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It has been the most dramatic Presidential election ever, with seven candidates finally lining up to go before the electorate. Among them is former Minister for the Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Michael D Higgins. So who is the man about whom The Sawdoctors wrote ‘Michael D Rockin In The Dail’? And if he does find favour with the electorate, what kind of presidency can we expect from him?
Olaf Tyaransen, 19 Oct 2011
You were born in 1941. What’s your earliest memory?
My earliest memory is probably of walking with my mother from William St in Limerick up towards the public park near Janesborough. I was very young at the time. And there are other memories associated with Limerick, where I was born. I do have a strong memory of the day that my father collapsed and had to go to hospital and I’ve written about these in poems like ‘Dark Memories’. These are Limerick memories, really early on, before the age of five. I have also written about another memory, which is about the drive at evening from Limerick City out to Co. Clare where I would spend 19 years – full of rural intimacies, cattle, and all the little tasks that go into small farming. What is interesting to me is how when these memories surface later, it is often the rural images that have come most easily to mind.
With a title like ‘Dark Memories’, I’m presuming they’re not especially happy memories.
I think that I realised much later how traumatic it must have been for my mother in particular to see myself and my brother leaving when I was five and he was four. My father’s health had been badly damaged by his part in the civil war and the war of independence, before I was born, because he and my uncle slept outside a great deal. He collapsed one day. My sisters who are twins are just a year and bit older than me, and my brother is just fifteen months younger. My uncle and aunt who had no children of their own – they’re from Co. Clare – said they would take the two boys to give my mother a chance to get on with things. Much later my mother and father and two sisters came to live with us in Clare. I think my mother had it harder than anybody else because her one aim in life was to have a house. I think she was more interested in respectability, perhaps, than my father, who I think held a certain amount of frustration and anger at all he had been put through. I still feel to this day very strongly about how his contribution and the contribution of others like him was sometimes forgotten.