Pen & Palette: Book Review

Reviewed by Jean Spain

Mc Loughlin Family at the launch of book “Pen & Palette” by graduates of the Certificate in Contemporary Living (CCL)
Pen & Palette is a collection of art and poems by people with intellectual disability who had attended the Contemporary Living Course in the National Institute for Intellectual Disability (NIID) in Trinity College Dublin. The book was produced in honour of Margaret McLoughlin a young girl with Downs Syndrome a past pupil of the Trinity course, who died ten years ago

Pen & Palette is a book of poetry and paintings by people with intellectual disabilities who are past and present students on the Certificate in Contemporary Living Course at the National Institute for Intellectual Disability (NIID) in Trinity College Dublin.

The book was sponsored by the Margaret Mc Loughlin Fund. Margaret was born with Down Syndrome and a serious heart condition. When she died ten years ago, after living into her 20s, her family established the Fund in her honour, to support and develop the creative skills of the students as part of their educational experience in Trinity College. The family now wanted to celebrate Margaret’s anniversary—and what better way, than by the publication of this wonderful book.
The art work is full of colour and makes you look closer for the full meaning of what the artists are telling us. Their honesty really takes your breath away. Then there is the poetry—some very sad, others filled with happiness. The following two poems are just an example from this beautiful and thought-provoking book.

In the preface to the book, Brendan Kenneally describes disability “as a mask that conceals a rich, surprising and fertile ability.” I see this as a book as a wonderful work, a celebration of the many talents of people with intellectual disability when they are allowed to express their feelings.


by Sandra Flynn

Not at home anymore
Because of my disability?

(don’t you love Mammy anymore?)

Come home.
(I’ll be better I promise.)

I miss the way things used to be.

Here in the Connemara cabin

by Derek Murphy

Here in the Connemara cabin
When we hear the music
When it plays loud
We all dance

We were at mass
We had communion
But now the music has started
We’re glad.

It is so nice
When it plays loud
We’re happy that the music is on

We like the quiet as well.


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