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In The Ould Ago strikes chord with Celt readers

Story by Sinead Hogan

Wednesday, 1st December, 2010 5:30pm

In The Ould Ago strikes chord with Celt readers

Johnny McKeagney signs a copy of his book for his grandson, Brian.

Things are taking off for 72-year-old Tempo man Johnny McKeagney since he brought out his first book In The Ould Ago (Illustrated Irish Folklore) – and not least because of interest from Cavan following an article in The Anglo-Celt.

Johnny’s son Paul got in touch to tell of their delight with the huge feedback from the Breffni county. “Lots of interest has been generated in my father’s book through The Anglo-Celt article. Our website (folklorebook.com) is proving very popular with the Cavan diaspora throughout the world. Many people from Cavan living in Australia, USA, Canada, Argentina and South Africa have found out about the book through the article on anglocelt.ie and have since ordered a copy to retain their link with home.”

For the last 45 years, Johnny has been gathering information about bygone times from anyone he meets and anywhere he goes and recording it through sketches and little notes. Just this year, with some encouragement, he compiled a small selection of his life’s work into this impressively-produced hardback A3 book.

The book is on sale in Cavan at Eason and Crannog bookshops. The latter, in fact, has a window display dedicated to In The Ould Ago, the display including original barrels, piggins and noggins by late Ballinagh cooper Ned Gavin, who features in the book.

Those interested in the story behind the book can see more on Nationwide next Monday, December 6, when it airs a segment recorded with Johnny in Fermanagh.

“Alistair Jackson and Mark Ronaghan came out and we did a small tour of the area, filming in different locations,” says the proud author, who thanks his wife, Teresa, and family for support with his five-decade undertaking and first publication.

The book, which was launched in Fermanagh, is recognised by historians as putting down on record information about times past that might not otherwise be available to future generations.

“The business of recording folklore and folk life is an activity that is not confined to customary working hours. In truth, for that rare breed of skilled practitioner such as John McKeagney, it is a vocation in thrall to neither the time of day or the season. It arises from an instinctive sense of curiosity and ever expanding engagement with people, artefacts and environment,” says Críostóir Mac Cárthaigh, archivist, national folklore collection, UCD.

Interestingly, in his lifetime Johnny is witnessing what is believed to be the period of most rapid change in history.

His son, Paul sums it up eloquently: “My father got a huge laugh during the launch when he announced that he is a lucky man, from growing up with the crickets at the hearth and see many changes in his lifetime to now having 500 fans on facebook.”

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