Limerick lady conquers her demons on RTE literacy show

Nick Rabbitts


Nick Rabbitts

A LIMERICK lady who conquered her demons on a television show has spoken of her experiences.

A LIMERICK lady who conquered her demons on a television show has spoken of her experiences.

Eileen Sheehan earlier this summer took part in the RTE show, ‘A Story with me in it’, having struggled with literacy during her school years.

After teaming up with leading Irish writer Alice Taylor, the Moyross lady was tasked with writing a five page tome on her life in order to prove to herself that she can write a story.

But she shocked programme producers be penning 18 pages!

After being told by Alice to start writing, Eileen recalls: “I was full of fear. When I came home that evening, I went to bed. But I was very bothered, I got up again. I know in my heart and head. How can I put this down on paper?”

Eileen said she had a feeling in her head she is not good enough to pen a story on her life - but guilt led her to try.

“I put the paper away - but the next night I was cross and agitated. So I got the paper out again, and tried again. Everything flowed out. I couldn’t stop. I ended up with 18 pages!”

A sense of not being good enough is something which has hampered Eileen in the past - dating back to her schooldays at Ballynanty Girls School when she was victimised by a cruel nun.

“No matter what I did, it was never right for her. She asked a question one time, I knew the answer, but the nun said, ‘put your hand down, what would you know?’. My hand never went up again. I just wanted out of the school at that point,” Eileen recalls vividly.

Despite having her confidence wrecked at the age of just ten, the mother-of-two does not wish any ill will on the nun - who remains alive today.

But fear precludes her from meeting the nun.

Having left school at the age of just 12, Eileen lied about her age in order to get a full time job.

“I was never happy in school. I just didn’t fit in there. When I left, I went straight into work the following morning. I changed my birth certificate to make me older. I knew if I got a job and I brought money home, there was never a mention of me going back to school,” she said.

She took a variety of jobs before settling at the Golden Grill fast food outlet in William Street.

The surge Eileen has had in her confidence since taking part in ‘A Story with me in it’ is evident in the fact she reads at Mass in Corpus Christi Church on an almost daily basis.

For so many years, she had been making excuses to her friends - she was feeling sick, or had forgotten her glasses for example.

The experience of taking part in the RTE show, appearing before an audience of thousands is “sad and happy if you can mix the two together.”

“If you told me a year ago what I had done, I would have said you were mad! To see me go on public television and talk about my problem was such a massive thing for me.”

And the general public have responded to Eileen: “The letters I have got from all over the country have been unbelievable. Some of them are not properly addressed - just Eileen Sheehan, A Story with me in it, Moyross’, and ‘Eileen Sheehan’ the author. The letters have been lovely. I had a letter from a beautiful lady who watched me on TV with her husband. She told me that he is going to get help now,” she beamed.

And now she wants to help others who have struggled with reading and writing.

“My one bit of advice would be that it doesn’t matter who or what you are, if you have a problem, get help. I am very fortunate to have my husband, and my children who can help me. My 13-year-old daughter gives me spelling tests, which is very sad: it should be the other way around,” she said.

Eileen says she has been asked to open an confidential advice clinic in the City Library for anyone who has a problem reading and writing. It is something she is seriously considering.

She recently returned from Lourdes - a trip she has made for the last six years, where she works as a hand maiden. “I love every minute of it. I love the peace you get there when you work in the hospital,” she concluded.