Tuesday, January 24, 2023

John Mernin (52) grew up in Waterford City in the 1970s and 1980s, and now happily resides in Ballymacaw, County Waterford, with his wife Julie Quinlan (21 and a bit), and their two sons Daniel (19) and Adam (16). He is a construction project manager by day, a Trustee and current Secretary of City of Waterford Brass, a brass musician, swimmer, local history author, photographer, and Thirties player by night – currently waiting for his next project to start, whatever it may be.

Life in a day

We still have a school run at home so I get the pleasure of my son’s company each morning before returning to my home office where I can manage to do 90 per cent of my work these days. I spent the first 30 years of my career on a building site and miss the banter that that environment brought about, but home working has other advantages. Evenings can be filled with any number of activities but the two current fixtures are Thirties in Dower’s and White’s Bars in Ballymacaw, and rehearsal with City of Waterford Brass in Five Alley Lane. A swim in Ballymacaw is the other constant for Julie and I, but don’t tell anyone else how beautiful it is. Weekends can be busy if we are playing music with City of Waterford Brass. Julie conducts and the other three of us play in the band.

What school did you go to?

Mount Sion Primary and Secondary Schools (where I acquired my love of music in Mount Sion Silver Band) and Waterford RTC (now SETU) where I really enjoyed doing a degree in Construction Management. My years in education were a happy time in my life and they nurtured my interest in chronicling and writing about life.

What teacher do you remember most vividly?

Two come to mind: Brother Devitt was a fantastic character and helped so many musicians to find their talents in Mount Sion Silver Band – and Domo Connolly who was our Tech Drawing teacher in Mount Sion Secondary School and gave us great guidance. We all think our teachers are really old when we’re in school, but Domo has just recently retired just as I am beginning to look that direction myself.

What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

Listen to a bit more elder advice. It’s not all correct, but there is a lot of experience behind it.

How do you relax?

Julie will tell you that I don’t like relaxing but I do enjoy a swim in Ballymacaw, listen to some music, read a bit. Believe it or not, I am probably most relaxed when I am engrossed in researching and/or writing.

What is your favourite film and piece of music?

Music wise, that’s an easy pick: it’s a brass piece called ‘Harrison’s Dream’, all about the man called John Harrison who invented the sea-going clock (I like watches myself). Films are more difficult, but if I could only have one, would I be allowed ‘The Godfather’ trilogy?

When was the last time you cried?

When we lost our cat last year, I think, although I could have had a sneaky one during a couple of films over Christmas.

What has been your happiest moment of recent times?

Winning a ham in White’s before Christmas! Really though, any time I get to play music with Julie, Daniel, and Adam is really special. Not many families get to share a passion and the moments we get to play as a quartet are especially happy.

Do you pray?

Yes. I do go to Mass too, but not weekly. I think I have to believe that there is something beyond the grave, and that we all carry our faith as individuals in whatever manner suits us best.

What is your biggest fear?

Being found out. Sometimes I am very lucky with how aspects of life pan out and wonder what I did to deserve the good things that happen me.

What is your most treasured possession?

I have many possessions but none that I would value above time. If my house caught fire and my family were safe, the one thing I would consider worth rescuing (apart from the cat obviously – she is part of the family) is my box of photo negatives. All the digital photos are copied but the negatives can’t be replaced.

What is your favourite thing about Waterford?

It’s people and its location. Some people find it stifling to be living in such a small city but I like the familiarity and I have always been a home bird. Living near the sea is something else that I couldn’t do without. I find something calming about the sea, even on stormy days.

If you could change one thing about Waterford, what would it be?

Our propensity to be our own best knockers. Visitors always tell us how beautiful and how friendly Waterford is. Maybe it’s time we listened.

In conversation with Dermot Keyes

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