Photo courtesy of the J.P. Donleavy archives
"...A. K. Donoghue, the introducer of blatant honesty to Ireland. Where lies have for so long reigned..."

- J.P. Donleavy from
J.P. Donleavy's Ireland
Photo courtesy of the
J.P. Donleavy archives

This monologue first appeared on Noel Broadhead's Donleavy site hosted with GeoCities. Now that Noel's site, the first entirely devoted to Donleavy, has been, alas, retired, both he and Ken O Donoghue have kindly consented to reposting these words here. Note: Ken passed April 1, 2009. RIP, Ken.


Ken O Donoghue, who was befriended by J.P.Donleavy during his years at Trinity College, Dublin, has been kind enough to share a few thoughts with the visitors to this site.


On Brendan Behan
On Drinking
On Gainor Crist
On the 'Stinking Plato' Incident
On Names and Name-Changes
On Being the Basis for JPD's Characters
On JPD's Painting

On Brendan Behan

Behan was all right. I was the squeamish one. One day I was walking down O Connell Street and I met my cousin Tony Cunningham walking with a chubby friend.

We stopped to chat. He introduced me to Brendan Behan. They were both in the Borstal together. The two naive young men went over to bomb London pillar (letter) boxes, little realising that DeValera's police knew all about them. The police had notified the English police that they were on their way. As soon as they got off the Liverpool boat from Dublin they were 'lifted'. They had been sent as young kids because those who had sent them felt that, if they were caught, the punishment wouldn't be so stringent. So it was. They were put into the Borstal. Brendan wrote all about it in his book, Borstal Boy.

Brendan was a ferocious boozer. He also lived on the outskirts of town. So, many a night he would need a place to sleep. He wasn't very demanding. He would sleep on the floor. But often he would throw up and make a mess all over the place. To give him his due he would be sorry and make attempts to clean up after him. Now this never happened to me, but I had heard about it from others who had acted as his hosts. I wanted nothing to do with it.

I had grown to fear the drinking habits of the Irish born in Ireland. I knew from reading that booze was a mild poison. The amounts that the Irish consumed would lead I knew to an early, messy, slow dying and I feared that. I also did not want to watch it happening. Also, I didn't think the mess was fun. So, to my want of courage, whenever I would see Brendan approaching down the street I would try to avoid meeting him.

This was all before he began to write for the newspapers and long before he became famous. All the ferocious drinkers I knew as a student at Trinity are now dead. Just JPD, Tony McInerney, and myself are still alive. Tony McInerney quit drinking early on and is now in his 80s. JPD never drinks while he is working on a project. He drinks only mildly when he is off a project. Younger, he would now and then go on a one night batter, but that was very rare.

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On Drinking

I, at that time, still liked the pubs. So I would frequent them. But to avoid the poisonous drinking I would slowly consume a sandwich. If asked what I was having I'd always say, "A sandwich, please." Most wouldn't buy me one but now and then the odd one would. I never bought drinks in return for anyone.  I would offer to return the compliment by offering the buyer a sandwich in return. But, as you may know in OZ, drinkers, especially those who are Irish or of Irish descent, care nothing for food while they are drinking. They then progress to the stage where they practically never eat, then into the box for good.

Today, like an old Puritan, I think Irish pubs are the most gloomy, uncomfortable, smoky, highly unpleasant places ever invented for the entertainment of man. Murderers of Irishmen I think of them now.

It was living on the continent that taught me drinking and eating go together. The Irish never drink while eating, except milk, or tea and sometimes even water. Drinking is something else; not to be contaminated by food. They go into the pub. Throw it back like crazy; go out with the poisonous alcohol in their blood eating away at their brain tissue, slowing down their reflexes, get into packed cars, career down the roads with the hope of killing themselves which many do. Or outside the pub get into a fight over some alcohol inflamed set of ideas. I've done it all and now wonder why I did.

Gainor Crist is dead, Paddy Kavanaugh, is dead. Brendan Behan is dead. Myles na gCopaleen is dead. John Ryan is dead. There are others. They committed suicide using the Irish pub as an instrument. Also the cigarette was an auxiliary weapon. Although Gainor moved to Spain and used the Spanish cafe and taberna for that purpose.

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On Gainor Crist

I can write a lot about Gainor S Crist. I met him in the waiting room of the US Consulate in Merrion Square, Dublin, with his first wife Constance Hillis, whom he called Petra. Although I had just graduated from Harvard I was worldly-wise very, very naive.  [Autumn 1946]

Gainor was in talking to the consul about when the GI Bill money would come. I was waiting to talk to the consul about the same thing. I started to talk to Constance (I may be wrong about that name) and thought she was a Radcliffe girl. But found out that she was English. She told me her husband had been to Dartmouth, a very OK college.

He came out and told me, after we were introduced by Constance, that the money was going to be a long time in coming, 'but let's go get a drink somewhere.' Gainor had upper middle class (American) manners and speech, quite in keeping with his education.

We went to the Seven Towers just off Dame Street. And had a few drinks. One thing I noticed, Gainor excused himself, saying he had to make a phone call. He very carefully carried the drink he was working on into the booth with him. This struck me. Years later I learned this was one of the signs of an alcoholic. He or she cannot be separated from drink. But at that time I knew nothing. We would run into each other and visit. Gainor was a very controlled drinker but he was always at it. (You understand I'm writing with a lot of hindsight.) He exuded charm. He was funny in his conversation.

All of Donleavy's readers know, I think, that he was waiting for his father Fred Crist to die so he could inherit a lot of money. But until then things would be a little tight. I too was always skint (great Irish word for 'out of money') but little did I know that Gainor was waiting for me to ripen. Then he would pluck the fruit of his patience.

He, towards the end of the academic year, had promoted a house in Howth on Balscadden Road with George Roy Hill, a man who was a Yalie (graduate of Yale University). Hill had lots of money on hand, and Gainor's brother-in-law, Randall Hillis was there too. Randall was OK. He had a good grant from Canada and was abstemious and hardworking. For some reason that I cannot remember now I was still skint, although my grants finally came. So I sort of moved in there.

I was always looking for employment, without knowing what I was doing. But Ireland was exporting people like crazy in those years. So I decided, under the influence of reading Henry Miller,  to try France. At that time I came into a windfall of 72 Pounds Sterling, which was quite a lot of money.  [1947]

This is when Gainor struck.

He alleged that a cheque was due any day in the mail so could I just help him out by lending him that money. Did I have enough money for a week in Paris because certainly by then his cheque would have come and he would forward to the Mail Room at the American Express in Paris the full amount of 72 Pounds Sterling. This was my first experience (remember I am writing with the wisdom of hindsight) of being the victim of a full blown psychopath, sociopath, character disorder type. There were to be a few more until I learned the ways of the world in Vienna, Austria. If you have had any experience with sociopaths you will know the type. If you don't you are lucky .

Naturally (remember hindsight wisdom), nothing ever came. I trudged day after day to that American Express office. Nothing. How I survived in France is another story entirely.

I returned from France about a year later. Gainor was living in the famous house of The Ginger Man in Blackrock with the tram running by. I think in the story the landlord's name is Scully or maybe that was his real name. He was in for his share of learning to deal with a psychopath. In an attempt to regain some of the loaned money I said I was going to move in on Gainor. He, in that gracious manner of the skilled sociopath, found this perfectly reasonable. I forget now how that episode ended but end it did.

It was during that time that Gainor's marriage was beginning to break up. His wife Constance was a worker. She had enrolled in Trinity, stuck with it through all the horrors of Gainor and his alcoholism, sociopathic lack of empathy, and inability to respond to another's true feelings. As JPD says, she was the only one of the crowd to take her degree. Her brother Randall did too. One night while I was there she complained to Crist, who was sitting on a sofa in the front room, that he never took her anywhere. There was a fellow at Trinity named Shaw who wanted to take her out. He wouldn't object would he if she went out with him?  No, no, my dear he answered amiably. Not at all. So the next night she went out with Shaw. I was there when she returned. We discussed, in an amicable manner, the date. No emotion other than that of an understanding friend was shown by Gainor. But this was the beginning of the end. At around that time I gave up trying to find work in Ireland and went to America.

Although I firmly believe that Gainor S Crist was a sociopath, I must say  that JPD never did nor does probably think so now. I had many discussions with him outlining what sociopaths are and examples galore from G S Crist's life.

Also Gainor kept a great air of gentility about him, even in his worst days. That is in the time span that I knew him. He was never a sloppy drunk. No throwing up, slurred speech, disarray of clothing. There was no alteration of character or personality, such as aggression or verbal abuse.

In America I met Gainor again in Boston, Mass along with JPD. The American episode of Gainor is JPD's story The History of The Ginger Man The last meeting with Gainor in Barcelona is all mine.

He was living at the time with an Irish girl who loved him dearly. Pamela O Malley of Limerick I think. His daughter, Mariana, was living with them.

I myself was living in America. I had made a trip to Ireland and then went on to Spain to see Gainor.  I made my way up to his apartment and met Pamela and Mariana. Crist was lying in bed, the mattress had fallen onto the floor within the bed frame. Pamela, and Mariana were off somewhere where Pamela was to do translations.

I had, while I was in Trinity, become horrified by the lethal amount of drinking that went on in Ireland and although my own drinking problems were not solved until my psychoanalysis in Vienna afterwards, I did not want to get into the mindless drinking of the sort that went on in Ireland.

But while I was abstemious that day and night I spent with Crist, I saw that it was going to be steady drinking all day long and into the night, until all the money ran out. We met expatriates from Ireland in a taberna, then on to a bull fight, then back to drinking. I did not drink because I had learned that drinking around the Irish was deadly. As far as drinking went, Gainor was Irish to me.

Finally, having enough of it, I walked away from Gainor, sitting outside at a sidewalk cafe table. I can still hear him calling like the little boy actor in the Alan Ladd film Shane, calling after me, "AK come back, AK come back." I did not go back. I never saw Gainor Crist again.

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On the 'Stinking Plato Incident'

Yesterday I came across a paperback book by William Amos with the title: THE ORIGINALS: Who's Really Who in Fiction, Sphere Books 1987, Reading. [England]  On page 389 of this paperback I find:

     "O'KEEFE, Kenneth in J. P. Donleavy's The Ginger Man, (1955). 'That
       stinks,' A.K. Donahue would say of whatever he read over J. P.
       Donleavy's shoulder as it emerged from the typewriter. So the
       author set a snare, copying a classical translation and allowing
       it, too, to emerge from his machine. It elicited the same comment.
       Thereafter, Donleavy has claimed, he was freed from all desire for
       praise. A Harvard classics graduate and O'Keefe's original,      
       Donahue was later a contemporary of the author at Trinity College,
The story is basically correct. There are, however, a few things I want to comment upon.
My memory is that I always said, "Punk, lousy, rotten!" about anything JPD was writing at that time. What was worse, as it says there, I had just graduated from Harvard with a degree in Greek and Latin. I did not recognise the excerpt which JPD had copied from a translation of Plato. That stopped all criticism of his writing on my part. This happened in the année scolaire of 1946-47 in his rooms at Trinity 38 in New Square, TCD, Dublin University.

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On Names and Name-Changes

About the name. My father, James Aloysius, was born an O'Donohoe in Corduff [pronounced Cordoo], Newbliss, Co Monaghan in Ireland. He did a bit of name changing, followed by his brother, Arthur -- after whom I received my first name, which I do not use socially -- and his sister,  whom I only knew as Mrs Daly. At a sibling conference, once arrived on the shores of America, they decided to drop the O' on the ridiculous grounds that it was too Irish. He also changed his middle name to Avery, since Aloysius was considered a joke name by Americans. As a sort of balance to dropping the O' the three of them then decided Donohoe needed some jacking up, so they all agreed to adopt the Anglicisation, Donoghue. In Irish, of which they were, or said they were, ignorant, the name is Ó Donnchadha or Ua Donnchadha.

My mother, from CO Mayo, always called me Kenneth or Kenny. I never knew my first name was Arthur until a teacher in the Russell Grammar School, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, my elementary school, told me that that was my first name. This leads me to think that my mother did not care for my father's brother, Arthur. I am known as Ken or Kenny to this day.
As I became more aware that I was Irish, I asked my father why we weren't O'Donoghues. He gave me the explanations which I have given above. I protested that I felt deprived. He answered that I could start calling myself O'Donoghue, which I did socially from then on. I never bothered  to get all my records changed. So, legally, in America I am still Arthur Kenneth Donoghue. Later, when I claimed my Irish citizenship, I had my Irish passport issued in the name of Art Ó Donnchadha. No satisfactory Irish equivalent of Kenneth exists, so I'm told.
To sum up. Legally, in America, I am Arthur Kenneth Donoghue. Legally in Ireland, officially a bilingual country, I am either Arthur Kenneth O Donoghue  -- further knowledge of Irish convinces me to drop the apostrophe -- or Art Ó Donnchadha. Informally, I am Ken O Donoghue. I have never been A. K. Donahue.

JPD's last name must originally have been Dunlevy or Dunleavy after Anglicising. But he and his family have always used Donleavy. The original Irish is MacDuinnshléibhe; the h after the smeans the s is silent and the h after the b means that the b changes from a stop to a bilabial fricative sounding like v.

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On Being the Basis for JPD's Characters

For years JPD used to say that I was not a character in his works.  I think it was owing to fear that I might sue him. But he seems to have relaxed and now is prone to admit that part of some of his characters are based on me.

My feeling is that Kenneth O Keefe in The Ginger Man is, to a large extent - not fully - based on me, as is the character of The Saddest Summer of Samuel S. The only character that I recognise completely as myself is the character of Franz F in the short story of that name. This story was originally published in the New Yorker.

I haven't re-read 'Franz F' for years now. At the time it was published and when it came out later, I believe, in Meet My Maker The Mad Molecule, I felt that there was not a false note, nor was there the incorporation of another character, either real or imagined, into the character in that story.

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On JPD's Painting

You may already know that JPD started out as a painter when he was at Trinity College, Dublin University. I thought he could have made a go of it as a painter because his paintings  were quite good. He however did not like the power that art gallery owners had over the careers of beginning painters. So he switched to writing full time with the results we all know.

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