Over her broadcasting career, Marie Louise O’Donnell has had the opportunity to work closely with many individuals, sharing their working lives, gaining a unique insight into their day to day duties, and learning what motivates and inspires them in their sometimes unusual occupations.
Irish Working Lives tells the “story of these encounters - by turns candid and lyrical - and illuminates the ways in which these individuals perceive their chosen occupations, its day-to-day demands and the inextricable relationship between work life and spiritual life”.
Fourteen working lives are highlighted in the book and include - amongst others - a birdman, an embalmer, a gardener, a sewer man, a chiropodist, a train driver, and an air traffic controller. The narratives are warm and enthusiastic, ably abetted by wonderful and sensitive photographs. It is difficult not to be moved - even inspired - by them, and two of these stories have a strong Galway connection - thatcher Paul Johnson, and gardener Marita Goggins.
'Although not necessarily religious, Martina Goggins' story is imbued with a strong spirituality that is uplifting and inspirational'
Paul Johnson’s narrative is of a man dedicated to his craft. From Louth, he qualified as an electronic engineer and worked in England where he also played in an r'n'b band. The drummer was a master thatcher and from him Johnson learned the trade. He now lives in Kinvara and for the book O’Donnell joined him as he thatches a 250-year-old cottage which “lies in the eye of Curranroo Bay”.
The chapter describes the thatching in wonderful detail ending with these words from Johnson: “If my creativity was taken away from me, I would die. I would just shrivel up and die, if I could not create something with my hands, be it a lovely frame door made from wood that I spotted, or a stool, or a thatch roof, or music, or painting, or something. To create something is to be around the nearest place to God...If somebody, anybody, asked me who are you? I would tell them, I’m a thatcher”.
The second Galway story begins: “There is a strange warmth in the garden. Strange and comforting. Even though the day is cool, and the garden is built against a Galway limestone surround, looking out over the choppy Salthill shore, there is a warmth.” We meet Martina Goggins, traditional musician, who lost her son in a tragic road accident and who, to come to terms with her grief, built the Circle of Life donor garden in Salthill, providing a place of refuge to help others come to terms with their own loss. Although not necessarily religious, the story is imbued with a strong spirituality that is uplifting and inspirational.
Irish Working Lives is a pleasure to read, a most suitable gift for anybody recovering from a trauma, or indeed anybody who enjoys a good read.