Aren't dads amazing? We think so. That's why here at IMAGE HQ, to celebrate Father's Day, we asked our staff to collate their sentiments into a letter to their dads. Tissues at the ready for the first of two instalments...
I still have your letter. You wrote it in the evening, still in the office when everyone else had gone home; you were glad to have the place to yourself you said.
You must have stayed late as the letter ended up eight pages long. We’d chatted on the phone the night before and somehow the conversation had got on to poetry. Not sure how. I was living in London at the time and these phone chats were a new thing.
For years I’d frozen you out. You just weren’t around much and, when you were, I mistook you trying to make up for that as suffocation. Then you and mum split up and I took sides. Simple as. In that remarkably self-centred, immature way only an adolescent can. But leaving the country worked wonders. You visited, we went for lunch, we hung out just the two of us, and the phone calls followed.
In your letter, you enclosed a cheque, with very specific instructions that I go to Waterstones on High Street Ken, where they had an “excellent basement poetry nook”. I was to seek it out and stock up. You made a few suggestions: Yeats for love poetry: you described his lines “When I clamber to the heights of sleep / Or when I grow excited by wine / Suddenly I meet your face” as one of the most economical expressions of passionate love you’d ever read.
You quoted Auden’s war poetry, in particular his poem September 1939 which foresaw the horrific darkness to come, “I and the public know / What all schoolchildren learn / Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return.”
You talked about Heaney, Thomas, Tom Kettle, John Betjeman and more, sharing verses and lines you loved and telling me why. But the one that I’ve never forgotten was the quote from Northern Irish poet Michael Longley from his poem Ceasefire:
When they had eaten together, it pleased them both
To stare at each other’s beauty as lovers might
Achilles built like a god, Priam good-looking still
And full of conversation who earlier had sighed:
‘I get down on my knees and do what must be done
And kiss Achilles hand, the killer of my son.’
Obviously Longley is referring to troubles far more entrenched than our own familial ‘cold war’, but the tone of reconciliation and forgiveness struck me to the core. Who could have known you’d be gone 19 months after the ink dried on that note.
I could feel sad that our latter bonded years were short, but I don’t. Instead I feel glad that we had them – and I have your letter, and it's long.
From telling me "stories from the mouth" as a child, making up an imaginary pink elephant that lived in the field beside our house, to collecting me from school in a full-on Kit-Kat car, you have always been a bit mad. And although you might have annoyed me to bits as a child, tickling me and telling typical dad jokes, you never fail to make me laugh.
Father Ted jokes are your go-to, along with a good old "d'oh" from Homer Simpson. I'd say I've definitely inherited my dry humour from you, along with your weird imagination. You were always coming up with different schemes and plans, getting us all to work in your business from a young age. You taught us the value of money and, as the most hardworking person I know, you taught me never to give up.
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I've never once heard you complain, even though you have had a fair share of things to moan about. You lighten any conversation and, although we do have a good debate now and then, I always appreciate your opinion.
If it wasn't for you I wouldn't be sitting here writing this. You sparked my love for storytelling and my love for words, all the while encouraging me. I definitely didn't believe you when you told me how good my stories were, but I always appreciated it.
You and mam are incredible parents. Raising a child with autism is definitely not an easy task, and although it provided many obstacles for our family, it ultimately brought us closer.
You would do absolutely anything for us, and that's why I know how incredibly lucky I am to have a father like you.
Happy Father's Day.
PS: I'm sorry that I got rid of my curls
Ciara O'Loughlin and her dad
My best friend, my rock, my protector, my dad.
No matter what, you always have and will, bend over backwards for me (hypothetically speaking, as your age wouldn’t allow for that now and you can’t quite cartwheel and backflip like you used to 20 years ago!). Although you may have had a bumpy road with your health over the last year, you’ve always managed to keep that smile on your face no matter what. You constantly reassure us "I feel great", even though we know you do not. You’re a fighter and a stubborn one at that!
For the last 28 years, you have wiped away many tears and carried me through some of my darkest times. You have taught me life lessons and you support me in everything that I do . . . good or bad. You are the only person who can mortify me in any given situation for as long as I can remember. Given any opportunity you still do, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I could always depend on you to say yes, when mom said no.
There is no one else I would rather have annoy me as much as you do, and my God, you certainly know how to purposely push my buttons. You’re the third child in the family, the first one in the queue when the ice-cream van is on the road – ahead of all the actual kids. You are the irritating commentator when watching Love Island, the all-round joker. You definitely know how to make me laugh even if I am laughing at you!
You’re forever filling me with your wisdom, with facts on history to things from the National Geographic. You can always guarantee one of my eye rolls as you tell me one of your many stories for the 700th time from when you lived in Cape Town over 40 years ago, or from your days touring Lebanon.
Despite the fact that I may act disinterested, deep down these are always the first things that I tell people when speaking about you because let's be honest, it is pretty cool!
You’re the life and soul of any dinner party, and despite my mortified face as a child, I love more than ever when you get the guitar out and we all have a sing-song around the dinner table. You are a true entertainer and always have been.
I am forever grateful for the little things you do for me as they are the things and moments I cherish the most. Like our conversations when you drop me to and from the Dart station each day. Like the text message you send me every Friday as I sit at my desk saying 'Gibney's after work?'
From watching the Kardashians together (even if you do fall asleep) to going to the Rolling Stones in Croke Park and our yearly family holiday to Marbella, we have shared a lot over the years.
I will forever be a Daddy’s girl, your little girl. I hope I make you proud each and every day.
Happy Father's Day, dad.
Main image and above: A collage of Branagan family images designed by Sophie Teyssier
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