The Arts Interview: Tom McCarthy

John Rainsford


John Rainsford

Limerick born author Tom McCarthy whose heart belongs to the city
The third child born in a two roomed flat on Lord Edward Street my mother subsequently gave birth to a fourth child.

The third child born in a two roomed flat on Lord Edward Street my mother subsequently gave birth to a fourth child.

All, these children were under the age of five and Eugene, the youngest, fell ill at the age of two and unfortunately died. I was just three years old when my parents acquired a council house in Ballynanty, at a time when it was still under construction, in the parish of St Munchin’s. It was a three bedroom dwelling with a large kitchen, a sitting room, and what most families needed most of all, their own bathroom. Limerick is still my home town and 99.9% of the people I meet in Limerick are the salt of the earth. I was born in the heart of Limerick and my heart will always remain there.

Always a shy child, I carried a fear of losing something deep within me, but I could never put my finger on the source of that feeling.

I started my formative education at the age of five years in Kileely School, not far from where I lived. From there I went to the Temperance Hall, a building in bad need of repair on the high road, in Thomondgate. It was a building that was damp and cold with cracks on every wall. However, I subsequently moved from there to St. Munchin’s CBS at Hassett’s Cross.

This was a primary school that was newly built, and here, I finally finished my schooling at the tender age of twelve.

Unable to read when I left school, literacy was acquired, as the years went by, more or less out of a sense of embarrassment.

Art, poetry, song writing and writing, subsequently became a hobby rather than a profession for me. Satisfied with creating a painting, a poem, a song and over the moon with the creation of my memoir (Susie’s Son) these day I am also kept busy walking my daughter’s dog, collecting my granddaughter from school, cutting fire wood, doing a bit of gardening or assisting Barney Sheehan as Master of Ceremonies (MC) at the White House Poetry Nights. Being an MC involves making the session enjoyable while keeping the existing poets interested, and all the time hoping to attract a wider audience.

I hate sadness in the world, the drugs, the homelessness, the hunger and most of all, the fighting.

By contrast, I love to see a child smiling, or hearing good music and good poetry. My Mother, Susie, is ninety and still has the drive and determination of a twenty year old. She has always been my inspiration, after watching her struggle through the early years of her marriage with a very low income yet giving all of herself to put a decent home around her children. Even today she hasn’t changed one little bit.

Inner feelings are not easy to explain unless you have a subject to focus on.

My recently published memoirs express a lot of my feelings in the sense that I am consciously reminiscing about my past. It is much easier to talk about the past because you’ve been there, but new emotions can also be generated from these old feelings.

I would have loved to have studied for my coaching badges in football.

I was always disappointed at the lack of foresight displayed by the Limerick Junior Football Council concerning playing surfaces. Before we played our Sunday morning game we would have to regularly chase horses off the playing fields of Cal’s Park. This left the players with the daunting task of trying to control the ball on a surface that looked like a recently ploughed field.

More family orientated these days I make do with kisses from my grandchild and from my daughters Samantha and Stacey.

At the end of the day life is all about living for someone else. I’ve had my day and there’s no use looking back and wondering what might have been. Life is all about going forward now and wanting things to be better for future generations. Indeed, the only encouragement that I am at liberty to give to anybody these days is to take the time to remind your children that you love them. Never be afraid to make a fool of your self, because if you are, you will never succeed at anything.

Poetry is a form of popular culture that will never grow old just as our love of sport is unending.

A good poem should capture the heart of a nation. However, pessimism is something that should be kept under lock and key at all times. As Monty Python famously sang: ‘always look on the bright side of life’. Being a poet, myself, I can honestly say that sometimes the project picks you, and when that happens, you should go with the flow. The outcome can be very rewarding, if not surprising.

Funding for the Arts should always be looked upon as tax-payers’ money and be used accordingly.

I have never been involved in pursuing a grant of any kind. But I do think that there is far too much money being allocated for food, drink and mobile phones especially at governmental level, where they call it ‘expenses’. In my view, all politicians have lost their sense of responsibility by putting their pay packets, perks and pensions in front of all that they have sworn to serve!

For more information please contact Dominic Taylor, Community Literature Officer of The Limerick Writers’ Centre, at mobile: 087-2996409 or email: For information about Tom McCarthy’s book Susie’s Son – a memoir in verse and prose please see: