JP Donleavy outside his home at Levington Park in Mullingar
JP left is archive to the National Library.
I’m not that surprised.
He had a bit of a reputation as a grump – but as I found out for myself, he was no such thing.
It was in the late seventies or eighties and I was on the road randomly picking up stories for the Sunday Indpendent.
Mick Hand was the editor and I think the word “unconventional” applied to his reign.
One week, I’d be despatched with few instructions other than to return with stories.
On alternate weeks, Brendan Farrelly was sent away.
This particular week, I ended up in Mullingar.
I knew JP Donleavy lived nearby. So I asked about the possibility of approaching him.
I was warned off.
He had made a few enemies locally by, apparently, blocking off some rights of way across his land. So he wasn’t universally popular.
“He’s a grumpy old bastard,” I was told. “He’ll run you off the place,” I was warned.
“You’re wasting your time,” was the advice.
Naturally I didn’t take it.
So I wheeled up to Levington Park and knocked on the door.
JP himself answered.
I told him who I was an what I wanted.
And he invited me in. We had breakfast.
I asked him about Levington Park and how he liked it and if it was not too big for him.
“Too big?” he asked. “Oh no. Sure I have my mistress living in the house and my wife in the lodge.”
I never established whether or not that was true.
So we chatted for ages about literature and life.
And then he suggested we go for a walk.
He got his walking stick and off we went. Not very far. Just onto some grass.
“You probably wonder what I do all day? Well I write.
“And when I’m not writing, I like to go for a walk, like this.
“And when I’m walking, I shove my walking stick into the soil every now and then,” he said, demonstrating.
“And then I evict a tenant or two and come back for lunch for which I’m sure, you’ll join me,” he said with a smile that suggested he was joking. Probably!
And I did.
The story wasn’t up to much. The conversation was largely not so much off the record, as clearly, not on it.
He came across to me as a nice guy, a decent man.
His children’s generous gesture of donating his archive to the state is a measure of those qualities in their father.