Tuesday 25 June 2019

Carpenter swaps chisel for pen and carves out a writing career

Coachford native Brendan Healy now has two books on Amazon

Maria Herlihy

Growing up in Coachford as a young boy, Brendan Healy had his sights sets on veterinary career; however, with the sad passing of his father, Patrick, when he was only 15, the road for Brendan was changed and he became a carpenter.

The road has changed again and much to his delight he is now a published author of two books, 'Parallel Lives' and 'Monika', and now at 74 years old he is planning on more books down the line. 

But like all good stories, it is best to pull up a seat and start at the beginning. With a smile, Brendan, who now lives in Mitchelstown, recalled his childhood at Leade's in Coachford, which he described as being "as rural as you can get". His dad, Patrick, was known as Pakie and he was a dairy man on a large estate in Coachford.

"I was very happy in Coachford but then a stroke of bad luck happened in 1960 when my dad died and he was only 54 years old. At the time, I was about 15 and had my sights set on veterinary college, but my poor mother, Hannah, just knew that would not be a reality with my dad gone as, like so many, the funding was just not there," he said. 

"But, I did know that I had a good pair of hands and I enjoyed work and felt that this wouldn't let me down. I completed my four year apprenticeship and sat the City and Guilds exams and really enjoyed my work, and I was young and ambitious which is a good combination," laughed Brendan. 

He said the family home was a happy one and was known colloquially as the 'Scriocht House' where neighbours and friends gathered one evening a week for chats, music and song. 

He spent some time in London, which he enjoyed but which was also a cultural shock to the system. "The good thing is that I am an extrovert so I just got on with it in London and I was just 23 years old at the time and ready for life," he said. 

He then moved back to Dublin as his cousin, Paddy Healy, a builder, had work lined up for him. Brendan quickly found his niche working on the restoration of Georgian properties which included the home of WB Yeats in Sandmount. 

He also took up the books again and studied Land Survey and Building Services in Bolton Street. 

In all, Brendan spent 25 years in Dublin and while he loved his work another passion was traditional Irish music and he was a member of the Clontarf branch of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann. 

"Being in Dublin I remember the good and the tough economic times but I was never idle and loved and respected people," he said. 

Then in the 1990s he returned back to Kilworth but for a man who had always worked with his hands being idle didn't suit him. He then set about learning the art of currach building from the master, Eddie Hutch in Dingle, and got a certificate of excellence. 

When asked when did the bug of writing take hold, Brendan said it was about three and a half years ago. "I finally decided I had to retire from physical work as I had a bad right knee and putting down floors requires a lot of kneeling. The writing happened gradually. I sat down and put together 10 pages but then lost it. I even went to Dublin to see if I could retrieve it but it didn't work out," he said. 

With a hearty laugh, he said that he has since learnt from that mistake and when he sat down again he churned out 40 pages - all saved. He began writing his first book, Parallel Lives - which tells the story of how two friends, George and Tadgh, met up after time apart and almost everything that happened in their lives was touched on - even their association with a young woman, Jenny Buckley, who nearly five decades earlier had given birth to twins - a boy and a girl. The twins were adopted by well to do foster parents and for nearly half a century there was "never another word about it," which was the way of the land in Ireland at that time. That was until one of the twins, Theresa, contacted Tadgh asking for a DNA test which proved negative. However, this worried George as he was being asked the same question.  

Brendan said he loved all the fictional characters in Parallel Lives and he became "very fond of them."  In his second book, 'Monika', it tells the story of a Hungarian lady who arrived in Ireland in 1956 and who stayed at the Irish Army Barracks, which in reality did occur during Ireland's past history when Hungarians fled to Europe from the Russians. 

Brendan is a member of the Mouse Writers Group in Cork and when he sees the dreaded blank page screaming for text he remains calm and carries on. 

His two books, Parallel Lives and Monika, are available to buy on Amazon.