How fitting, on the eve of Hallowe’en, traditionally the beginning of the story-telling season, that Patrick Kearney should launch his enthusiastically received autobiography, This Was My Life: I’m
Here To Tell It, The Life And Times Of Patrick Kearney.
Apt too, that this intriguing tome by a man who neither reads nor writes should be “ghost written” by the highly acclaimed social historian Kelley Johnson.
This is no ordinary shadowed screed of salacious pop star froth but a tough-talking, tenacious tale recorded in his own words and re-run with him time and again to be sure it’s what he wanted to say.
It is the tale of life as a gate keeper’s assistant (he and his mother occupied the Railway Cottage at Corofin in the 1950s), his struggles and ultimately his triumph in being accepted as someone born with a learning disability but with an enterprising spirit and a way with words. As he explained at the book’s launch, “My teacher said I was a dunce and stood me in the corner and refused to teach me but I proved her wrong. I’m a person with brains and a story to tell.” Now he has the book to prove it.
A finely wrought work by Copper Reed Publishers of Limerick, complete with full colour photographs, French flap covers and sepia prints from his childhood, it reveals a son grateful for the perseverance of a devoted mother, believing him when he couldn’t speak until he was eight and grandma who filled his imagination with a rich tapestry of tales of legendary Clare characters such as Maura Rua and more recent stories of the characters who populated his childhood.
It was fitting also then that at the book’s launch at the Auburn Lodge Hotel people who knew him since his childhood days should be there to wish him well.
“Patrick, or Sonny as we’ve always known him, used to travel to all the hurling watches in the back seat of my dad’s car between myself and Willie (now Bishop) Walsh,” recalled Des Crowe, PRO of Clare GAA. “He always had a comic turn of phrase, roaring on the team. Everyone knew and loved him.”
Des Mulcaire, Crusheen farmer, concert flautist and himself a spinner of comic yarns, also put in an appearance recalling his colourful turn of phrase from those matches long ago. He entertained the bubbly and bunting-adorned reception with a haunting air building to a toe-tapping gig, which saw Patrick and one of his present-day “fans”, Trish Dillon, from Shannon perform a spontaneous set to great applause.
Giving praise to everyone who had made the dream of publishing his book come true, he paid a passionate tribute to his friends at Claremore in Ennis, where he now lives in a house run by the Brothers of Charity, and to Anne Ball, his cousin who with husband Michael has stood by him through the years.
The book is selling well. Patrick himself has generated over €600 worth of sales and Ennis Bookshop has sold out their allocation twice since August. Rob Hopkins, who co-ordinated the book’s publishing through the Clare Inclusive Research Group, reported on presentations of the book at social history conferences in Singapore, Canada, the US and the UK. He praised Patrick’s determination to see the work in print as a significant contribution to our developing understanding of the lives of people with a learning disability.
Ger Managua, lead researcher with the Clare research group, in launching the book, put it more succinctly. “This is great for Patrick Kearney, the way he can tell his story to other people, his thoughts and views of his childhood and growing up in the parish of Corofin.”
He also paid tribute to the Clare Brothers of Charity for supporting and financing the work.