My Mother, 10 Years Gone Today

On this day, 25th June 2000, my mother Noeleen Quinn, 52 years old, sat down in front of a train at Sandymount Dart station, Dublin and ended her own life. It was a life that had become unbearable in the previous 2 years and was the last in a long string of suicide attempts in that time as she desperately tried to get off the planet and find peace. It was a life that had never really found true happiness and one which, at the end, no person could reasonably be expected to endure for too long and retain any kind of sanity.

My mother was a deep, thoughtful, intelligent, creative, artistic, well-travelled, nature-loving, strong-minded person with a quick wit and who didn’t take any shit from anyone. In many ways, the last person you would think who might commit suicide. In fact not long before she got depressed and while she and I were looking at a tv program about depression, she mentioned that she could never understand how anyone could kill themselves.

She had found some kind of normality in the years leading up to her final bout of depression, successfully gaining a Degree in English and the History of Art from UCD in 1998 as a mature student. A great achievment for an early school leaver especially as she was caring for my similarly mentally unwell grandmother during studies.

She graduated just months before a serious cancer scare which turned out to be the final straw that sucked the will to live from her. Despite successful surgery and getting the all clear, the post cancer treatment took its toll and she had a nervous breakdown. For the next 2 years she done everything she could to die, multiple drug overdoses, jumping in rivers, drinking and even burning. I also suspect based on marks I seen on her that during her stays at various different mental hospitals, she tried other common methods too.

I lived with my mother through these years, just the 2 of us in a 2 up 2 down in Dublin and I still don’t have words to describe how horrible it was to see a normally strong minded and strong willed person completely lose their mind and will to live. The pressure and stress in trying to keep my mother alive and deal with her attempts were the hardest thing I’ve ever or possibly will ever have to endure and I’m not sure how I made it through. It seemed that every time I woke up or came home there was some dreadful situation to deal with. I think the only thing that got me through that period and prevented me from becoming another sad suicide statistic myself was my ability to shut off mentally and pretend I was somewhere else.

They say that 2 of the hardest things to deal with in life are bereavement by suicide and the death of a child. My mother’s death was different. Strange as it sounds, the relief I felt when the guards came to the door on Sunday night June 25th 2000, was immense and still stays with me today. There comes a time when life becomes so hard that death seems like a better state and that’s how it was. Depression is a horrible living nightmare for all concerned and connected but none more so than for the person suffering it. You retain your intellect but are paralysed and weighed down by an unexplainable grief and apathy. The psychotic self-harming tendencies that can result from unsuccesfully treated and long term depression are very, very scary and nightmarish to deal with and I’ll never, ever forget what it was like to see my mother desperate to die and even begging me to kill her on occasions when she herself had failed. Killing yourself, as my mother found out is really not that easy.

I’d known long before she died that the mother I knew and loved and that raised me had gone for good and I was left with a hideous, evil creature, possessed by a devilish disease of the mind. It was obvious to me that after so many different treatments had failed to cure my mother and after any friends and family she had had been scared off, that it was only a matter of time before she died. She really had little to live for. The only shocking aspect was the manner in which it happened. She mirrored the death of my Aunt Helen, my mother’s closest sister who also took her life on a train track in the 70’s and I think, something which my mother never got over fully.

In the weeks and months that followed her death I had no option but to get on with my life. Bills had to be paid so I had to go out and get my first proper job and basically go out into the world and find/re-find myself. I had a little scare a year or 2 afterwards when I felt lonely and down and for a while I thought I was next in the family tradition to lose the plot but somehow, perhaps due to what I’d witnessed with my mother, I avoided that and managed my way eventually.

I am proud of my mother for what she achieved in life and perhaps controversially I am proud of her for being brave enough to end her own life. In some ways I see what she done as a kind of sacrifice for my benefit as well as her own. I knew that she knew how badly her behaviour was affecting me and how much I was at breaking point. Her death allowed me to live and I haven’t look back since. She of course was the biggest benefactor of her actions and in this case the so called selfishness of suicide was fully justified and allowable in my opinion.

I would like to take this opportunity ‘ma’, wherever you are, to thank you for all that you’ve done for me and for giving me the tools to succeed in life and to find the happiness you never did. I will keep you with me always and remember happier times and I will tell everyone who is interested, the many ways in which you were great. I will raise your beautiful grandchildren as you raised me, with an emphasis on learning, creativity, individuality, integrity, honesty, laughter and strength of character with a healthy dose of your cynicism thrown in too.

Your only Son and Child,

Leon (Nooney Moon)

Contact Aware for more info and support for Depression.

Some photos of my Mother, Noeleen:

William Blake Songs of Innocence

I like Blake’s poetry and got into him through the Doors who were also influenced by his “the Marriage of Heaven and Hell” which speaks “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite….”. I chose to add music to the “Introduction” to Blake’s “Songs of Innocence” poetry collection.

Here are the words, followed by my music (early effort!):

Piping down the valleys wild,
Piping songs of pleasant glee,
On a cloud I saw a child,
And he laughing said to me:

“Pipe a song about a Lamb!”
So I piped with a merry chear.
“Piper, pipe that song again;”
So I piped: he wept to hear.

“Drop thy pipe, thy happy pipe;
Sing thy songs of happy chear:”
So I sung the same again,
While he wept with joy to hear.

“Piper, sit thee down and write
In a book, that all may read.”
So he vanish’d from my sight,
And I pluck’d a hollow reed,

And I made a rural pen,
And I stain’d the water clear,
And I wrote my happy songs,
Every child may joy to hear.

Songwriting Tips

Here’s a bit about how I write (or used to write!) music and songs. Back when I had the time to write music full time and when I was depressed enough to have material to write about, I’d write and record maybe a song or 2 a day. Most of the 50 or so songs I’ve written were completed in the space of a few months.

My preferred method would probably have been to simply strum chord patterns on the guitar untill I found a progression I liked. Then I’d hum over it to get the basis of a melody. A tape recorder or dictaphone was invaluable for when you’d stumble on something decent because the chances of remembering it later were slim to none and there is no worse feeling than knowing you had something but it got lost in your head somewhere. These days if I have a melodic idea, I’ll probably record it on the iPhone!

Once I had the basis of a melody and harmony I’d have a look at chord and scale charts I had up on the wall in my music room to see where I could break out into a chorus or middle eight type bit, different from the main structure. Ocassionally I’d do the same on the keyboard or maybe start with a melodic riff on either the guitar or keyboard and try add chords to it.

Lyrics would probably have been my weak point and I remember getting pretty worked up about not being able to either find the right words or get them to fit into my musical structure. Thesaurus books and Rhyming Dictionaries helped big time here. For some reason, starting with lyrics and trying to add music to them never worked out that well unless the lyrics were written specifically for music. If not then they tended to be too untidy to fit into the rhythmical structure. I wrote a lot of poems for example and tried to add music to them but had a hard time with the more non-linear ones!

Of course one of the best songwriting tips anyone could give is to simply listen to as much music as possible to make sure you have a wide, eclectic resource to draw on when it comes to creating your own music. Despite this fact, a lot of my music came out bluesy/folky and dark but I guess you find your own stlye too!

Hope that helps any budding songwriters out there.


All I Want Is You

Classic U2 song recorded here a few months ago with a friend and my fiance Eimear singing. Acoustic, Lead guitar, Vocals and a bit of Bongos!

Wonderful Tonight

An Eric Clapton number myself and a friend (with my Fiance Eimear singing!) knocked up in the studio here a few months back with Bass, Acoustic, Lead Guitar and Vocal.

Beatles Blackbird Cover

I knocked up this simple recording of Blackbird influenced by the Paul McCartney gig I went to in Dublin’s O2. It’s just Acoustic guitar and vocal with a little chorus and reverb. Recorded and mixed via Nuendo.

A Funny Poem

Here’s a short poem we just dug up from a few years back, co-written by me and my Fiancé:

Leon and Eimear met on the net,
You could say it was love at first ‘site’.
Every time they came online,
They talked for half the night!

He was lost and she was too,
But his advances were rebuked.
But she came around and love he found,
The very first time she cooked!

Now 5 months on, a long time gone,
The relationship is stable.
She’s realised he’s after more than,
Just her broadband cable!

No Line On The Horizon Review

I got hold of the latest U2 album a week or 2 before going to see them in Croke Park on their first night on home soil as part of their current world tour. Just wanted to aquaint myself with some of the songs in case they played a load of them! They played 4 or 5 and I was ready for them! Continue reading “No Line On The Horizon Review”

Burn On Jack L Review

Just seen the great voice, Jack L performing in the Dock in Carrick-on-Shannon last night and its about the 5th or 6th time I’ve seen him live so before I get around to this late review of his latest album “Burn On” it needs to be said that I’m already a big fan! Continue reading “Burn On Jack L Review”

Christmas and Religion

Dilemma!? Half of me hates going along with all the usual Christmas shite and letting myself get carried away on the cheesy and neverending marketing wave that usually results in me spending, eating and drinking needlessly. The other half (my inner child) harks back to when Christmas meant something and was magical and I just want to get decorations up, get carols on and be merry!

Another dilemma is that I’m so non-religious its unreal having been brought up atheist and un-christened. This link partly explains why, Christians, please don’t click! So my decision should really be made for me as to whether I celebrate it or not but what can you do, be a scrooge and be the only one in your extended family who doesn’t take part!? I wouldn’t be allowed.

Oh and someone please write some new Christmas tunes, maybe Radiohead should come up with a suitably morose tune for the times thats in it!