John Donohoe meets Pierce Brosnan in Navan
We're told that you should never meet your heroes, as you’ll be disappointed. While I don’t engage in hero worship a great deal, I have always been a James Bond aficionado, especially when a hometown actor took on the role of 007, the world’s most famous movie franchise.
‘Local boy made good stories’ have always struck a chord, more so when it’s somebody from your own county.
It is 50 years since Pierce Brosnan left these shores and the banks of the Boyne, following his mother from Navan to London as a youngster. But he always returned to the town when he could, and in an urban council ceremony was made a Freeman of Navan in 1999.
However, I didn’t expect to look out the window and see him wandering around town on a Tuesday afternoon in February. Well, I didn’t realise it was him on first sighting out the window beside my desk. He was across the river, in Andy Brennan Park, with his mother. It was unusual to see much activity in the park, but as they were so far away, I passed no further remarks.
Then, a phone call from a colleague, whose daughter attends Loreto Convent.
“Do you know Pierce Brosnan is in town?”
He had been down visiting his mother’s homeplace on Convent Road, Boyne Crest.
Cue a second look out the window, at the visitors to Andy Brennan Park, and a kick for our photographer, Seamus Farrelly, who was by chance just dropping photos into the office.
“Come on Seamus, that’s Pierce Brosnan!”
He never moved as quick. And there are times you curse the traffic lights at New Bridge on the Athlumney Road, but this time, they were in our favour, on red with the traffic stopped. Brosnan and his mother, May Carmichael, were back in their Audi with their driver, but no amount of Bond manoeuvres was going to get him into the traffic and away from the approaching paparazzi.
Nor did they attempt to. The actor rolled down his window and was his most charming, thanking Seamus for his welcome to Navan. Tanned from his LA lifestyle, slightly greying, but still the movie star. His mother had changed little over the last decade, looking very well a couple of years off 80.
God almighty! Here we were, shooting the breeze with Pierce Brosnan on the side of the road in Navan. What do you talk about? My James Bond box set? My visit to the ‘50 Years of Bond’ exhibition at the Barbican in London last summer? My movie magazines preserved from his Bond days? It would probably sound too obsessive to mention by Pierce Brosnan-designed celebrity mug.
No, we have to be professional about this. We mentioned the last time we met the Brosnan and Carmichael families, when he received his OBE from the British Ambassador in the British Embassy in Leopardstown in 2003, and enquired as to what they were doing in Navan.
He explained that they were looking around the places they had grown up in, and that he was also working on a new film project in Ireland, as well as attending an event in Trinity College, where the University Players were honouring him.
Relaxed, he was in no hurry to get away, and both him and his mother were very chatty. He agreed to get out of the car to allow Seamus photograph him with the town in the background.
Mrs Carmichael asked where they could stop for lunch on the way back to Dublin. Where better than Killeen Castle, the location of a spoof Bond film of the 1960s, when David Niven and Deborah Kerr had filmed ‘Casino Royale’ there? We wrote out directions for their driver.
The Brosnan party continued their trip around Navan, visiting old haunts around Academy Street, wher ehe had first lived with his mother, taking photos at the fountain under the bridge there, and visiting St Mary’s Church, where Fr Dwayne Gavin gave them a tour. They bumped into former footballer Colm Coyle and had their photo taken, and met publican Michael Marmion on Ludlow Street, as well as auctioneer John Carty on Academy Street, and Tony Walsh, who had pushed the young Pierce along the street in his pram.
And they went on to Killeen Castle for lunch. My instructions mustn’t have been very clear to them, as they had to ring the golf club for directions, but they eventually arrived, and despite the fact that they were sharing the restaurant with a group of women who had just being playing some ladies’ day golf, had a very relaxing and undisturbed afternoon in Dunsany.
And I never asked him for his autograph!