Pat Ingoldsby: children's TV star turned media-shy poet

 

PAT INGOLDSBY was beloved by a generation of children for his Pat’s Hatand Pat’s Chattelevision shows in the 1980s. The flamboyant character was a storyteller on Bosco, wrote for the Wanderly Wagon series and had several of his plays performed in the Peacock and Gaiety theatres.

But in the 1990s he made a decision to withdraw from television, radio and playwriting and says he has never been happier.

He threw his energies into writing poetry and has now amassed 20 volumes of poetry, as well as prose and children’s books. He publishes the books himself with the help of friends such as U2 album designer Steve Averill, and sells them on the streets of Dublin.

Now in his late 60s, the poet has become part of the streetscape and if he’s not at his usual Westmoreland Street perch, the street sweepers will know his whereabouts.

His latest book of poetry is called I Thought You Died Years Agobecause that’s what people often say to him “in an accusatory sort of way”, he writes. “Almost as if I have let them down by not doing so [dying]. I always apologise and promise to try harder.”

A few years ago, this reporter came across a letter from him to then president Patrick Hillery, in the National Archives release of the 1977 State papers. The poet wished to apply for the post of poet laureate but confessed he didn’t know if the role existed. “If not, I sincerely hope you will institute one,” he wrote.

Unfortunately Mr Ingoldsby received a one-line response which merely acknowledged receipt of the letter. He was more than 30 years ahead of his time as President Mary McAleese recently announced Siobhán Parkinson would be Ireland’s first children’s laureate.

Mr Ingoldsby prefers to keep out of the media limelight these days and politely refuses all interviews. He says it’s not good for a person to be under the media spotlight, always courting publicity. Asked if he wouldn’t like to sell more books, he says he prefers if people just stumble across him on the street and pick up one of his offerings.

He describes himself a grumpy, curmudgeonly old man but there was no evidence of that on the day The Irish Times stopped to chat.

He is amused to have been immortalised in the National Wax Museum and says he is often tempted to swap clothes with his likeness as the waxwork is much better dressed.

He is working on another book of poetry but finds it harder to finish each collection. Designer Steve Averill, who has also stopped to chat, says this is because of his sheer prolificness.

Mr Ingoldsby won’t be quoted for this article but lets his poetry do the talking. In his latest collection he writes of wandering through the world with his trolley full of books and dreams. “And the crash of other people’s jobs falling all around me. Nothing to lose is the most valuable possession that I have got.”

ALISON HEALY