Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Helen O’Clery

The other day while rummaging through family stuff in search of Urney bits and bobs I came across this book by my Great-Aunt Helen.

Helen was the only daughter of Urney Chocolates founders Harry and Eileen Gallagher. She was born in 1910. Trained as a nurse in St Vincent’s Hospital Helen went on to study physiotherapy. She married engineer Dermot O’Clery and began writing books for children. She quickly became an established author and had many books published both in Ireland and in America. The couple's eldest daughter Ann, an architect and accomplished artist, illustrated several of Helen’s books including this one, Mysterious Waterway. Ann's beautiful sketches feature throughout.

Published in 1963 by Alan Figgis this adventure story for young readers sees the O’Reilly family navigate their way from Dublin Quay to Port Shannon on board a cabin cruiser. Although it is a work of fiction, the book was written to highlight the importance of retaining the canal. Dublin Corporation planned to lay a sewer in the bed on the city section of the Grand Canal and concrete over it to make a motorway. At this time Dermot O’Clery was president of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) which was formed in 1954 in an effort to preserve Ireland’s inland waterways. The IWAI is still in operation today and has this to say about Dermot on their website:

1963:..... Dermot O'Clery, President from 1962-'67, produced a comprehensive report about the future development of the Shannon, at the request of Bord Failte, indicating the funds that would be required to implement it. Bord Failte allocated the necessary funds, €140,000, and it is significant that almost all the suggestions contained in the report have now been carried out, illustrating the importance of putting suggestions in writing in a well laid out format.

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