‘Hail to the Chief’

Ever since I was a child I haven’t been able to help myself when it comes to sounding off.

The first such letter I wrote was to the RTÉ programme, Motley. It was a kids’  TV programme so I don’t know why they were discussing Finance Minister Charlie Haughey’s tax exemption scheme for writers and artists. Perhaps it was part of a news round up.  Anyhoo, they must have asked their junior viewers what they thought about it, because I seem to have expressed an opinion to whatever adult would listen to me.  I thought it was a great idea:  artists and writers should get tax breaks. Someone, probably my dad, said, Write and tell them. So I did. And they read my letter out on the television.

Reader, there was no stopping me after that.

Which leads me to texting radio shows. Sometimes, I shout at the radio and type out furious texts or social media posts. Then, I delete them – as there are times one shouldn’t become radio fodder. Or, I’ll engage and comment here and there. So, when someone asked was anyone watching the U.S. presidential debates, I offered up my ha’penny’s worth.

Which is how I ended up talking to Ryan Tubridy about the second debate and, in the process, extolling the virtue of the Tunnocks teacake.



They  asked me to chat about the third debate – but ran out of programme time. Then they rang the day before the election and asked if I’d be doing an all-nighter again. I sure was. And I’d be going for the Tunnocks teacakes again as treat of choice. Would I chat about it? I sure would:


Up at 1.30am again – Let the games begin! Poor CAT didn’t know whether she was coming or going. Over to her dish, and discovered it wasn’t breakfast time. To the front door, and discovered it was still the middle of the night.


In the end she stuck with me & CNN until dawn, by which time we all knew the outcome. He’d voted for himself, and made sure The Missus did too, by the looks of this:


Unfortunately, plenty more voted for him too. (Hillary won the popular vote, however!)

As a slightly older child, I wrote to President Childers’ widow when he died, and I received a lovely note from her. Imagine: being a kid and getting a black-edged envelope with the presidential crest on it.  As literary editor of the student newspaper in college, I wrote to our current President; requesting a poem for our Christmas issue. I had a lovely call from his personal assistant.

I’d write to the White House … but I’d end up with a permanent ‘Denied Entry’ stamp on my passport if I wrote what I really want to say. It would not “be a beautiful thing”. Bigly.

So, here’s this ha’penny’s worth: ‘Heil to the Chief’.

That’s SO not a typo.

We’ll leave it there.


Back to School for Me!

John Hewitt logo

You know yourself: “I’m just going out for milk, I won’t bother bringing the phone.”

Oops. A missed call from a number I didn’t recognise.

Well, it was only a call from Stephen at the John Hewitt Summer School, informing me that I’d won a full bursary to attend the school at the end of the month. Yahoo!

john hewitt poems

I’ve known about Hewitt, and had seen a documentary about him. My pal Ian has performed a one man show about the Northern Irish poet. I don’t know a great deal of his  work, however. Click here for biographical info on Hewitt, or here to listen to Seamus Heaney discussing a glossary of colloquial words from his poetry (from the archives of RTÉ).

Poster for Ian McElhinney's one man show about Hewitt
Poster for Ian McElhinney’s one man show about Hewitt

So – off I go on another adventure to Armagh town; where there will be creative writing classes, wonderful readings, lectures, music and, of course, lots of talking!

I’m so grateful to have been awarded a bursary. You can find out more about the John Hewitt Society and the Summer School by clicking here. I’ll post more about it when I get back.

I’ve never been to Armagh before. Now, where did I put my map, and the leftover sterling after my trip to Bellaghy … ?

book image john hewitt

Broadcast News!

Hello my lovelies!

Just to let you know that I will be talking to Rick O’Shea on RTÉ’s Poetry Programme. The show goes out at 7.30pm this Saturday 23 April on Radio 1.

In this week’s programme – just ahead of ANZAC Day – Australian poet Robyn Rowland will read from her collection This Intimate War:Gallipoli/Çanakkale 1915. You can find out more about Robyn here.

I will be taking a look at an anthology of women’s verse & poetry from World War 1 – Scars Upon My Heart. The interview briefly looks at the range of work, women’s roles in WWI and we read three of the poems from the anthology. The collection was edited by Catherine Reilly and first published in 1981 by Virago. It was republished in 2006 and is available to buy online:  Virago imprints: here .    Amazon: here .

I hope you will listen in – I’d love to get some feedback! If you can’t catch the programme live on Saturday, you can always listen back on the RTÉ Radio Player            See you on the radio!

scars upon my heart