Saturday 7 December 2019

A lifetime of travel retold

Cloonacool native, Padraic O'Dwyer left his home in Carnaleck in Cloonacool, at the age of 15, and returned 50 years later. Padraic has just published an account of his life and travels during this time.

In this collection of memories, he shares stories from his travels in Asia, South America and Africa in the 1970s, a time before internet and mobile phones. He describes his working life in places such as Germany and Russia and reflects on the journey from his childhood to his current life in Carnaleck. Fittingly, the title of his book is, Returning Home.

O'Dwyer, who now speaks many languages, began the process of creating what was to become his book, in an effort to leave his story behind for his children. He said: "When my children were young, I often told them stories about my travels, but I realised, because they were so young, they would forget them. I began to jot down some of the stories so they could read them later on in their lives."

Reflecting on how his interest in travel was sparked, Padraic believes that it came from an incident in childhood. "A local family returned from England and they had brought a TV aerial with them with which they could pick up the BBC. One Sunday while watching the film, Robinson Crusoe, I was so fascinated by the jungle scenery, my sense for adventure was aroused. "I'm certain this was the seed that was planted in me which later grew into a fervent desire to travel and visit exotic places."

The book contains several striking accounts of his travels in out-of-the-way places in some very unusual circumstances. One passage in the book describing a flight on a small military plane from Georgetown, Guyana to the Brazilian border in 1976, provides a good example, "We sat on wooden benches, facing each other, and in the aisle was a recently-slaughtered ox, lying on its back with its legs in the air and rolling back and forth with the movements of the plane."

Later in Niger, Africa in 1978, Padraic describes the desert landscape he encounters. "Every day, it reminded me of something created by an artist's hand, but changing by the minute. Somehow, I had always imagined a desert to be a landscape of flat, boring sand."

O'Dwyer's book is not just a written account of his travels but also contains an outstanding collection of his photographs.

In the same way as an old recording might be remastered, his faded snapshots from that time are brought back to life, adding colour and character to the publication.

Padraic is currently dealing with Myeloma (bone cancer) and a percentage of the proceeds from book sales will be donated to Sligo Cancer Support Centre.

'Returning Home' will have its official launch in Brennan's of Cloonacool on Friday 8th of November at 8.30pm. Padraic is issuing a special invitation to attend to his many neighbours and friends in the parish. Light refreshments served.

Sligo Champion