The life of a young Clonmel man whose catch phrase changed from ‘what if’ to ‘why not’ was remembered on Friday night at the launch of a new book on his travels throughout the world.
The book on Conor O’Mahony’s young life - he died in 2006 at the age of 32 - was written by his father Brendan and based on hugely popular travel articles he wrote for The Nationalist each week on his treks throughout South America, New Zealand and Australia.
And in addition to Conor’s experiences on his travels, the book contained a second section on a journey undertaken by his father - an emotional pilgrimage on the El Camino Ingles walk in Spain that Brendan took on the fourth anniversary of Conor’s death.
Clonmel’s Main Guard was packed to overflowing for the launch of the book, ‘Forever Young’, by Mayor Darren Ryan.
The proceeds from the book go to CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) and the founder of the book Michael Green and his wife Marie were also present for the launch. They also lost their son in similar circumstances to Conor’s death in 2006.
The evening before a packed attendance in the stunning surrounds of the Main Guard gallery contained both laughter and tears.
Brendan, as well as Conor’s brothers Kevin and Fintan, recalled episodes of Conor’s life.
It was Kevin who said that as a child Conor had always asked ‘what if’ - what if the car ran out of petrol, what if the teachers forgot his name in school. But later he asked ‘why not’ as he began a series of adventures that Conor crammed into 32 years but most people couldn’t manage in a hundred.
Before he left on his travels, his parents asked him not to do a bungee jump because it was too dangerous. Instead he decided to do parachute jumps, fly in a microlite plane and climb glaciers which made bungee jumping look safe.
Conor had said he had signed at least fourteen waiver forms when undertaking such adventures.
As Brendan O’Mahony thanked everyone who had been friends to Conor during his life or to those who helped him with the book, he turned to his wife Margaret, and with tears welling in both their eyes, said that without her they wouldn’t have had Conor for 32 wonderful years.
He had earlier said that he had found writing the book ‘sobering, reflective, sad in parts but mostly uplifting and enjoyable’.
“I thought at times that I should have written it when Conor was still with us but I got over that by saying I was now travelling the journey with him - through Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Cuba, Australia and finally New Zealand. His travel exploits were so remarkable”, he said.
Mr O’Mahony said he hadn’t thought about writing a book until some people had mentioned to him about the series of articles that Conor had written for The Nationalist and then he mentioned the idea to Eamonn Wynne from The Nationalist who put him in touch with Thurles archivist John O’Gorman who sourced all the material.
“Of course I had read all the articles at the time but when I read them again I was overwhelmed because it was as if Conor was talking to me. The hairs just rose on the back of my head”, he remarked.
He then told everyone he was writing the book, including the second section on his own pilgrimage in Spain, because then he would have to follow through on the project. Conor had once said to him on a car journey that the family motto should be “I won’t back down’ from the Tom Petty song.
Music was also a huge element of Conor’s life and the title of the book ‘Forever Young’ comes from a Bob Dylan song, the words of which are also inscribed on his headstone.
With proceeds of the book going to CRY, founder Michael Green said the group receives no public funding and depends on ‘ordinary people doing extraordinary things such as Brendan and Margaret O’Mahony did’ to help pay its way.
“It is a privilege to be involved with them. Brendan is an extreme example of the lengths people go to help us”, Mr Green said.
He pointed out that CRY helps both the families of those bereaved by sudden cardiac death and in the diagnosis of the condition.
“We started this because there was nothing there when our son died. Now we are in operation for ten years. But we could do so much more with more money. Four young people have died since Christmas”, he told the packed attendance.
Mayor Darren Ryan said it was totally unacceptable that CRY received no public funding for such vital work and he paid tribute to the Greens for all their marvellous effort.
He said it was coincidental that CRY started in 2002, the year that Conor O’Mahony started his travels.
Mayor Ryan said the huge attendance at the launch reflected the high esteem in which the O’Mahony family was held in Clonmel.
“Your family is dedicated to the community of Clonmel and I thank you for all you do. It was not easy for Brendan to write this book but his determination, commitment and courage saw him through and he has done a huge job in bringing Conor’s memory out. It is remarkable that Conor achieved so much in such a short life”, he stated.
The book is on sale at Clonmel Travel.