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. According to Thomas Kilroy, one of Ireland's most distinguished living playwrights, his captivating memoir materialized in response to a cataract operation in 2006, shocking his memory into being and imparting him with a uniquely tactile and sensuous perception of his own past. Over the Backyard Wall describes a coming of age embodied by escape, self-discovery and a struggle to contend with the rigid culture of a small Irish town in Co. Kilkenny during WWII, with parents representing both sides of the civil war conflict of the 1920s. He describes encounters with fellow Kilkenny artists Tony O'Malley and Hubert Butler, and writers such as Flannery O'Connor during his tour of the southern US states in the 1950s. In keeping with Kilroy's previous works, Over the Backyard Wall utilizes the silences of the past to liberate the imagination, making use of social and political history to reinvigorate the shard-like nature of his own narrative memory.
THOMAS KILROY'S plays include The Death and Resurrection of Mr. Roche (1968), The O'Neill (1969), Talbot's Box (1977), Double Cross (1986), The Secret Fall of Constance Wilde (1997) and The Shape of Metal (2003). Kilroy was a board member of The Field Day Theatre Company, founded by Brian Friel and Stephen Rea in Derry in 1980. His novel The Big Chapel was shortlisted for the 1971 Booker Prize and won the Guardian Fiction Prize and the Heinemann Award for Literature in the same year. Kilroy was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1972 and an honorary Fellow of TCD in 2011. He is Professor Emeritus of Modern English at NUI Galway.