Saturday 19 January 2019

Why I'm 'donating' my archive


Brendan O'Connor. Photo: Andres Poveda
Brendan O'Connor. Photo: Andres Poveda
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

After much soul searching, and having consulted with my family, I feel that the time has come for me to ''donate'' my archives to the State. I would like to see it go to the National Library, or maybe they could put it with the Book of Kells in that room in Trinity. While it might not draw the same queues as the Book of Kells, I feel there would be a certain initial flurry of interest, as former friends, girlfriends and people who no longer speak to me come in for a gawk. We would need an indexing system of course, so people could access material relating to themselves quickly and easily.

Many people are asking me why I have chosen to take this step. I suppose one thing is that I have been deeply affected by the various campaigns around archive donation. The Government is always trying to get more people to be donors, so I want to set a good example. Indeed I agree with those who argue donation should work on an opt-out basis, so the State takes your archive unless you ask them not to.

Many of you have been asking if I'm influenced by Neil Jordan and others ''donating'' their archives and getting a couple of million in a tax write-off. To which I would say, no. This is not about money. But obviously I will take the tax write-off. It would be rude not to.

Others again have been asking if this is anything to do with the fact that we are getting the garage converted and my wife has said if I don't clear out all my old junk she is going to put it in a skip. Again, no. This is purely me trying to do the State some service.

Some have had the temerity to ask if there is in fact anything of historical value in the archive. To which my answer is that I do not buy into the so-called 'Great Man' theory of history. The real history of our times is in the social history, the stories of ordinary people, and my archive contains a richness of that kind of rare material.

Much of the material in there has never been published before. For example, there is a whole series of letters sent to a girl I met at Irish College, which are now bound up as one piece with "Not known at this address. Please stop writing to me" inscribed on the front. A fascinating palimpsest, I'm sure you'll agree. There are also years of work emails, for anyone who hasn't seen them already. There is also some early poetry, roughly around the theme of how the world doesn't understand me. I think this gives a real insight into some of my later work. My membership card for the Warlord Secret Agent's Club, previously unseen in public, will also be included, as will a sticker book featuring a full set of the classic Arsenal team of the late 1970s. The latter will surely be of huge interest to sports historians.

So. Shall we say two mill? Do I hear three?

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