It’s hard to know where to start this week but, I suppose at the beginning is the best. I had a whirlwind tour of Dublin and London last weekend to promote my autobiography for Pieta House. It was a case of planes, trains and automobiles to turn back the clock in respect of tripping down memory lane to emotional reunions.
The adventure started last Thursday when my friend and Democrat colleague Ciaran O’Donnell accompanied me to Cassidy’s bar, Camden St. Dublin. The Dublin book launch was hosted by the Dublin Donegal Association and compered by Jamesie O’Donnell. The Association members turned out in force and I want to thank Hugh Harkin (President) from Carndonagh and Carrigart’s Elaine Caffrey (Chairperson) for their hospitality and great work on the night.
I can’t forget John Cassidy either who is confused about his origins; he’s from Clogher or Leghowney in Donegal Town he told me. John helped me enormously with the Dublin book launch. Most Donegal people know John as the main Hogan Stand steward in Croke Park. Former Donegal players Brian Murray, Noel McCole, Finian Ward, Finian McDonnell and Des Newton were there to put their support behind my project which I appreciate greatly. Once again, the man from the hills and 1992 Captain Anthony Molloy officially launched the book. Tom McEvoy and Brian Campbell represented Pieta House. We had a great evening’s craic and reminisced about those memorable days. I want to thank all the Donegal people who turned up on the night as well as those from other parts of the country who are resident and working in Dublin.
The show moved on to London the next day. I had a full schedule from Friday evening to Sunday evening organised by Tir Chonaill Gaels man Brendan ‘Tiny’ Vaughan from Carrigart. Another Gaels man Glencolmcille’s Seamus Carr co-ordinated events. The two men are polar opposites which made for one of the most memorable weekends I ever had in London or indeed anywhere. Before I reached London at all, I had to get the books to London. Seamus Carr’s twin brother Padraig managed to ship the merchandise through Martin Boyle Transport from Gweedore and I want to thank both men for their assistance.
My friend and former playing colleague with Red Hugh’s and London Taras, Marty Carlin, joined me on this crazy weekend to London. We were joined by Orla Blaney, Letterkenny at Derry airport who was going over to meet boyfriend Louis Boyce from Downings. Louis was our chauffeur for the evening. On arriving in London, we went directly to the Sheephaven Bay Bar in Camden. Former Downings goalkeeper Pat Logue is proprietor of this pub and was very generous and hospitable to us. Joined by another few Donegal people we taxied to Tim Kelly’s Restaurant and bar in Hendon. Tim, a native of Frosses had invited us to his staff Christmas party where he wined and dined us. It was great to meet Tim’s business friends Thomas McCarron, Tommy Gallagher, Peter McGinley and Tony McFadden. This is also where Marty and I hooked up with Seamus Carr and his daughter Anna. Seamus drove us back to his home in Ruislip where both Anna and Seamus couldn’t have done enough for me and Marty. The next morning Seamus took us to the Tir Chonaill Gaels club house and pitch in Greenford where Seamus had to do a few hours’ preparation work for the All-Ireland quarter-final game between Slaughtneil from Derry and local champions St. Kiernan’s. After that, Marty and I took a train and tube to central London, namely Hammersmith, Shepherd’s Bush and Oxford Circus.
Seamus and Anna had a lovely meal prepared for us when we returned in the early evening. Just before we ended eating a loud “moo” sound blasted outside. Enter Mr Brendan ‘Tiny’ Vaughan. He was impatiently blowing his loud cow-sounding car horn outside Seamus’s house. Our first stop was Jameson’s Bar in Queensbury, owned by James Kelly from Churchill. Again, we were welcomed with open arms. After a short stay, Tiny and his moo-horn car took us to Luton. He didn’t miss an opportunity to scare the living daylights out of some pedestrians. The back of my head was sore from laughter! ‘Tiny’ is anything but tiny. Seamus Carr gave him this name apparently and it has stuck for years.
Our arrival at the Pines Hotel in Luton was signalled by a loud blast from Tiny’s horn. Eddy Doherty Junior from Carndonagh the owner, welcomed us and introduced us to many of those who had come from near and far for my book signing. I would like to mention my neighbour Packie McConnell from Killygordon and his wife who made the journey from Milton Keynes. Charles Timoney from Ballintra was also there. Charles brought a few of us to Luton in 1993 to celebrate the winning of Sam McGuire. It was great to see him again. So, many thanks to all who supported Pieta House at The Pines.
We had another early start the next day. After Mass, Seamus Carr, Marty and I had breakfast in a small eatery in Ruislip. We were in Tir Chonaill Gaels grounds in Greenford at 12pm for the Slaughtneil versus St. Kiernan’s game. The place was teeming with Derry people who mixed and mingled with the local Gaels from various clubs in the London area. Dessie McFeely’s brother, Noel, told us plenty of stories about Dessie which will keep for another time. Tom Mohan, chairman of Tir Chonaill Gaels, made us feel at home. Marty and I met a number of our former Tara playing mates from the 1980 team in the club house. Slaughtneil were far too good for the London and British champions. The only thing left for us was to sell my book and reminisce with the Tara lads. Proinnsias Redican was our chairman back in 1980 and Proinnsias is still going strong. He is an institution in respect of GAA in London. We all parted our separate ways after a few hours chatting. Sadly, the truth is that we may never see most of those lads again. It is great to have the memories though.
All in all, we had a nostalgic but terrific time with our Gael friends in London. Thanks again to Seamus Carr and his daughters Anna and Christine, who fed and housed us. Also, to Brendan ‘Tiny’ Vaughan for his help, his humour and his company. Tiny is also a freelance photographer who snapped away at all of the events. Marty and I hope to catch up with Seamus and Tiny here in Donegal over the Christmas period. At the end of the day, it was all for Pieta House. Many thanks to everyone in both Dublin and London for supporting this very worthy cause.
Keep the faith!