About the author

Sean Brophy is a poet and specialist in the field of management education and organisation development. He is a native of Dublin, Ireland

Sean was born into a Dublin family that was never far geographically or culturally from the beating heart of that fascinating city. His parents were both from the capital, his mother’s family involved in Jacob’s biscuit factory, while his father was an engine driver, first steam then diesel locomotive, at Broadstone the eastern terminus of the Midland and Great Western Railway now part of Irish Rail.

He was brought up in Oxmantown, with its links to the city’s Viking founders, in Dublin 7 within a short distance of three army barracks, a mental hospital, an army hospital, a general hospital, a distillery and the HQ of the Legion of Mary. Here railroad lore of the early to mid 1900’s was rich and varied narrating physically enduring challenges of coast to coast journeys on the now-defunct line to Clifden in the west of Connemara, early days of rail worker unionisation in Ireland and the fortunes of the railway fraternity who had gone to the Great War seeing action at the Somme and its other theatres of terror. Others had been part of Jim Larkin’s union and the great strike of 1913 and the Citizen army of 1916. The brewery of Arthur Guinness was a mile away and its renowned style of employee welfare was well known among the Oxmantown locals many of whom earned their wage there.

His household climate was an optimistic one. Love, support and humour pervaded his early childhood, buttressed by the life-securing bonds with grandparents, extended family and neighbours traversing the hardships of second world war rationing of fuel and some foods, tuberculosis and incomes that ranged from the barely adequate to the non existent.

He and two siblings were the children of their small house in Arklow Street from which Sean ventured forth to encounter a profusion of experiences with people and institutions leading to a life that would later exhibit the admirable traits of inclusion, tolerance and undying reverence for the human condition in all its manifestations.

His home was physically located close to the Phoenix Park where this magnificent ‘back garden’ was a day’s child-walk in length and the venue for outings with other youngsters to play soccer, Gaelic football, hurling, cricket, witness now long-forgotten public municipal band performances, and steal glimpses of some of the mysteries of the Zoological Gardens.

In the Park cattle roamed for summer grazing, and deer throughout the year while the chestnut claimed free time at October harvesting. His parish church was Aughrim Street, as it was that of the President of Ireland, and on Sundays the Gardai from the Training Depot in the Park marched with their band to worship there. His Mass serving duties led him to the Capuchins in Church Street. His early morning route took him by Smithfield and the farmers selling their hay, skirting the Corporation markets with their societies of hard working colourful characters diffracting life’s spectrum for the benefit of young absorbent minds.

The early fifties saw a shortage of schools for the burgeoning Dublin population. A good bet in these circumstances was to send your youngster to a primary school where a secondary was attached as this enhanced the opportunity for an extended education. Although obligatory school attendance applied only as far as 14 years, often a child would leave school after the primary certificate examination at the age of twelve or thirteen to support parents and younger siblings.

Sean’s mother sent him to school at St Vincent’s Christian Brothers Schools, Glasnevin, situated on the Derry Road and adjacent to the largest of Dublin’s cemeteries. There he was among boys from a swathe of the north Dublin region ranging from the Liffey bank near Oxmantown to Blanchardstown, and rural areas of the Naul. It also encompassed centres of population of the vast new housing estates of Cabra, West Cabra and Finglas and the nearer localities of Glasnevin, Drumcondra and Phibsboro.

The socio-economic mix of the school population ranged from children of the unemployed, industrial, white collar and professional groups while the school premises were home to pupils who for one reason or another at that time were living in permanent residence there in its gate-proclaimed orphanage. All of these children were part of Sean’s life-embrace, their characters, their cheer and their survival techniques. He would prove to some of these to be the messenger of life and laughter to days fraught with the oppression and stress at what Pearse with different insight had referred to as the ‘Murder Machine’ some forty plus years earlier.

Sean’s trip to school each day brought him in further contact with some of the city’s commercial functions, traditions and limitations. The cattle market was situated nearby. Cattle lairs were the destinations for incoming stock by hoof, lorry and rail from nearby Cabra junction. Their drovers frequented the local pubs, ringing accents of Ireland’s provinces and supporting useful bed and breakfast business. Cattle sales on Wednesdays (bulls on Fridays) saw hundreds of animals driven down the North Circular Road to the British and Irish steamers, Leinster and Munster for export to Britain. Cattle not bought for further fattening at the Gavin Low market were led to the abbatoir nearby and slaughtered for domestic consumption. On occasion a frantic animal ‘broke’ and went amok, framing spectacular elemental drama against a backdrop of sedate red brick houses, and dry dashed cottages, while the nose-chained bulls were always menacing slow-movers, as they were walked eastwards by their handlers.

The punctuality of journeys to and from school was often at hazard for children living near the cattle market and, the sometimes unforgiving, nature of life’s institutional schedules in this regard was part of the ensuing reality education when you reached school.

National and international football stadia were in the catchment area of Oxmantown. Dalymount park (Soccer) and Croke park (Gaelic) were pilgrim venues for the Irish from all quarters of the country. In the case of Dalymount, visitors from the distant nations of Europe and the globe gave a temporary expression of ethnic pluralism in the fifties.

Mountjoy jail of ‘oul triangle’ fame was nearby the school on the banks of the Royal Canal. Some boys had fathers in the prison service. In late April 1954 even the youngest of pupils were aware that a condemned life had ended there by judicial execution early one Saturday morning. It was to be the last before the abolition of the death penalty in Ireland.

Even the cemetery added awareness to young lives. Military funerals were audible as the muffled drums led corteges to the Army plot and the sound of ’Last Post ‘ and ‘Reveille’ carried searingly across the short distance from graveside to classroom. At primary school Sean’s class one day were alerted by the sight of broken windows of the tall O’Connell monument. Then word went around that one of the secondary school students had detonated a handlebars-full of explosive in close proximity to the Liberator.

Broadcast media entertainment for youngsters was relatively narrow in scope during the early fifties and it is difficult to imagine that a daily radio service from the national station consisted of approximately three and a quarter hours of broadcasting prior to 5.00pm. Then it ran, following children’s programmes (remember Marion King for painting and drawing and J Ashton Freeman and his wildlife audio imitations…), non-stop until half past eleven. By 1961 this had expanded to provide a television service. The forerunner of today’s commercial stations broadcast from London under the Radio Luxembourg banner. Queues for ‘the pictures’ were usually full of children on Saturday and Sunday afternoons as they waited for cinemas to open in almost every parish in the city’s environs. The annual pantomimes had them enthralled by magical, tangible sets and the wonder-coaxing capacities of immortals such as Jimmy O Dea, Maureen Potter and Jack Cruise. There were however some other features of life which were part of traditions now gone. Street singers, with what in retrospect seem like phenomenal lung capacities, entertained for donations from patrons awaiting admission to cinema or theatre. Characters of Dublin were still around: ‘Dicky Dart’ in the Phibsboro area and ‘Bang Bang’ from Inchicore who once ‘shot’ Sean in Dame St with his big metal key while arm-linked to the vertical rail on the rear corner platform of a Number 21 bus.

These were some of the backdrops to Sean’s young life that either by fast transfer or osmosis incorporated the traits and boundaries of people, young and old, together with societal and commercial realities of the day into his all-assimilating, cognitive storehouse.

His personal experience as a young patient, not alluded to so far, cannot however be underestimated. Born with spinal scoliosis his physical appearance challenged him and his companions to negotiate differences either implicitly or explicitly. His plaster corset was a ‘cause celebre’ to classmates; his frequent hospitalisations and pilgrimages to Lourdes (with consequent extension of a social circle, already enormous, from school, sports, music classes, and scouting activities) were the envy of those who resented the daily school incarceration. The discomfort and sheer pain of his treatment for his spinal condition and subsequent nephrectomy due to a football accident at fifteen gifted him with a special affinity for those in pain from either physical or non-physical causes.

In later life this would see him personally serve as a voluntary helper at the Pyrenean shrine, participate on charitable boards, and promote through highly sophisticated professional skills, the wellbeing of employees and individuals in organisations enlightened enough to engage Sean as their consultant.

He left school in fifth year to pursue electronic engineering studies at the College of Technology in Kevin Street, while continuing his studies for the Leaving Certificate at night in The College of Commerce, Rathmines. He continued his studies at third level on a part-time basis after he commenced work.

He holds a National Diploma in Industrial Relations from the College of Industrial Relations, Dublin and the degrees of M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Organisational Behaviour from Trinity College, Dublin. He also holds a Diploma in Personal Construct Psychology from the Centre for Personal Construct Psychology, London, where he is registered as a Counsellor who specialises in organisations.

His early career was as an engineer with Bush Ireland a company within the consumer electronics division of the Smurfit group in Ireland. His appointments with Smurfit have included periods as a Quality Control Manager, Manufacturing Manager, and Materials and Systems Manager. He was Senior Consultant with the Smurfit Group Internal Consultants Service in Ireland from 1981 to 1983.

Since 1983 he has pursued a career as an independent consultant specialising in the education of individuals, groups and organisations in pursuit of their own goals. He uses Personal Construct Psychology as the theoretical underpinning to his work on individual or group processes. This ensures an emphasis on clarity of personal decision- making, autonomy and ownership associated with the outcomes of these processes. His assignments have been as varied as the needs of individuals and groups in areas like strategic planning, organisation structure and role clarification, interpersonal collaboration, executive coaching, innovation and decision- making, career development and personal and organisational culture change.

His great skills, derived from his lifelong experience of personal and professional challenges, include his empathy with clients. He has an ability to ask fruitful questions and discern with them their ways of making sense in particular situations to facilitate a way forward which leaves them more effective at solving their own problems. The purpose of this approach is that the greater the psychological integrity of the individual the greater the synergy and the effectiveness of the organisation whose goals they support.

His clients have included the executives and staff of AIB Group in Ireland, where he has been an Organisation Development Consultant since 1985, and many other public and private sector organisations in Ireland, the U.K. and the U.S.A.

He has lectured in the Department of Business Studies, Trinity College, Dublin. He is a member of the Associate Faculty of the Irish Management Institute and has delivered various Institute programmes in Ireland and overseas. He was formerly a Board member of the Centre for Personal Construct Psychology in London and Chair of the Board of Governors of Clongowes Wood College in Ireland. He is the author of "The Strategic Management of Irish Enterprise 1934-1984".

Since 1987 he has developed an interest in writing poetry. On Remembrance Sunday in 1987 he was reading a copy of the War Poets when news of the Enniskillen tragedy was broadcast on the radio. Later that evening he heard a broadcast of Barry McGovern reading Wilfrid Owen’s ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’. The confluence of those events stimulated him to write his first poem, a lament called ‘Enniskillen’. He has since published six books of poetry under his own imprint Rainsford Press.

Sean likens his poetic temperament to that of the Scottish poet Norman McCaig, who saw himself as ‘a happy man… who could not abide the obscurities and solemnities in some modern poetry’. He admires the truth about people and life in the poetry of Brendan Kennelly, the purity of the English language of Seamus Heaney , the musicality of the Irish language of Derry O’Sullivan, the beauty of nature as revealed by Michael Hartnett and Francis Ledwidge and the reverence for the transcendent in our lives of Patrick Kavanagh.

Sean is eminently human as a poet, seeing his work as that of a small but hopefully growing talent who doesn’t take himself too seriously. He has a serene view of life and his poetry celebrates the ordinary in people and nature. Even in the face of profound grief he strikes an optimistic note. He echoes Horace in his message of ‘carpe diem’, to love life, and live it according to the sacrament of the present moment. Many of his readers keep his books by their bedside for reflection in quiet moments.

As a consultant and poet Sean Brophy straddles the two worlds of art and business. Like the poet David Whyte, he brings an imagination to the world of business and work. In his consulting and more recently in his writing he helps his readers and clients to become grounded as persons and, in a Benedictine way, offers images for reconciling work and the soul. He sees the workplace as the crucible within which persons can reclaim themselves as human beings through a re-finding of their own creativity derived from the deepest impulses of their souls. This website is dedicated to extending the readership of his poetry to a wider audience.

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