Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mad about Mark

If ever a person inspired me to live life to the fullest, it was the late Mark Logan.

Between family commitments, his love of music, following Chelsea FC, and especially his work in suicide prevention, Mark put as much as he could into each and every day. 

(As a Liverpool fan, I wasn’t too enamoured by the Chelsea part of his life ... but sure nobody’s perfect!)

We knew each other for almost 20 years, since his desire for a new life saw him swap the bright lights of London for a more laid-back way of living in the West of Ireland.

The ninth child of a Leitrim mother and Donegal father, he had dreamed of moving across the Irish Sea for years. It was our mutual love of music that sparked off our friendship. It was his mother’s funeral, and the gentle nature of the rural people at the removal in her home village, which inspired him to come “home”.

When I got to know Mark first, in the late 1990s, he seemed to play percussion in half-a-dozen Galway bands. He had previously played in the city with a touring band from London. Not only did he fit right in within months of moving to a much smaller city, he seemed to know everyone on the thriving Galway music scene.

Unusually, Mark did not seem to have any enemies. He seemed to be friendly with everyone I knew at gigs or in clubs at a time when I was lucky enough to write my own weekly music column. His quirky sense of humour, his desire to wear sharp suits in a town full of scruffy hippies, and his ability to tell absorbing tales seemed to endear him to virtually everyone I knew.

In Galway, full of ‘raggle taggle’ hippies in the 1990s, Mark stood out from the crowd.

We would enjoy absorbing conversations over a pint in places like the Blue Note or Massimo and I was struck by the sheer joy which music, and musicians, brought to his life.
The late, great Mark Logan

As the years progressed, I began to realise that there was a lot more to Mark than football banter or playing percussion with the likes of the Disconauts. 

While his nocturnal adventures brought him to gigs up and down the land, his day job with Rehab opened Mark up to a whole different world.

He was instrumental in ensuring that suicide prevention, and guidance for young people, became top of the agenda in the city.

The likes of Heads Up and Jigsaw were opening up at a time of great demand and much tragedy across the West of Ireland.

Over time, I began to admire Mark for a lot more than his music. I once heard that he saved the life of a young friend in Australia, via Facebook. Noticing that she had posted a couple of troubling messages, he managed to track down a couple of her friends and got them to call around to her house. A simple thing, perhaps, but a measure of the man that he showed such concern for a young woman half-way around the world.

His work with mental health promotion project Heads Up saw Mark deliver initiatives which allowed young people to recognise the warning signs for suicidal behaviour. He also provided two day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshops to community groups all across the West of Ireland.
For years, when we would meet at gigs, Mark and I would joke about doing a long interview. But we never got around to it.

Then his 50th birthday turned up in January of last year and he organised  two nights of top class music at the city’s best music venue, the Roisin Dubh. It seemed like the perfect time to sit down with Mark and talk about his life, work, and passions.

He told me that people needed to reconsider what they meant by mental health, because it applied to everyone. All of us get “the blues” at some stage.

“If you are down, rotten or anxious on a particular day, your mental health is not good. Of 100 people who present in front of a GP with a mental health issue, only 16 would be referred to a specialist psychiatric service. People talk about one in four, but it’s really four in four. It’s all of us,” he told me.

He was Mental Health and Recovery Development Manager with the Rehab group for 14 years. After interviewing him for two hours, I found it remarkable that someone so jolly, so full of fun, could be so caring for people in distress.

There was so much compassion to this man I had witnessed banging on the bongos on Galway stages far too many times over the years.

Sadly, within just over a month of that riveting newspaper interview, I was attending Mark’s funeral out in Oranmore. A hugely poignant occasion was made even more so when I heard that his beloved wife, Shona, was pregnant with their second child. I knew from our lengthy conversation that becoming a father in his 40s had been the highlight of his life and how much his young daughter meant to him.

As the lone piper played along the shores of Galway Bay, quite a few of us were left to ponder how cruel fate can be in March of last year.

Here was a man who had so much to offer, who made such a huge difference to people’s lives, taken from us, suddenly, in his prime. The only consolation was that he had brought so many friends and family members together for an amazing 50th birthday just four weeks before he passed away, with people flying in from London and Germany for the occasion.

Mark Logan was one of the most inspiring people I interviewed during more than 22 years working as a reporter for the Connacht Tribune.

His friends and family will gather to celebrate his life during a night called ‘Mad about Mark’ later this month.

The gig at the Roisin Dubh on Friday, March 27, will feature sets by The Disconauts, Fish Go Deep, Get Down Edits, Together Disco, and Anthony Collins, among others. No doubt a few ‘star’ performers will also fly in for the occasion.

All of the money raised will go to Jigsaw, Hand In Hand West, and the Galway Simon Community.
Tickets are available from the Roisin Dubh.

If the night is anything like the man himself, it should be unmissable.


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