Thursday, December 25, 2014

An Opportunity to Produce a Venerable Matt Talbot Radio Play

Earlier this month Gerry Mc Donnell, a poet and author living in Dublin, informed us that he had recently written a radio play based on the life of Matt Talbot and was seeking someone who would be willing to produce it. This is an unique opportunity to help expand awareness of Matt Talbot.
We are, therefore, inviting everyone who might be interested to contact Gerry at

A copy of the play, The Cause of Matt Talbot, is available to anyone upon request to Gerry (or us at

Gerry wrote this synopsis of his play:

Synopsis of
This is a radio play which is approximately a half hour long. It is essentially about the journey and how people return changed from happenings on the journey.
Dan travels from Boston to Dublin to visit the shrine of Matt Talbot. He had promised his dying mother, who believed that he had been cured of alcoholism because of her prayers to Matt, that he would do so. He is skeptical and is on a dutiful visit to hand in notification of Matt’s intercession in his recovery from alcohol addiction. On the plane he meets Al a nervous, talkative traveller and a priest who has coincidentally written a pamphlet on Matt Talbot having been cured by praying to him. They talk about this patron protector of the alcoholic; their beliefs and doubts.
Dan arrives at the church where Matt’s tomb is. He stands at the back of the church in the gloom. The sacristan explains that he could talk to the priest after Mass. Soon after, the sacristan is back at his shoulder more loquacious than before. Dan gets a smell of drink off him. The Mass is long and after it is over the priest speaks to each parishioner in turn, giving them a blessing. Dan is waiting impatiently. He has to catch a flight back to Boston that afternoon. He explains his predicament to the sacristan who agrees to give the envelope to the priest. Once more the sacristan approaches Dan saying the priest would see him now. Dan asks the sacristan for the envelope which he doesn’t have. It transpires that the sacristan’s brother, who hangs around the church begging, has the envelope. Dan failed to distinguish between the two, in the shadows.
The priest assures him that his visit will not be wasted. He urges Dan to pray at Matt’s tomb. Dan is having compulsions to drink. He hears the voice of Matt encouraging him to stay sober. It is a transformative experience and he leaves the church with a blessing from the priest. His grimy surroundings look pristine. As he walks through the streets it is as if he is in love with everybody and everything. Feeling a little bit ungrateful he wonders is he having a flash-back to his drinking and drug taking days. He gets a taxi to the airport and boards his plane. He reaches into his pocket to read some of the literature on Matt which he got in the church. He takes out an envelope. It is the one given to him by his mother. The sacristan’s brother has the other envelope. He reflects on all that has happened. A fellow passenger engages him in small talk. He says, “I’m returning home, or am I?”

Some background information about Gerry Mc Donnell:

GERRY MC DONNELL was born and lives in Dublin. He was educated in Trinity College, Dublin where he edited  ICARUS, the college literary magazine; and at Dublin City University. He has had six collections of poetry published. He has also written for stage, radio and the television series Fair City. His play Making It Home, a two-hander father and son relationship, was first performed at the Crypt Theatre at Dublin Castle in 2001. A radio adaptation of this play was broadcast on RTE Radio 1 in 2008 starring the acclaimed Irish actor David Kelly as the father and Mark Lambert as the son. It has been translated into Breton and has been published. A stage production will happen in July 2014. He has written a radio play, a stage play and a libretto based on the life and work of the Irish poet James Clarence Mangan (1803 – 1849).

His stage play Song of Solomon, set on a canal in Dublin, has a Jewish theme. His interest in Irish Jewry has resulted in the chapbook Jewish Influences in Ulysses; a collection of monologues called Mud Island Elegy, in which Jews of 19th century Ireland speak about their lives from beyond the grave; Lost and Found concerning a homeless Jewish man living in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. Mud Island Anthology, concerning ‘ordinary’ Dublin gentiles who lived in the latter half of the 20th century was published in 2009 and is a companion collection to the ‘Elegy’ poems. His latest collection of poetry, Ragged Star, was published in 2011 by Lapwing Publications, Belfast. His novella called Martin Incidentally was published in January 2013. I Heard An Irish Jew, selected poems and prose, will be published in 2014.

He is a member of the Writers Guild of Ireland and the Irish Writers’ Union.
CONTACT:  0876119002

When asked as to what led Gerry to write this play, he responded with the following very personal reflection:

Gerry Mc Donnell
December 2014

I grew up close to where Matt Talbot lived. I had heard him spoken of fondly by ordinary working class people. I also heard that he passed the picket on a strike. So I had conflicting ideas about him. Anyway he was a figure of the past and had little impact on my life, I thought; that is until I followed in his footsteps down the dark tunnel of alcoholism. At this time I was rebellious and had little time for religion or things spiritual. It was to be some years before the figure of Matt re-emerged in my thoughts. The intervening years had brought the tragedy of the untimely deaths of my parents. So I was ripe for resentment and blame which started with God and moved down to mankind. 

Matt Talbot was in my consciousness during my recovery from alcoholism. I wondered how he could have stayed sober in a city awash with alcohol and poverty. The fact that he had lain down the drink at twenty-eight and remained sober for the rest of his life puzzled me. How could a man, on his own, beat the demon drink? Of course he wasn’t on his own. He turned to his religion and devoted himself to Our Lady. I too turned to religion in the battle to stay sober. But I also had the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous for support. 

I still had ambivalent feelings about Matt and his fervour. Was he a religious maniac or a holy man? The chains he wore pointed to the former, yet the man I got to know in my reading about him bore testimony to the latter. In a secular world it is easy to interpret his life in a negative way and dismiss his self-denial- the block of wood for a pillow and the tear at the knee of his trousers so he could better feel the discomfort of his flesh on the granite steps of the church where he went to Mass before a hard day’s work in a timber yard- as the actions of a fanatic.

However, as I matured in my sobriety I began to see him as a holy man. I read that he shared what little lunch he had with his fellow workers. He was kind and happy in himself although no doubt he had his demons to wrestle with. This was not the portrait of a deranged man. Nobody suffering from a mental illness could accomplish what he did as a life-long diligent worker and a daily Mass goer. 

 What led me to write my play, The Cause of Matt Talbot, was my identification with his Catholic, working class life and his recovery from alcoholism. I hope I have given a true picture of him in the play or at least have not besmirched his memory in any way.