to in the city. ” Brian Moore left Belfast a young man and traveled around theatres of the Second World War as a civilian working with the British Ministry of War Transport. He lived for eleven years in Canada and became a Canadian citizen. He moved to the United States in 1959, and it was his base for forty years. His writing career began with a series of detective potboilers under various names, which he reckoned sold about 800,000 copies. ‘Judith Hearse’ was his first ‘serious’ novel in 1955. An early ‘review in the summer of that year came in a letter from his mother.
She said about some of the more explicit bits – muff certainly left nothing to the imagination, and my advice to you in your next book leave out parts like this. You have a good imagination and could write books anyone could read. ” She added, “l am glad to find you were kind to the Church and clergy. ” The book was later banned in the Republic. In 1995 Brian and his wife Jean built a house in Nova Scotia, on the coast. He said at the time – “It’s beautiful. It looks out on a bay that looks Just like Dongle. It’s very wild He was quite a regular visitor to Ireland over the years, but recognition came fairly late here.
This was the man who went into a Dublin bookshop at one point and asked if they’d anything by an Irish novelist Brian Moore. He was told no, but they did have one or two books by a Canadian novelist of the same name. It seems that Brian Moore didn’t re-visit Dongle very often, although he and Jean stayed with Brian Fries and his wife at Mobile on at least one occasion. His brother Seam’s, a doctor in Belfast who also died in recent years, did keep up contact with the Courthouse connection. Michael McFadden says that Briar’s late sister Pebbling, who lived in Manchester, also visited in recent years.
Final farewell Briar’s final visit to Dentally came with Jean and his sister Nun, she thinks about twelve or so years ago. They visited Challenge Castle, and then went across to Courthouse and over to Dentally. Brian thought the house was “spruced up” a lot from how he remembered it. He knocked on the door, but there was no one in. Brian went across the road and spent a while looking over the bridge at the spectacular gorge with its trees and fast-flowing water, as he’d done in his childhood. “He had ere, very happy times there,” Nun said.
Both Brian and Jean loved the west coast, and on one of their tours came across a tiny graveyard in Connector. Brian was surprised to find in this beautiful spot the grave of Bubble Hobnobs, a Belfast Quaker, one-time vice-president of Sin Feint, and a good friend of his father and his uncle Neon O’Neill. Later when Brian and Jean talked of where their ashes would end up, they both wrote their choice separately on a piece of paper. The pieces said the same thing – the Connector graveyard. It seems that Brian Moor’s remains will finally return to the west of Ireland, which he came to know as a boy.

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