Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Toni O'Keeffe on 'Those Who Trespass Against Us' a story of survival

MJM and Toni, August 26, 2015
After having coffee with my good friend Toni O'Keeffe today, I went looking for a story I had written after receiving a copy of her amazing book 'Those Who Trespass Against Us'. In slightly updated form, here it is. It was just great to have coffee with Toni on her visit to Cranbrook!  ..MJM

I was walking home the other afternoon on a bright sunny Fall day noticing that snow was beginning to appear on the mountain tops, the first hint that Winter will soon be in the Rockies. But I was a bit annoyed as I had been looking for gift cards to use as stocking stuffers in a Christmas parcel for a friend, and I couldn't find any suitable ones.

A car pulled over beside me and there was my friend Nancy, one of the first people (and most helpful) that I met when I arrived at College of the Rockies so many years ago now.

"I have a book for you," she said, and handed me a copy of Those Who Trespass Against Us, Toni O'Keeffe's amazing story of her father's survival despite years of abuse by those charged with his care in Ireland between 1939 and 1948.

I knew the book had been published but was so delighted to receive a signed copy from Toni, one of the truly wonderful people I have ever known, and so much fun too! Toni was director of communications at College of the Rockies most of the time I was there, and was also my student in the very first Writing for New Media course I taught in 1994!!!

It was also my privilege to meet Toni's father Walter O'Keeffe and spend an evening with this incredibly talented Irish gentleman, who had moved to Canada and raised his family. Walter would nod in agreement as I shared tales told to me by my grandmother that while I had never doubted were true, he confirmed with a smile and twinkle in his eyes.

Toni's story captures the very essence of the inhumanity that exists among us, but it is also a tale of survival! Walter O'Keeffe and his brothers were 'sentenced' to Greenmont Industrial School for Boys in Cork where those in charge starved, preyed upon and beat the children in their care. Toni brings great passion to the story, and often told me it was a story that had to be told, not only to bring out the horror imposed on her father, but more importantly perhaps as part of a healing process.

Working with her father Toni wrote: "It is my hope that through the process of telling his story he will be released from the demons that hold him so tightly and that he will find a place of healing."

Those Who Trespass Against Us was completed before Walter O'Keeffe died. May he rest in peace.

A must read!

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