Linda O'Reilly with Dillon, Pauline and Vanessa Flood at the launch of Pauline's poetry book 'Me in a Nutshell'. Photo: Michelle Ghee
Pauline Flood recently published her first book - a poetry book entitled ‘Me in a Nutshell’. But this Edgeworthstown native is a woman of many talents and her list of achievements don’t just include this latest publication; she has written plays for the Mostrim Players, is a founder member of Comhaltas in Co Longford and has spent her life promoting Scór countywide and nationally.
But as is stated in the book’s title, that’s only the ‘nutshell’ of what this Longford woman is all about and this week she talks to the Longford Leader from the heart about her life, passions and those rare moments of joy that are often found in the smallest of things!
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First off she speaks candidly about her book which serves as a way for her to bring stories and rhymes that she has heard over the years to life.
There is serious inspiration within the covers and as she says herself, “I always wanted to write a book”.
She even credits the late great Co Monaghan poet Patrick Kavanagh with the sprinkling of some of that inspiration upon her.
“Ever since I was going to Glen National School, I have wanted to write a book,” she says, before pointing out there is more to come from this Longford woman who is bursting with spirit and character.
“I think the inspiration came from the great teachers I had there - Ken Sheridan and Lucy Quinn who was the sister of the great poet Patrick Kavanagh; Patrick Kavanagh came into Glen school for a week one time when Lucy Quinn was off sick,” she smiles, recalling those days with fondness.
“At the time Kavanagh wrote down 10 or 12 lines of a poem that hadn’t been published. That poem was never published actually but to this day I can recite it off by heart.”
Pauline has a huge grá for short stories and history; she loves researching family history and had gone back eight generations in her own family tree.
“For me this poetry book has brought all my loves and interests together,” she adds, before pointing out that when she was researching her family tree, she discovered that her maternal family came from Boyle, Co Roscommon and that prior to that they hailed from Scotland and France (Delameres).
“On my father’s side they were always Irish - O’Neills; I even went as far back as Tyrone and to the O’Neills and O’Donnells there.”
Meanwhile, ‘Me in a Nutshell’ is a poetry and short story book that is deep and emotional at one level and humours and pensive at another.
It’s hard not to see the Patrick Kavanagh influences on occasion within the pages!
“I’m a deep thinker, I suppose,” says Pauline, before adding that when one comes up against “sad situations” it provides food for thought.
Some of her musings examine the harsh reality of living in poverty and the plight of single mothers.
“I often think of lone parents back in the day and how mothers would sell their body just to make money to put food on the table for their child,” she says.
“The sad part is that women were out trying to earn money to rear their kids and that was the reality for some women.
“Desperation I suppose drove them in that direction.”
Pauline has also written a number of short stories which she describes as “sad”.
“They are about childbirth, children dying and the mother’s father dying that same week,” she continues.
“This was a story that I heard once and so I put it down on paper; there are also other stories about growing up and the fun we had.”
Meanwhile, Pauline and her two brothers were raised by their grandparents when their own parents were forced to work in the UK because of the depths of unemployment in this country.
And while it was tough, it was also a very funny childhood, she confirms.
“In the 1960s my mother and father had to go over to London for work; there was no work here and they had children to feed.
“The grandmother looked after us at home.”
While feeling anger towards her parents “at times” for leaving them behind, Pauline says there wasn’t a lot of time to dwell on it either, and people just simply “got on with things” in those days.
“Eventually my parents got good jobs and then they got a good house in London, they came back for us, but I wouldn’t go with them,” she laughs looking back on those days long gone now.
“I think I was about five or six at the time and I didn’t want to go to live in London because I had grown used to my young aunt who was 16 at the time, and my grandmother, rearing me.”
She remembers her aunt having to come back to London with the family because “that was the only way they were going to get me over there”.
The siblings spent a couple of years in London but fate intervened and two years later the family came home and Pauline and her brothers were enrolled at Glen NS.
“It was the finest school - it was a happy childhood and my school days were happy,” she adds.
“The whole family was back in Edgeworthstown at that stage but I remember on several occasions after that, both my mother and father went back to London for work leaving their whole family behind.
“I remember actually that when it came around to Holy Communion and Confirmation time, our father would go over to work in London so that we would have money to get the clothes for those occasions.
“Times were tough; I remember us getting the free milk and the free butter too. There was no work in Ireland during those times.”
Pauline, though, feels that she was one of the lucky ones in that she went on to further her education after national school.
She enrolled at Longford Vocational School and completed her Leaving Certificate.
At the time too she was writing for Kairos Magazine, a very popular religious publication in 1970s and ‘80s Ireland.
She didn’t pursue third level education thereafter, but instead got married, and she and her husband settled down in her native Edgeworthstown.
Together the couple went on to have four children - Linda, Vanessa, Emmet and Dillon. “Emmet plays with his own band Rhythm and Sticks, writes all his own material and travels the length and breath of Ireland bringing his songs to life in front of the masses,” continues Pauline.
Vanessa, meanwhile is a very well known Choreographer and actress; Linda is the Editor of the Anglo Celt and Dillon works in the building trade.
“I have 11 grandchildren and they are all accomplished musicians,” the Edgeworthstown woman adds with pride.
After Pauline’s marriage ended she returned to education and studied Family History in Maynooth; thereafter she obtained for herself a BA in English and Communications.
The local woman is also very involved with Comhaltas not just in Edgeworthstown but across the entire county of Longford and currently holds the position of chairperson.
“I must be nearly 30 years with Comhaltas,” she says, pointing out that she was one of the founding members of the organisation in the county.
“We got people in who knew about music and it just flourished from there. As chairperson I’m there when decisions have to be made or when questions need to be answered.”
Then, 16 years ago, Pauline alongside her son and daughter established a music school in Edgeworthstown.
The classes became very popular and the whole effort went from strength to strength.
“Now several parishes in the county have set up their own music schools and it is fantastic to see this happening, and to see the interest and appetite that is out there for Irish music now,” she smiles.
“We passed on what we knew to everyone and that has paid off; I used to play the button accordion, guitar and keyboard, but now I’m afraid I’m a bit rusty!”
“I love singing and still sing plenty! I like to see the teachers in the schools now teaching the music and that allows me to sit back and listen - that is what I love.”
In 2005, Pauline Flood became Longford Person of the Year. It is a title that she holds dear.
And, modest as she is, she says she got the award because of her volunteering efforts in the community.
In the past, Pauline has been associated with Scor, the GAA, Foroige and senior citizens.
She has also written and directed plays for the Edgeworthstown drama group, ‘Mostrim Players’, many of which have brought the house down.
She has also worked at Shannonside FM for nearly 20 years.
“The friends I made in Shannonside over the years have been incredible; the people that came and went through the station and are now working in RTÉ and elsewhere has been brilliant to see; it’s a wonderful place to work - I feel very relaxed in Shannonside and there is great camaraderie there.
“You get an education there - before I started working in Shannonside, I knew nothing about politics or current affairs; it was something that I wasn’t that interested in, but now I feel I know a lot about everything that’s going on.
“It really was a learning process for me.”
Meanwhile, ‘Me in a Nutshell’ is the first published title for Pauline, who feels she must crawl before she walks when it comes to the world of writing.
The poetry book is in memory of her father and all proceeds raised will go to palliative care here in Longford.
Also in the pipeline are two more books, one of which, Pauline adds, “is half written”.
“One is fact, one is fiction and I’m going to get started on those now,” she smiles.
Meanwhile, she plans to keep promoting the Irish music and supporting the Mostrim Players.
“I have lots more to do when it comes to writing and I also want to pass on all my knowledge to my grandchildren. I want then to become the best people they can be.”