Category Archives: Biography

For Sean, on His 26th Birthday


The windows are open;
Air from the garden
Will freshen your room.

A hurricane brought you
And took you away:
You are part of its force.

The shoreline before me
Recedes and advances;
My boat is becalmed. Continue reading


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Filed under Biography, Blogging, Ireland, Memories, Philosophy of life, Poems, Religion, Stories

Blog rationale, and some diary extracts

The purpose of this blog, since 17 October last, has been to document the life of my son Sean, who died on that day at the age of 19. I hope to build up as detailed a picture as I can.

I will never manage a true representation of Sean … he was too complex and multifaceted for that, and I, like everyone else that knew him, knew him only partly. I loved him, as did many others.

The fragments I present on the blog – photos of moments and people in his life, anecdotes, poems, the things he liked, what he said, the games he played, his music, what people said about him – may form a kind of wall mosaic that, from a distance, looks like a reasonable likeness of Sean. Up close, only the fragments will be visible, but it’s the best I can do. The more fragments I add, the truer the mosaic … or at least that’s the theory.

It will be a sort of memorial to Sean, though the very fact that one is required still breaks our hearts. It will be good for me and, I hope, for others. I know that many people who knew Sean read this blog (they are very welcome to comment here, by the way). It won’t bring Sean back, but it may help him to be held in the memory, as he so deserves to be. Continue reading


Filed under Anecdotes, Biography, Blogging, Death, Ireland, Memories, The music of what happened

Sean’s world 3

As we settled into this area and our newly built house, Sean made some good friends in the local primary school, which he attended for four school years from 1998 to 2003. He played soccer in the yard with the other boys; we have a plaque that he won as part of the school quiz team.

His customary world extended to the Gaelic football club, as I have mentioned, and to the Blackwater river, where I would take him fishing … he later took the photo close to where we used to stand.

He liked to fish, and took it quite seriously. We caught small perch and (usually) smallish trout. Sometimes we caught a good-sized trout and took it home to cook; otherwise we released our catch back into the water. Continue reading


Filed under Biography, Ireland

Sean’s world 1

Sean lived on the southside of Dublin for the first seven years of his life … first in Windy Arbour, where his mum and I rented a house on returning from London in 1991, and then in a house we bought in Broadford Lawn, Ballinteer … we moved into it on 2 July 1992, when Sean was 11 months old.

We migrated from Dublin to Munterconnaught, in rural Co. Cavan, on 16 August 1998 … Pauline and I felt that the children (Sean’s sister was not yet five) would have a better lifestyle in the countryside. We were right.

First we rented a house while ours was being built; we have lived in our current house since 17 December 1999.

In his 12 years in this area, Sean made a big impression on a lot of people. Considering the relative isolation of where we live, his impact was remarkable. Hundreds of people were deeply affected by his death; his funeral was massive and there have been innumerable tributes and expressions of sorrow on Facebook and elsewhere. Yet when we first moved here we knew just three people locally. Continue reading


Filed under Biography, Memories

Sean’s music 2 … Nirvana

There is quite a lot of stuff hanging on the walls of Sean’s bedroom. Most of it has to do with rugby … team posters, pictures of players, newspaper reports of notable victories for Ireland or Munster; an autograph from Tyrone Howe, whom Sean met once; a letter inviting him to a training session with Brian O’Driscoll. Also an Ireland jersey.

The only two footballers that appear are Patrick Vieira and Kolo Touré, in their Arsenal days. There is a Kings of Leon CD sleeve, and five tickets to a party in a pub in Athboy last November, which featured some top international DJs (I think Sean knew one of them). There is a weight-training programme. For some reason, there is half an Australian five-dollar bill. Continue reading


Filed under Biography, Music

A nice pic …

… of Sean brushing his own and his little sister’s teeth.


Filed under Biography

The indomitable spirit of Mother Jones

Some time back, Ana the Imp posted a blog on MyT entitled ‘Obama and the Deer Hunters’, contrasting ‘un-American’ ‘liberals and socialists’ with the kind of blue-collar individualists who ‘built America’ and are instinctively hostile to the state … epitomized by the steelworker-soldiers of The Deer Hunter.

In a comment, I said ‘It seems that some people, for ideological reasons, would like to tear out whole chapters of the American story … such as the “deer hunter” class fighting not the state as such, but big business that was backed by the forces of the state.’

Around that time I went to an Andy Irvine concert, and he sang a new song he’d written called ‘The Spirit of Mother Jones’. Mother Jones was an interesting character, and personified the struggle of the ‘little person’ for fair play that was a big part of what made America the greatest country in the world. Continue reading


Filed under Biography, Politics, Uncategorized

Thomas Whaley (1766–1800)

The eighteenth-century Irish parliament had its share of larger-than-life characters, as I have pointed out before. One of the most colourful was Thomas Whaley (MP for Newcastle, Co. Down 1785–90 and for Enniscorthy 1798–1800).

The son of an MP, Whaley left school at sixteen years of age with an allowance of £900 a year, and went to Paris with a tutor to ‘complete his education’ – in fact he ran up enormous gambling debts, and had to return to Ireland. He became an MP at eighteen years of age (MPs were supposed to be at least twenty-one). Continue reading


Filed under Anecdotes, Biography, Ireland

Rossetti and his pets

The English poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882) was an avid keeper of pets. The garden of the house at Cheyne Walk, Chelsea that he shared with Algernon Swinburne, George Meredith and others contained a menagerie including, as well as ‘ordinary domestic creatures’, at least one of each of the following: deer, kangaroo, zebu, armadillo, laughing jackass, chameleon, squirrel, mole, woodchuck, marmot, white mouse, green lizard, Japanese salamander, talking parrot, raven, wood owl, Virginia owl, Chinese horned owl, jackdaw, undulated grass-parakeet, and wombat.

At one point he bought a white bull because it had ‘eyes like Jane Morris’, but had to get rid of it because it ‘kicked everything to pieces’. Continue reading


Filed under Biography