McArt and Collins to launch ‘What Shaped Me’ in Derry Central Library
Former Derry Journal editor Pat McArt, and Jude Collins, the well-known author and broadcaster are to launch their new book, What Shaped Me in Derry’s Central Library on Thursday, December 2.
The two men have been broadcasting twice weekly podcasts on social media for a number of years but this is their first foray into working together in print.
Pat, now a Daily Morrir columnist, said ‘What Shaped Me’ looks at things personal rather than political, telling the stories of twenty very diverse people and what set them on their paths in life.
He said: “During lock-down, Jude and I decided we should make an effort to use the time productively. So, with most of the world confined to quarters, we figured it’d be a golden opportunity to interview people. Like everybody else, we mastered the mysteries of Zoom and used that as our vehicle for talking to people, recording the interviews and then transcribing them in book form.”
What Shaped Me has contributions from people all over the island of Ireland and also a number of Americans, people with connections to this country.
Locals include Daniel O’Donnell, Gregory Campbell, former Irish ambassador Jim Sharkey, award winning journalist Pat Coyle, RTE editor Roisin Duffy, the former head of Highland Radio, Charlie Collins, and Willie Melaugh, a Derry man who for years repaired Volkswagon cars for a living but ended up a highly regarded professor of chemistry in California.
As the title suggests, the interviews explored those things in the life of the interviewee which had left a mark, nudged their life in one direction or another.
“Practically everyone referred to their school years and the influence – for bad or good – of teachers. But the interviews ranged much more widely than that – their jobs, their spouses, the people who, for better or worse, had impacted on their lives.”
So, what surprised him? “How frank people were willing to be – and funny as well. RTE’s most famous reporter, Charlie Bird revealed that not only had he never passed an exam in his life but that he was a hopeless speller – a serious disadvantage for a young reporter – and how he used to sneak out to the toilet and quietly consult his hidden dictionary when he ran into a hard word. It really was like someone had pulled back the curtains on their life and allowed us to explore parts that the general public wouldn’t have been aware of.”
Pat admits that he and Jude timed the publication of the book so that it was available for the Christmas market. “Most of us love our families” he says, smiling. “But most of us like an escape route for an hour or two over the Christmas period as well. What Shaped Me lets you glimpse into twenty different lives and the people and events that shaped them.”
Jude Collins says he’s delighted with this book, his ninth publication. His recent works include ‘Martin McGuinness: The Man I Knew’, and ‘Laying it on the Line – Brexit and the Border’.
Jude said: “I found it fascinating doing these stories, and I hope that comes across to the reader. The randomness of life, the unpredictability of our decisions and the laws of unintended consequences can shape us in ways we are frequently not even aware of.”
What Shaped Me will be launched in the Library at Foyle Street with former author and broadcaster - and current local book publisher - Garbhan Downey as MC at 6.30p.m. All are welcome to come along where the authors will sign copies of their publication.