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Son remembers his father’s passion for writing

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Before author Sean O’Callagan passed away, he was able to leave an indelible mark on his five children.

The Irish author, who was very passionate about travel writing and history, published a book in 2000 entitled“To Hell Or Barbados” which told the story of Irish slaves who were transported to Barbados.

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Chatting with Loop Lifestyle during a tour of the Barbados Archives Department, where he handed over a copy of his father’s book, Mark O’Callagan explained that he was strongly influenced by his father’s passions. 

“He was always very interested in family history, in history in general, and in travel writing so it made me interested as well. This is why I was interested in languages, my first degree is in Italian, I learnt French, German in Brazil and I was also interested in archives. I was interested in doing a PHD in the Maltese Inquisition but then I decided that I would eventually become a clinical psychologist but it’s still a hobby of mine.”

The clinical psychologist who is the father of two daughters professed his father’s book is important to Barbadian history because it shows the interconnected history of Barbados and Ireland which is seldom told.

“He spent time in the archives here but also in London researching this and so the importance to Barbados is to at least track to what happened to a number of people who came here.

It’s part of Barbadian history but it’s also part of Irish history because we talk about the Irish who fled to Europe, the so-called ‘wild geese’ or who were transported to the barren parts of Ireland but we don’t talk about the Irish who were sent over to the West Indies which is a part of Ireland history.”

“There were mentions of it…but it wasn’t really known and that’s why he decided to do it, because my father he was not a historian, he was an investigative journalist so what he wanted to do was to make it known more to people. That is why he was very keen to write a book to show this is what happened but to also blaze a trail for other people to start doing work,” Mark revealed. 

He also divulged that his father needed his help in finishing the book because he fell very ill towards the end of writing his book.

“It was in 1993 that he came over to Barbados and it took him seven years to research. It’s interesting because he wasn’t well at the time, in fact, I came over to Malta where he was living at the time and helped him. Towards the end of writing his book, he was quite ill and the publisher said to him, ‘You don’t have to publish it until April’ and so, I told my father this and he said, ‘I’m not going to be around in April.’

“So he finished the book and I helped him finish it. I was able to hand him an email from the publisher to say ‘Yes, you’re good to go’ and within a week he died. He was able to finish the book with my assistance but he knew he didn’t have much time.”

Mark’s father, Sean O’Callagan, unfortunately, passed away in 2000 at the age of 82 before seeing his book published. However, his son professed that the most important thing was that the information was out to the public.

“Some people will say it’s a shame that he never saw it published but that wasn’t the most important thing for me, what’s most important for me is to know that that story I heard started was finished and it will be out there,” he told Loop.

He urged people to learn their history because the danger of not knowing it is you may forget what happened and repeat the mistakes of the past.

“I think the danger is you forget your culture, you forget what happened in the past but also you repeat the mistakes of the past. At the moment in Europe, the war between the Russians and the Ukrainians, it almost seems like a reinterpretation of history by the Russians.”


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