Over The Backyard Wall
A Memory Book
By: Thomas Kilroy
From this mosaic of memory a self-portrait emerges that takes its author, a child of Hitler’s war, from his upbringing in Callan to the threshold of his career as one of Ireland’s most distinguished playwrights. The frontier town of Callan was a crucible of Ireland’s War of Independence. Thomas Kilroy’s pro-Treaty father – a police sergeant who found solace in greyhounds and gambling – and his anti-Treaty mother were emblems of divided loyalty in a newly independent country.
Kilroy’s journey of self-discovery began by way of St Kieran’s College, Kilkenny, where he encountered Anew McMaster staging his fit-up Hamlet, and University College Dublin, where he became auditor of the English Literature Society. During the 1960s he taught at Stratford College (the Dublin Jewish School) and in the USA, at the University of Notre Dame and Vanderbilt University. Back in Dublin as a junior lecturer at UCD in 1967 he won a BBC Northern Ireland play competition, setting the stage for his remarkable work and a renaissance of new drama in Dublin alongside Brian Friel, Tom Murphy and Hugh Leonard.