by Andrea Bonnie, NLI Marketing Student
Today marks our colleague John L. O’Sullivan’s second bite of the retirement cherry. He retired from An Garda Siochána in 2001 after 30 years of service only to spring back into action in 2003 when he joined us as a Science and Art Attendant. Regular visitors to the National Library will no doubt be familiar with John’s easy sense of humour, his helpfulness, and of course his endless supply of stories and anecdotes. During his time here, he has become as much a part of the library as the books themselves, and now that he’s retiring (for good this time), we’re all going to miss him!
Of course, to say that John is simply a former Garda is to misrepresent him. He’s also a former army man, substitute teacher, prison officer, sawmill operator, barman, senior laboratory technician and even apprentice gunsmith, to name but a few of his previous incarnations. Oh, and he used to make parts for submarines too. As you do.
On this special day, his last at the National Library, I ask John what he’ll miss most about working here. “I’ll miss meeting such interesting people” he says. “The Library attracts the cream of society, not just from Ireland but from all over the world and for many I’m the first point of contact. I’m always curious to know what brings people here. I remember one Canadian man came in who was making a documentary about a famine ship and wanted to look up the records of the passengers on board; it was fascinating. It’s the interaction with people like that I’ll miss”.
It’s worth noting that John came very close to not getting the job at all. Having only heard about the position the day before the deadline, he travelled 40 miles to Ballina to post his application by Express Post to make sure it got there on time. In the end of course, it turned out to be worth the effort. “I found myself working in a very stimulating environment” he says. “I always feel that no matter what your environment is, be it positive or negative, you’ll be influenced by it. Working at the National Library has given me a new outlook and an appreciation of a different type of life, not to mention a whole new appreciation of books. I feel I’ve learned something from everyone in the library”.
So what are his plans for retirement this time round? “I’ll probably divide my time between my apartment and my house. My first priority is to become proficient with computers as I feel I’ve been left behind in that regard! I hope to be a regular visitor to the library too. I already have a Readers’ Ticket that was issued to me for my retirement”.
As we come to the end of our interview, which has been full of mad stories that inevitably finish with the words “… but don’t put that in the article”, I ask John if he has any parting words of wisdom. He pauses for a moment before saying somewhat wistfully “To anyone working here, I would say to savour the moment, because time passes so very quickly”.
Wise words indeed.
Five things you never knew about John L.
- Of all the celebrities he met during his time at the Library, he was most impressed by actor Jeremy Irons who he describes as “awfully posh but able to carry it off”
- The job he enjoyed most (not to diminish the Library he hastens to add!) was draining rivers for Cavan County Council
- The funniest book he ever read was the 1975 novel The Choir Boys by Joseph Wambaugh
- He loves timber
- He never believed in Santy but didn’t like to say so in case adults thought he was cheeky