The Irish novelist and broadcaster is remembered by Gerry Moran
RTÉ Radió 1 is presently seeking submissions for one of Ireland’s longest established, and highly regarded, writing competitions: the Francis MacManus Short Story Competition.
I shall not be submitting an entry – for the simple reason that I do not write short stories – something I could never quite explain to my late mother who, on hearing the announcement on radio, would ring me up and invariably say: ‘Ger, you should enter one of your stories in that competition.’
‘But I don’t write short stories, mother.’
‘Well what are all those bits and bobs you put in the papers and magazines?’
‘They’re not short stories, mother.’ And we’d leave it at that.
The Francis MacManus Short Story Competition was first established in 1986 in honour of the acclaimed novelist, and one time head of RTÉ’s features; he was born in November 1909 and died of a heart attack in 1965 at the relatively young age of 56.
I have a great affinity with Francis MacManus for several reasons: we’re both Kilkenny men; city boys, we both attended the same secondary school, the Christian Brothers in James’s Street and we both became teachers. MacManus started out in Saint Patrick’s Training College in Drumcondra and progressed to UCD, while yours truly started out in UCD and progressed to Saint Pat’s.
And, of course, we are both writers. And there the comparison ends – especially when it comes to writing.
Francis MacManus has written numerous novels, essays, plays, biographies and, of course, short stories while I have one book to my credit, a local history of Kilkenny city and county!
In the 1930s Francis MacManus published a trilogy of history novels: Stand and Give Challenge (1934), Candle for the Proud (1936) and Men Withering (1939) the latter winning the Harmsworth Award of the Irish Academy of Letters that same year.
The central character in the three novels is the 18th century Gaelic poet Donncha Rua MacConmara. MacManus’s fellow writer, and oft time contributor to this programme, Benedict Kiely, described the trilogy as ‘the most notable historical novels written by an Irishman in our times.’