By David Hennessy
A Colindale-based Mayo grandfather’s bedtime stories meant only for his granddaughter have gone on to find a much broader audience, being placed in Westfield. Colm Anthony, or Tony McGrath as he is known to many, used to create bedtime stories for his granddaughter Emily and decided to self-publish a book for her as a birthday treat, just printing a few extra ones to show to friends. However, when someone from Westfield got their hands on Emily and the Blue Rabbit, they wanted it for Santa’s Grotto in the large department store. In addition to that, he has been invited into primary schools to read his story to early years and reception classes.
Colm told The Irish World: “I never thought it would happen. It was never meant to go anywhere.
“I used to make up stories for her and I decided to make up a book for her just off the computer. She liked it so I said for her fourth birthday, I would do a proper book. I said, ‘It’s going to cost £200 and I’ll print off a few copies just for my ego, to tell people I’ve published a book’. All of a sudden I showed people and this person bought it and she works for Westfield shopping centre and she took seven and a half thousand off me to be dished out in the grotto in Westfield by Santa which is great.”
Retired builder Colm, from Rossport, was overwhelmed: “I couldn’t believe it, that was a shock. I thought I would spend £200, have 13 copies, I could show it to the family, at least I would have a book done. I couldn’t believe it when it developed into that.”
Colm has continued in his children’s writing endeavour and has already been adding books to the collection: “I have five books altogether, I have two more. I have Emily and the Lost Puppy and Emily and the Lonely Plane published as well now. I have them all on our website.”
Colm has lived in Colindale for nearly 40 years but few knew about the writing streak that he had: “When I was young, I used to write a lot. I used to write lots of stories and poems and silly songs. It never came to anything. You’re telling stories all the time but you don’t have time to write them down.
“Nobody knew I had this writing streak, even friends at work. I’m a bricklayer by trade. People say, ‘I didn’t think you’d write a book’. Nobody knows what anybody else has in mind, do they? They’re all surprised, completely surprised.
“When you’re young, you think everyone will think you’re big headed or something. At 65 now, who cares what people think of me? I haven’t got many years left so I may as well enjoy them.”
Colm was pleased to get to read to school children: “Forty eight years later, I’m going back to school, it’s a great feeling. I just retired this year so it’s something that happened when I could put more time into it. I read to four classes and it was really, really lovely.”
Does Colm plan to write more? “That’s my plan. I have three done now and I have two more I’m just finishing.”
And what does his granddaughter Emily think of the story books that she inspired being so successful? “She is pleased. She has her own original hardback copy. We were at Westfield and Santa handed her a present and she opened it up. She said, ‘Why did you give me that book? I already had that book. I don’t want it, I have it’.”
For more information or to buy books, go to colmanthony.com.