By Connie Duffy

What have Glengesh outside Ardara, the Tunnel Tigers, Chinese twins, a nurse, the Vietnam War, the Montreal Olympics and a coming of age tale got in common?

They’re just some of the ingredients that make up an exciting debut novel from a Ballybofey based writer.

Popular 54-year-old taxi driver, Seamus McCrudden, who drives for Marleys Travel, has penned the 169 page offering that will be launched tonight, Friday.

‘Donegal Gymnasts’ is a heartwarming piece of fiction that with entertain, thrill and take the reader of a journey from one end of the world to the other.
Seamus traces his foray into writing back to his interest and participation in local drama in his native Glenfin many years ago.

“I was always writing bits and pieces at night but they usually ended up in the bin Then about 15 years ago I got involved in local drama when Scoil Taobhoig, Cloghan schoolteacher, Susan Doherty decided to put on a few plays. I liked it and took part in a few shows, including a few for the nearby Butt Drama Circle in Ballybofey. That gave me the confidence to go on and go public with my writing.”

He had a few works published in the local community paper, Finn Valley Voice and this year came third in the Patrick MacGill poetry competition.

He said Ms Doherty also encouraged him to go with her to the North West Words group in Letterkenny where he met other aspiring writers and learned though listening to their work and reading his own to the group.

Seamus says he draws inspiration from everyday events, characters and places he visits every day as a bus driver.

He is also full of praise for Eamon Bonner and the North West Words group.

“It has been a big help and a great outlet. Eamon is very encouraging and helps you overcome any fears you might have about going public with your work. Celine McGlynn and her arts page The Arched Window in the Finn Valley Voice has also been a big help too. She published my first poem eight years ago. Indeed if that hadn’t happened, I doubt if I would have gone any further,” he said.

He said other sources of inspiration were regular taxi customer ‘Linda’ from Silverwood out the Donegal Road, Ballybofey and his mum Gretta.

“Linda told me not to give up saying one page will always follow the other. She’s a great reader, I think she’s on ten books a week. That why she uses the taxi so much, she’s steady up and down to Danny McIntyre’s bookshop in Ballybofey. My mother Gretta (nee Kelly), who used to be the midwife in Glenfin, is also a great reader – four or five books a week – and she encouraged me a lot too.”

He added he received tremendous support and encouragement from his wife Breege and daughters Aisling, Arleen, Amy and Meghan while Emma Lawne and Aisling’s husband Christy Sweeney from Fanad typed the story up for him.

The idea for the book came about from a mixture of ideas with an unusual twist. It involves a Donegal couple that adopt Chinese twins Jack and Jake in the 1960s. They develop gymnastic skills to such an extent that they are called up for international duty.

They then set out on the road to fame and fortune but their paths diverge and one sets off for England for a gymnastics career while the other goes to the US and serves in Vietnam. When they meet up again at the Montreal Olympics they are competing against each other representing their adopted countries but what happens next? You’ll have to get the book to find out!

“It has a bit of everything, comedy, drama, joy and sorrow – it’s a good story and it holds the whole way through. I don’t know where it will go from here but I have another book, a comedy, in my head but we’ll see where this one takes us first.”

Seamus tried s a number of publishers before striking up a friendship with a publisher in Dublin.

“He liked the work and told me he was happy to publish it. I hope the public enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it,” he said.
Donegal Gymnasts will be launched this Friday night, September 19th in the Isaac Butt Centre, Cloghan by the author’s good friend and former Donegal Person of the Year, Fergus Cleary from Convoy. The event will start at 8pm and the book will cost €9.99.

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