For me, one of the most satisfying elements when writing a book is the opportunity to travel and meet interesting people. And in Ireland there is no shortage of entertaining characters ready to spin a yarn or two, which is manna to writers!
One such occasion earlier this year was a visit to Donegal where I was researching material on the Famine period, 1845-1850, for my third Timecrack novel.
In the hotel where my wife and I were staying it came to the notice of the receptionist I was writing a fantasy story, part of which would take place in Dunfanaghy, a small town further along the coast. After a few probing questions by the lady on what I hoped to learn about the area, she insisted that I should speak to Brendan Rohan, the owner of a tourist hostel complex outside the town. She was so confident that Brendan would be a useful contact for me that she phoned him later that evening, and the result was an arrangement to meet him the next day.
It turned out to be a fortuitous introduction to one of the most interesting men I have ever met. Brendan is a man of many parts: After serving twenty years in the Irish Army, he retired with the rank of commandant and purchased an old mill, which he proceeded to build into a successful tourist accommodation business in one of the most beautiful places on the western Irish coast.
A yachtsman, he spends time during the winter on his sailing boat in the Canary Islands where he catches up on his reading and writing (a man after my own heart!) He has written several short stories and is the author of a Dunfanaghy local tourist guide; and somewhere along the way managed to pick up a private pilot’s licence. All of which seems to have led to what was possibly his most imaginative project: the commemoration of a WW2 humanitarian act by both sides of the local community, in helping the crew of an RAF Lockheed Hudson that had crash landed on the nearby Killyhoey beach.
Brendan has written of the incredible efforts he went to in securing support for building a memorial on the beach, in memory of the brave young airmen, who, with the help of the community, were able to fly once again. They flew from the beach to continue their intended journey from Gander, Newfoundland to Prestwick, Scotland; a journey which many of their fellow airmen did not survive.
I have since visited the memorial, which is a beautifully executed sculpture based on an Irish legend called Children of Lir, which tells of four young children turned into swans by their wicked step-mother. It is now a steel and stone symbolic gesture to the young airmen, as suggested by Brendan.
As an aviation enthusiast I was intrigued by Brendan’s story – and one I heartily recommend – but it is also a tribute to the people of a small coastal village who came together to help others in need. It also includes a wonderful collection of full colour photographs, which contribute to an absorbing read
The title of Brendan’s book is On a Wing and a Prayer available from:
Brendan M. Rohan. Comdt (retd)
Phone: 00353 (0) 74 9136409.