Happy

Last November, I blogged a bit about my childhood and mentioned a bloke called Donall Murray.

Just to remind you (!), in 1970, I was in a play in the Eblana Theatre, under Busaras in Dublin, called ‘It’s a Two Foot Six Inch Above the Ground World’, a comedy piece notable for being the first play in Ireland in which the word ‘fuck’ was used.

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The play ran for the whole summer and my brother in the play was performed by Donall. It so happened that, in 1970, my parents and his parents were both going through significant marital difficulties. This, and the fact that we were both around the same age (I was 10, Donall 11), and we lived not too far from each other, brought us quite close together.

We used to get the train in to the Eblana from Glenageary station each evening, get off at Tara Street, walk across Butt Bridge and into the theatre. Because we got the train at the same time each evening, the train driver began to recognise us and invited us to travel in the cab. This was a bit of a thrill to be honest, topped only by him letting us once or twice take the controls of the train on the long stretch at Booterstown.

When we weren’t acting in the play, we knocked around together, used our pay to buy Chopper bikes …

… and generally did the stuff that friends do. Before the end of the run, at the start of September, my dad pulled me out of the play as the school term was about to start. My final performance was a deeply emotional one, I remember. The cast members and backstage staff were really friendly and kind to us all the way through the run and it was a big wrench to leave.

My family circumstances had changed by then and I had moved with my dad to my grandparents’ house near Killiney so it wasn’t long before Donall and I lost touch.

Fast forward to 1972 and I was cast in a film called ‘A War of Children’, a made for US TV film about the deepening conflict in Northern Ireland. While the film lacked authenticity and was a bit superficial in its portrayal of the troubles, it played well in the US, winning an Emmy and being nominated for another. I had quite a major role in the film and it so happened that Donall was cast in it too. He had been working in the intervening period and was a bit of a star, generally. We didn’t really get to spend much time with each other during the shoot however. In any case, in the film, he killed my pigeon.

About five or six years ago, I received a speculative message through Facebook from Donall wondering was I the David Meredith that he had acted with all those years ago. We re-established contact and messaged each other quite frequently over the last few years, sharing each others’ stories and generally being warm towards each other.

Donall is now Pastor Happy Murray and has had an interesting life. I’m not going to summarise or comment on it. You’ll find it here.

About a year ago, Happy told me that he was working with Colin McKeown, a BAFTA award-winning documentary maker, to give his story a wider audience. This story was to include a segment on his childhood, specifically his work as a child actor, and he wanted me to be a part of this. In fact, he wanted our reunion, so to speak, to take place on camera.

Happy and me with Colin’s BAFTA

That happened today. Quite an event. We met on Thomas Street, close the the NCAD, and embraced warmly. Meeting somebody you haven’t seen in almost fifty years can be awkward but this wasn’t. We’ve led very different lives and our beliefs are very different, but we met each other with respect, openness and trust.

The bulk of the day comprised Happy and me in conversation about the past, present and future, in front of Colin McKeown and a very warm, unobtrusive and efficient film crew. It was hot (the lights!), tiring and sometimes emotional but also interesting, engaging and, I think, worthwhile. I do like an audience and, when I’m comfortable, I do like to talk. And Colin, Happy and the crew made me comfortable.

I’m constantly conscious that I have lived an unusual life in many respects. My early childhood was spent in an intensely creative household, I was acting professionally at 7 years of age, I was in an award winning film at 12. I have had a range of extraordinary life experiences and have been fortunate to have met many people with different viewpoints and beliefs. Through my various jobs and voluntary activities I have been influenced by many people, and I have influenced others and, in some cases, I know that have made a difference to peoples’ lives. In our final exchange this afternoon, both Happy and I expressed ourselves to be excited by what lies ahead for each of us, in terms of curiosity, discovery and opportunities for adventure.

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