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Writer James McKeon says he’s always had a grá for language

By on May 9, 2022 0

CELEBRATING his 80th birthday this weekend, playwright and novelist James McKeon is living his best days in his back room, where he spends hours putting pieces of his imagination to paper.

Married to Margaret now for 52 years, James said his long-suffering wife is still giving in, but he also says it’s a good thing.

“She’s very good to me.”

The former postman has written many plays and many books, as well as touring Ireland with his one-man show.

“I’ve written about 20 plays and 20 books, been nominated for Cork Person of the Year,” James told me proudly.

Originally from the north, he found himself settled with Margaret in Bishopstown and, with their five children all growing up and stealing the nest, James found a new focus for his time – reading and writing.

As well as enjoying the literary world, James also loves theater and the arts, having starred in a number of films with well-known actors including Sean Connery and Anthony Hopkins.

“They were all small roles, I did a week’s work in a German film once, I never saw it, but my friend saw it and said I would be very happy with it. I was very good with German at the time.

In his youth, James was also an accomplished athlete, taking up any sport that caught his eye.

From squash to soccer and GAA, from cross country to basketball, James enthusiastically threw himself into the world of sports.

“I was a keen sportsman. I was a bit of a runner, I played League of Ireland football, I have an All-Ireland medal with Cork basketball, I played a lot county finals, I was a practical squash player, and golf and pitch and putt.

While James came relatively late to the world of literature – after an early retirement from the post office – the 80-year-old said he always had a grá for language and stories.

“I’ve loved words all my life. I’ve won huge poetry contests. I wrote a poem when I was eight, and my teacher said, ‘That’s not Shakespeare, but it’s not bad.”

Over the years, James has appeared on The late show with Pat Kenny, the Mike Murphy RTÉ radio show and a number of other outlets as he shared all of his knowledge and love of stories with the world.

“I won a serious poetry contest on The Gerry Ryan Show, I wrote a poem and got a phone call, I won a US$10,000 trip to Japan, me and my wife. Everything was paid for, a limo picked us up and dropped us off.

“We stayed in a seven star hotel. It was amazing.”

Dissatisfied with his many hobbies, James also took up painting a few years ago and from humble beginnings became an accomplished painter, holding several exhibitions to raise money for local causes.

Despite his many accomplishments, not pursuing a professional career in sports is one of his few regrets.

“I was playing with Cork Celtic and I was never getting a game and I gave up. I was playing a game with Greenmount and a man asked me if I was signing with the Drogheda League of Ireland and I said no. I think I was always thinking about traveling to Drogheda, a few weeks later I got a call from the manager of Cork City and he asked me to sign and I said no.

Despite this, James said he believes in positive thinking and the power of optimism.

“I always say – catch a rainbow and don’t let go.”