'You have this constant fear you’ll be caught out' - Taxi driver who learned to read and write age 53
A former taxi driver who was illiterate until he was 53 said he lived in "constant fear" that someone would uncover the secret that he could not read or write.
Cork man Tony Moloney (60) was recently diagnosed with reading disorder dyslexia and said his troubles began in primary school where he was one of the few people that slipped through the cracks in a large class of 57 children.
While Tony, who lives in Youghal, thrived at maths in secondary school, he continued to struggle with language, a problem which eventually hampered his career progression.
Upon leaving secondary school Tony applied for work at Pfizer in Cork but didn’t make it through the second round of interviews due to doing poorly at the company's exams. He went on to take on an apprenticeship as a painter and decorator.
Later, Tony began to work as a taxi driver, but this job came with challenges as well, and the Cork man developed coping mechanisms in order to combat his inability to read and write.
Working as a driver, Tony was expected to jot down addresses and directions from the radio but as he couldn’t write them down, he would record the messages on a dictaphone and play it back to himself. When it came to customer's names and addresses, he would memorise them to hide that he couldn’t write them.
"I didn’t realise at that stage that I could do anything about it, I thought I was alone."
"You think you’re the only one who has a problem reading or writing, so you have this constant fear that you’ll be caught out," he said.
Tony said he hid his secret from his children, he didn’t want them to know out of embarrassment and while his wife knew, she never brought it up as an issue.
Seven years ago, Tony received a pamphlet advertising free computer classes in his local area and he decided to take on the new skill. It wasn’t until he attended Youghal Adult Learning Centre that his difficulties were addressed. The tutor encouraged him to seek support through personal literacy classes.
After a year and a half of working with a personal tutor, Tony finally found the courage to join a group class with ten other adults.
"I couldn’t believe it, my jaw was open for about an hour."
Now a literacy ambassador for NALA, Tony said if anything he’s proud of himself for going back through education and sitting a FETAC Level 3 exam.
He feels that everyone who struggles with similar learning or literacy difficulties need to be aware that 1 in 6 Irish adults have some type of literacy difficulty and the only way to combat this is to try and enrol in an adult education.
"It made a different person out of me, the whole world has just opened up to me."