Author and fitness industry legend David Hegarty sits down with us to talk about hurling, his love for Wexford and his new book Mindful Days…
In the early 1960s, on an ordinary Friday in Wexford CBS, a young student named David Hegarty sat in the classroom. Apprehensive about the Leaving Cert and unsure about his future, English teacher Martin Murphy offered some advice.
‘I don’t know what you’re going to do about your leaving, boy, but the one thing you can do is you can write. You can put words together,’ he told David.
Neither person could have predicted the impact that these words would have on this young man.
Twenty years later, Mr Murphy would receive David’s first published novel in the post, with the inscription; ‘Without those very kind, thoughtful and helpful words on a beautiful May Friday afternoon, this book wouldn’t be in existence.’
Today, David’s career speaks for itself. A seasoned veteran with a wide repertoire of fiction and non-fiction books to his name, David has a burning passion for writing that has never been extinguished. He is also a legend in the fitness industry who many will know from running the Original Personal Training Centre in Dublin for 35 years.
These days, David continues to write and often delivers sold-out workshops and courses in the areas of Wellness and Writing. Throughout his long career, his love for writing and fitness has never wavered.
His book Mindful Days, the latest in a long list of publications, is a thoughtful meditation on the Wellness Industry brimming with valuable observations, ideas and teachings.
When I was given the opportunity to sit down with David this week for an interview, I was initially filled with nervous anticipation. The thought of interviewing somebody with such an impressive career was intimidating, to say the least.
However, once the interview began, I quickly relaxed. This was in part due to David’s relaxed and charming demeanour. But not only that, David’s humbleness and love for his home county made the interview feel like just two Wexford-men talking.
How would you describe Mindful Days to people who aren’t familiar?
‘It’s a collection of thoughts, ideas, attitudes, teachings… that people can dip into. It’s the kind of thing you might like to dip into during the course of the day to maybe refresh your attitude or thoughts, overcome procrastination and stuff like that. People can get an idea or a thought out of it. I do a weekly blog and those are the kinds of things I send out. That’s what that is – it’s an accumulation or anthology of ideas with some little memoirs like the All Ireland Hurling Final and my association with Kilmore.’
The All Ireland Hurling Final memoir refers to an anecdote from Mindful Days that David graciously shared with me. The year was 1968 and David, who was living in London at the time, stumbled upon a radio playing coverage of the All-Ireland Hurling Final between Wexford and Tipperary. Leaning on a window ledge in London, the sounds of the game brought David’s mind and soul back to his beloved home.
‘We had just done a gig in a pub and I was walking home. I was living in Catford, south-east London at the time. I was sitting on a wall and there was a window open broadcasting the match. There was a Tipperary fella in and he stuck his head out and said “Where are you from?” so I told him and he said “Ah god we’re beatin’ the jaysus out of ya!”. I had been in England and going around the continent and everything for about seven years.
During the second half of that match, I came across the decision that there wasn’t anything greatly wrong with my life, but there was something not quite right about it. By the end of the match, I had decided that I was going home to Ireland. That was the impact that match had on me.’
“To the background of the speeches, declarations for Wexford, commiserations for Tipp’, coming from the radio, I moved from the wall, feeling my feet plant firmly and decisively on the concrete of the pathway. Turning to that kindly Tipperary Man, I heard my own voice utter the words “I’m going home””
One of the things I find most interesting about your career is how accomplished you are in both fiction and non-fiction. Which do you prefer to write?
‘I have an equal love for both of them and I really mean that. I think that my devotion and my absolute belief in being fundamentally fit and well has been a huge contributary factor to having the mental stamina to continue writing in the face of adversity and getting rejections. No matter how glamorous a profession can seem to be, it always comes down to getting up in the morning and getting on with it.’
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a time for reflection for a lot of people. Did the pandemic influence the reflections in Mindful Days?
‘Yeah, absolutely. I don’t have much on the pandemic in Mindful Days but you’re right in that it allowed people more time to read and reflect on their lives, think about how they were doing and who they were, their potential or their sense of purpose. All those things have always tied in, as far as I’m concerned, with being fundamentally fit and healthy and well.’
Do you have any plans to visit Wexford in the near future?
‘Oh, I’d love to. I go down every now and again. Mum and dad are buried in Crosstown and I make a point of going down every seven or eight weeks. What I find it does is it puts life back into perspective. Also now, at the age I am, I find I can put a lot more faces to names on the headstones out there. So, it keeps things in perspective. Keeps your feet on the ground. A reminder that we’re all only passing through.’
My conversation with David stuck with me after the interview and I expect will continue to do so for a long time after I write this. When I think of a young David unsure of his future in a CBS classroom all those years ago, it truly keeps things in perspective.
“David Hegarty’s new book is a timely and inspiring volume for the times we live in, a compendium of insightful and uplifting life-lessons drawn from all facets of the human experience that speaks to the best in all of us.” -Michael Keating, author
By Luke Bradley
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