Patricia’s ‘Chance Encounters’ reveal her skills as a wordsmith
‘Age is an attitude. You are only as old as you feel,’ says the 85-year-old writer speaking to reporter Mary Fogarty about her latest book recalling a halcyon time that is long gone
OCTOGENARIAN Patricia Walsh has been putting pen to paper for the best part of 40 years.
Patricia, who is sprightly at 85, launched her latest collection of short stories and poems at St. Anne’s Family Resource Centre last Friday evening.
‘Age is an attitude,’ she said with a smile on her continuing good health and high spirits. ‘You are only as old as you feel!’
She was educated to Leaving Certificate Level and married just a few short years later.
‘Members of the Bench,’ the first entry in ‘Chance Encounters,’ is the first story she ever wrote.
Indeed, many of the 25 stories within its pages have been previously published in magazines or broadcast on radio and include prize winning tales.
Her charming style is repeated line after line in this collection, which recalls a halcyon time that is now long gone.
Patricia’s first story was broadcast in 1972 on RTE.
She started scribbling in earnest in 1971 and her ‘hobby’ has continued to flourish over the span of time.
Her work has been aired on the national station regularly over the years on programmes such as ‘Sunday Miscellany,’ ‘The Living Word,’ and the ‘Quiet Quarter.’
‘I always liked writing, even in school,’ said Patricia, a slight, soft-spoken and elegant lady.
‘I liked writing essays and that sort of thing. I had a desire to write and was an avid reader from a very young age.’
Her father used to fix old typewriters, which she suspects may have started her fascination for the written word.
She can no longer type herself, as arthritis has put paid to that, but has no problem writing long-hand and has willing volunteers who complete her manuscripts.
Two of her children, Maureen and Terry, reside in Shankill and she has close ties to the area although she herself lives in Cabinteely. ‘I really enjoy writing,’ she said. ‘That’s why I’ve done it for all these years.’ She said that she always wrote ‘whenever the humour would strike me,’ and will continue to do so as long as that mood prevails.
The mother of seven has dedicated this book to her 17 grandchildren and 5 greatgrandchildren ‘with much love.’
It was when her youngest child was a couple of years at school that she caught the writing bug and began a rewarding career that has spanned almost four decades.
Her themes are drawn from people’s lives. Patricia’s characters are real, tangible, and even though the dialogue is from a different age their trials and tribulations are timeless.
Love, loss, marriage, death, humour and poignancy are all present in this work that appears to have been effortlessly written.
Chance Encounters is a celebration of life in all its aspects.
Who more qualified to write about the ups and downs, the glimmers of humour and tragedy in life than a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother?
Each piece is a snapshot of a story written with enchanting honesty, simplicity and patent skill.
This is the third book published by the author and the joy of seeing her work bound and in print is still the same.
‘It is nice to see it finished and packaged,’ she said.
Her daughter Betty, an artist, designed the book’s cover as well as the artwork for her previous works ‘Loose Ends,’ (2002) and ‘Ebbtide,’ (2005).
Dr. Brendan Purcell, author and philosopher, launched the book at the weekend in Shankill and said that Chance Encounters is a brilliant page-turner.
‘Each of these short stories catches an experience,’ he said.
‘Of nostalgia, humour, sadness and surprise – in a way that makes you appreciate and enjoy the humanity of its wry cast of characters and suspect that your own life might be far more interesting than you thought.’
As well as a devoted scribe, Patricia has always been a devoted wife and mother, then grandmother.
She got married to Robert in 1949 and he worked for a construction company in Bray.
Sadly, Robert died 16 years ago, and is sadly missed by Patricia as well as the children David, Joan, Betty, Terry, Robert, Pat and Maureen.
The only one to have inherited his mother’s penchant for the pen is David. He writes books on philosophy and is a professor in the states.
However some of Patricia’s own works have a philosophical nature of their own.
She has never struggled too much to create a tale, the hardest part of course making a start.
‘The first few words,’ are all she needs to get going.
While she has written novels in the past, one of which almost made it on to the shelves, Patricia intends to stick with her beloved short stories and poems for now.
‘Whatever you write, you have a fondness for,’ she said, looking back on her catalogue of characters and stories.
‘It’s something you have created.’
Brendan Purcell with Patricia Walsh at the book launch for 'Close Encounters' at St Anne’s, Shankill.
Patricia Walsh at the launch of her book ‘Chance Encounters.’