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Episode Info: Live public interview with the legendary Hugh O’Brien, or ‘Hugh Barney’ as he’s often known. It was recorded in the Darly School Hall as part of a full house at the Cootehill Arts Festival in my hometown of Cootehill Co. Cavan. Hugh Barney is a 79-year-old historian, educator, actor and community activist. He taught me history and English at secondary school and left a lasting impression on me, as he did so many others.   Topics Hugh discusses in this conversation include his childhood and upbringing, his 39 years as a teacher, his views on education, history, politics, religion, spirituality, alcohol, community involvement, and his love for cinema and drama.   This is a man who has clearly lived a full life and as you’re about to hear, he continues to do so. Hugh has inspired countless people to think differently and to believe in themselves and so it’s great to be able to share this voice with more people through this podcast, especially international listeners and Cootehill people living and listening all over the world, including my brother Sean Og in China. As well as being the author of 3 books and 3 booklets, Hugh is an accomplished actor, appearing in countless theatre productions, in the acclaimed TV show Fr Ted, and in several movies and documentaries including The Escapist, Ordinary Decent Criminal, Korea, and the Run of the Country. It’s amazing that the one thing we never really got around to talking about was Hugh’s visual impairment. In recent years he has lost his eyesight but that hasn’t held him back. He now uses a stick to get around and he has also mastered phone and computer technology that allows him to stay connected and to keep up with his various projects. Hugh’s wife Noeleen was also an amazing person and she passed away in 2012. I’m a big advocate of listening to and learning from our elders and it was a real privilege to have been chosen by Hugh Barney as his interviewer for this event, which attracted rave reviews. I want to say I feel particularly fortunate that Hugh is in good health and was able to do this interview given that back in 2017 he spent several months in hospital, including a few weeks in intensive care. Hugh was on flying form on the night of the interview and as you’ll hear shortly, it was a real rollercoaster ride that was peppered with some questions from the audience. There was also an interval on the night and I have edited that out. There’s no shortage of laughs throughout the interview and there’s also a good few swear words, particularly in the first part, so keep that in mind if there are sensitive ears listening. It was particularly inspiring to learn more about Hugh’s role in the setting up of Drumlin House. Established by a group of volunteers in 1982, Drumlin House is a pioneering training centre that provides opportunities for young people with special needs to enhance their rights and aspirations. As well as being a training centre for dozens of young peo...
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