In Memoriam

In May 2012, Anthony O’Malley Daly advertised on a Ballyshannon community bulletin board for help with typing. I inquired about the work at Inisfáil, a yellow-and-red house on College Street. I was introduced to a man who sat by an electric fire surrounded by family photos, specimen fish in trophy cases, and a clutter of magazines, newspapers, and medicine bottles. His speech faltered, and he used a zimmer frame when he walked, but he got his point across – he was writing a book, and he was looking for someone to help. I told him that I had some experience along those lines, and Anthony and I shook hands for the first of many times.

Anthony had published books before – “Angler’s Annual” chapbooks in the late 1990’s, compiling excerpts from his fishing columns for the Donegal Democrat and the Sun newspapers along with a few tall tales. This time he had a bigger book in mind, one that would include his autobiography and a collection of fishing stories contributed by his family and friends. The profits from the book, like those from the Angler’s Annuals, would go toward his Mi Amigo Charity fund, to be distributed from there to the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland. Anthony had been battling Parkinson’s Disease since 1992, and he knew the challenges that it posed for the afflicted individuals and their families.

A few days later we rode together in a taxi to Diamond Sign and Printing where old friends from Anthony’s newspaper days had reserved a computer terminal for him to use. They had typed many pages and had scanned photos from Anthony’s scrapbooks, but a tall stack of material remained, piled haphazardly in a green plastic box. Anthony read through some of the material on the computer screen, and he tried to edit a phrase here and there, but his hand-tremors interfered with the keyboarding.

I took home the green box and a CD of the typed material. For the next six months, I scanned files while Anthony dictated new stories, building up the contents of the book. Anthony knew exactly what he wanted – a three-part volume that included his autobiography (“My Life – My Way”), excerpts from his columns (“Sixty Years of Angling”), and the collection of fishing stories from his family and friends (“Injun Joe – Fishing Stories”). The title would be Trilogy. I tried to convince him to print 500 copies in a trade-paperback format, but Anthony refused. It would be a hardbound book, he insisted, and he would print a thousand copies.

Tara Clancy, Anthony’s niece, also helped Anthony prepare stories and tributes for the book, devising a chart of letters that he could use to spell out the text when his voice grew weak.

Trilogy was launched on 20 December 2012. Over 150 friends and well-wishers gave Anthony a standing ovation when he entered the banquet room at Dorrian’s Hotel. Friends and family members told stories of his escapades over the years. Even Archbishop Desmond Tutu, whose Mpilo Trust Ministry had been supported by Anthony’s Mi Amigo charity fund over the years, sent an e-mail of best wishes for the launch of Trilogy.

In January of 2013, Anthony and I began a series of trips to towns and villages in the north west from Sligo to Letterkenny, distributing copies of Trilogy for sale in stores and businesses. Anthony did not hesitate to ask all enterprises to carry his book – bookstores and fishing tackle shops, hotels, restaurants, hardware stores, petrol stations, post offices, museums, shoe stores, and butcher shops. We sold copies at Balor Theatre in Ballybofey and at the McGill Summer School in Glenties.

Although his legs would tire, he insisted on going into every shop on his zimmer frame. He refused to accept any rides – “No wheelchairs!” – despite the time and effort that it cost him to get from store to store. He became adept at climbing into and out of my car. I adopted his bold approach, driving onto sidewalks and parking in off-limits spaces to bring him as close as possible to the shop doors. In Ballyshannon he drove himself on his four-wheeled mobility scooter, terrorising pedestrians and motorists alike.

We sent copies of Trilogy to the Parkinson’s support groups across Ireland for them to sell as fund-raisers for their own budgets. Copies were archived in the National Library of Ireland and in the British National Library. Anthony gave copies to the Taoiseach and to the Lord Mayor of Dublin, and he mailed a copy to Nelson Mandela when he heard that former President of South Africa was ill.

On 11 April 2013, Anthony led the Unity Day March which was organised by the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland. He drove his scooter from the Dublin Davenport Hotel to St Stephen’s Green, sometimes getting ahead of the Garda motorcycle.

When we visited the Bundoran’s Oznam House nursing home in the summer, Anthony was at his best, winding up the residents with his craic and irreverent retorts. (“How’s Mary?” “I shot her!”) But by October there had been a sea-change. He tried to walk the long corridor to the Oznam House day-room with his zimmer frame, but he became exhausted and accepted a ride in a wheelchair. We used a wheelchair in subsequent outings to Donegal Town and to the Ballyshannon Museum, but even without walking he grew profoundly tired and tended to doze. By November he had lost the energy for our travels. We ended up where we had started, by the electric fire in the O’Malley Daly sitting room, while Anthony speculated about organising a campaign to confront the problems of bullying and suicide, encouraging everyone to find reasons to live.

He died in Sligo General Hospital on 22 November 2013. His funeral mass was delayed for hours while hundreds of people continued to file through the funeral home to pay their respects.

Anthony could be realistic for one minute and utterly unreasonable in the next. He put off the publication date for Trilogy four times, trying to add more stories and tributes than the book could possibly hold. He drove his scooter into Ballyshannon’s Abbey Arts Centre and wedged it so completely in Theatre Two that it took three men to lift it out. But I will treasure the year-and-a-half that I spent with Anthony O’Malley Daly, one of the stubbornest, most exasperating, bravest men I have ever known.

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