“I was one of the cracked eggs…”
It’s amazing to think that I’ve known John O’Donoghue for over 25 years. Even more amazing to realise that until this interview, I knew so little about him.
It’s the nature of friendship perhaps. We skate around the edges, never testing the centre in case something breaks beneath us.
I don’t want to say too much about the interview, I’d rather leave you to draw your own conclusions, except to say it’s a massive tale that he has to tell: of loss, struggle and reinvention. Of an asylum of poetry and a sense of identity.
I couldn’t have asked for a better or braver first interviewee.
Instead, I’m going to tell you about one of the first times I met John, which was back in 1996 and he was working with the late Brian Behan, brother of Brendan and scourge of Brighton bohemia.
Brian had decided that the best thing for the country would be to shut down the Houses of Parliament and have them replaced by a “reasonably honest computer”. I tagged along, camera in hand, to record this magnificent blow against the past. What crowds would this political visionary gather around him?
Unfortunately, as I approached the home of our democracy, it soon become clear that Brian had chosen the wrong day – a Friday – which meant that the lights were off and nobody was in. All the MPs had returned to their constituencies. This left him and John (a demonstration of two) to chant, sing and generally proclaim “Shut It Down” to passing Japanese tourists and scores of pigeons.
John never wavered in his loyalty to Brian – others might have told the old man to stick his pointless demonstration, but John has his own sense of mischief that made him more than just Sancho Panza, but a Quixote in his own right. It’s an under-rated quality, loyalty, and it’s one John has in proverbial spades.
Long may he tilt at windmills then write about their sails afterwards.