Monday 16 July 2018

Write side... with farmer and writer John Connelll


John Connell pictured at the family farm in Ballinalee, Co. Longford. Photo: Damien Eagers
John Connell pictured at the family farm in Ballinalee, Co. Longford. Photo: Damien Eagers
Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

Farmer and writer John Connell on his 'Cow Book', dreaming up ideas on the tractor, and his Brian Friel tattoo.

How did you become a farmer?

I grew up on our family farm in Longford. I always liked farming, but life took me in another direction - I became an investigative journalist and film producer in Australia.

But then you went back to your roots?

I packed in journalism, started writing books, and came home. In exchange for living at home, I helped out on the farm. It reignited the passion for farming. My agent said: "You're working on a farm - why not write about that?"

How did you react to that?

I thought, 'who would be interested in cows and farming?' It turns out that everybody is. I wrote the first chapter about a calf being born - and I thought that there really is something in this.

So what is your farming and writing routine?

At the moment, I am writing a play. The ideas come to me on the tractor, and I have a pen and paper with me, and write them down. After a long day making hay, I sit down at home and write down all my ideas.

What books would you take to a desert island?

On the Shortness of Life by Seneca, Amongst Women by John McGahern, and Saints and Sinners by Edna O'Brien. I love Brian Friel's play Philadelphia, Here I Come. I have a tattoo of his line: "It's all over.. It's all about to begin."

Is farming tough these days?

The economics of making a living can be hard. I like country life, however. Last night we had a barbecue, and at nine o'clock I went to the local lake to fish - and I went for a swim.

Who encouraged you to write?

My father is a wonderful storyteller. So I really got it from him. I had some wonderful teachers, such as my principal in primary school, Master Harte. My mentor is the Australian writer, David Malouf. He guided me through - from when I wrote my first short story.

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