Beginner's Pluck

ONE of 10 children, Gabriel Walsh was brought up in poverty.

As a child, he never read a book. He rarely attended school. But Gabriel was always resourceful. He worked at several jobs before securing work as a breakfast boy at The Shelbourne Hotel. His meeting there, with Maggie Sheridan introduced him to the world of opera, and ultimately changed his life.

She organised for the teenager to go to America, and once there he was tutored, attending a co-ed High School in New York. After a stint in the US Army, Gabriel worked as an actor, and a screenwriter. As a staff writer for Universal Pictures in Hollywood. His screenplay, Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin in the Bronx received a Writer’s Guild of America nomination.

Who is Gabriel Walsh?

Date/place of birth: September 1938/Crumlin, Dublin.

Education: Spent time with the Christian Brothers at Inchicore. But he wasn’t educated until he was in America in his late teens.

Home: Gabriel divides his time between New York and Fermoy.

Family: Divorced with one daughter, Juliana.

The Day Job: A writer.

Hobbies: “I paint. Neil Diamond bought one.”

Favourite Writers: “Tolstoy, Turgenev, and the rest. But Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes tops them all.”

Second Novel: “I’ve written a book of fiction, called The Last Carriage — a Ticket to Heaven, and I’m planning a follow up to this memoir.”

Top Writing Tip: “The essence of writing is, just write on a blank page. Get it down on paper. Don’t worry about the ‘right’ way to do it.”

Web/Twitter: Neither.


Maggie’s Breakfast. Poolbeg Press: €12.99. Kindle: €7.47.

Gabriel’s early life was profoundly difficult. He lacked both money and affection. Beaten by the Christian Brothers because his family couldn’t afford school books, he mitched school more than he attended. That he secured a job, first in Jury’s Hotel, then The Shelbourne is pretty remarkable. But his meeting with Margaret Burke Sheridan, a retired opera diva who, literally, saved him, is something of a miracle.

Verdict: An astonishing memoir of redemption.


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