Actor and director Barry Cassin was recently interviewed by Culture Northern Ireland and said, among many other interesting things, that he did not think of himself as a writer. And yet in his charming memoir I Never Had a Proper Job: A Life in the Theatre he proves otherwise.
This long-awaited autobiography deserved lots of celebration and so it was launched three times in Listowel, Dublin, and finally Belfast!
Launch number one:
Listowel Writers' Week
Friday 1st June
with Minister Jimmy Deenihan
Barry has strong connections with Listowel, having been at the very first Writers' Week in 1971 and being a dear friend of John B. Keane's and the Keane family. The launch on Friday 1st June as part of the festival was more like a homecoming than a literary event. Joanna Flynn-Keane sat to Barry's left and introduced the event as well as Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan who formally launched the book. Minister Deenihan called I Never Had a Proper Job 'spectacular' and praised it for being a concise, historical account of Irish theatre. Minister Deenihan referred to Barry's close friendship with the Keanes and regaled the crowd with stories of Barry and John B. found in the book. Minister Deenihan finished by reading an extract from the book in which Barry discusses retirement and how he initially thought he'd retire at sixty, then seventy, and by now at eighty-seven thinks he may as well 'shop till I drop'! The minister finished by saying, 'There is a lot left in this man yet'.
Barry followed the minister with a word of thanks and a few of his memories of Listowel Writers' Week throughout the years. He talked about his experience of writing a memoir and by referencing anecdotes of a personal, theatrical and literary nature revealed the richness and variety of this autobiography. He talked at length about his wife Nancy and how she totally failed to turn him into a farmer, causing a ripple of laughter as he recounted slipping in pig manure, spraining his ankle, and being laid up for days! The most heartfelt and poignant moment of the event came as he described returning from a black-tie evening event with Nancy one night. Not far from home they came upon some sheep and Barry said he would leave Nancy home, put on his wellies and come back to put them into the field. 'Not at all!' said Nancy and tucking her full-length dress into her knickers got out of the car and ran up the field after the sheep! Barry concluded by saying, 'Every man should marry a woman like that!' asserting 'I'm serious'! Such stories show that while Barry's life was shaped by his love of acting and theatre, he is also, and always will be, a family man.
[You can see more pictures from the Listowel launch here.]
[You can listen to Minister Deenihan's speech here.]
|Barry with Minister Deenihan|
Launch number two:
Wednesday 6th June
with Rosaleen Linehan
|Posing for some photos!|
The following week on Wednesday 6th June, we congregated again, this time in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, to launch I Never Had a Proper Job. Barry's friends and family from near and far gathered to celebrate this great man and his memoir. The crowd included Barry's children and their families, including his daughter Anne Cassin, Frank Kelly, Eugene
McCabe, Bryan Dobson, Mary Kennedy, John Waters, Tom Murphy, Aonghus
MacAnally, Ronnie Masterson, Bernard Farrell, and Jane Brennan amongst
many, many more! Another of Ireland's finest actors Rosaleen Linehan did the honours and launched I Never Had a Proper Job. Rosaleen had the audience hanging on her every word as she both spoke and sang her way through her speech. She recalled her first meeting with Barry when he was director and she was auditioning for a part and shared story after story, losing us all in a world long gone. Barry delighted us by following Rosaleen with a reading from his book, which focused on his decision to go into acting and his commitment to the stage that meant he persisted despite his mother's initial disapproval, epitomised in her quip, 'After all we did for him. Going around the country like a tinker.’
[You can see more pictures from the Dublin launch here.]
[You can watch and listen to Rosaleen's speech here and Barry's reading here.]
|Anne and Rosaleen|
Launch number three:
Belfast Book Festival
Tuesday 12th June
with Eugene McCabe
|Eugene, making us laugh!|
Barry had strong connections with the Abbey Theatre in Dublin but also with the Lyric in Belfast. It was only right then that he return to Belfast, and the newly renovated Lyric Theatre on Ridgeway street, for the publication of I Never Had a Proper Job. His friend and novelist Eugene McCabe followed him to the north to formally launch his memoir. The event was part of the Belfast Book Festival programme and in comparison to the crowds at Listowel and Dublin, drew a smaller, more intimate audience. Eugene spoke about his friend, Barry Cassin, about his commitment to the arts, his love for Nancy and his family, and his poignant and beautiful memoir. With the inside scoop, having known Barry and Nancy for years, he had Barry and the rest of us in stitches! Barry thanked Eugene and finished with a reading from I Never Had a Proper Job highlighting the sections which detail his trips to the north, covering everything from playing in the Lyric to being accosted by a Portadown man demanding to know if he was 'saved' or not. The evening continued in its relaxed and jovial way with cups of tea and biscuits and good conversation among friends. Richard Croxford, artistic director of the Lyric, and David Grant, lecturer in drama at Queens University, were there to greet Barry and reminisce about theatre days. Richard introduced the formalities for the evening and finished by taking Barry and Eugene on a tour of the new Lyric!
[You can see more pictures from the Belfast launch here.]
I Never Had a Proper Job was reviewed in The Irish Times at the weekend and this is what they had to say:
'I Never Had a Proper Job is as much a narrative of 80 years of
extraordinary social and cultural change in Ireland as it is a
theatrical biography. What it does not do is needlessly iterate names of
famous actors in famous plays; the many that are mentioned are there
not for effect but to give substance to a poignant or entertaining
story. This is a very touching book indeed; never sentimental, radiantly
atmospheric.' Christopher Fitz-Simon