ANNA Gibson-Steel, the wife of Peter Clohessy, says she wrote her new book A Life with Claw long after he retired from the game for their children and to show the character of the man.
While the media fall-out after he stamped on France’s Olivier Roumat was an expected section in the book, Anna also addresses how newspapers treated the family after a real tragedy – her sister’s murder.
There was no mention in the book’s pre-publicity that it would focus on the tragic death of Anna’s sister Aileen, aged just 24, in London. Anna writes in detail about media intrusiveness during the days after her younger sister was strangled in 1994 and during the trial. Lawrence Hughes was jailed for life at the Old Bailey for murder. In March 2002, he escaped from prison and killed again.
Anna writes how one reporter found out what number their hotel room was and knocked on the door. Then, an editor lambasted her down the phone as she tried to correct inaccuracies.
Anna decided not to serialise the book in a national newspaper, mention it in the press release or have it on the back cover for fear of the murder being taken out of context. She was encouraged to do by some who felt it would “sell more copies” but Anna replied that this was of no interest to her.
“She was my only sister. When you read the book, it is all in context. When you pull something out of context it can sensationalise it or give it a different spin. This book isn’t about sensationalism.
“The only reason it is in it is because I am talking about the media and the impact. Obviously it is an integral part of our lives but it was relevant in the context of Peter’s story and his role in it,” said Anna.
She writes in the book how Peter was her “rock” during this time and how he identified the body to spare her family the grief.
“The purpose of putting that in there was really to demonstrate his character. He is unbelievably brave and incredibly loyal. That is why the story is in there. I wanted people to know the real Peter because people have a perception of a persona and only those that know him, know the real him. He is quite a phenomenal character. Life is never about achievements.
“Yes it is great to celebrate them but it is not about them. Success is really about how you navigate every day and the pitfalls. Anybody can celebrate success. For me it is turning that around and people seeing beyond the ‘Monster from Munster’ or whatever they thought – as much as they grew to love him through that,” said Anna.
In the book she writes that “the behaviour of some sections of the media through all of this anguish for our family was remarkable.
“The dilemma seems to be finding the balance between maintaining integrity and dealing in sensationalism. The simplest solution is if we, as consumers, start demanding integrity from our chosen media. If we do so, then they will have to provide it because they are buying their product. We actually have all the power,” she argues.
Of course the book is also full of colourful anecdotes from happier times.
Many were told at the launch in Thomond Park but Anna also spoke about Peter’s character in adversity in more recent times with the closure of Clohessy’s.
“He didn’t lose his temper once,” she said to the over 350 guests at the official launch of A Life with Claw.
“This is a very different book to most. There is a uniqueness to it that will only come out as people read it,” said Anna.
A number of hardback copies - published by Hero Books - are available in Small Claws on Shannon Street and Crokers in Murroe. It is in paperback format in local bookshops.#
See this weekend’s Limerick Leader, print edition, for photographs from the book launch.