In the beginning

1979 was when it all began.

To the special people I knew and have passed away, I can only say what an absolute privilege it was knowing them, talking with them and laughing with them.
Jim Golden, Andrew Leddy, Sean Egan, Phil & Kathleen Fitzpatrick all have a huge place in my heart still, my memories keep them alive. I only see their smiling faces, I don’t know them any other way. They are embroidered in the fabric of my life along with everything else I can remember, good or bad.

Jim Golden was a farmer & family man, hard as nails outside, the hard working life ingrained in his face told a thousand stories, but he was a kind and gentle man with whom I sat one morning outside the bar that his family owned, it had just rained and we spoke about the weather, looking at puddles on the tarmac, mug of tea in our hands, nothing else. Perfection was a mug of tea and some puddles. When I had a sabbatical from an increasingly stressful period at work, I stayed with the Golden family for a week and during this time I occasionally came into contact with Jim over the breakfast table, conversations were mainly about the weather. I have no photos of Jim but his image remains with me to this day.

Andrew Leddy seccumbed to cancer, damn the cancer. He was a farmer and was just beginning a small business making wooden ornamental newal caps for stair rails that a major UK retailer was taking an interest in. Then he was gone. So sad. It makes me so bloody angry to think he was taken in the prime of his life. He leaves a widow, Oonah a kind and gentle woman who now lives in Milltown, Cavan and no children. His dog once chewed my shoe laces off whilst I was asleep next to the kitchen range, Andrew and my friends just sat there laughing, watching the dog doing it!

Sean Egan was a maverick, I’d met him in Ireland a few times then met him again in Sheffield at an Irish tourism fair two days after he’d lost his Rolex watch in the lock at Athlone. The night before we met in Sheffield he’d won £5000 playing cards in Bristol! In Sean’s world, you won some and you lost some. He was a shrewd businessman cashing in on the Angling tourism boom at the time and enjoyed life. I had a bizarre night out with him once, getting ever so slightly inebriated in a bar converted from a cinema where the seats all faced the same way. A few months before he died, he and I agreed a deal where I would make 2000 fishing accessories for him, which I did, then I’d travel over with them for him to sell at retail. I lost £600, but that wasn’t important, I’d not lost a business deal, I could recover from that, I’d lost a friend.

Phil & Kathleen Fitzpatrick owned the Cosy Bar in Belturbet. They were industrious in a different way to Jim, Andrew & Sean. I came runner up in a pool tournament once, the winner got 4lb of beef! Phil wanted me to have a trophy for being runner up but he only had one with Cosy Bar 1983 on it, so he scratched out 3 with the point of a dart and scratched 4 on it. I still have it. He used to stand at the window looking up and down the street for the Gardai and would almost whisper “Get your drinks off please, the copper’s coming”. His bar was legendary with anglers from all over Britain & Europe. I learnt more German in the Cosy Bar from the Germans we met year in year out, than I did in 3 years at school. I was there the night the Heysel Brussels football stadium tragedy unfolded. It was the only night I ever knew in there when it was silent.

If there was a God, he would have a special place for these people, where they would want for absolutely nothing.

Ireland has played a large part in my life, my thinking and the way I look at life.
I like to think socially and compassionately.
I hate greed and selfishness.
During my time on this planet, I have observed that those who have power, crave total power & those who have wealth want more wealth.
Always, this is at the expense of those with little money and consequently little say in the housekeeping of the earth they live on.
The people I rub noses with are the working people, whose pleasures are simple.
Working people’s problems are by and large given to them by the people with the power, who are in turn manipulated by those with wealth.
On my first encounter with Jim Golden I looked at his huge angular frame, his big red hands and weathered face and wondered how hard life had really been when he was younger.
He was a farmer and in his latter years, life had been made easier financially by his wife (Nora) Nonie.
She and her family were one of several who opened their  homes for B & B and in some cases full board, to tourists.
Most of the tourists were anglers and huge efforts were made to make their visit as good as possible.
Maps were made, leaflets were produced and the ITB (Irish Tourist Board) not before time realised what a rich seam of revenue they had on their doorstep  just waiting to be exploited.
It was done in the typical Irish way, low key but attractive.
This is how I ended up in Ireland.
The main book is called The Old Bog Road.
The pages describe events from that time.
Some of the buildings aren’t there anymore, the narrow tree shrouded roads have been replaced by featureless motorways.
Beautiful little villages like Horseleap, Lucan and especially Tyrrellspass are by-passed and are no longer admired as we admired them.
There is no point writing about the present, we all know how life is.
Maybe in 30 years time you’ll write about something incredible that happened today.

I hope you enjoy reading it the stories of my travels in my part of Ireland from 1979 to 1999