Cumann Seandalaiochta agus Staire Phort Lairge

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

A Young Historian's Notebook : 3. Mentors


      In all walks of life be it music or sport, the musician or athlete can usually recount the support and guidance of a mentor. We can trace the word ‘mentor’ as we know it today to the mid-18th century, via French and Latin from the Greek Mentór, the name of the adviser to the young Telemachus in Homer’s Odyssey. If you’re stuck for reading over the summer Homer’s story should do the trick, it’s divided up into 24 books. Even if you prefer to stick with the Matt Groening Homer Simpson, the Odyssey has inspired countless books and films such as the Coen Brothers O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which has something for everyone, country music, prison breaks and George Clooney. 

     A mentor is a trusted advisor, someone you feel you can learn from and who will impart some of their wisdom and knowledge to you. In your lifetime you will have many people you will seek guidance from be it teachers in school, coaches with teams you’re involved with to college lecturers and supervisors. One of the best pieces of advice I was given was by my MA supervisor Dr. Gabriel Doherty of University College Cork whose mantra was “a little bit of good will goes a long way”. Always try to be kind and patient whether you’re looking for or giving help as it will stand you in good stead down the line. 

     We can’t all be ruthless and (sometimes) mean like Michael Jordan who had the mentality and ability to back it up. We should never set a standard for others which we wouldn’t follow for ourselves. This is very applicable to History where you come into contract with various librarians, archivists, historians, etc who have different personalities and ways of working. The vast majority will always help when asked. 

     The mentor (aside from my parents) that I have known the longest is a man named Donnchadh Ó Ceallachain. Most people with an interest in Waterford History will know Donnchadh really well. He describes himself as a ‘blow-in’ hailing from Cork but we in Waterford can count ourselves very fortunate to have someone like Donnchadh to research and promote the history of our city. I know him since I was a teenager attending lectures held by the Waterford Archaeological & Historical Society. He showed confidence in me to become the editor of the group’s journal Decies in 2016 when I was 22-years old (granted he had been editor for 12-years) and was always available for my numerous questions and rather naïve ideas. If I asked his advice on something mad I had planned and he responded with a quick laugh and “Jeesus…” I knew t’was best to pack it away for another time. 

     The greatest things I’ve learned from Donnchadh is patience, kindness and to be generous with one’s time to others. I would say easily that he is one of the most put upon people I know but always is there to help. If I could ever achieve half the things Donnchadh has I would be delighted with my lot. The best way to sum up how important Donnchadh is, it’s probably best to dip into the world of modern celebrity. When someone is at the height of their powers or reached a level of fame we often refer to them only by their first name like Elvis, Meryl or Adele. In Waterford History we have Donnchadh! 

To be continued

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