“So, I remember in third year, every year we’d have a school production and that year was The King and I, the musical. And I remember wanting to act in it… In 2014, I wrote because I had an issue with the Traveller Community at the time… the issue of gay men in the Community. So, I wrote a play about two gay Traveller men dealing with real life issues… It was from that, that I got selected to win the national Traveller Pride Award”
Martin Mahon – Actor and Traveller Rights Activist
Martin Mahon is an extraordinary young man, the eldest of four born into the Traveller Community in Ireland, he calls Tralee, in County Kerry home. And it was from Tralee that he took the Team and I, as well as the wonderful Coffee at Eleven Show live audience on a whirlwind tour of life to date.
He shared moments of bliss and hours of heartbreak with us in his own inimitable style.
Martin is a young man trying to find his way in life in the 21st Century and he uses God, family, acting and activism as his compass points.
Ladies and gentlemen, I invite you to stick on the kettle, grab a coffee and think along with me and Martin for a short while in your preferred way.
Meet Martin Mahon, you’ll be glad you did.
- Watch the full interview on YouTube
- Listen to the full interview on Spotify
- Or watch the highlights video / read the highlights transcript below…
Yours Truly: Ladies and gentlemen, you are more than welcome to this, another episode of The Coffee at Eleven Show brought to you this morning by WIG-WAM and supported, in season four, here by Limerick Post, #keepinglimerickposted, #Limerickandproud. And it’s my great honor to welcome to the café this morning a young man, fascinating young man zooming in all the way from the Kingdom and it is Martin Mahon. Martin, please pop in, say hello. Cheers us with your coffee mug.
Martin Mahon: Good morning. Cheers.
Primary school, for me, was incredible. I was very fortunate to go to a very mixed, different races primary school here at Holy Family. And we had a really, really great principal, John O’Connor, at that time. From there, it was when I started realizing that being a Traveller wasn’t so different because there were so many different mixed-race kids there who were so friendly and so welcoming and warming that I didn’t feel that I was out of place at all. And that school was so warm, and so it helped me get some friends, it helped me find myself as a person. It helped me understand that people from different countries can come here and be accepted and understand all of that because I was only 10 and 11 and not really understanding all that kind of thinking.
And so, I owe that school a lot. I owe that school a lot. They did nothing but treat you equally, treat you the same as everybody else and nothing but education and love and learning how to play sports, and everything that you would associate with primary school, that’s what that primary school was. And there was after-school care. There was teachers that would give you a number if you wanted to ring them for homework at any time. You get a personal number to your parents. There was a lot of great stuff. I’m very fortunate.
I always think that… When I come to acting, I always… Probably, you’re not going to expect it, but I look at it as the way that I look at my faith. This interest in acting is like having faith in God. It’s a gift. It’s something that you’re born with, that you can’t force on yourself. That’s my experience, anyway. Like, you will have the natural attitude for it and go along with it and go along with everything that comes with it. Putting up with rejections and putting up with the constant… Because you love it and it’s built in you. So, that’s how I see acting. It was just something that was bugging me that I had from like 14, 15, this knack or something that I wanted to do. Watching movies over and over again, watching my favorite actors, idolizing them, and wanting to be like them, putting their pictures on my wall, and all that kind of thing. really, really found it to be something I could try.
So, I remember in third year, every year we’d have a school production and that year was The King and I, the musical. And I remember wanting to act in it, but it was well casted by the time I ever had an interest. I just wanted to be around it. You know what I mean? That’s what I was trying to tell people. I had this knack for it. It’s not that I wanted to do it. It’s the fact that I just wanted to be around it when it was happening. I needed to be there. I don’t care what the show was, I just needed to be in there. I needed to be around it. And then that’s how I can become part of it, if I’m around it for so long. It was almost like a stereotype; you become part of the furniture. That’s what I wanted for that thing, I wanted to be around it just because it was something telling me like, “This is what is for you.” I know it’s that simple and you probably expect a better answer.
Yours Truly: No, no.
Martin Mahon: It really is just that black and white. That’s how I got into it because it was something in my heart, a feeling, that was just constantly reminding me of, “You need to go and try this. You might be good at it.” And it wouldn’t go away.
In 2014, I wrote because I had an issue with the Traveller Community at the time, which was at the year that I wrote this was… How would I say it? Basic homosexual activities. I don’t want to say it in case someone would take an offense to the word.
Yours Truly:No, no, no. You need to talk in your way.
Martin Mahon: Okay. The issue of gay men in the Community.
Yours Truly: Yeah.
Martin Mahon: And obviously that was totally not my thinking at all, but the old fashioned heads would be against that. So 3 men would be isolated and be very scared. And unfortunately a thing in our community is a silent killer, it’s suicide. The Traveller community is riddled, and it’s a scourge and it’s destroyed our community in the last two to three years. Because the Traveller men not being able to… Because the media has portrayed us as this macho man, stereotypical idea that we’re not able and strong enough to go and talk about our feelings and our emotions because if we do, we’re deemed as unfit and we’re deemed as weak even to our wives and our friends who become the community. And that’s what we need to destroy. That’s what we need to change.
So, I was seen back then three or four, the nicest man ever, hard workers by the way, who will be working five days a week and were never from the gay community but they were Travellers. And I saw them continuously not being able to come out and to tell their families. So, I wrote a play about two gay Traveller men dealing with real life issues instead of the whole stereotypical idea that you’d even see of a gay character who’s all fliffy and flaffy, and you can already make the character up in your head when you would hear of a gay character, because you already have a stereotypical idea as to how they would act. So I wanted to go away from that and show that this is a real people, but also these are Traveller people.
These are real… Even more real people as to how you don’t think that we’re actually real people. So one of them was… Had a drug death, and the other one was dying of cancer, but had not told his partner that, that he was suffering from cancer and the other guy then was just about to break the news to him that he was in debt with loan sharks and drug dealers. So this was the play that I wrote and I was showing it and myself and an actor Ciaran O’Hara-Smith, I’ll give him some recognition, is a gay actor from Tralee and from The Free Radicals. And me and myself, I brought the script to him and me and himself performed it together. It was from that, that I got selected to win the national Traveller Pride Award.
Yours Truly: Two quick questions. What, Martin Mahon, are you taking with you from COVID, that you’ve found in COVID you’re not letting go of?
Martin Mahon: Because we didn’t have the most simplest… We had the worst year ever. I’ve had the worst year of my life. Not regarding because I was in a lockdown, but because my youngest brother was in a really bad car crash nine months ago and myself and my family have been up in Temple Street Hospital in Dublin since the accident on 26th of June. And he was three months in a coma and everything. And this is an 11 year old boy. So we’ve had the worst year ever. When I talk about it now it’s very upsetting. But I’m back down home a year, sorry, a month, since the start of April.
But the tears that we’ve shed the last nine months and the heartbreak and the loneliness of spending Christmas and New Year’s in the hospital ward with my brother who has to learn how to walk and talk again. And the hospital then taking us to court on top of that as well, because they didn’t think he would have a full quality of life. I don’t know what the hell ever gave them that right to think that they could ever decide that. My brother was nine weeks in ICU and thank the Lord above, got out of it. But they were trying to basically take us to court so that my brother wouldn’t be treated if he ever needed ICU again, because they didn’t think he’d have a full quality of life. Despite the fact that they told us that he would pass away in ICU, never wake up from the coma, never eat, never recognize us. And he’s proven all them wrong in time.
Yours Truly: Wow. And that’s little Francis. Wow. How is he today?
Martin Mahon: He’s doing well. I’m so proud of him. He has a warrior’s heart – after started eating food again, thank God, after 10 months. And he can now properly shake your hand and he can wave. And he’s on an exercise bike, and he’s on a temp table to stand him up. So he’s getting there. And my poor mam, she sleeps with him like every day, right beside his bed every night. She hasn’t been home since it happened. She refused to be.
Yours Truly: Martin Mahon, I didn’t expect that. I’m sorry. I’ve asked that question 106 times now on the Coffee at Eleven Show, and I wasn’t expecting that. So blessings to you and your family. You mentioned God. God’s a big part of your life.
Martin Mahon: I always see religion and faith, as they said about theater, about acting, it’s a gift. You either have it or you don’t have that. You can try. And of course you can go and you can become a follower and pray, find God in your own life at any time. But it’s that deep connection that I have, that my family has that I know wasn’t put on me. I was born with it. Like I know in my heart, God has given me a vocation, I know that. I speak with God. That’s what I was even trying to tell the doctors. They were telling me that your brother is going to die. And I was like, no, because I could hear God here. And I know you thinking I’m crazy. You don’t have to believe me. And I don’t expect anyone to, but it doesn’t change my experience there.
If I wanted to sugarcoat it or exaggerate it, I’d be saying, Jesus appeared in front of me, and he pulled me and I shook his hand, and he showed me the thing in his hands, no. But I felt God in my heart. And that’s all that matters. I felt God telling me every single time that I would say, oh my God, my brother is not going to make it, and cry, it would be like, how would I describe it? It’s like you’re stuck at sea, you’re lost at sea and you think you’re going to drown and then a small little wave just comes right back and takes you right back to shore, out of nowhere. It’s like a random arm around your shoulder. That’s how I see God. It was like a feeling… A sudden burst of energy in my heart telling me no, your brother is going to be okay. Every single time that particular doubt would appear in my head. Only then would that feeling appear.
Yours Truly: Yeah.
Martin Mahon: I know you can think that’s my mind working or whatever, and everyone’s entitled to their beliefs, but that’s my experience. I can only tell you from how I felt God trying to talk to me.
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