Last weekend I found myself looking at Paul O’Grady as he travelled around South Africa trying to help injured or orphaned animals get homes.
For nine seasons, O’Grady has been visiting Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, helping to re-home animals that have found themselves homeless (and often in great distress). It is one of the best-loved documentary series’ on TV, and has had several nominations for top awards – winning the National TV Award for Most Popular Serial Drama in 2018.
What makes all of this newsworthy is that O’Grady (whose father Paddy was born down the road in Ballincurry, Glinsk, and who still has close relations living there) made his name in the 1990s, when as a drag artist his character Lily Savage was a huge hit on national television.
As Lily, Paul replaced Paula Yates as presenter of The Big Breakfast in 1994. In later years he successfully hosted Blankety Blank, following in the very large footsteps of Terry Wogan and Les Dawson. By now he was in huge demand and earning serious money, buying a house in Kent for £650,000, where he had a bit of land on which to keep various animals.
However, his new-found fame and resulting wealth did not sit well with the star. For a time he suffered from clinical depression. He recovered to do the Royal Variety Show with Cilla Black and Barbara Windsor, a programme with an audience of more than twelve million people. By now he had grown tired of his Lily character and was intent on being a serious actor and presenter.
In 2002, Paul suffered a heart attack. He missed the Heritage Foundation Awards ceremony, at which he was to have been awarded the TV Personality of the Year Award. In the intervening years, he had his own Paul O’Grady Show on ITV, until in 2006 he had a second massive heart attack (major surgery was required).
In 2012, ‘For the love of Dogs’ first aired. It is now in its ninth series, still hugely popular and showing no sign of ending.
And so, in a notoriously difficult profession, hats off to the ‘Glinsk man’ who changed his career path entirely and ended up being a success for a second time. It’s hard enough do it once – fair play to him for managing it twice.
On Sunday evening I saw a programme on RTÉ – DIY SOS – where a number of volunteers finished off a house that had been started by a man called Michael Barry in Dundrum, Co. Tipperary. Tragically, Michael passed away before he got a chance to finish it, leaving behind a wife (Sinead), three young children, and a house, that while started was really only a shell.
Construction workers from all over the country provided their work and craftsmanship for free, and in nine days they turned the shell into a most beautiful home. It was a very emotional programme – hugely uplifting – and a credit to all who gave up their time to bring the whole project to a wonderful conclusion.
If I’m not mistaken, Glinsk was represented there as well, as I’m sure I spotted Stephen Brennan, a recent Creggs GAA team manager, among the volunteers. Well done Stephen, and fair play to you and all the other workers.
Musings on these
More musings on Creggs Harvest Festival: In sport (and in life?) they say discipline and structure are important. For the last few years (when the festival’s been on) I have gone out on Saturday nights, but no matter what the attractions might be I have religiously stayed in on Sunday night (discipline) in order to be fit and well for the Bank Holiday Monday – the day when the fair, pudding competition, craft fair, and loads more takes place, culminating in music sessions in the pubs when (as the song says) the craic is ninety.
On the Monday morning, I would hit for Creggs at around 10 am (structure) and by then the street would be full. The stalls (selling everything from tools to clothes, shoes, toys, CDs, DVDs, pictures, mirrors and furniture) would already be set up. John Whyte, Eddie Gavin and Brendan Noone (among others) would be there with their horses, asses, mules and ponies, and even at that hour the atmosphere would be electric.
This morning, nearly out of habit, I headed to the village. I drove up through the almost-deserted street, put on my mask and went into Mikeen’s to get the paper. I spoke to Sarah, who was working there, said hello to some other lad that I didn’t know because of the mask, and for the first time after seven months (I admit I might be a bit slow), I began to really reflect on the awful consequences of this pandemic.
I think we have all put on our bravest face and put up with things that we normally would never have to. However, I am beginning to sense that people are getting more restless, and are less inclined to go along with all the new regulations.
On Friday, the second day of the new lockdown, I was in Roscommon town, and the difference between the first lockdown in March and the new one was stark. In March, the town was almost totally deserted. On Friday, it was buzzing.
There were people everywhere, and in one way it’s hard to blame them. At the same time though, if most of us are doing our best to obey the guidelines, it is very hard to accept that you can have a shebeen in Co. Kildare (complete with a full-sized pool table) being frequented by customers, while the local pub – fully licensed, insured, and regulation-compliant – has to stay closed.
With rural pubs closed, you would hope that the proprietors of such an unlicensed den would be made to pay dearly for their cheek.
Initially, people said that we were all in this together. Seven months later, with the virus getting more and more prevalent, are people beginning to question whether or not we will ever see the back of it? And if not, what’s the point of all these recurring lockdowns?
Anyway, on this Bank Holiday Monday the virus has won – our festival isn’t on. I find myself all alone sitting at the kitchen table, sad and depressed (not really) and looking forward to this time next year.
In the meantime, I think it is only right and proper to do what we are supposed to do – behave responsibly. Please God on December 1st we will be released from this captivity and I will once more sit on a high stool in Joe Dolan’s or Mikeen’s. (Lads – please make sure the Guinness taps are kept in perfect working order!).
Great sport on TV
For someone who is a sport fanatic (me) the biggest and best difference with this lockdown is the fact that elite and professional sport has been allowed to continue, and we now have greater telly coverage than ever before.
Last weekend, there was GAA (both football and hurling) international and PRO 14 rugby, horse racing, motor racing, soccer and loads more to keep even the most committed sports fan happy.
This weekend will be even more exciting. Now I’m sure there are people out there that are not over the moon with all this sport, but even they will admit it’s better to live with someone who is excited about what’s coming down the line in sporting terms, than with a long-faced grouch who is constantly grumbling about the lockdown!
A friend told me this morning that as he can’t spend any money in the pub at the moment, he has just got in BT Sport, Sky Sports, Eir Sports and any other sports channels he can find. He said it helps keep him sane. With mental health so important during these times, I fully understand, so is it time for the Government to give us all these channels for free? I am only joking – but sport is definitely a release for an awful lot of us.
Farewell to one
of the area’s last
Finally for this week, I was saddened to hear of the recent death of Tulsk’s Paddy Moffitt, a man I was privileged to know for the best part of forty years. He was undoubtedly one of the area’s last great characters.
Paddy was one of those men about whom countless stories were told; some were made up, some exaggerated, some true, but all were very entertaining. There can be little doubt that the world he leaves behind will be a good deal duller for his passing.
I first got to know him way back in 1979, and while I didn’t meet Paddy that often, every time I did I came away feeling the world wasn’t such a bad place at all. He had a positive outlook on everything and had that same effect on people.
To his family I express my deepest sympathies; we won’t see his likes again. May he rest in peace.