AS well as being a tailor, Dan Callaghan was part of the very fabric of life in his East Cork community, recording much of it for posterity in his writings.
Now the late Dan’s granddaughter has produced a book made up of his writings in the Inch/Killeagh community
“He was a big-wig,” says Mary, who has launched My Humorous Pen, a treasure trove of poetry, song and laughter.
“I think his ability to stitch a patchwork of words together with his pen, far outweighed his ability to stitch with his needle!” says Mary.
Dan was secretary of the Killeagh parish council, an ardent promoter of drama amongst the amateurs of the district, and reported on local matters for the Youghal Tribune and the Dungarvan Observer, including GAA, concerts, minutes from the parish council, and obituaries. He liked being entertaining too.
“He often wrote his pieces in verse,” says Mary. “He entered competitions on the Cork Weekly, winning cash prizes of 10 shillings for his humorous writings.”
Dan spent his winnings wisely. “He bought his beloved writing desk from his winnings,” says Mary.
During her research, she got a golden glimpse of her native Ballinteosig in bygone days when she trawled through old scrapbooks belonging to her mother, which proved to be precious heirlooms.
“To have a scrapbook at that time was very popular,” says Mary, who started her labour of love 20 years ago, collecting her grandfather’s writings, rhymes, ruminations and recitations.
“Mam’s scrapbooks were full of newspaper cuttings of her father’s work, his rhymes, recitations, poems, articles and news reports — stretching back to the 1920s.
“On summer visits of neighbours, cousins and friends, now far way, the ‘scrapbooks’ came out and were enjoyed by all.
“From the old cupboard near the fire, the one where dampness never got to, Mam would reach into the back corner and bring out tattered old ledgers and place them on the kitchen table. She kneeled on the stool, to give herself a more commanding view of the long sheets, and then, almost ceremoniously, pages were turned tenderly. Lines were read aloud, smiles and memories recalled, and inevitably there were tears. To our childish minds, these ledgers always seemed to make Mam cry.”
So why did she bother with them?
“She told us they were her treasure,” says Mary. “Her scrap books. Some day we would understand.”
Mary now does understand. She took up the mantle of unravelling her grandfather’s rich legacy of writings, containing news, fact, fiction and farce.
“Even though my grandfather had died some years before I was born, I felt I knew him,” she says. “I can almost see the glint in his eye.”
The ledgers were dog-eared and yellowing. Yet the pages held precious tales of a traditional way of living; a way of being.
Mary’s book tells the fascinating tale of the scrapbooks and of the literary gems they contained.
“The books were old and the binding falling apart. So now, one book might be in four pieces, Mam’s generous nature would loan pieces so that favourite poems could be copied down,” says Mary. “Over the years, she lost sight of who had what. Her treasure dwindled, but not the love of the father’s work.
“The passage of time has brought a realisation and appreciation of the ‘treasure’ that my Mam spoke of so long ago. And within these pages; that treasure shines.”
The pages come alive as the reader rambles through Dan Callaghan’s epic penmanship, conjuring up magical nostalgic memories.
“Check out the news reports, relive a match or two when the team colours were black and white,” says Mary. “Enjoy his letters and his love stories. See Inch and Killeagh through lenses of bygone days.”
What was this man, a prominent member of his community and who was an outstanding character amongst the ‘journalistic’ members of his day, really like?
“On one occasion, I asked Mam to describe her father in one sentence,” says Mary. “And almost without thinking she replied; “He was a decent man who did a lot of good and very little harm in his life. A fitting epitaph.”
Dan, a very genial personality, with a wide sense of humour, would be no doubt be delighted that his book containing his writings was launched in his native parish by one of his own.
“His news and clever rhymes are to be enjoyed,” says Mary. “His words paint pictures of times that are past, but times that he makes possible for us to visit, and to fondly remember.
“Most importantly, never let this book down without a smile in your heart.”
My Humorous Pen: The Writings Of Dan ‘The Tailor’ Callaghan, collected by Mary Flavin Colbert, is available for €15 from O’Neills shop Killeagh, Read and Write, Youghal, and Crees card shop, Youghal.
Also the book can be purchased directly from the facebook page ‘My Humorous Pen’, and from Mary on 086 0784508. Profits from the sales are donated to Inch Community Centre.
Verse from ‘Changes I Have Seen’, by Dan Callaghan.
I’m a good while in the world and some changes I have seen,
Although outside Munster vales I’ve very seldom been
But, I sometimes read the paper, and the neighbours give the news,
And I’m filled with admiration at the systems now in use.
Fifteen or twenty years ago, we took things as they came,
We’d not even spray the gardens, and the weather we would blame
When the blight came down upon them, and the stalks would withered lie;
If you’d squeeze a boiled potato, from its coat t’would jump on high;
But the ways of cultivation are improving day by day,
And July will soon be talked of as the month of flying spray.