My dad believed in Galway and Galway believed in him

Ronnie O’Gorman, my dad, died last Thursday at 11pm. He was surrounded by myself and my sisters, in his own house, as comfortable as he could be, and he went very peacefully. He was diagnosed with lung cancer on August 15 last year and to be honest, the disease was brutal, particularly the last few months.

In that way, I am glad he’s out of pain. I am ready to start forgetting the last year and to think of him as the healthy man he was for the vast majority of his life.

Ronnie was living in London in 1970 when he got word that his own dad was dying. He came back to Galway to be with his family. When my grandfather had passed and the affairs were settled, he was sitting in a pub with a school friend, and declared "I’m not going back. I’m staying here and I’m going to set up a free newspaper."

He was 24 and had been working in publishing. He thought there was a market for a free newspaper in Galway. He had been up and down to Scotland to see some free papers with his mentor and thought Galway was on the verge of becoming the thriving city it is today.

Ronnie believed in Galway.

So he moved back and set up the paper. It was slow going for a long time. Many of his old friends told me over the last week they thought he was mad to do it, but he stuck at it. Over time, Galway got bigger and bigger and the paper grew with it. He attached the Advertiser to the arts scene in galway. He loved the Arts Festival and got such pleasure watching it grow. He would take me and my sisters to everything he could.

He retired as editor at 55. Back then I thought he was so old. He had worked hard and he deserved to rest. But, the next 24 years of his life, I believe, were the happiest.

He became a remarkable cook, known within my friend group for his famous “Chicken thing.” He concentrated on the garden in his home and built the most peaceful oasis in Salthill.

He also travelled; he would take me with him sometimes and was a brilliant travel companion. We would walk around museums and art galleries and he would know more than the guides.

During Covid, he was restless and frustrated. I twisted his arm into starting a podcast with his good friend Tom Kenny. We had a lot of fun working on that project together. I wish we had started it years earlier.

I hope as time passes I will forget most of this last year. It was hard seeing him in pain and getting weak. He never complained, but I saw in his eyes that he was suffering more than he was letting on.

I was in the enviable position of not having to have any difficult conversations to my dad before he died. We were able to spend the times where he was not so sick laughing and reminiscing and talking about the good times.

My main thought this last week was, I am so lucky to have a dad like Ronnie.

On Tuesday night, after the funeral I was walking home and I was thinking of him in that pub in Galway in 1970, telling his friend he wasn’t going back to London.

So much for Galway being a graveyard of ambition.

Ronnie believed in Galway... and Galway believed in him.


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