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From Irish Working Lives
‘I have learned a very simple truth about the necessity to live and to take care of ourselves and each other. Captains of industry, or wealthy men, or people of social status who have done great deeds, or those who are well known and celebrated, or tramps on the street who have nothing, when they are dead, are all the same. Imagine that. All the same. It’s the only job in the world where that is a guarantee. It is very enlightening; freeing in fact. The dead have taught me that we are fragile creatures and nobody ever knows what is around the corner.
‘Sometimes we do not respect life, and we take our happiness, our freedom and our health for granted. We should be more observant of our own lives. Saying goodbye to the dead is not the same as saying goodbye. We must love people in the living years. That is what the dead have taught me.’
Joe Cronin, embalmer
Work accounts for so much of our waking lives, yet we rarely reflect upon or celebrate the contribution of those whose vocations and careers are the bedrock of a thriving society.
As a broadcaster, Marie Louise has had the privilege of spending ‘work time’ and ‘thought time’ with a broad array of individuals across Ireland, gaining a unique insight into the practicalities of their particular occupation and learning about what inspires or motivates them in their chosen field.
Irish Working Lives is the story of the encounters - by turns candid and lyrical -that illuminate the ways in which these individuals perceive their chosen occupation, its day-to-day demands and the inextricable relationship between work life and spiritual life.
In these impassioned, remarkably diverse vignettes, Marie Louise relates her travels across the length and breadth of the country, engaging with a selection of committed Irish men and women whose work forms the lifeblood of our island nation.
Whether spending a day on the road with a postman in Co Wicklow or meeting the Galway gardener who has used her own experience of personal tragedy to help others heal, Marie Louise’s assiduity and innate curiosity enlivens each and every encounter.
Alongside each testimony, award-winning photographer Eric Luke’s stunning images explore each contributor’s relationship with their trade or calling and are a wonderful complement to Marie Louise’s evocative prose.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Marie Louise O’Donnell
Marie Louise O’Donnell is an educator, broadcaster, actress, writer and a noted public speaker. Having first lectured in Drama at Carysfort College, she moved to DCU where she worked in the communications department for twenty-five years. While there, she initiated and developed arts policy on the campus, culminating in the launch of The Helix in 2002.
Following training in radio with the BBC she presented programmes for both BBC and RTÉ. She worked weekly as a colour radio writer and reporter on the national broadcaster’s Today with Pat Kenny and Today with Sean O’Rourke shows. She regularly contributes articles to national newspapers and is a frequent reviewer and media contributor. She has lectured extensively in Ireland, Europe and the USA in education, Irish drama, Irish culture and language. In May 2011, she was appointed to the Senate by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and re-appointed in 2016. Irish Working Lives is her first book.
Eric Luke has worked as a staff photographer with various Irish national newspapers for over forty-five years. He is a former Irish Times photographer and winner of numerous national and international awards, including World Press Photo and PPAI Photographer of the Year. His photography has taken him on assignments worldwide – including five Olympic Games and two World Cups – and to Washington, London, Sydney, India, Syria, Kenya and Somalia to cover news stories.
Born in Dalkey, South Dublin, he has built up a personal archive documenting the people of Ireland over the past four decades. He is the author of Looking Back: The Changing Faces of Ireland (O’Brien Press).