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Writing Since I was a Child by Charles Gannon

Writing.ie | Magazine | Tell Your Own Story | Writing & Me
Charles Gannon

Charles Gannon

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I’ve been writing since I was a child, though most of what I did at first was of very poor quality! As I have always been a careful reader, I wrote stories and short novels that were heavily based on books that I had read and enjoyed. Later I produced a school magazine which ran to all of three issues, in which I put articles about various things that I had read about and had interested me. While in my teens I wrote a couple of illustrated children’s books that a friend kindly posted to a few major publishers in the USA. Although they were never published, I received high praise for what I had written.
As most of what I read after school and during my working career was fact rather than fiction – science, astronomy, different cultures and religions, history, biography and autobiography – I decided to write a biography about my late father, Cathal Gannon, who was a harpsichord maker and antique piano restorer. After several years I completed it and submitted to the Lilliput Press here in Dublin. The book was printed and launched in RTÉ in 2006. I then embarked on another biography, this time about the late John Beckett, a musician, composer, conductor and a cousin of the famous Samuel Beckett. It took me about seven years to complete my research, and I wrote the book over a period of ten years. Once again, the book was published by the Lilliput Press and launched in 2017, this time in the Royal Irish Academy of Music, where John had once taught music. Naturally, these rather specialized books sold in the hundreds rather than the thousands and, as the publisher had demanded money from me, I never broke even – not that I was interested in making a profit.
As I have always been interested in foreign travel, I recently decided to write about three treks I had made in the mid 1980s, to Ladakh, Bhutan and Tibet – all in and around the Himalayas. As the Lilliput Press was not interested in this, I sent it to another publisher, who has kept my typescript for about one and a half years and has never contacted me one way or the other.
When the Covid-19 pandemic began last year and travel became impossible, I thought about how I would fill my time, as I was now retired. I hit on the idea of writing about my travels, starting with a three-month cycling holiday in 1982 from Dublin to Venice, and circulating it via email among members of my extended family and friends. I called this adventure ‘Eastward Ho!’ and, having studied the style of writing travel books by other authors, decided to bring the adventure to life by writing it in the present tense, so that the reader was almost inside my head, seeing and experiencing everything around me as it was happening. It wasn’t exactly a Joycean stream of consciousness, but something close to it. As well as describing everything in detail, I supplied historical asides in order to put things into context. However, I balanced this erudition with occasional touches of humour. I left nothing out and included a little bit of romance to keep the reader’s curiosity going. Now and then I threw in references to slightly obscure works of literature as a challenge to the reader. I also scanned slides that I had taken during the trip, and illustrated the account with colour photos. A university-trained friend of mine kindly proofread the text for me – a must for every writer, as most authors fail to see their own mistakes!
As the project kept me busy and my adventure went down well with everyone who read it, I decided to write another travelogue: this time a trip in 1984 by the Trans Siberian Express from Moscow to Japan, which I called ‘Eastward Again!’ Although some of my readers found themselves a little out of their depth, those who read my account found it quite fascinating.
It was at this stage that I decided to create a website and put my writings – and writings by others – on it for all to read, free of charge. I launched the website, tripsandtravelogues.com in February this year; so far it has done fairly well and I’ve received praise for its design and content. Once I had got the website up and running, I managed to get a few others to submit travelogues and I set about re-writing the text for my three Himalayan treks, which I re-titled In High Places. I’m now starting a new project: a description of three holidays spent in China, in 1977, 1987 and 1989. I was in the country when the appalling Tiananmen Square massacre took place in 1987 – but fortunately I was not in Beijing when it happened. In 1988 I went along the Silk Route into Xinjiang Province, where the Chinese are now treating the local Uighur people so badly.

(c) Charles Gannon

About Cathal Gannon: The Life and Times of a Dublin Craftsman 1910-1999

Cathal Gannon (1910-1999) revived the art of harpsichord making in Dublin in the early 1950s after a lull of some 150 years. His story is one not of rags to riches but of obscurity to recognition. Despite a modest start in life, he became hugely respected for his skills and was awarded two honorary MA degrees (TCD 1978, Maynooth 1989) for his contribution to music in Ireland.

This richly documented biography charts Cathal’s life from his Dublin childhood through his career in the Guinness Brewery, begun at the age of fifteen, to an active and prolific retirement, during which he continued to make harpsichords and restore antique pianos.

Although the seeds of interest were sown in early life, his harpsichord-making career only began in 1951, and his first harpsichord was played in public in 1959 – an occasion lauded in the national press. A few years later, his employers set up a special workshop in the Brewery where Cathal would work exclusively on instrument making.

With his impish sense of fun, he became well known as a prankster by his colleagues. This book also offers fascinating behind-the-scene glimpses of the ‘unofficial ‘ goings-on in the Guinness Brewery. Many people were drawn to Cathal through his liveliness and quick mind. He befriended the likes of Grace Plunkett (widow of Joseph Mary Plunkett), Carl Hardebeck, a noted arranger of Irish music, and Desmond and Mariga Guinness, founders of the Irish Georgian Society. He was the subject of several RTE radio and television programmes, including The Late Late Show.

This intimate account of a man who was, in his own words, ‘interested in everything’ (amongst other hobbies, he was a keen amateur horologist), reveals a storyteller who delighted in the colourful characters he encountered. The work is further enriched by its lively evocation of Dublin and its environs in bygone times, from a rustic Dolphin’s Barn in the 1920s to the bookstalls and antique shops of the city centre during the 1930s and 1940s, giving a real sense of time’s passing and the social change that has since occurred.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

I was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1955 and received most of my education in Belvedere College. After school I worked at commercial art in a small company for five years, and then spent the rest of my career working in our national broadcasting station, RTÉ, as a sound operator and then as a vision mixer (switcher). During my last few years I also became a technical director. I am now retired, and spend my time reading, writing, playing music and walking. Exploring other countries and cultures has always been one of my passions.

As well as writing some articles for Wikipedia, I have also written two biographies that have been published by the Lilliput Press in Dublin: one about my father Cathal Gannon, who was a carpenter, piano restorer and harpsichord maker, and one about John Beckett, who was a musician, composer and conductor, and a cousin of the famous Samuel Beckett.

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