|Micheal O Gruagain|
Micheal O Gruagain was one such person. We met through his son Diarmuid, a good friend, who worked with me on union matters and workplace relations cases. Diarmuid would drive him over to the local pub in Drogheda where we would chat. If we didn’t have a meal in the outside dining area it would be a coffee in the bar for him and a whiskey for me. To me it is a sacrilege not to drink alcohol in bar, but I’m judging no one else on it! Diarmuid is not averse to a beer, just not when driving.
I loved the few sessions we had. Micheal was not a man to suffer fools gladly and was not slow to disabuse others of some notion that he felt didn’t merit much consideration. Even Diarmuid did not escape the sharpness of his tongue or wit when he ventured an opinion Micheal did not consider worthwhile. Family being family it was given and taken in good spirit. Diarmuid would just smile at me as if there was nothing new under the sun.
Both Micheal and his wife had a keen intellect, which Diarmuid obviously inherited. They all loved to read. On a drive back from Dublin one wet Saturday afternoon, she and I had this lengthy conversation about literature which enthralled me. I had hoped that at some point I might entice Micheal into doing a Booker’s Dozen, which Diarmuid had already done but his health was failing. One of the last books Diarmuid got for him was The Misogynous President by Kevin Morley, detailing the woes and wickedness of Ronald Crump. From his conversation with me I am not sure he thought it a good idea to be reading anything with a hint of Donald Trump to it. I didn’t volunteer that I had recommended it!
His hospitalization took place during the height of Covid so any opportunity to visit him was denied those outside family. Diarmuid would be there regularly and kept me informed of his condition. There was never any progress to report. He had that sort of illness which is a one-way system. The most I could do was the occasional text or card.
When Paul Clark of UTV lost his father to cancer, he declined to describe the experience as the father losing the battle to cancer. His reasoning was that once his father died, the cancer did also. He concluded that the outcome was a form of draw. I suppose the older the person is the easier it becomes to take that type of attitude. We reach a stage in life where there really is nowhere else to go. With Micheal, his alert mind, his sharp intelligence, it just didn’t seem to me that he had run out of road. The illness prevented him journeying any further along it.
When we met in the pub. we talked about his illness and dying, and as he had an intelligent religious belief rather than an idiotic fundamentalist one, he did feel there was something other than this life. I had no intention of disabusing him of that idea, despite having no belief in it. How people get through the night of their lives, I am easy with.
His family summed Micheal up:
Micheal's great passion was the stage, and in his life after the civil service he moved from being an accomplished amateur to having a professional acting career. Many of you may remember him in the lotto ad as the farmer with a cordon Bleu team of chefs at home preparing dinner.
He read extremely widely and would rarely refuse a book, though he would never spare brutal criticism where deserved.
He always read avidly about theatre, especially when he was studying for an MA in Theatre Studies in DCU. By the time he got to know Anthony, illness had taken him off the stage, but it never took the actor out of him.
It never took the wit out of him either nor his sharp perception.
Our lives are always so much richer as a result of the people we meet. The best of them we need only know for a short period. Micheal was such a man.
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