Real people, real stories

James McCann

James is 35 and lives in Kinnegad, Westmeath. He is married to Catherine and has a baby son Brendan. He left school at 14 and became a mechanic. When eventually the garage had to close, he found that despite the fact that he knew everything about how to fix cars, he couldn't get his full mechanic's qualification because he couldn't read or write. After that he became a lorry driver, getting up at 4 every morning and not returning until 7 in the evening. Even then he had to turn down more profitable long haul jobs because he couldn’t type the destinations into his satellite navigation.

That is until he rang the National Adult Literacy Agency and was given a range free of options and he decided to do an intensive six week literacy course. Since then he has never looked back. In only a few months he has changed job, is running a garage and has applied to do a full mechanic and management course in Dublin Institute of Technology.

“My way of dealing with things for years was running, just go away and run from things. I had a lot of rage and anger in me because I couldn’t do what I wanted to. I had it in my head and it just wouldn’t go on to paper for me. And that was killing me inside. I’d say if I didn’t do this course, I’d say the anger would have just festered up inside me. But now I feel very lucky. It’s like a fairytale – I started out wanting to do this because I wanted to get out of lorry driving and become a mechanic and now that’s what is happening.”

Doing the literacy course has also made a huge difference to his personal life. Before starting, James had never read a story to his young son Brendan. Indeed he couldn’t even spell his name at the time. “If I were to write a note or anything you wouldn’t be able to read it. I wouldn’t even send a text because you wouldn’t be able to read it. It’s after giving me great confidence in myself. I am able to read books to Brendan now. I feel proud of myself. Those are the very words I’m using. I’m proud of myself,” he says.