Pat Ingoldsby is an Irish phenomenon. Poet and playwright, people of my generation also knew him from his children’s TV programmes such as Pat’s Hat.
His poetry is wonderful: simple and honest, the poems vary from hilariously funny to painfully sad. He is one of my favourite poets, and my favourite of his books is called “Welcome to my Head: Please Remove your Boots”.Ten or so years ago, Pat withdrew from the Irish mass media. He set up his own publishing company, Willow Publications, and appointed his cats to positions of authority such as CEO and Head of Accounts. He sells his books through a small number of bookstores in Ireland, and also sells directly to the public on the streets of Dublin.
His books carry a note that they are protected by the “Bratislava Accord 1993, section 2 cre/009 manifest-minsk”, the terms of which allegedly protect his book’s content from being included in school textbooks, examinations, elocution classes or anything with the word “Arts” in it.
My mother and I came across him on the corner of O’Connell Bridge in Dublin, when I was over there in October. He was sitting on an upturned milk-crate with his books laid out in front of him. In his trademark Drizabone coat and wide-brimmed hat, he looked comfortable watching the world hurry by. I was star-struck: “That’s Pat Ingoldsby!” I whispered to my mum over the traffic noises. I tried not to stare too much as we walked past to cross the bridge. Then I came to my senses, and retraced my steps.
Shyly I stood before him, pretending to look at the titles of his books. He caught my eye and I asked if he had a copy of “Welcome to my Head”. We got talking and I told him I was a huge fan. He was such a lovely, gentle man, speaking about his books as if they were his children. I introduced myself to him and he said “God, I’m delighted to meet you Máiréad”.
He was charming to my mum. When I told him she was about to celebrate her 80th birthday, he gallantly told her she only looked 64 (later she complained he was three years out as the lowest number she’d been quoted so far was 60).
I bought one of his books and he signed it for me. Mum took a photo of us standing there on Westmoreland Street, and I shook his hand and said goodbye.
If this had happened to me after 25 October, it would certainly have been included in my 40 Amazing Things To Do This Year. But it was about ten days too early. I will have to include it in the Twenty Or So Amazing Things I Did Last Year.