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Séamas O’Reilly: ‘My dad’s capacity for nerves breathed its last during the two years in which six of his seven daughters were teenagers’

After his mother died, Séamas O’Reilly’s father raised 11 children on his own in rural Derry. Ahead of Father’s Day, the author and dad-of-two pays tribute to the unflappable man who raised him

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Séamas O'Reilly. Picture: Steve Ryan

Séamas O'Reilly. Picture: Steve Ryan

Seamas O'Reilly. Picture: Steve Ryan

Seamas O'Reilly. Picture: Steve Ryan

Séamus O'Reilly with his family

Séamus O'Reilly with his family

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Séamas O'Reilly. Picture: Steve Ryan

At a book event in Donegal last year, I was surprised to find many of the books I was handed at the signing came already signed, and not by me. No, that signature was the instantly recognisable chicken scratch with which my father signed my permission slips in school, and which he encouraged me to forge when the charms of signing more forms than the tax office began to wane. While I sat, pen in hand, for my adoring public to greet me with their books, a second, longer line had formed to meet my father, once they learned he was in attendance, and the real signing was happening 10 feet away from my lowly author’s desk.

Since the publication of my book last year, my father has become something of a low-key celebrity. Already quite famous to us, Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? has suddenly promoted him to others. NPR called him “a hero”, The Irish Times “clever, loving and eccentric”, while Marian Keyes declared her “giant love” for him in the strongest possible terms. My father was so pleased with the latter that he has undertaken to read Keyes’ entire oeuvre, presumably so he can pepper her with questions when they eventually start dating.


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