Evergreen Limerick author, 81, releases debut book

Gerard Fitzgibbon


Gerard Fitzgibbon

A RETIRED ex-builder from Tournafulla has shown that it’s never too late to start writing, as he prepares to publish his debut book at the evergreen age of 81.

A RETIRED ex-builder from Tournafulla has shown that it’s never too late to start writing, as he prepares to publish his debut book at the evergreen age of 81.

Patrick O’Shaughnessy has penned a memoir, On the Banks of the Allachan, which recounts the highs, lows and happy fortunes of his life so far. From fist fights with school teachers to memories of coronations, Patrick’s book is a vindication of the truth that everyone has their own unique story.

“There’s all different bits and pieces in it”, Patrick said. “I’ve a lovely story to tell. I’d been writing a few bits for some journals, and my wife always wondered if I’d ever get round to doing a book. I’ve dedicated the book to her”.

Patrick’s story is a typical but heart warming account of a young man from rural West Limerick looking to find a place in a world rebuilding itself after the Second World War. Born in 1931, Patrick grew up in his grandfather’s cottage in Tournafulla, where he also went to primary school.

It was when he moved on to secondary school in Abbeyfeale, however, that he experienced a tumultuous event which ended up changing the course of his life.

“I only stayed in school up to the inter cert. I got into a fight with the school principal. We had a bit of a schemozzle, as Michael O’Hehir would say. I wasn’t happy with how he’d treated me. I remember I went home that day and was back drawing turf in the bog when I got talking to my father. I told my father that if I go back to school, I’d hurt him [the principal]. Fair play to my father, he understood.”

Patrick left school and earned his crust through odd jobs, turf cutting and other scraps of work he could find in his local parish. In early 1953, he decided to emigrate to London, and just a few short weeks later he found himself in the midst of history as the UK celebrated the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. However just 18 months later Patrick decided to return home after his older brother, Michael, contracted meningitis and died at the age of just 24.

“It was terribly sad. I hurled with him, he was such a fine hurler. A great boy”, Patrick said of his brother. “He worked with the trades, and I remember being out in the shed and looking at all his tools and thinking it’d be a terrible waste, now they won’t be used for anything. So I decided to take up the trade work”.

Patrick found work as a builder and tradesman across West Limerick and North Kerry, working for an average of £1 per week. “In 1960 I built a bridge for the council in Tournafulla. I remember getting £11 for five days’ work. I thought I was in heaven”, he remarked.

He built schools and houses, told stories, made new acquaintances and learned all there was to know about his parish and its people.

His book goes on recount his meeting and marriage to Mary, “the love of my life”, with whom he had five children. Mary passed away in 2005, and Patrick said that his memoir is dedicated to her. “We started off with nothing, but we were happy”, he said.

Patrick’s book On the Banks of the Allachan will be officially launched at the Devon Inn hotel in Templeglantine next Friday, November 16, and will be on sale in a number of local shops in the coming weeks.