For their Decade of Centenaries project Meath County Council appointed me Writer-in-Residence.
Over a very enjoyable six-week period I worked with two schools, Boyerstown National School, near Navan, and St Patricks’ National School in Slane.
In both schools we did a collective creative-writing project based on events from the Civil War.
This picture was taken outside Navan library to mark the occasion, and features Tom French of Navan Library, Councillor Sean Drew, Cathaoirleach, Meath County Council, Dympna Herward, Meath Library Services, myself, Ciaran Mangan, Meath County Librarian, and Jackie Maguire, Chief Executive, Meath County Council.
Recently I wrote and directed a video on heritage sites around Castleknock village. Filmed by Conor Diskin, and with original music by Doc O’Connor, the film had its premiere at Castleknock Tennis Club, where it was launched by the Mayor of Fingal, Seana O’Rodaigh. The video has had thousands of downloads on YouTube and has been viewed as far afield as in Britain, Canada, China, the USA, Australia, and Singapore.
The film is fourteen minutes long, and here’s a link for those who would like to view it.
Very exciting to have my novel Arrivals translated into Russian. It’s just been published in hardback by Kompas publishers in Moscow with a new cover design, and a new title – By the Banks of the Otonabee. Here’s hoping my new Russian readers enjoy the story.
Documentary on Newstalk recently aired the premiere of ‘Connolly Station – A Day in the Life’, my radio documentary that tells the stories of those who live and work in the vicinity of Ireland’s busiest railway hub, Connolly Station.
Using a lively mix of interviews, location recordings, sound effects and music, Connolly Station – A Day in the Life looks behind the scenes at the country’s premiere railway station.
Jane Cregan of Irish Rail tells of the building of the station, and the role it played during the 1916 Rising.
Kevin Connolly, the Assistant Station Master, reveals how his day begins at five in the morning, with the station itself coming alive at around 7.00 am
We get an insight into life behind the scenes the Central Traffic Control Centre in Connolly, the nerve centre from which Ireland’s rail network is run.
Lisa Dunne of Been and Gone coffee shop talks of changing public tastes, and the lively interactions she has with customer seeking refreshments in the station.
The challenging task of maintaining tracks, level crossing, and bridges falls to Mick Danaher and he gives an insight into the complexity of ensuring that everything runs smoothly.
Keeping clean a train station that’s used by twenty thousand people a day takes effort and planning, and Kevin Connolly explains how it’s achieved.
Jane Cregan outlines Irish Rail’s plans to develop the former station car park and marshalling yard, then the narrator tells the little-known story of the commemoration in Connolly of the railway workers who lost their lives in the Great War.
A vox pop reveals a colourful selection of people’s best rail memories, then we hear how in 1971 Connolly Station was the scene for the famous showdown between customs officers and Irish feminists, who challenged the Republic’s laws banning the sale of contraceptive by buying them in Belfast and bringing them home on the train.
Kevin Connolly discusses the unpredictable day to day duties of the Station Master, while experienced commuters reveal their techniques for getting seats on rush hour trains and relating to fellow passengers.
Steam enthusiast David Houston talks about the work done by the Irish Rail Preservation Society and the highly-popular steam train outings run from Connolly.
Barry Scully discusses the impact of the Luas trams arriving at Connolly, then we hear of the contingency plans that go into place in the station in the event of an emergency closing of a rail line.
Sean Reid tells how the North Star Hotel – today re-branded as The Address – has always had strong links with Connolly and he reveals some of the hotel’s fascinating history.
We hear about the closing routine at the station each evening, and the programme concludes with contributors revealing what Connolly Station means to them, and their hopes for its future.
Quotes from CONNOLLY STATION – A DAY IN THE LIFE
“Last year there was a girl – and I saved her life.” Derek O’Brien, station operative.
“It goes back to my time in short pants. I was brought up right beside the railway line at Sandymount Station, it’s in my blood.” David Houston, steam train enthusiast.
“During the 1916 Rising the station tower was taken over by British troops, and they were sniping up Talbot Street at the rebels who’d taken over the GPO.” Jane Cregan, Irish Rail.
“I loved the trains in Connolly – the smell of the oil and the diesel.” Barry Scully of Transdev, the Luas operator.
“The best part of being on a train was that you could get up and walk around – and mind everybody’s business but your own!” Mona Rogers, ninety-nine-year-old passenger.
“The most impressive rail journey I ever had was with the driver of the Eurostar from London to Paris, traveling at 300 kilometres an hour.” Darren Bowe rail network controller.
“I love Friday especially because you’ve everyone going away on holiday. Everyone’s in fantastic form.” Lisa Dunne, Manager, Been and Gone, coffee shop in Connolly station.
“We’ve had a few incidents with lost property. A fella lost a canoe. I don’t know how he left it, because it was about seven feet long!” Derek O’Brien, station operative.
Connolly Station – A Day in the Life can be listened to as a podcast on Documentary on Newstalk.
Documentary on Newstalk recently aired the premiere of ‘The Bots’, my radio documentary about the National Botanic Gardens, and the lives of those who live, work, study, and relax there.
Using a lively mix of interviews, location recordings, sound effects and music, The Bots explores the stories behind one of Ireland’s most popular visitor attractions.
Director Matthew Jebb gives an overview of the role of the Botanic Gardens and explains how it hosts six hundred thousand visitors each year. Matthew also tell of its research role, and how the blight that caused the Potato Famine of the Eighteen Forties was identified by the then director of the Gardens.
Blathnaid Farrell, who grew up nearby, reminisces about the Gardens when she was a child, while librarian Alexandra Caccamo tells of a history going back much further, with some books in the library dating back to the sixteenth century.
Matthew Jebb talks of the joys of living on site, and tells the story of the Director’s Residence, which predates the founding of the Gardens in 1795.
Brendan Sayers gives an insight into the running of the glasshouses, and how tropical heat needs to be generated for some plant species.
Glyn Anderson and Charlotte Salter Townsend talk about the guided tours they give, with Glyn reflecting on the refreshment options available to the modern-day visitor.
Contributors and visitors reminisce lightly about their memories of the first thing they ever grew, while Ciaran Kavanagh and Alfreda O’Brien, who run the nearby Gravediggers pub, talk about the colourful associations between their premises and the Botanic Gardens.
John Mulhern, Principal of the Teagasc College of Horticulture, discusses how hundreds of students study at their Glasnevin site within the Gardens, while Felicity Gaffney, the manager of the Visitor Centre, gives details of the surprising range of cultural and artistic events that are staged each year in the fifty-acre grounds.
Matthew Jebb tell of the wildlife he’s encountered while living on site, and Colin Kelleher talks of his role as a taxonomist and the task of naming the vast numbers of specimens that have been catalogued in the Gardens.
The programme concludes with contributors revealing what the Botanic Gardens means to them, and their hopes for its future.
Quotes from THE BOTS:
“The first place we made for was the glasshouse. And when you went in the heat would just hit you. In those days you wouldn’t have central heating at home – so that was super.” Blathnaid Farrell, childhood visitor to the Botanic Gardens.
“Our back garden is about an acre and it backs onto the Botanic Gardens and the cemetery. The neighbours are basically the cemetery people and plants.” Ciaran Kavanagh, The Gravedigger Pub.
“One of the real pleasures of the job is that I wake up at work each morning.” Matthew Jebb, Director, Botanic Gardens.
“Our book collection extends back to the Fifteen Thirties.” Alexandra Caccamo, Librarian.
“The pub, the cemetery, the Botanics, it’s like the Bermuda Triangle – you do disappear in that triangle in Glasnevin, and before you know it, four hours have passed.” Alfreda O’Brien, The Gravedigger Pub.
“In the Herbarium there are about six hundred thousand dried specimens”. Colin Kelleher, Taxonomist.
“The world is changing quite a lot, and I think the big positive is that more and more people are paying attention to the natural world.” Charlotte Salter Townsend, tour guide.
“It took 25 years to put it together. There are 11 kilometres of glazing bars in this building, and it’s a work of art.” Matthew Jebb, Director, Botanic Gardens.
“I used to go into the hothouse – when I missed Italy.” Ciaran Kavanagh, The Gravedigger Pub.
The Bots can be listened to as a podcast on Documentary on Newstalk.
Drama on Newstalk recently aired the radio premiere of “IDLEWILD”, my radio adaptation of Jimmy Murphy’s stage play, in which the leaders of two feuding crime groups meet to explore the possibility of a radical sacrifice to end their bloody feud.
Starring Rex Ryan and Ruairi Heading, Idlewild was written by Jimmy Murphy, and adapted for radio and produced and directed by Brian Gallagher. The programme was funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the Television License Fee.
IDLEWILD can also be listened to as a podcast at Drama on Newstalk.
Documentary on Newstalk recently aired my documentary BREWERY DAYS, that looks at the lives of those who worked in the world-within-a-world that was Guinness’s in the Sixties and Seventies.
Using a lively mix of interviews, location recordings, sound effects, and topical news stories and music, Brewery Days follows the journey of one employee from boyhood to manhood in Ireland’s most famous brewery.
Quotes from BREWERY DAYS:
“Some very clever person came up with the idea of using the Storehouse, which had been lying vacant. And now it’s Ireland’s number one fee-paying attraction.” Paul Carty, Diageo.
“You had handball, bowls, tennis, soccer, gaelic, pitch and putt, rugby, hockey, cricket, table tennis, snooker and darts -The Iveagh Ground was a mecca.” Alan Clarke, former Guinness employee.
“The first time I asked her out she wasn’t sure if it was a joke or not, because it was April Fools’ Day” Michael Manners. “I met loads of people at the Guinness table tennis club – including my future husband.” Anne Manners.
“The early Seventies was the cusp of change between the old manual way of brewing and the new, more automated way of brewing that we do now.” Eibhlinn Roche, archivist.
“We were involved in a very competitive situation with our sister brewery in London, and it was always kind of held over us that there was a possibility that they could take over the Irish trade.” Bob Kerr, former brewer.
“The punch room had about fourteen girls; the main frame computer had a huge room to itself and its own air conditioning; and the hard drives were mini-cabinets.” Jean Roche, former computer operator.
BREWERY DAYS was edited by Orla Rogers and written and produced by Brian Gallagher. The programme was funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the Television License Fee.
Drama on Newstalk recently aired the premiere of “SECRETS” my radio play that travels back in time to a seaside holiday in Sixties Ireland, during which two women face an intriguing moral dilemma.
“Secrets” tells the story of the extended Lawlor family who take a summer holiday in Bray, County Wicklow, in 1964. Unaware that such holidays will be soon made redundant by package holidays to sun destinations, they go about their usual two-week break. Despite the surface good humour, tensions are evident in the family dynamic, and when the Lawlors cross paths with a holidaying Scottish family the seeds are sown for a dramatic outcome.
The 1964 scenes are viewed through the eyes of twelve-year-old Damian Lawlor, while simultaneously the now-adult Damian looks back on the action.
Reappraising the moral choices of that summer, over fifty years later, gives Damian another dilemma now as he has to decide whether or not to leave the past undisturbed.
Starring Aonghus Og McAnally, Mary Murray, Mark O’Regan, Marion O’Dwyer, and Claudia Carroll, SECRETS was written and produced by Brian Gallagher. The programme was funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the Television License Fee.