Maurice Walsh: Revenue official and author of The Quiet Man

The man behind the story of the film “The Quiet Man” was Maurice Walsh, a Civil Servant and Excise Officer in Revenue, who worked for both the British and Irish administrations. The Oscar winning film, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, hit the silver screen in 1952, seventy-one years ago. Arguably, it put Cong, Co. Mayo on the map.

Maurice Walsh was born near Listowel, County Kerry in 1879. He received his early education in the local national school, later moving to St Michael’s College, Listowel. After his schooling, the twenty-two-year-old embarked on a career in the Civil Service. He spent a short period in Limerick and in the north of England, before heading to Speyside in the Scottish Highlands, where he took up duties in the distilleries at Moray and Banff. In 1909, he moved back to Ireland, with postings at Ballaghaderreen and Tullamore. He returned to Speyside in Scotland in 1919 and lived in the village of Forres.

Maurice transferred back to Ireland in 1922 when the Irish Free State was formed and took up duty in a Dublin distillery at Chapelizod. He had begun writing short stories in 1908, but it was on his return to Ireland in 1922 that he began writing about his time in Scotland. By 1926 he had his first novel “The Key Above The Door”, set in Moray and the Isle of Skye. Although not an initial success, over the years the book went on to sell a quarter of a million copies. Two more novels followed in quick succession: “While Rivers Run” and “The Small Dark Man”. Maurice’s fame came in 1932 when he wrote a historical work about the Ulster Rebellion, led by Hugh O’Neill and Hugh O’Donnell. The book was called “Blackcock’s Feather”. At this time, he was editor of the Excise Officers’ journal “Cáiniris” and played a major role in the Excise Officer’s Union “Comhaltas Cána”, becoming its General Secretary and later its President.

In 1933, when the Government announced a public service pay cut, civil servants who had transferred from the British Administration to the Irish Free State could opt to retire on full pension. Although Maurice had completed only 33 of his 40 years of service, he opted to retire.

Once retired, Maurice continued writing, and he wrote short stories for various publications in Ireland, England, and the USA. One such story was told in a book titled “The Quiet Man”. It was first published in the Saturday Evening Post on 11 February 1933. It wasn’t long until Hollywood came knocking on his door, enquiring about turning the book into a film. Maurice had just moved house from Inchicore to Blackrock, Co Dublin. The Quiet Man was made into a film in 1952 by John Ford, one of the greatest ever film producers.

Maurice died on 18th February 1964 and was buried at Esker cemetery in Lucan, near to where he had worked many years earlier as an Excise Officer in Chapelizod.