A final fable in Kincasslagh man Brian C. O’Donnell’s new memoir, “Life of Brian ... in Africa”, tells of a bird that can never be satisfied if it is bound to one place.
“Compelled to abandon its life of ease, the bird is driven to see and know what is around him,” said Wexford poet and author Rachel Darlington, in a recent review of Brian’s book. She suggested the fable could illustrate “the motivation of this fearless Irishman”.
The new book, “Life of Brian ... in Africa” on Brian’s travels in Africa over seven years, will be launched at 8pm, Friday, Nov. 30th, at the Viking House Hotel in Kincasslagh. The book costs €12, with €2 from each book sold on the launch night going to St. Vincent De Paul.
Brian retired to his home place of Kincasslagh about four years ago, after more than half a century of travel and adventure.
From being marooned in a “hippo-infested lake, participating in a tribal elephant hunt and repeated episodes of literally having the shirt stolen off his back, the book is essentially an action one,” Rachel wrote. “But humour is never below the surface, either.”
Brian said he simply wanted people to come away from the memoir feeling they had enjoyed a good read. And he has no shortage of stories. He engaged in different smuggling operations during his travels through Africa, and another time he parachuted to a plateau where an orbital rocket base had been set up in the Congo.
“Once you get up a bit into it there’s a lot of adventure and it’s different, I think,” Brian said of the book. His storied life has also taken him to South Africa, Kenya and Zambia, and to the United States and Belgium, where he opened the first Irish pub in Brussels.
“I liked the sun and I liked the adventure and the challenge of doing something not many other white men have done,” Brian said of some of his adventures. He was in Africa from 1974-82, but when he “got blown up” in a mine in Zambia, he told himself, “Enough is enough.”
Asked if he was ever afraid, Brian said there was no point.
“I believe I’m going to die when the man above says I’m going to die, and if that’s not my day to go that’s not my day to go. And if it is my day to go, there’s nothing I can do about it anyhow, so there’s no point in worrying about it,” he explained. “You try not to put yourself in the firing line.”
“So you were careful?,” he was asked.
“I wouldn’t say careful,” Brian said.
Brian said it was hard to pick a favourite of all the places he has lived.
“It depends on which way you’re looking at it,” he said. “I think Congo was a magnificent place ... everything you want is there, minerals, all the wealth of the world is there. But corruption is endemic.
“New York is fine as a young man and it would be grand in small doses,” he said. “But here in Donegal it’s hard to beat too, once you slow down a little bit.
“Brussels wasn’t bad -- it’s a good city to live in,” Brian said. “Everywhere has got its pros and cons. There’s nowhere perfect.” The seeds for the book were sewn as the adventurer was leaving Belgium -- it was four years ago, after Brian sold the Irish pub he had run in Brussels for 20 years.
“I was telling people every now and then stories, and a lot of people said, ‘Oh, you should write a book,” he said. “When I retired here I thought, ‘Why not?’”