Beginners Pluck


Tom grew up on a farm in Co Carlow, and was enmeshed in the storytelling tradition, in the countryside, and in folklore.

“It worries me that that’s been lost to the current generation.”

After college Tom taught science in Kimberly, South Africa. “Then I travelled as an educator, helping science teachers set up labs.” He set up an IT company in Cape Town.

Who is Tom O’Neill ?

Date/place of birth: November, 1960/Carlow.

Education: Secondary school in Tullow, then University College Cork, (Science.)

Home: A farm near Kilkenny.

Family: Wife, Paula Leyden. “We have five children between us.”

The day job: Runs a business based in Cape Town providing E learning.

Hobbies: Tinkering around on the farm. Playing cards.

Favourite writers: Cormac McCarthy. Flann O’Brien. John Steinbeck.

Second novel: It’s a follow up to Old Friends. I’m accessing the field monuments a bit more. It’s called, Missing Stones.

Top writing tip: Be courteous to the reader.



Old Friends. The Lost Tales of Fionn MacCumhaill. Little Island, €9.99; Kindle, €7.02

When his father dies, Dark moves from the city to a rural area. Wandering the fields he visits the Rath, and meets characters from the past, getting pulled into the magic of their stories. There’s adventure, heroism, treachery, weakness and redemption, as Dark finds himself belonging in two very different worlds.

The core stories are based on ones Tom made up for his children. “We were living in Cape-Town and I would tell them a story every day on the way to school. I centred the characters around folklore, but the book isn’t a retake of mythology. The stories are set in (the) 2nd century, and they draw on field monuments. The book takes a city child of the PlayStation generation, and introduces him to the magic of folklore.” From 12 years upwards

The Verdict: Eminently readable. Anyone who enjoys a good adventure story will love this book. It’s well researched, and beautifully told.

— Interviewed by Sue Leonard

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