Wednesday 26 October 2016

October - like an octogenarian - has oodles to offer

Fiona O'Connell

Published 09/10/2016 | 02:30

(Stock image)
(Stock image)

Autumn symbolises that the year is growing old - but that doesn't make it any less lovely. Indeed, in many ways this season has more to offer than summer - quite literally - with fruit and nuts in abundance around the countryside and yours for the taking.

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It's no different with people, for folk with many years on their motors can have more energy and verve than greenhorns half their age, as I was reminded by octogenarian Ned Egan, reclining like a nymph on the riverbank in the autumn sunshine recently, while a cameraman filmed the two musicians serenading him.

Ned looked like something out of a painting by an old master, appropriately enough, his hat rakishly tipped on his mop of snowy white hair and an indecent number of buttons left undone on his shirt. Clearly living by the adage that age is just a number - instead of worrying about when his might be up - this mature maverick tells me that he is beginning his filmmaking career by recording more than a dozen musicians performing his songs and poetry.

"Their expertise ranges across the broad spectrum," Ned says. "From absolutely excellent to sheer genius!" He plans to launch his masterpiece at the Kilkenny Watergate Theatre. "The staff there have been tremendously helpful to me."

That positivity, combined with gratitude galore, probably explains how Ned managed to persuade so many accomplished musicians to give him their time and energy. And which also lies behind Ned's ridiculously full life. Though it includes its share of tragedy, such as when TB "swept away" three of Ned's sisters and landed him in Peamount Sanatorium for two years.

"Good grub there," says Ned, characteristically seeing the bright side of that ordeal. "The young Dubs were mighty to me. I returned strong, able to look after myself."

Just as well, because Ned got kicked out of school when he was 13. Though not before getting "knocked out a few times by a wild Mayo teacher". Who nevertheless Ned remembers as "a good man at heart; no doubt he suffered the same himself."

Ned high-tailed it to England in his late teens, where he got "involved in all the drinking and running amok; that was the form in the 1950s. It was a great time to be alive."

Though for how long? Because Ned was soon called up by the British military and sent to the Middle East, where he faced "baddies who were interested in creating more orifices than the usual seven!" He subsequently served in a regiment guarding bomber airfields during the Cuba Crisis.

Clearly that wasn't enough excitement, for Ned then took aim at Australia, where he "fished the wild seas off the West Coast for the Great White and the lobsters they liked to jaw on. Had a few close shaves; a friend was 'taken'."

Ned was nearly over and out too, when he was blown up by dynamite. It left him blind and deaf for years. "But I got a glim back in one eye. That still does me."

As Ned likewise continues to 'do' life so marvellously.

Sunday Independent

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