Life begins again after leaving classroom

Having taught drama in Cork city schools for three decades, Eva O’Mahony took up an exciting new career, after retirement, writes CHRIS DUNNE, who also chats to retired teacher Brendan Griffin about his new profession.
Life begins again after leaving classroom
Eva O’Mahony, right and her daughter Louise.

WHEN Eva O’Mahony, retired from teaching drama after 35 years; she graduated to a new stage in her life.

“Two things happened to make me want to embark on a Family Celebrant Course,” says Eva, from Sundays Well, who has three grown-up children.

“A family friend undertook the course two years ago, and it opened up a new career for her. Her face lit up when she spoke about being a celebrant. It struck a chord with me.”

Eva, not ready to head into the sunset quite yet, and possessing skills in creativity, communication, and giving presentations, decided to make the transition to a promising, equally satisfying career as a Family Celebrant.

“I’d been self-employed all my life, teaching drama in four Cork schools,” says Eva.

“So that was nothing new to me. Becoming a celebrant was something I felt I could do. After years of drama, I wasn’t shy!

Eva used to teach at St Joseph’s National School at the Mardyke, Scoil An Spioraid Naoimh Girls School in Bishopstown, and also St Catherine’s National School in Bishopstown.

There was support from lots of quarters when she took up her new venture.

“My husband, Don, was very supportive.”

He could also be of use in his wife’s new venture. Eva laughs.

“Don is a jeweller and an engraver. So yes, he could supply the marriage or promise rings if needs be!”

What was the second thing that influenced Eva to explore working life beyond the blackboard?

“My daughter, Louise, was planning to get married,” says Eva.

“Unfortunately, her future mother-in-law, Liz, was seriously ill and it didn’t look like she would make the wedding. The ceremony had to be arranged within a week if she was to attend. There was a very small window, to arrange things.”

Another family friend, Sean Ceallnáin, stepped up to the plate to perform the civil ceremony.

“Sean knew us all well and he put together a beautiful ceremony, personal to the couple, Louise and Paudie,” says Eva.

“I said to Sean, they could be years planning their wedding and this is what you have done. It was perfect.

“We had a small family reception at Hayfield Manor, who pulled out all the stops at short notice. It was a beautiful day. ”

The wonderful experience of the precious, unique day when Louise married Paudie, prompted Eva to sign up with the IIOC (Irish Institute of Celebrants) so that she could conduct special, memorable ceremonies for others.

She didn’t waste any time in pursuing her new path.

“I retired on June 23, 2018 and I started the course a week later, on June 30.” Eva committed to her new career with enthusiasm.

“It was a six month course held monthly in Dublin at Saturdays,” she says.

“I met wonderful, interesting people on the course, who were all training in the craft of ceremony to mark the milestones and transitions in the lives of individuals and communities.”

Eva, as a Family Celebrant, creates the ceremony especially for the people concerned, be it for a wedding, a funeral, or a naming ceremony.

“I create a ceremony that reflects the couple’s beliefs and philosophy of life, including personal stories and their own personalities. It is all about the couple, or in the case of a funeral, all about the deceased.”

Eva had homework to do.

“One of the assignments we had to do, when practising writing scripts, was to write our own funeral,” says Eva.

Was that surreal?

“You know, it is an exercise that is useful for everyone,” says Eva. “It really focuses on you and what you want and how you’d like to be seen. It is also less worry for the people who are in a state of grief who have then one less thing to worry about. It is a wise thing to do, not a morbid one.”

Eva says she can conduct a ceremony any place, anywhere, but she doesn’t sign the marriage register.

“That has to be done by a humanist, a spiritualist, a Pagan or a Druid, or a Registrar,” she adds. “I perform the ceremony the couple have chosen to celebrate their union. I have total freedom to create the appropriate ceremony and I go by whatever the couple or the individuals want. I meet the people and find out their story and then I create a unique love story for them when they marry each other. Equally, I create a unique story to honour a loved one.”

Now that we are becoming a more secular society, more options are available to mark important milestones.

“There is no agenda,” says Eva. “I am led by what the people want. Now people can choose what they want. I can offer that. I can offer that magical bubble in time.”

What did she want when she tied the knot 36 years ago?

“I wanted to walk down the aisle!”

Contact Eva: evaomahony@yahoo.co.uk

Brendan Griffin, who is a retired Midleton school teacher, has been writing new scripts for many years.
Brendan Griffin, who is a retired Midleton school teacher, has been writing new scripts for many years.

FROM TEACHER TO PLAYWRIGHT

Brendan Griffin, who is a retired Midleton school teacher, has been writing new scripts for many years.

“I recall the fun, the energy, the collaboration, and the amazing moments on stage when I started my playwriting apprenticeship with the Cork Arts Theatre in the 1980s,” says Brendan, who used to teach Business at Midleton CBS.

“I competed in their one-act play competitions and the experience started my love of the stage.”

He has had two award-winning short films, Rolla Soar, and An Duil, several radio plays, produced by RTÉ radio, and he won the P.J. O’Connor Radio Award for The String.

Brendan has the freedom now to focus and pursue his writing, giving it his best shot.

“I remember in my local Toastmaster’s group, being asked as a topic at a meeting, “apart from your family, what would you save from a house fire?” says Brendan.

“I answered; I would save copies of my plays. Even if the plays were unproduced, they still represented months, years, of hard work and had to be saved from extinction!”

His latest play, A Thousand Moments of Extraordinary Pleasure featuring Malcolm Adams and Mark D’Aughton, is produced by the Cork Arts Theatre from February 4 to 16.

Brendan began his relationship with plays as a young schoolteacher in Enniscorthy, County Wexford.

“There wasn’t much to do in the evenings in Enniscorthy,” he says.

“And all blow-ins somehow ended up in the local amateur drama group. It was my first taste of drama and I loved the whole world of it.”

Brendan saw a production of Hugh Leonard’s Da by Gorey Drama Group in an amateur drama competition and for the first time, he saw the power a play could hold.

“I was hooked,” he adds.

Brendan stated his writing apprenticeship when he wrote plays for Cork Arts Theatre one-act play competitions and RTÉ’s P.J. O’Connor Radio Awards.

“There was an amateur element to both outlets,” he explains. “A freedom to try, to collaborate, but mostly they provided an opportunity to get work done and to grow as a writer.

“It was a relaxed atmosphere for all of us, the director, the writer, the actors, and it was a lot of fun.”

Brendan pursued his passion for stage and screen in his spare time after school and at weekends.

“I spent years writing plays, digging deeper holes, trying to find a way for it to make any sense — only to fail.”

Every time he failed; he failed better: “With age, comes an urgency to be sharper,” says Brendan. “And to be clearer; to get things right. I recall a quote by a famous fashion designer: ‘I am happy to make mistakes; but I want to make them quickly!’”

Where does he get his inspiration for plots and his characters from?

“As a playwright, you are always looking for interesting relationships to explore,” says Brendan.

“You want to lock people together in a room and see what happens. In A Thousand Moments of Extraordinary Pleasure, I thought the relationship between two men, one a cross-dresser, would be interesting to explore.”

Since, he retired from teaching; Brendan can concentrate more on his playwriting passion outside of the classroom. “For four years, writing is my new occupation,” says Brendan. “I have the opportunity and the ability now to focus on writing, not like in previous years. I can be much more productive.”

Has he learned anything new? Brendan laughs.

“Now, I back up all my work on the cloud so that in the event of a fire I can look about for something else to save, apart from my play scripts!”

It’s full marks all round. Brendan has found his forte. “I can be at my best,” he says.

A Thousand Moments of Extraordinary Pleasure by Brenda Griffin opened at Cork Arts Theatre last Monday and runs until Sunday February 16, excluding Sunday the 10th.

Tickets can be purchased from Cork Arts Theatre Box Office, online at corkartstheatre.com or by phone: 021-450 5624.

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