Tuesday, January 22, 2008


The Title of this beautifully presented publication will ensure a second glance from even the most unobservant browser. Michael Sheils has managed to cram a whole host of memories into this 77- page book in a way that leaves the reader hungry for more.

Even before this little gem of local history appeared, I had been familiar with the author's work, having heard his stories at many readings throughout Meath. Given the enthusiastic response these had invariably received, it was only a matter of time before he brought them together in book form.

This is a publication that will live long in the memory and whenever the subject of Navan of old comes up there will always be a place in the conversation for the writings of Michael Sheils.

The fascinating illustrations add a great deal but is in the honest telling of the stories that the author excels, including many recollections of his childhood.

Published by the author himself and selling at just nine euro, this is a wonderful addition to the history of the town. It will bring back many memories for older residents, as well as providing younger readers with an insight into Navan's past.

Tommy Murray,
Meath Writers Circle:
THE WEEKENDER, Saturday, January 21st 2006

" Short Trousers Days in Navan " which was very interesting, amusing and in some cases a little bit shocking. Some of the stories of your school days explain to me why the campaign for the ending of corporal punishment started in Navan!!

Noel Dempsey T.D.
Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources
10th April "2007

Recalling the short trouser days in Navan

A Navan man who completed his Leaving Certificate English exam only last year has written a book looking back on his memories of growing up in the town.
Michael Sheils from Woodlands took part in the Meath Vocational Education Committee Adult Literacy Scheme, Having left school as a youngster in 1962, when he was just aged 13, before he completed the Primary Certificate.
In 1998, at the age of 49 he returned to the Adult Literacy Scheme and completed his Junior Certificate two years ago. He has now produced a delightful volume " Short Trousera Days in Navan ", looking back on growing up in Navan in the 1950s and his subsequent days in the FCA, Tara Mines, and for a while, the British Army.
" The seed for the book was sown back in 2000, when Alan O'Hanlon of the Meath VEC suggested the idea of compiling a lit of the students' writings for the millennium," Michael says.
" I wrote a piece entitled " Short Trousers " and was delighted when it was included in the book, " he continued. " However, it was a limited edition publication which wasn't for sale, and a lot of people were asking where they could get it. "
Such was the positive reaction to Michael's recollections and musings about the Navan of his childhood, that he eventually decided to turn his hand to writing his own book, and produced the 14 - chapter " Short Trousers Days in Navan ".
Michael's nickname was " Sheriff ", given to him by milkman Harry Finnegan, who thought he walked like Gary Cooper in " High Noon ". He grew up in Connolly Avenue and later St Brigids Villas.
There's a cast of characters in the book - Anchor, Scut, Pa and Fitzer, Threads, the Dying Rebel and Beardy and the antics and roguery that the lads got up to in 1950s Navan. Like bottle races or having fun at the expense of the courting couples coming from the Beechmount, are recounted. Even a few close shaves the lads had in their own courting days!
Memories of the cinema, circus and the Corpus Christi processions are featured, as well as tales of the FCA and Sergeant Jack McGlew. Later, Michael spent a period in the British Army when he emigrated to England for work, but left it when things began getting violent in Northern Ireland. He recounts the tough army life, and also deals sensitively with family affairs such as his father's battle with Alzheimer's, his sister's death and his own accident at Tara Mines. The reasons why he left school as a young lad are also recounted - the cruel and violent treatment meted out by the De La Salle Brothers, " the Men in Black " at Schoil Mhuire on Abbey Road. He remembers the treatment he and other young lads suffered at the hands of various Brothers there, and how he thought he'd never get out of it.
" After the humiliation the Brother had put me through, I simply switched off, " he writes. He remembers the time in 1969 when the News of the World carried a story on the abuse, and was cleared out of all the shops in Navan when townsfolk were at 8am Mass, so that they wouldn't be able to read it. The following week's edition, with a follow-up, was stopped at Kilcarn Bridge.

John Donohoe,
The Meath Chronicle. 24th December 2005

Friday, January 11, 2008

Short Trousers Days in Navan

In November 2005 I self published my book ( Short Trousers Days in Navan )

There are still a number of copies left they can be bought in Book Wise Medges Lane Navan Co. Meath and in Easons Navan Shopping Center price €9. Or from
myself at 56 Woodlands Navan Co. Meath.

If you click here, http://www.rte.ie/ and on the first page type  The Realy Useful Guide in search engine  and click. You'll see RTE television The Realy Useful guide click on it. There's 24 episodes click episode 2. You will find me there being interviewed about my book. My interview starts 9 mimutes into the programme

Monday, January 7, 2008

Flow Forever


As spring nears it's end
My heart yearns for the playground of my childhood
Standing alone on the Boyne Bridge
I gaze into it's depths
Suddenly as if in the sequence of a dream It reemerges
The weir Playground of my childhood
Jewel of the Boyne
Memories come flooding back
Of happy times spent there
Days filled with sun and fun
Memories so vivid
I hear the laughter of children splashing about
The cry of the gull overhead
The wild swan gracefuly passing head held high
And I lying on it's gentle sloping sides
Water cascading over my shoulders
Listening to the soothing sound of the ripples
A mysteriousplace to the mind of a child
All embracing in summer yet foreboding in winter
When with the awesome power of a swollen river everything changes
The soothing sound becomes a thunderous roar
And the weir itself disappearing under the relentless deluge
Frightening to the mind of a child
There's an ache in my heart when I remember
How it was ripped from the bosom of the Boyne in '69
Never to return.
It begins to rain
The vision fades
As I watch the raindrops dance on the river
My thoughts drift through the eye of the bridge
North to where the waters meet at Pool Boy
There's a mighty turbulence
The two rivers become one
The Black Water takes the name of the Boyne
The union is consummated
On they flow together towards the sea
Two rivers one heartbeat
On they flow forever
Together wed
The sharp sound of a hornbrings me back to reality
I glance to my right and what do I see?
A four lane motorway which wasn't there when I was a child
I turn north and what do I see?
A giant crane halfway to Heaven
Building apartments at the foot of the hill
Where Brianie the fisherman cast his net
I decide to go home
Home to where my heart is
Home to the one who took my name.

Left a view of the river Boyne from the railway viaduct before the new road was built and right with the new road.

Michael '' The Sheriff '' Sheils.


My son Austin who resides in Poland with his partner Patrycja and their baby daughter Amelia, has published a collection of poetry titled, "Stream of Consciousness" it's his first collection of deep reflections and there are a limited number of copies available from me at 56 Woodlands, Navan, Co. Meath. price €6

Patrycja, Austin and Amelia, on the day of Amelia's Christening. And top Amelia on her own

Austin Sheils

The following is a poem from Austin's book.

In the moment when a star is born.
When the sun's first rays rise in the morning
awakening the world.
In the moment a child is born opening their eyes.
When the first embrace of love has come,
the knowledge in the heart.
In the moment a poem is written or the
first strokes of a picture painted.
With the first notes of a melody played,
like a truth that has always been there
waiting for someone to listen.
There is a time when the whole world falls silent.
When all mouths shall close and all ears
shall open and the whole world will listen.
If only for a moment and truth is spoken
heard and truly understood.
Then for the first time humankind will see
what it means to live in harmony and true
understanding of our existence.
For the meaning of truth is within that
which goes unheard.
In deeds that go undone and words that go unspoken.
The silence of whispers speaks
louder than a thousand voices.

Austin "Ozzy " Sheils

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Looking out my window this morning
Surprised to see the snow which had fallen
the night before pelting the ground a brilliant white
had vanished, but where?
In the night out of sight melted
Turning the scene a wintery green

Saturday, January 5, 2008


Looking out my window this morning
Was a sheer delight
Snow had fallen during the night
Pelting the ground a brilliant white
To my delight


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Close Encounter

Above left is a picture of a scooptram and right is a photo of me taken in January 1976 when I started work in Tara Mines.

My signature is hard to make out.

The following story is true. It appears in my book, "Short Trousers Days in Navan" and it was also published in Ireland's Eye in October 2005.

Oh no, not again. Another sleepless night. It has been the same for the past fortnight. Ever since that faithful night when Sheriff found himself fighting for his life about half a mile underground.

The events of that night came flooding back to haunt him and with such terrible clarity that he realised how lucky he was to be alive.

The shift had started the same as any other. He had performed this operation many times before. He was mucking out an open stope by remote control. This operation required him to dismount from his scoop tram and strap the remote control panel around his waist. It was used in areas too dangerous for manual mucking. He would have to stand behind the machine and send it in beyond the brow. When the bucket was full he would guide it back out under the brow, remount and drive off manually to the dump point. He was so used to it he could nearly make the machine talk.

The shift had gone well. He had mounted and dismounted at least forty times. It was after lunch and he was looking forward to the end of the shift. It was tough going. He was working in the worse possible situation -upramp. He could see from where he was standing that the bucket was full. Satisfied, he guided the machine out under the brow and switched the power on the remote control panel, which meant that the brakes would be applied.

Instead, the scoop tram came hurtling violently towards him. Instinctively he turned and ran, falling to the ground just as the scoop tram caught up with him. Frantically he pressed his right hand against the wheel in a desperate attempt to stop the machine. With his right still pressing the wheel and he squirming to move away and his whole life flashing before him, he thought: " This is it, I'm dead!

For a split second, he remembered the rosary beads, which he carried in his breast pocket. Taking his hand from the wheel, he pressed his breast pocket and in the same movement returned his hand to the wheel, crying out: " Jesus mercy, Mary help! " Suddenly the scoop stopped.

He could see the body of the scoop tram move down on it's suspension and then rise. He heard the swishing sound from the brakes, then silence. The silence was more terrifying than a scream. His body was shaking uncontrollably. He had soiled himself but wasn't aware of it until much later. His helmet had fallen off his head and lay underneath the scoop tram with it's light shining upwards. From where he lay he could see that the engine was still running. He could see the hydraulic hoses pulsating and oil dripping everywhere, the belly-plate badly scarred from endless hours of hard mucking. He had never seen the machine from this angle before. It terrified him.
He tried desperately to get out from underneath the scoop tram but couldn't move because his clothing was caught under the wheel. There he lay for what seemed an eternity, alone and unseen. He was afraid to move or even breath out of fear of reactivating the scoop tram, as the remote control panel was still strapped to his body. Thoughts of dead colleagues who had lost their lives underground invaded his mind. He was deeply troubled. He feared he would never see his wife Josephine, and the children again. There was so much he wanted to say, so much left undone.
He was trapped under the wheel for almost an hour. Suddenly he heard the thunderous roar of the muckpile running inside the stope and he felt a slight movement which put the heart crossways in him. A storm began to rage inside his head. His whole life flashed before him again. Grabbing his crescent wrench from it's pouch, which he wore on his right hip and touching his breast pocket once more where he knew his rosary beads were, he said a hurried Act of Contrition. In a mad frenzy like a man possessed, he dug the grit from the base of the wheel. At last he managed to free himself and crawl out from underneath the scoop tram.
Staggering down the drift like a wounded animal trying to put as much distance between him and the mechanical monster as possible he wandered into a draw-point where Vince the shotfirer and his mate John were preparing boulders for a mud-blast
" Good God!. What happened? You look like something the cat dragged in ", said Vince. Unable to speak because of the pain in his chest, Sheriff unbuckled the remote control panel and handed it to Vince, gestering to him to turn off the engine of the scoop tram. John helped him on to the back of a scissors-truck and headed for surface.
The long painful journey to surface was every bit as traumatic as being trapped underneath the scoop tram. Traveling along the drift they had to endure the full back kick of the Number Seven Ore pass, spewing out it's deadly cloud of dry dust, blinding them as they drove through the Ribcage. Down a steep decline towards the main haulage for the inevitable climb to surface, huddled on the back of the scissors-truck with a relentless icy wind tearing through his fractured, tortured body; the overwhelming smell of blast fumes taking his breath away. Visibility so bad he could hardly see the driver. The constant roar from the engine became horribly amplified the higher they climbed. He became acutely aware of the countless numbers of rockbolts hanging precariously from the back. There was water seeping from the back and sidewalls gushing uncontrollably in places. It was as if the rock itself had come to life and was about to devour him.
Bud Ditto's words came back to him. He remembered Bud asking at the interview: " How hungry are you? Only I was so God damned hungry I never would have gone into mining ".
Those words took on a whole new meaning as he clung on to the back of the scissors-truck. An overwhelming hunger engulfed him, a type of hunger he had never known before, a hunger to reach the safety of surface.
The first thing that struck him when he reached surface was the moon dressed in it's chain of gold. He had never noticed it looking so beautiful before. Gazing in awe at the moonlit sky, with millions of brightly coloured stars, dancing as if to welcome him, he touched his beads once more and thanked God for having delivered him alive

Michael " The Sheriff " Sheils