Nov 27, 2015

Australia Days Guest Post: What was your reason for writing Gallipoli Street? by Mary-Anne O'Connor

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What was your reason for writing Gallipoli Street? What was your vision?

I am the granddaughter of an Anzac. 

Even though I never met my grandfather James Dennis Clancy he was somehow very close to me. Being the youngest girl out of twenty-six grandchildren, the experiences he went through during the war reverberated in waves, down through his children and onto our shores. War is like that. Those that survive have more than physical scars. It affects every significant and seemingly insignificant act and thought, because, even though the killing is over, the memories cannot be so easily buried.

As a child I was fascinated by my grandfather’s story: a seventeen year old boy who went to war then came home to raise a large family during the Depression. My Nana was very close to us, spending her final years in our home. I only wish there was a larger word for generosity but it will have to suffice in my description of her. And she was so incredibly selfless I can understand why my grandfather loved her so much. Enough to fight his memory demons of Gallipoli and the Somme. Enough to keep moving forward to find peace within after war. 

She spoke of him sometimes, when pressed (usually by me), but I think it hurt her too much and she would shrug with a tear and say ‘…anyway. Things were different back then.’ 

They were different. Like many returned soldiers he struggled to find work and there was no treatment for PSD…not even a term for it. My mother watched their pain as they tried to make ends meet, then the unspeakable cruelty of watching their sons, her brothers, go to yet another brutal war. 

And then there was the death of my Uncle Wally, leaving my Aunty Iris a pregnant widow at seventeen. Mum talks often, even now, of the fear of a telegram. She is 81.

Their story was deeply embedded inside me, perhaps because I knew my grandfather dreamed of being a writer - he even had some small works of fiction published - but opportunity was not something that came easily his way. Not when you left school at ten and shot your first man seven years later. 

So if you ask me what my ‘vision’ was in writing this novel I would answer it was more of a calling. Someone’s life I had to bring back and lay on paper. Of course my character Jack is fictional and I’ve made up another world and another story, but the essence is there of James. Stories passed down through my family. Little things Nana said, memories my mother, father, aunts and uncles shared. The ‘outcome’ has been incredible fulfilment and humbling honour, highlighted when Iris went to the book launch and lit a candle for Wally. She passed away recently, laying with him in rest at last, seventy-one years later.

Gallipoli Street is just a story but it holds true emotions and true people in its heart. I hope that it tells of the true cost of war, shows the depth that love and courage can attain and sends out to all who read it a message of peace.

Lest we forget.

James Clancy, 1915

4 comments:

  1. Very beautiful and emotive cover. :-)

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    1. I agree, I love it. And the story behind the book is really impressive.

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  2. My grandfather was in the Light Horse during WWI. (During WWII he was in the Air Force.)

    A must read for me.

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    1. Wow, that must have been tough, fighting in two wars. I can imagine you want to read this book then as it will be a bit close to home.

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