My Story
Posted by
22nd Jan 2015

Tribe member Anthony shares his story below, for more information please visit his blog.

It's time to share. This is my story, 2015 a new year a new me and there’s no point keeping thoughts and feelings inside, so I want to share this with everyone...

I don’t usually do this, I’ve been meaning to talk about this for a long time because there is so much emphasis on depression or mental illness now on TV ads or in newspapers. For those of you who know my family background you will understand, for those of you who don’t, just bear with me and you’ll find out.

I was born in 1986 into a loving family, Mother, Father and four brothers. I was born in the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Dublin, because at the time my mother had cancer and if there were any complications we’d be alright. A few days after we went home to New St. with my new family all around me and that whole year I was probably doted on. I’ve heard stories about me being paraded up the town in a buggy by my mother and in 1986 Kerry won the All-Ireland, Sam Maguire came to Blayney, I got photos taken with me in it and Sam was paraded around in the buggy as well. I don’t know much about what happened during that year but in September 1987 my mother passed away, I was 11 months. I don’t know how it came about, but I’m not sure that 5 men could look after a 1 year old baby, my father was working, my oldest brother was working and the other 3 were still at school. I never got to experience that family and you always wonder if things could have been different. So at that time I went to live with my uncle and his wife and his family, my adopted family so to speak. I grew up calling them Mam and Dad and my brother and sisters, that’s because they were and they are... I can’t start to thank them enough for what they have done for me, although they mightn’t think they have done anything but just being there is enough.

So I started to grow up as every Irish child does, went to school, football with the Faughs, going to mass, birthday parties, everything. I started school, it is a known fact that school moulds you, it moulds your personality, it moulds your outlook on life and in secondary school you’re supposed to decide what you want to do at college and for the rest of your life. For some people it works out ok, but for the majority it doesn’t. I went into secondary school in 1999, supposed to be the best years in your life and I suppose its right, but I can’t remember them now, I can’t remember much about my childhood anymore. I left school in 5th year, I think it was 2003 or 2004 at the time, I had a job in a garage in town, it was ok for getting a bit of money in and going out and meeting friends, mainly girls (the ruination of every Irish man). I knew working in a garage wasn’t enough and I was always going to do something so I got a job with a local construction company as an apprentice carpenter, my Dad knew the owner and asked him. I was working about town with them and in Dublin and was making more money than I ever made in my life but I was spending it as well. That was around January 2004. I worked away for a whole year but come Dec 2004 something changed in me, I started to feel down more and had no drive to go to work anymore and I left work.

I lay in bed pretending I was sick, when I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I couldn’t function and probably lost all heed in everything. One morning I came downstairs and broke down in front of Mam, we talked and she promised that we’d get whatever was wrong sorted. So it started, I went to my GP and got referred to a HSE counsellor and got put on tablets and went through the run of the mill stuff, just another number, went to hospitals, saw more counsellors and got more tablets, but the tablets are just like painkillers, they just prolong the thing and the councillors, I was beginning to think I was talking to deaf people, this was March 2005.

I remember my sister coming to collect me after one of the sessions, she drove a big fancy car and I was looking around to see if anyone saw me getting into this big car but the only ones about were the patients banging on the windows of St. Davnets trying to get out. On the way home she asked me how things were going and I talked and I told her I was getting nothing from this, so she went to my GP and asked what way I could get off the tablets and so on, I stopped the tablets and going to see the counsellors... she was in our house everyday with the kids and she kind of worked for herself so I always went to places with her, whether it was to the banks or to shops, I saw her nearly every day, she acted as my counsellor because she always asked “how I am today”, I started to feel a lot happier, I was doing things around the house and every time Edel would come down we’d always go away...

That went on for a couple of months until around the time of my birthday, in September ’05, she would come down to the house, me or Mam would mind the kids and Edel would go to bed for a few hours. I remember on my birthday ’05 she went into Dinkins to get some buns, we all ate them but then she got sick afterwards. She decided to go to the doctor about it and they said it could be a bug so sent her on her way. But she wasn’t getting better and went back again, I’m not 100% sure what order it’s in but then she was told it was her appendix, so she had it taken out in hospital and was sent home to rest, she started to feel better in herself while she was recovering but not long after she went downhill again. So back to hospital she went. I remember going over the day she found out, we were walking down a hallway and we met another woman from Crossmaglen, where Edel lived, and she asked Edel what’s she doing here and Edel looked at her and said “I have cancer”.

A plan was set in place then, I was setting the fire at home when she got out of hospital and she walked into the room and I asked her “what will happen?” and for someone that was very head strong and knew everything and she just answered “I don’t know.” I don’t know how long after but she went for an operation to get whatever removed and I don’t know at the time if they did or not but all I know is that she went downhill after that. The scar on her stomach from the operation was big and wouldn’t heal because her entire immune system was low... that was Nov/Dec 2005... Christmas 2005 I remember her coming into the house barely able to walk, she got me a CD box set of country music artists one of which was Johnny Cash, that’s where the love affair with Johnny Cash started.

On the 27th of January 2006 me and Mam went up to Edel's house, the house was full at the time so she was moved down to her bedroom. It was just past 3pm and one nurse said “come down to the bedroom.” Edel died that day aged 33, the same age Jesus was when he died. She left 3 beautiful kids and a loving husband, but if she could see them now I know she would be proud of how they were brought up. Sometimes I feel that I can’t be proud of someone because it has to be someone younger than you, but I am proud of her husband, how he raised those kids and for the way his life has turned out now.

I always wonder if Edel was diagnosed sooner would she still be here today... but that’s not the way the story was to go... I lost a friend that day and if my mother didn’t die in 1987 I wouldn’t have lost a sister. I don’t think anyone realised how much she helped me in that year and I never got the chance to thank her... The wake and funeral went so quick and I mean it when I say I can’t even remember it because we were all so numb...

I went back to doing what I do, bits and pieces around the house but going into town around the shops talking to people... Around that time into my life came someone that was to remould and shape who I was or who I was going to be. Because at that time I wasn’t in a good place, I was doing things that were harmful to me and to everyone around me, and certain things I have done I will take to the grave. But this girl changed my life. It’s almost like the Johnny Cash and June Carter story, June helped Johnny from the road of self-destruction, well I was helped and put back on my feet again. I started working for a local tiller and I completed a course in tiling in Newry tech. Dad drove me over every day for a month, so I started to work away anyway...

For those of you who may not know, Dad, was one of the biggest Country Music Promoters in Ireland during the 70’s and 80’s, so I’m told, owning a company that managed many big music names in Ireland and also one hell of a footballer! I worked away, I liked what I was doing because I was working with my hands and the men I was with were a good craic, so that was a plus. Around that time Dad had a few country bands on the go. One of which was a great singer from Dundalk, he took her to Nashville in Oct/Nov ’06, I’m not sure if it was to record or if it was a holiday...

I remember that he came home on a Monday, I came home from work and Mam said your father’s home but he’s in hospital. I asked why and she said, just getting tests. At that time he was on a diet, he already lost a load of weight so we didn’t really notice anything else. When he was in Nashville he didn’t feel well so he went to hospital over there, he had some tests and a few scans done and while he was there, in a different place, different country on his own, the doctor told him he had cancer. He booked the first flight back to Dublin he could and came home. He got off the plane, came back to town and went straight to hospital with what he took from Nashville, couple of days past and the tests came back, Nashville was right, he had cancer.

So the process started, he was getting chemo in Drogheda and everything was running smoothly... That was Nov/ Dec time ’06 so Christmas time was coming up again and it was the first Christmas we had without Edel and Dad being sick as well. That Christmas morning I took out the CD’s Edel got me the year before and played them, that didn’t do me any good. But what I do remember that Christmas we were all very close and Dad was back under the same roof. I used to love Christmas because it was the same in every household across the country family members would come and go... but that Christmas there was only one family member I would have wished to walk through the door, but we got on with it Christmas came and went... now 2007.

I think it was March 2007 when a friend of Dad’s came to the house, promoter Jim Aiken. Jim took in the big artists from America and he got Dad to promote their tour around Ireland. Jim was on about going to Charlie Pride’s birthday the week after in America, they talked and talked and Jim went on back home to Belfast. The week after Dad got a call from Fr. Brian to say Jim was taken sick in America and he’s now back home. Dad rang him, his son Peter answered and told Dad Jim had cancer, Dad got talking to him and he said to Dad “Tony it is what it is.” That was the last phone call they ever had, about a week and a half later we got the call to say that Jim passed away.

It was a shock as 3 weeks before he was in our house not a bother on him. I knew Jim like everyone did, but he remembered my name. Dad had a Charlie Pride concert in the Hillgrove sometime in ’06 I was in the concert hall on my own and a knock came on the door and it was Jim. He said to me “I didn’t want to go through the front doors but thanks Anthony you’re hard at it.” I was amazed that someone like Jim who could pick up his phone and ring Bruce Springsteen just to have the craic knew my name.

Me, Dad and two others went to Jims funeral in Belfast, we got to the church, we pulled in right in front of the hearse and he said “we’ll do here” no one was going to argue with him, we got inside the church, Dad needed to sit down so we got a seat. He got too warm so we got up and went outside, I said “I’ll be back in a minute, I’m going to the car” and he said “how? Sure I’ve the keys.” He said “you’re going for a cigarette aren’t you” I said “yeah” he said “sure have it here and give me one too” it was the first time I ever smoked in front of him, standing outside a church.

The funeral came out of the church and people were trying to shake hands with the family. There was no real order, so we stood back. Dad put up his hand and waved at Peter and all of a sudden he came walking over to us with another man, I recognised but looked different because he wasn’t wearing his cowboy hat, Garth Brooks... Dad and Peter talked, about Jim being in our house 3 weeks before and how sudden it was, then he introduced Garth to Dad by saying “this man Tony Loughman is responsible for you coming to Ireland he was in Nashville in 1990 and heard about you, he took a cassette home and gave it to Dad (Jim) and said “get this man to Ireland, he’s going to be big” so they talked and Peter and Garth went on and I got to shake his hand when he was leaving. We went on to the Carrickdale that evening and then went home. I just thought I’d share that because it’s one of many memories of a man that had a big influence on my life.

I went on holidays just after that with my girlfriends’ family and Dad was still getting treatment when I left. I think it was into the second week I was there I rang home and was talking to him and he had stopped getting treatment because his bloods weren’t right, but that had happened a few times before. I came home and he was already in Spain, he had kind of a bucket list going, he came home after that, then went to Las Vegas or maybe it was the other way around, I don’t know. He came back from his travels anyway and went to hospital again but his bloods still weren’t right, and then back up 2 weeks later- still not right.

At that time you could see that he was fading and we realised that the treatment wasn’t going to work anymore... he accepted what was going to happen, but not before he could pull off one last show... at the end of May 2007 he ran 3 concerts in the Hope Castle, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. The money from all concerts was divided up between Newry Hospice, Drogheda Oncology ward and Castleblayney Cancer. He wasn’t able to be there himself, but each night every half hour you’d get a phone call. On the last night he came in, he had to be linked in but he was still a strong man, he was presented with two trophies, one from Castleblayney Cancer for his work over the last 30 years for them and one from “his friends in the Music Business”. After everything was presented one thing stood out to me, Dad went over and sat down in front of Big Tom and Tom put his head into Dad’s shoulder and cried... I couldn’t look at that, I had to leave, I went outside and broke down, it was the first time I realised he was dying, that was the 13th of May.

After that, we all stayed at home, the whole family; Declan, Caroline, Ciara and I and we all looked after him along with the palliative care. On the 1st of June at about 3am. Me and Declan woke up at the same time because every couple of hours we had to turn dad on his side, we went into the room and the nurse said that he was ok he didn’t need to be turned, Ciara and Caroline came into the room as well and asked was everything all right, we were all up in dad’s room and he was still breathing so that was ok, he started to move and the nurse got up and told us to get my mother so I did, Mam came down then and as we were all there he took his last breath and died with us all there in the room .

The normal procedure after that, the wake which brought many people from far and wide, show band and Football, a thing that stood out for me was a bus pulled up outside the gate and in marched the whole Crossmaglen Senior team to pay their respects. Usually there is a 3 day wake but that changed, Fr. Brian was to say the mass but on that Sunday Blessed Charles was being sainted, Charles was a Passionate priest the same as Fr. Brian. There is a long history there between the two by Dad’s fundraising for Mount Argus in Dublin where Saint Charles is buried. Dad’s funeral was changed to the Monday, I can’t really remember much from it, all I know I was tired, after the funeral we all went back to the Hope Castle where he had the concert weeks before. I think I left early and came back to bed.

Probably the reason I talked a lot about Dad there is because he was and still is a big influence on my life. As a child I used to go everywhere with him, I used to go to all the concerts and gigs he had running, travelled the length and breadth of the country with him and even to England at one point. But when he died that part of my life died, it’s gone for good and I’ll never get it back. To watch a big strong man who accomplished everything in life reduced to not being able to walk or hold himself up, I’ll never forget that as long as I live. But he wore everything with pride and even when he was sick he wore his illness with pride. When he died I wasn’t working so it was time to pick myself up and go at it again.

Christmas that year was nonexistent in our house, we didn’t put up a Christmas tree for the first time ever of the 40 years since the house was built, there was nothing to look forward to anymore. I went back to work in January. In June 2008 dad’s Secretary of over 20 years, Declan and a lifetime friend of Dad’s, Pat McDonald, organised a tribute concert for Dad, with all proceeds going to charity. The buzz running up to it was good because I was going to be singing at it. I had started to pick up guitar and was getting lessons from a former Everglade man, a great guitar player from Crossmaglen. He was also going to be playing at the concert because as soon as musicians knew it was on they all wanted to lend a hand. The concert arrives and I sang 2 songs, further on up the road (Johnny Cash version) and a song I wrote for dad that still has no name. I got a great kick out of that and things were starting to look up. I was getting counselling in the Gary Kelly centre in Drogheda and it was helping me to focus on the positives.

I don’t know if it was me or my sister who rang this local business man looking for a job but he rang me on a Thursday and told me to come in on a Friday to talk, so I did. I started there on the Monday in September 2007. I work for a man who knows the highs and lows in life, he has had his fair share, but at the end of it all he knows what’s important and that’s family and being able to walk and talk. He doesn’t know it but I admire that man so much.

My brother Derek, his wife and two kids emigrated to Australia for work mainly and probably for the experience of something different. So myself and my girlfriend booked tickets for March 2010 to go out to them for 3 weeks and see her cousins who were there also. March arrived and I was counting down the days until we left, Paddy’s Day came and it was one week till we were going on the 25th March. On Friday morning, the 19th I was woken at about 6am, someone was throwing stones at my bedroom window. I looked out and saw my two brothers Kevin and Ollie and his wife, I knew what was wrong straight away.

I came down the stairs and opened the door, Ollie came in and I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but I made it out, Shane my brother had died in the middle of the night in a house in Keady. My reaction was just blank, I had to stop and think, was this just a dream or did he just say that. But he did say it. So I took it in.

Kevin said to get Joan, I started to walk up the stairs and as I did thoughts of my mother, Edel and Dad just came back to me all at once. I walked into the room and started to cry, she said “what’s wrong” and I couldn’t get it out. I said “it’s Shane” and she straight away said “he’s dead” and I said “yep”. She got up and consoled us probably the same way as she consoled us all in ’87 when my mother died. We sat around the table and talked it through. Kevin had already rang my brother in Australia to tell him, I can’t start to imagine how he took it. But I do know that there was one emotion that we all felt and for me that was regret, and still to this day, although Shane was my blood I never really got to know him, while I was growing up he spent a lot of time in England. But I do remember, a few Christmas’s he sent me stuff home. When he came back to Ireland he was about, but he wasn’t really, form a young age Shane took my mother’s death differently, he was 13 when my mother died and around that time things would have been happening that he didn’t like and with grief and adding drink into the mix he would have got violent and that’s the way his life went. Shane would have been shown love and he would have been sat down and talked to but he wouldn’t accept any of it, we cannot change the past but if I could I would change his. At the time we didn’t know what had happened to him but he was taken to Belfast for a post mortem, that morning Kevin left and came back later to go to the undertakers. I remember the 1st person to come in the door was a neighbour from down the road and she shook hands with me and I thought to myself when are people going to stop shaking hands with me over the loss of a family member.

I waited until Ollie and Kevin came back and we went into town, I realised as I was walking into the undertakers that it was the third time in five years that I was doing this, at that time I had been stopped smoking four months but that morning I needed one, we went from there to a clothes shop to get Shane suited, but he never wore suits so we got him a jumper, shirt, trousers and even a pair of socks to keep him warm. We went then because the next day Shane was being taken to the funeral home in Blayney and then on to Kevin’s house in Monaghan for a wake. We were meeting Shane's remains in Keady that day at the nursing home, my sister in laws family were all there, her father was in that nursing home so it was nice that they were all there. I never felt as nervous in all my life waiting on Shane’s remains to arrive, and they eventually did, and then I realised “he was really dead”.

We arrived at Blayney, as we pulled up to the funeral home in the commons there was a lot of people there. If you know us Harte’s we are not what you would call outspoken men, we don’t say too much but Ollie did something that day that I admire him for doing. He went up to one person and said “you didn’t respect Shane when he was alive so you’re not paying your respects to him when he’s dead” and I stand by what he said to this day. We took his body out of the hearse and into the building, just his three brothers and two undertakers and we put the coffin in the stands, they opened the coffin and there he was, just sleeping... I couldn’t control myself, I couldn’t stand up either but we pulled ourselves together and let the people file in to pay their respects... one person we were all probably waiting to see come in the door was Shane’s father, my biological father (I don’t like that name biological) he came in, went to Shane and then shook each of our hands and went back out the door, I belief that’s not the way he wanted it and it’s not the way I wanted it but that’s the way it was.

We went to Kevin’s that evening for the wake, all his neighbours were there and people still coming as they do. That night we all stayed up, it was like Irish wakes used to be, the case of beer was taken out and we had our last drink with Shane. The next day went on as usual, until a man and his family came in, this man was recently knighted by the queen for his work with the troubles in Northern Ireland. I knew at the back of it all that Shane was a good person and this man proved it all. He talked about what Shane did for him, some good stories and some bad stories but “it was all in a day’s craic” as Shane would say.

The next morning was Shane’s funeral, Derek my brother, who was in Australia was on the phone every few hours over the weekend, that morning we were talking to him, he was going to a church out there while the funeral was taking place in Blayney. As we all stood around the coffin before it was closed, it was like closing the final chapter, no more hurt, no more pain, he’s going to probably be where he always wanted to be and that was beside my mother in the graveyard in town. An uncle of ours helped us out with the coffin to the hearse and we set off for Blayney. Shane lived by the sword but he didn’t die by it. The only thing that always gets to me is that Shane died alone. Not like the previous deaths with family around them, but he’s not alone now.

We pulled up in New Street outside our old house and none of us could hold back the tears, we got out and we started to proceed to the church. Three brothers in Black suits walking behind a coffin up Main Street is not something you see every day. We got to the church and everything started, after we carried his coffin to my mother’s grave, something that stands out for me from the previous two, I’ll never forget lowering my brothers body into the grave and as we did rain came out of nowhere, some people say that that’s a sign but I don’t know. We went back to the church and got dried up and went for food, Derek was on the phone seeing how everything went. I have two things in my wallet, not money but a holy medal that was in Shane’s pocket when he died and the other is a picture of him and under it says “Do not regret growing older, it is a privilege denied to many.”

With everything that happened over that weekend I had forgotten that I was going to Australia in 3 days. Now I was going on another mission, the day before I left for Australia I couldn’t gather myself, but I did... we headed off, two stops, Sydney then Brisbane. At the time we left it was too late to organise a lift from the airport but at the back of my mind I know Derek would come pick us up, and he did. We landed in Brisbane; they were at the wrong airport so he said he would be there in ten minutes. We got outside and I just broke down, I couldn’t stop crying. I was going to meet him for the first time in a year and in the last two weeks our brother had died. They finally arrived and by that time I was well dried up. We then went on the 3 hour journey to their house and I really enjoyed the holiday I badly needed....

I just want to say this one thing; I have a real father, a biological father if you want to call it that. He is still living and breathing, he’s the father I left in 1987. We are only here for a short while, sometimes too short. But to live a life to the full you should have no regrets, say what you think, and man up if you’re wrong but just don’t sit there and say nothing. There is a saying “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family” Well I wouldn’t change mine, and I love every single one of my family members even if they don’t know it.

When I started out to write this I said I was going to share everything so here goes... In the past 10 years I have thought about suicide on a few occasions, and one time I did start to prepare. But in my case that wasn’t the answer. I know what suicide does to a family but I’m not willing to do that to mine, I love them too much and I’m willing to fight this. Suicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem. As well as everything else my frustration got the better of me. Some people are different, they take their frustration out in different ways, some people hit walls, some people drink but the only release for me was self-harm. I have scars on my body that I’m not proud of, but each scar tells a story. Most of them have faded and some haven’t, the others are now covered with tattoos.

Sometimes I think, what are we doing here, what’s our propose, I think the same as everyone else does. I think to myself why was I given the cards I was dealt, losing a mother at 11 months, leaving behind 5 kids and a husband. Losing a sister, but 3 beautiful kids losing a mother and a husband losing a wife, a father who accomplished a lot in life and gave so much and a brother who had a whole life ahead of him to do right and make up for lost ground. People would say it’s god’s will, but don’t ever say that to my face, people told me to pray for help before, what’s the point when there is nobody the listening. I have views on religion but you don’t want to hear them because I could write the same again. We live like the story of the leaf “The leaf grows then blossoms, falls off the tree, dies then shrivels up and goes back into the earth” Such is life.

My life this last year has had plenty of ups and downs, New people I met, people I wish I never met and people I'll remember for the rest of my life. I had to write this because I can’t keep it bottled up any longer. I was told by a woman who changed my outlook on life, and who made me look at things from the outside, to sit down and write it all down, so that’s what I’ve done, thank you.

We men of Ireland were taught from a very young age not to show emotion from the simple phrase every parent uses “Stop crying, boys don’t cry”, parents of Ireland we listened to you and we didn’t cry but look were that has got us. A lot of people mainly men think that showing emotion is a sign of weakness, when in fact it is the complete opposite. No matter how strong you are there are always things in life that will get you down, and it can easily start with the smallest thing. But please never bottle it up. Always remember, even though you might not think it but your family and friends are always there for you, now there are even organisations that can help you that weren’t around 20 years ago. You are never alone.

I owe so much to my family and I’m very grateful, because without them I wouldn’t be here telling you this.

One last thing, before Dad died he would always said to me "why can you not sing or play guitar, I could have managed you" Well Dad...


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