Interviewed by Orlagh Leech / photos by Kristina Kelly
Orlagh: How long have you lived in the area?
James: 86 years.
Orlagh: What’s a fond memory you have of living here?
James: A fond memory I have was going to the Feis’, where we would dance and win medals. I danced with my twin sister and two other friends. During Lent, the local priest would bring us to other parishes where they had concerts where we danced. We really enjoyed going in a car as there were very few cars around. We got refreshments at these concerts, and this was great as everything was rationed during the war.
Orlagh: Have you seen this community come back from hard times before?
James: Yes I have. The 1950s were very tough and lots of people, including my friends, emigrated. The only reason I didn’t emigrate was because I was working with my Dad. I am an only son and I didn’t want to leave him. In the 1960s, things really started to improve when Seán Lemass became Taoiseach. There was more work for people and the economy started to really improve.
Orlagh: What are some things that have helped you through lockdown and what brings you joy?
James: I live very close to six of my children who were able to visit me throughout lockdown. Vintage cars bring me joy and I am looking forward to vintage runs starting again and meeting my friends.
Orlagh: What does community mean to you? What sort of things are you doing now to stay connected to your community and family?
James: Community is very important to me. Over 30 years ago, I got cancer and had my larynx removed. I had cancer treatment in St. Luke’s Hospital Dublin. The staff were so good that I wanted to give back, so I started a community festival to raise money for St. Luke’s. The festival has run every year from 1991 with the exception of 2020 and 2021 due to Covid. It has raised thousands in aid of St. Luke’s. Through the vintage club we did a 50cc motorbike run from Mizen to Malin Head and raised €120,000 for St. Luke’s.
Orlagh: What message do you want to share for yourself and this community in 10 years time?
James: I hope that in 10 years time our rural community will remain as close knit and supportive as I have remembered it. I hope there will always be peace in my community and that it will be protected from Climate Change.
Pictured below is Orlagh’s creative response to her interview with James- a photo collage of the vintage cars that bring James joy. Also shown are images from James’ shoot with photographer Kristina Kelly.