KATHLEEN Lee had wanted to write a book for a long time, and rather than just talk about it, she actually put pen to paper and wrote her autobiography at the age of 83.
“People tell me that I have a marvellous memory and I love telling stories. For the past 20 years, if I was telling a story, I’d tell people that if they wanted to hear it again, they’d have to read it in my book!” Kathleen told the Laois Nationalist when her book was launched in Rathdowney Golf Club recently.
Kathleen’s remarkable life is set out between the covers of The story of my life, from how her father married at the age of 65, to how she had lost both her parents by the time she was just nine years’ old; from how she found the love of her life Seamus Lee, with whom she had one daughter, Marguerite, to how she shockingly lost him when he died suddenly at the age of just 42. All of these huge life events are interspersed with anecdotes and memories about the people she grew up with and who still live in her own town.
Kathleen is very well known in Rathdowney, not least because she ran a grocery shop there for four decades, but also through her involvement with Rathdowney Golf Club and the local bridge club. She also has a deep-seated love of learning, and because she had to leave school in her early teenage years, she returned to academia to sit her leaving cert when she was 59 years old. Twenty years later, Kathleen started studying Irish and still does to this day.
When she began to write pieces for the *Rathdowny Review some years ago, she caught the attention of the local GP Dr Niall O’Doherty who edits the magazine. He was eventually to cajole her into writing the book and helped her as her ghost writer.
“Kathleen is a lovely writer and hers is a fascinating story,” explained Niall. “I’d told her that she’d better hurry up and write it before she got too old! I started to scrutinise her about certain things in her life. You could ask her anything and she’d remember. It was fascinating! I like to think that I’ve changed my profession from being a doctor to a ghost writer!”
The retired doctor and the bridge champion finally sat down together and, over a six-month period and endless conversations, Kathleen’s autobiography was written.
“It’s a huge relief to have it finished and published. It’s like I’ve reached the end of that particular journey,” the author said as she was surrounded by members of her family and well wishers at the book launch.
Now that her first tome has finally hit the book shelves, Kathleen harbours an ambition to write another one – but next time, as Gaeilge.
The story of my life by Kathleen Lee is available in Keane’s petrol station, The Card Stand, Cahill’s Butchers, Fortune’s, and SuperValu in Rathdowney as well as SuperValu Abbeyleix, priced €12.99.