“My Dad, the actor Ray McAnally, when we were talking about making choices, taught me that the word ‘decision’ comes from the Latin ‘decider’ to determine, but, is also ‘to cut off’. So when faced with a decision I know I have to cut off one or several of the choices in front of me. When I am unsure I flip a coin, regardless of which side it falls it tells me what I actually want.”

These are the words of the author, director, and adventurer on land and sea, Niamh McAnally, as she celebrates the success of her book ‘Flares Up’.

One of Ireland’s greatest actors, her late father was the recipient of three BAFTA’s. Best remembered for his starring roles in ‘My Left Foot’, and ‘The Mission’, he is the man whose wisdom she absorbed deeply.

Niamh is talking to me from the lanai by the pool in her home in Punta Gorda, South West Florida. The last time we had such peace to talk was when we had an elongated tea break in RTÉ. Niamh was the director of the game show Rapid Roulette, which I had the pleasure of presenting. Since then she has enjoyed a life of great adventure.

“Didn’t you work on the film ‘The Mission’ starring your father Ray McAnally, Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Aidan Quinn and Liam Neeson?”

“Yes, I was awarded the Lennox Robinson Bursary to study theatre direction in the National Theatre in London under Sir Peter Hall. When I had completed my time, my Dad invited me to South America for the shoot of ‘The Mission’.
“The producers learned I had a skillset in outdoor sports. I worked with the dug-out canoes on the rivers in Columbia. I taught Liam Neeson how to paddle a canoe and assisted in climbing scenes at the Iguazu Falls in Argentina/Brazil.

‘Did you enjoy working with Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro?’
“I learned that the bigger the star the more gracious they are. They both had tireless dedication, doing take, after take, to get it right”.

‘Can you remember one proud professional moment you shared with your father at this time?’
“Yes, I was with him on the press junket for ‘The Mission’ in Cannes. The movie won the Palm D’or.”

Flares Up, Niamh’s book, is the tale of two men, Paul and Phil, who row across the Atlantic, and is, just like Niamh’s own life story, a narrative of tenacity, adventure and triumph over adversity.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own