Sunday 18 March 2018

Thousands pay their respects to John B Keane's widow Mary

Mourners, led by Conor, Billy and John Keane, at the removal of Mary Keane in Listowel, Co Kerry, yesterday
Mourners, led by Conor, Billy and John Keane, at the removal of Mary Keane in Listowel, Co Kerry, yesterday
Mourners line the road in the rain to pay their respects to Mary Keane in Listowel, Co Kerry
The wry sign outside the Keane family pub in Listowel, which announced that ‘Mary is off tonight’. Pictures: Don MacMonagle
Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

The black ribbon on the door of John B Keane's pub in Listowel told of the sadness that has been visited on the family.

But the landlady's wicked sense of humour would have enjoyed the notice on the blackboard outside, usually heralding events taking place that evening.

It announced: "Mary is off tonight."

John B's wife Mary Keane, who was 86, died at the Bon Secours Hospital in Tralee following a short illness.

Born Mary O'Connor in Ahaneboy, Knocknagoshel, Co Kerry, Mrs Keane is credited with being the greatest inspiration of her playwright husband.

She was the mother of Billy, Conor, John and Joanna and the familiar face that greeted thousands of customers from behind the bar.

The first name on the book of condolences was Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who arrived early, ahead of the mourners, at last night's removal.

President Michael D Higgins also offered his sympathy.

"I had the pleasure of speaking to her in recent months and she was full of the warmth that has always been the hallmark of the Keane establishment in Listowel," he said.

Among the mourners were TD John McGuinness, who travelled from Kilkenny, where John Keane works as a journalist, and horse trainer and Listowel native Tommy Stack, who famously rode Red Rum to three Aintree Grand National wins.

Also present were founder of Pieta House Joan Freeman; Kerry football legend Eoin 'Bomber' Liston; Irish Independent motoring editor Eddie Cunningham, and Fionnbar and Elma Walsh.

But among the dignitaries, and equally welcome, were the type of people who populated John B's plays - the ordinary farmers of north Kerry and the punters who frequent the family pub.

Mrs Keane's daughter Joanna summed it up as she said: "We were all stone-mad about her."

Irish Independent

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