herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

John B's wife Mary was a remarkable woman - and she truly ruled the roost

Mary Keane and her husband John B Keane
Mary Keane and her husband John B Keane

I WAS in Dublin last weekend for my son's wedding when I received the sad news that Mary Keane, the wife of Listowel playwright John B Keane, had passed away.

Before leaving Listowel for Dublin I had called to John B's pub enquiring about Mary. I was aware for some weeks that she was seriously ill. However her death still came as a shock.

Mary was a dear friend to me and all my family down through the years - she told me she'd read this column weekly. She was a warm and compassionate woman, charming, feisty and possessed of a wicked sense of humour.

She was also an incredible inspiration and the force behind John B Keane. Mary always treated every patron at their famous pub, be they rich or poor, famous or ordinary, with the same respect.

formidable

She was a formidable landlady, too. When Mary cracked the whip at closing time no amount of cajoling would get you the forbidden fruit of the last pint of the night.

Until a few months before her death, she still ruled the roost in her beloved bar. Even my friend, Billy, her son, had to accept that Mary was the captain of that particular ship.

Her extraordinary sense of humour was evidenced by the words on the blackboard beside the black ribbon that hung outside the shuttered window of the pub last Sunday - 'Mary is off tonight'.

Last Monday I accompanied the mourners to St Michael's Graveyard in Listowel where Mary now sleeps beside her beloved husband in the shade of the lovely woods. As she was laid to rest and to the strains of one of Mary's favourite songs - 'Take Me Back to the Black Hills' - we said our final goodbye to this remarkable Listowel woman.

My deepest condolences to all the Keane family.

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