Friday, December 1, 2023

Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon

Highly Recommended Festive Reading

If you read Adventures of a Wonky-Eyed Boy by Jason Byrne you are now in for another Christmas treat. Recently published, Memoirs of a Wonky-Eyed Man, by the same author, has been summed up concisely by his fellow comedian John Bishop as “Moving and funny on the same page.” The description is 100% accurate. In the prologue he lists ten of his ailments. He goes on to give us,

“Top five pieces of bullshit from Paddy. “ The “Paddy” is the late Paddy Byrne his father whom he dearly loved. Throughout the book he refers to him as “Paddy Lama” and takes the reader on a step-by-step journey of Paddy’s ideosyncricties, and ability to drink whiskey. He was known as Paddy Lama, ” . . . due to his amazing life wisdom” according to Jason. After Paddy’s death on 24th February 2020 the author wrote a play titled Paddy Lama, “All about dad in his shed in the back garden, the visits I would make and the knowledge I’d get back there. . . .He was like a smoking Irish guru that smelt of whiskey. I wanted to do the play so people would know who my dad was. He was a very special type of fella.”

Link with pic of Paddy as "Paddy Lama."

In the play he becomes Paddy Byrne, one of Paddy’s old jumpers, an important piece of the costume.

He describes the opening, “The lights go down and I now hear my mother’s voice in the venue. It’s a pre-recording of her talking about my dad, how his death has affected us all, how it has made us think about life. How delicate life is. How we should love life.”

In 357 action packed pages we are allowed into the minds and hearts of schoolmates, parents, siblings, teachers, employers and fellow artists, all done with laughter and tears, love and above all with honesty.

Each and every one of the headings is hilarious, from “Reasons why dad wouldn’t bring us on holidays” to “List of times I had to perform even though I was Bollixed.” There are seventy of them, all then explained in side- splitting or tear-jerking detail. Sometimes both.

Accounts of how Jason knew how to deal with pompous customers during the short time that he worked in Jury’s Hotel to the building of the Byrne’s extension when Paddy “almost won the Lotto” are all classics.

Over Christmas, this book will be like having an extremely funny, sensitive , highly-intelligent, honest and world renowned comedian residing full time in your home.

Only a true Dub could pay tribute to his late father whom he adored with the “curtain line”, “Paddy Byrne. The man that didn’t give a bollix.”

Memoirs of a Wonky-Eyed Man is published by Gill Books.

* * * * *

An Island Christmas

Micheál Ó Conghaile was born in 1962 on Inis Treabhair , but now lives Indreabhán, Co. Galway. He didn't speak English until aged 11. At the age of 23 he founded Irish-language publishing company Cló Iar-Chonnacht. It publishes books, music and spoken word albums. Many years ago when I presented ballad programmes on Radio tracks from Cló Iar-Chonnacht CDs were very popular.

Micheál founded it because many Conamara writers were still unpublished. He believes in the importance of both popular works and a high literary standard.

His work includes short stories, a novel, drama, poetry and history. He has translated Martin McDonagh's plays The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Lonesome West and his awards include The Butler Literary Award of the Irish American Cultural Institute (1997) and the 1997 Hennessy Literary Award for his short story "Athair". He was writer in residence at Queen's University, Belfast, and at the University of Ulster at Coleraine between 1999 and 2002. His works have been translated into Romanian, Croatian, Albanian, German and English.

When Micheál was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s his family welcomed the festive lights of Christmas on the remote Inis Treabhair. The island was known for its Yuletide traditions, and Ó Conghaile grew up listening to the tales of the ancients under starlit skies. Raised during an era of simplicity and wonder, his prose brims with the familiarity of yesteryears, painting family moments and island traditions from a time when electricity had not yet reached the shores. Beyond the festivity and lights, Ó Conghaile’s recollections serve as a poignant reminder of the enduring importance of family, community, and the magic of childhood. From a young boy’s eager fingers tapping on type- writer keys to the founder of the renowned Cló Iar-Chonnacht publishing house. His latest memoir is a testament to the voyage of a maestro of Irish letters. An Island Christmas takes us on a heartfelt journey of childhood memories of Christmas on Connemara's Inis Treabhair. Micheál Ó Conghaile reminisces on the unique traditions and customs of his island upbringing. If you grew up in rural Ireland in the mid-twentieth century this memoir, weaving tales of Christmas long ago, will bring you back if you are not too far gone. Or if you grew up in an urban environment, chapters titled Preparing for Christmas, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Between Two Christmases and The Typewriter will give you an insight into the early lives of your country cousins and convince you that their stories are not exaggerated.

An Island Christmas is published by Mercier Press and will add greatly to your Christmas.

Happy Christmas.

See you next year.

Click on the author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
This issue appears in the ezine at and also in the blog with the capability of adding comments at the latter.



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