Posts Tagged ‘London’

I feel like the luckiest man alive

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

When I was in my teens and an ardent believer and I wanted to be a priest, one of my good reasons for wanting to be a priest was to be with people at key moments in their lives – like birth, weddings and bereavement. I wanted to engage with the real needs of people.
After my nine years in religious life, when I walked away from not only my priestly path but, in time, from all religious beliefs, I assumed that gone was my dream of being with people at core turning points in their lives.
I spent five years as a teacher. And I was privileged to work at St Bonaventure’s comprehensive boys’ school at the heart of the East End of London, under the leadership of the now knighted Sir Michael Wilshaw, who was subsequently made head of the English schools’ inspectorate, OFSTED.
But I knew that remaining a teacher for the rest of my life wasn’t what I wanted to do, and so I left teaching after five years.
For the guts of the next 20 years I worked as a journalist, columnist and author, in a self-employed capacity, enjoying being my own boss and working from home. I spent the guts of three years during that time as a publisher too. And then I took time out to delve into my own story, how I shifted from belief to unbelief and I celebrated that story, or part of it, in my RTE Radio 1 documentary, From Belief to Unbeleif, and in an as yet unpublished manuscript of a memoir.
And then, earlier this year, I thought about becoming a Humanist celebrant. And that is why I feel like the luckiest man on earth. If, as a teenager, I wanted to be with people at key turning points in their lives, helping them to express sorrow and joy, laughter and tears, I have discovered that I can do that as a Humanist celebrant. And I could do so without having to pretend I believed in religious fantasies that lost any claim on my allegiance, acceptance or intelligence.
As a humanist celebrant there is no nonsense about ‘ontological change’ happening at ordination. I’m a regular human being just like everyone else. And I don’t have to pretend to have the ear of a deity! Or to know his will! Or to interpret his ‘revealed word’ accurately. I’ve outgrown all that nonsense. All that superstition. I know that we have only one life and that it can be a wonderful life, and that the birth of each child warrants celebration. And that the marriage of two people is usually a happy time, and that it’s OK for people to be sad at weddings too. And I have been privileged to facilitate funerals – celebrations of a life ended, at which I have witnessed laughter and tears, joy and sadness, classical music and hard rock!
Now in my fifties, I realize that being a Humanist celebrant uses the skills and talents I’ve been lucky enough to have: my original desire to be with people at key moments of their lives; my writing skills in drafting ceremonies that are meaningful and personal for the people concerned; my teaching skills of speaking and engaging with a group of people; my empathy and compassion and listening skills; and my gratitude for being able to do this work which I love.


Thursday, April 1st, 2010

How often in life I have found myself pulled this way and that! I studied Hamlet as a schoolboy and how appropriate for me. There can be value in deferring a decision. It is the antithesis to impulsive living. It took me nine years before I decided to leave religious life and my path to the priesthood. Yet, I do not regret the time I spent in the Marists. I taught for five years in London, when I might have left teaching earlier to become a full-time writer. Yet, had I left, I would never have met my wife or had our two lovely children. So, I’m open, ever open, to considering possibilities. Then again, once I make a decision, a considered decision, I tend to be confident that it is the right one due to the time and care I take in reaching my decisions. And it is not as if I deferred leaving religious life for nine years. On the contrary, I chose to stay in religious life for nine years. Nor did I defer leaving teaching for five years. I choose to stay for five years. Decision-making keeps us alive. So long as we engage in the process and are true to ourselves, whatever we decide, we thrive.

A Step Into the Dark

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Hello friends!

Welcome to my website. One step forward, two steps back. I set up this website for a different purpose – to help academic writers and editors in getting their books published – but that ambition for a site has had to be parked for the moment. (Although I invite scholars needing help to get their work published to contact me at So here I am, a writer, finding myself with a blank canvas and a potential intergalactic readership of six billion. Well, sort of…

Nature abhors a vacuum, so I’ve a hunch this site will become something of worth as I take a step into the dark with it.

I used to be a columnist with The Irish Times, which was a great privilege for me. I wrote at least one column a week for that famous newspaper for seven years, and two columns a week for five of those years. One column I wrote, called Man Alive, looked at men’s health. It was subsequently published by Gill & Macmillan in the Common Sense series, entitled: Men’s Health-the Common Sense Approach. I got a real buzz out of that – it was translated into several languages. Imagine my delight, one Christmas Eve to receive some book which I thought I’d been sent to review only to discover it was my own book in Hebrew! Of course, I wasn’t even able to recognise my name on it.

I also self-published a book called Write Way to Stop Smoking. I learned a lot about publishing by doing that. That was launched by the then Irish Minister for Health, Micheal Martin, who introduced the smoking ban in public places in Ireland. My book was widely acclaimed, with many doctors and psychologists, including a leading light in the World Health Organisation, saying very nice things about it. I’m still a journalist and a columnist. I write for Reality and Face Up, two magazines published by the Redemptorist Fathers. I love writing for ‘the Reds’. Gerry Maloney, who edits both magazines, is a delight to work with.

I’d another book published last year. It was my first co-authored book and it was a history of Muckamore Abbey Hospital in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. I’ve also had other books and booklets published. For example, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions commissioned me to write the booklet Workplace Stress in Ireland, which was well received. I’ve written heaps of reports over the years, edited others and I’ve hundreds of published articles. For the past three years I’ve been commissioning books for an academic publisher, as well as writing columns, reports and having a new book published.

I’m currently on the committee of Irish PEN and I’m a member of the AFEPI, the Association of Freelance Editors, Proofreaders and Indexers (not that you’d believe me with the typos I let pass here!). I used to be a school teacher. I spent five happy years teaching at St Bonaventure’s Comprehensive School in Forest Gate in the East End of London. It’s now a Technology College. Michael Wilshaw, the head teacher at that time, did such a good job he was knighted for his services to education.

I’m married and have two children. If you have an academic book that you’d like to have published, send me an email to Drop me a line too if you’d like me to write a column or report or if you need stuff edited. I don’t have heaps of time, but if the column or report interests me you’ll have my attention. I look forward to hearing from you.