Johnnie Adds to his Literary Repertoire with Saturday Evening Launch

At the launch of I’m of Kerry with the author, Johnnie Roche (centre) were: Frank Lewis, MC; Cllr. Fionnán Fitzgerald, cathaoirleach an Bhardasaigh Oileán Chiarraí agus Corca Dhuibhne; Janet Murphy, manager of the Castleisland District Heritage project and Danny Healy Rae, TD. Photograph: Noel Nash

I’m of Kerry, reminiscences of Johnnie Roche was launched in the River Island Hotel, Castleisland on Saturday evening.

By Janet Murphy

It scores a hat trick for Mr. Roche, who has in recent years published Listowel to the Liffey and Born for Hardship – with a fourth book, Terryfaha, in the pipeline.

Johnnie, who is chairman of Castleisland District Heritage, put pen to paper to share and preserve some of the jokes, songs and recitations that formed part of his social past.

He had also written two essays about local social history, the first tackling, among other things, the importance of the town in the history of the land purchase acts, notably the role played by the Moonlighters as precursor to the Land League.

Hardship of Women Long Ago

His second essay concerns the lives of women long ago, that is the hardships endured by a silent, resilient and uncomplaining majority.

It was decided to combine this varied content and as such, the book is divided into four sections, with a selection of photographs.

Many turned out for the launch on what was a wet, cool evening, but their efforts were rewarded with the parley of event host, Frank Lewis, who enlivened the audience with jokes and passages from the book.

Saturday Night Chat Show

He also engaged the author in discussion about many aspects of his essays in such a way that the evening was akin to a Saturday night chat show – live.

During the telling of one Kerry joke to the detriment of our American friends, Frank Lewis excused himself to visiting scholar, Dr. Bill Storey of Millsaps College, Mississippi, and his son Ian who were among the audience.

Dr. Storey, a Professor of History, has his own interest in Castleisland: he is researching the RIC with particular reference to the town.

Donation to Hospice

Mr. Roche’s son and namesake, on a visit from New Zealand, recited a verse recalled with great affection from gatherings in the family home at Firie, and Jack Shanahan, chairman of the Kerry Hospice Finance Committee, said a few words about the work and ongoing fundraising of the Kerry Hospice Foundation, to which organisation Johnnie is contributing €1 from the sale of every


All in all, I’m of Kerry provided a wonderful evening’s entertainment, and many in the audience regretted that it had to come to an end. The book is for sale at various outlets in Castleisland.

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