• Morgan Fagg

Midland author´s Madrid book launch

Updated: Sep 7, 2018

Published in the Athlone Topic

Most Athlonians will remember Séamus MacAogáin from Athlone Train Station where he and his wife Mida ran the Station Shop for over two decades. A familiar sight at Athlone Bus & Train Station selling tea and coffee to those travelling West to Galway or East to Dublin or catching buses from the midland hub.

More than a quarter of a century ago, long before the M4 and M6 opened, the train was an essential way to commute to Dublin and what better way to travel than with a cup of tea, sandwich or one of Mida's famous scones.

Séamus MacAogáin arrived in Athlone in 1980 and in addition to the tuck shop in the Train Station, he also organised tours of Clonmacnoise, Clonfert, and Abbeyshrule and had a trolley service on the train to Dublin.

He proudly recalls that it was the first private service offering hot drinks and snacks on  Iarnród Éireann and the first to sell newspapers.

Seamus also saw people´s transport needs outside the station and established Athlone Cab Company with Tommy Grenham, Tony Broderick and Pat Meade, which was Athlone´s first taxi company.

Now, from a new platform in Cercedilla, outside Madrid, Séamus watches the old electric train bringing tourists and skiers up to the Sierra Guadarrama and he now offers something different for Midland commuters to read on their morning commute.

You can take the man out of Ireland but you certainly can´t take Ireland out of the man and Séamus has combined 52 short stories into his second book based on his life growing up in the Midlands. Tell Me Another is the follow up to the controversial The Road to Abbeyshrule, proving you can take the man out of Ireland but not the reverse.

Changing tracks, Séamus took the train to Madrid 13 years. Arriving first in Santander on Saint Patrick´s Day 2003, fulfilling a lifetime dream to move to Spain after falling in love with the peninsula while cycling there in the 1970s.

In Athlone, Séamus met controversial writer John McGahern, whose books were banned under Irish censorship, they would meet after the All Ireland Drama Festivals and McGahern became the first of many mentors including Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney. 

Extract from Seamus Heaney´s "Summer 1969"

Séamus and Seamus met several times in Clonmacnoise, Derry, Dublin and Madrid. Heaney was no stranger to Madrid as he had once studied there in 1969 when he penned his famous poem "Summer 1969"

Heaney, like McGahern, encouraged Séamus to continue with his Midland style of writing and in Madrid, Séamus was introduced to the Irish/Spanish poet John Liddy who wrote the prologue to Tell Me Another.

In Good Company

Despite the excitement of his new life, Spain hasn't been without pain either. While sign painting a new premise, Seamus suffered a life-threatening accident that left him in a coma for some days after falling from the roof.

Recovering slowly over the following two years and thanks to the support of his three children Sarah, Simon and Stephen, he decided to cycle the Camino de Santiago from the city of Sevilla. Like a true pilgrim, he enjoyed nights under the stars with his hammock and bicycle.

A thousand kilometres and five weeks later, he reaching the tomb of Santiago and knew he had fully recovered.

All roads lead to home and while watching young Robbie Henshaw play for Ireland he is reminded of his grandad Billy, a train driver who could never pass the Station Shop without a wave and a hello. 

Bidding goodbye to Coosan, Séamus has been teaching English in Madrid and working as a Cambridge University Examiner ever since. No longer, minding the trains but training the minds.

Surrounded by friends, family and students, Tell Me Another was launched to the sound of Spanish flamenco guitars and Irish singing in the James Joyce on Monday, February 20th 2016.

While it is difficult to keep so many stories on track, the author takes you on a nostalgic trip to rural Ireland where magic and folklore hide behind every bush.

Whether taking the train, or a plane to Spain, you are always in good company with a  book. Tell Me Another is available as a hardcopy or Kindle download through Amazon.


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