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Wednesday 16 August 2017

Leo Daly

Underappreciated in his time, but Daly is destined to be remembered as on of the greats, writes Ivor Casey

He was once confronted on the street for bringing "that pornographer into Mullingar" -- a reference to his book, James Joyce and the Mullingar connection. Leo Daly, who passed away recently at the age of 90, had a long career as a writer of fiction and non-fiction covering many aspects of Irish heritage, literature and local history.

Up until his passing, Daly resided in his home town of Mullingar, Co Westmeath, in St Claire's Nursing Home and continued writing.

"The major influence on my venture into writing was my interest in places such as Aran, which had been successfully portrayed by Synge and others in the native language."

Daly was educated at St Mary's College in Mullingar. He later studied drama writing under the British drama league and studied photography at the Agfa school of photo-journalism in Kent, England. He was one of the founding members of the Mullingar Little Theatre and has acted in and produced numerous plays, including Ghosts Strike Back, which he wrote to commemorate James Joyce.

Daly has also produced pantomimes, has contributed photographs to American and Irish publications and has written drama criticisms for various newspapers, both regional and national. Having retired early from psychiatric nursing, Daly followed a career as a writer, photojournalist and editor and has had his work aired on Radio Eireann and was a regular contributor to the famous Sunday Miscellany programme. As well as highlighting James Joyce's relevance to Mullingar and surrounding areas in various publications, Daly has also told the story of the 7th Century Saint Colman of Lynn in the book The Life of Colman of Lynn.

Asked about James Joyce and The Mullingar Connection, he said his main attraction to Joyce was his versatility, mainly a feature of his early works. "Although the book was not well received at the time of its publication, especially by academics, it gained a readership and importance as source material," he said.

Daly contributed to bringing vibrancy and culture to the town of Mullingar. I asked if locals have taken note of this enough but Daly suggested that "Mullingar has still to give Joyce an honourable place in the town's literary acclaim".

In more recent years, to add to his various talents and literary skills, Daly had produced a collection of poetry, which was exhibited in St Claire's Nursing Home. His introductory collection of works were funny and insightful. They at once made you laugh and made you think. Daly only began writing poetry recently and hopefully this work will get a full publication, adding to his great body of literature.

As a passionate and devoted writer, Daly refused to be idle as he had recently completed writing a new play that he had been working on for the past decade called The Jealous Wall.

With this project being his most recent endeavour, I dared to ask him what was next and if he had any further aspirations and ideas on his mind. He responded: "Unfortunately no, time has overtaken my hope of further accomplishments. I can only hope for the best".

It could be said that Daly is a writer not fully appreciated in his time but who will certainly go down as one of Ireland's great literary legends.

Sunday Independent

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