"Gooch" encourages the Young Generation to read History

19 November, 2018

Speaking at the Killarney Launch of Patricia Murphy’s new novel for young readers, “Leo’s War”, Colm “Gooch” Cooper said, “While most of his out-of-school time was taken up with kicking football and other sporting activities, he regretted not making more time for looking at the history of his home place and the great characters and real-life heroes that came from his town and in particular his school, The Mon”.

The Gooch, Colm Cooper

This latest novel from best selling author Patricia Murphy is based on the true story of one of Killarney’s most inspirational heroes, Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, a.k.a. The Vatican Pimpernel. During WW2 in Nazi occupied Rome Hugh O’Flaherty was responsible for setting up and running the now famous Rome Escape Line through which, he gave refuge to over 6000 people being hunted by the Gestapo.

Colm went on to say, “Like most people of my age in Killarney, I knew nothing of this great man and his humanitarian work during the war in Rome, but since the setting up of the Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial Society and the publication of various books including “Leo’s War”, he now makes time in his busy schedule to learn more about this incredible hero. This ordinary Killarney Mon boy who attended the same school as I did, but went on to do extraordinary things in the service of others”

Patricia Murphy’s “Leo’s War” is the latest of her wonderful novels under the heading Hands on History for young readers published by Poolbeg Press. It includes the best selling “Molly’s Diary”, based around the 1916 Rising. Patricia said, “I was delighted to include the Monsignor’s story in my latest novel and to see in the local O’Flaherty Schools Literary Competition that such young students are readily applying the Monsignor’s humanitarian principles to today’s world circumstances”.

Jerry O’Grady of the Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial society said, Children love history - when it is presented in language they can relate to and with a fun and/or mystery element in the story. Patricia Murphy's "Hands on History" series delivers this in spades. She did it wonderfully in her earlier best seller "Molly's Diary", which dealt with the Easter Rising. In "Leo's War", the brave deeds of Monsignor Hugh and the risks he and others took in Nazi occupied Rome are knitted into a children's adventure story - with the facts made more appealing to the young reader by the inclusion of an appropriate level of fiction”.

At a time when some are questioning the value of history in the school curriculum, he added, “We need more than ever to make our young people aware of the inspirational work of real-life heroes like Hugh O'Flaherty - and if this means enhancing the story by the addition of some imaginative fiction, than that is what we should be doing”.

“Over the last three years in the annual O'Flaherty Primary School Essay Competition, we have been delighted to see the way that 12-year olds in our national schools, are able to apply the Monsignor's principles to today’s world circumstances. It greatly encourages us to continue our outreach to the schools”.

Since 2017, all the schools in the Killarney Parish have been including a Hugh O'Flaherty Day in their calendar of events. The Memorial Society has provided all the schools with a comprehensive Resource Pack, which are updated as needed. At the same time the schools have generated a Schools Bursary which is presented to the Humanitarian Award recipient - this year the Bursary was shared between Kerry Mountain Rescue, the RNLI and Killarney Water Rescue. It will help these organisations to pay for equipment etc.

The Killarney launch took place as part of the 2018 Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial Weekend (Nov 2-4).