The Waking of Willie Ryan

By: John Broderick


Willie Ryan returns to his home town in ‘the great central plain of Ireland’, having escaped from the insane asylum where he was committed, and unvisited, by his devout Catholic family for twenty-five years. The given pretext for his commitment was an attack on his sister-in-law, Mary Ryan, wife of his brother Michael. The true reason: an affair with a hedonistic young man who introduced him to art, literature and music.

In this exposee; of the ‘petty bourgeois snobbishness, hypocrisies and pretensions of the ‘little grocer’s republic’ of 1950s Ireland, nothing evil happens as long as it is not seen. Through Willie’s piercing vision, we see the truth of his brother Michael’s grief and remorse, his nephew Chris’s fear of freedom, and the perceptiveness of asylum nurse Halloran. As Willie prepares for death, he agrees to a private family mass, setting the stage for a confrontation with father Mannix, one of those complicit in putting him away.

‘John Broderick explores frustrated life, soured ideals and the pattern of dark religious and anti-religious stupidity in an Irish town … he throws a light of truth and understanding into very dark holes in the Irish spirit … he is one determined and melancholy kind of realist.’ – Kate O’Brien

JOHN BRODERICK (1924-89) was born in Athlone, County Westmeath, and died in Bath, England. He worked as a journalist and was author of numerous works including The Pilgrimage (1961), An Apology for Roses (1973), The Pride of Summer (1976), London Irish (1979) and The Trial of Father Dillingham (1982).

The Pilgrimage is also available from Lilliput Press.



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Weight 0.5 kg

October 2004