Weekly Local Biography

  Paddy Linehan

An hour with Paddy Linehan was enough to re-ignite my delight in my fellow man who can still display the ability to think outside of the conventional box.

Paddy is a story teller in the traditional sense, a man who has walked beside those on the pathway to levitation whilst still nursing the burns on his forearms from frying fish and chips, has had a gun held to his head in a Kazakhstan gold mine, and who describes the American president as “ferociously ignorant”. Men like this are interesting.

Like the pigs, Paddy is Irish, from Cork, “One of the most beautiful parts of the world,” all said in that wonderful lilting Irish brogue. His father was a traditional Irish Catholic farmer, who forsook his studies for the priesthood to run off and marry Paddy’s mother, with whom he begat (lovely biblical term) six children, of which Paddy is the youngest.

Paddy described himself as being a good listener and in those days (pre-TV) there existed in the villages places called ‘Rambling Houses’ where the storytellers would entertain the locals. “I would have been in the last enclave to have one,” said Paddy. “I used to sit on the hob as a child and listen. It was absolutely magical.”

Since Paddy’s father failed at the beckoning of the bishops, Paddy was sent to a school run by Catholic monks, from which the boys would progress to the priesthood. What has to be remembered is that in the strong Irish Catholic beliefs of the day, a son a priest ensured the family of red velvet, front-row seats in heaven. The Linehans are unfortunately back in the canvas deckchairs on the third row, as Paddy also failed to don the clerical cloth. However, rather than running off to get married, Paddy ran off to hotel management school.

After two years there he drifted into teaching in a private school during the day to pay for his university tuition at night, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics and English.

Attracted by the written word he read the Times Literary supplements and spied an opening for teachers in Canada and applied and was accepted. This was no well thought out career move, more just serendipity. “I’ve never dwelled too much on the future, though I’ve had a terrible curiosity always.”

After a couple of years there, curiosity sated, he returned to the UK and then decamped for the great sun-burned land down-under, where he spent three years teaching in Western Australia.

Again there was no planning, but after that period of time, “I thought I would head home. It turned out to be the most important trip of my life. It was only after this that I realized the difference between Christian and non-Christian religions and that there were other cultures worth looking at.”

The momentous trip began by boat to Singapore and then hitchhiking through Malaysia and Thailand, flying to Rangoon and then to Calcutta and taking public transport to Goa. There he met up with the first wave of the psychedelic ‘way out’ truth seekers. “I learned a lot about intellectual freedom there from some of the freaky people,” explained Paddy, not in any way belittling their individual rights to expression, in whatever way they wanted.

From there he continued hitching, experiencing the different religions, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam as he carried on through Pakistan to Afghanistan, through Iran and Turkey. “I looked for Noah’s Ark but I didn’t find it.” From there it was a short hitchhike across Europe and back to his native Ireland.

He returned to teaching in the Erin Isle, whose education system in those days featured a three month holiday each year. Rather than do nothing or sit on the river banks and read James Joyce, Paddy ran a fish and chip shop! This turned out to be a lucrative business, and after a couple of fish and chip holidays Paddy decided to return to Afghanistan, a country that had interested him on that first fateful trip into the great unknown. “I met a chap who said he was going to India to learn to levitate, so I decided to go with him. He was seven foot tall and a wonderful character,” said Paddy, who still cannot levitate, but certainly is another wonderful character.

For the next 15 years, Paddy repeated the cycles of teaching, fish and chips and travel, but then took a career break and went to Saudi Arabia to teach English to pilots. This had the perk of free air travel, and Paddy would use his weekly two days off to indulge his curiosity in all things and all cultures, even African ‘black magic’. “Belief creates a reality,” said Paddy. “Delving into the esoteric is a lot more interesting.”

His writing career began at gunpoint. Having become interested in the share market he bought some shares in a gold mine in Kazakhstan, so Paddy being Paddy, decided he would go and take a look at his part-purchase. To the disbelief of the brokers he then travelled to the bleak country, sitting for six hours in a Lada (getting one of those to last six hours is worth a story in itself) and eventually found his gold mine. There he was met by the gun-toting guard and sent on his way.

On his return he wrote about the exploit for the Financial Times who published it. This has resulted in Paddy writing full-time, rather than being a pedagogue, plus he got a free trip back to his gold mine!

Since then he has learned Russian with Linguaphone, written a book about his trip in Siberia (‘Trans-Siberia’ you can get it from Amazon.com) and now travels the world looking for features.

On this trip with no itinerary, Paddy is currently in Chiang Mai, and it was my good fortune to be able to sit on the hob for an hour and listen to the master of the Rambling House! Thanks, Paddy!