27 Nov 2021

Tributes paid to poetry compere Barney Sheehan who 'left his mark on Limerick's literary scene'

Barney Sheehan celebrating 500 nights of poetry at the White House in 2013 Picture: Adrian Butler

Barney Sheehan celebrating 500 nights of poetry at the White House in 2013 Picture: Adrian Butler

TRIBUTES have been paid to long-time White House poetry compere Barney Sheehan, who “revolutionised” poetry readings in Limerick.

Mr Sheehan, who lived in Greystones and was a major figure on Limerick’s literary scene for decades, sadly passed away this Saturday. He was in his mid-80s and had been ill for some time.

Dominic Taylor of Limerick Writers’ Centre said Barney had “revolutionised poetry in Limerick and, to a certain extent, in Ireland as well, by creating the open mic on a weekly basis".

“He kind of democratised opportunities for poets to read, which, up 2003, it was very rare to have poetry readings where anybody could walk in off the street. That is his major achievement and that spread all over Ireland,” said Mr Taylor of Barney, who was White House poetry MC for at least ten of its 13 years in operation in the city pub and which reached the landmark of 500 nights in 2013.

“He was the first to do it on a weekly basis I think, which was his one great idea, for consistency and persistence – I think that is what he taught me anyway, and the Limerick Writers Centre wouldn’t exist without what Barney started back in 2003.

“He was a character and he left his mark on Limerick’s literary scene,” added Mr Taylor.

Barney was once described as the "General Custer of poetry in Limerick", by Tom McCarthy, who ran the poetry nights with him.

"To keep this going is his last stand. It is a tribute to him to keep this going week in week out. There is no other venue in the world which has done this," he said.

Mr Sheehan told the Limerick Leader in 2014 that "the most memorable moment was reaching 500 weeks. It was a great night. There was a great sense of humour, and a great sense of fun that night".

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