Michael O'Leary: Hagstone Story Teller

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"I wanted to say a huge thank you for such a fantastic job on Monday. We’ve had such wonderful feedback from the schools and Lucketts Coaches." Laura Downton, Lee Peck Media, Southampton. [Mike was telling stories to children on board Luckett's Coaches!]

"I just wanted to say a huge thank you for coming in and sharing your stories with our students this morning, we have had lots of students and staff telling us how much they enjoyed it." Adele Wooldridge, Totton College.

"The Pilgrimage of Piltdown Man" by Michael O'Leary

“Once upon a time…there was the Weald. Much of the Weald was smoke and flame – a place of blast furnaces and molten iron – and the mine pits; still, deep, dark cooling pools, from which would come the hiss of steam when white hot iron was plunged in. And scattered throughout the Wealden forest there were those charcoal burners’ enclosures – the hut and the kiln, the piles of cut limbs and branches, and the solitary, wrinkled charcoal burner.

And when the charcoal burner died, as often as not his body rotted away in solitude and there was no-one to miss him, as the forest retook the enclosure – and the hut and the kiln subsided back into the ground. Sometimes bits of body were collected – no-one knew by whom. Someone dark. Someone with a book. Bits of body were fixed together – bits of this, that and the other. Higgledy piggledy wiggledy. A brain animated by a spark of fire from a bloomer – an ancient blast furnace; a clay chimney – or fluxed into awareness and motion by an organism usually associated with rot and decay – the body jerked into some sort of life...”

Here begins the story of Link, a cryptid, a knitted-together Piltdown Man, whose pilgrimage takes him up the South Downs, staggering along the A27 and the M27, through Southampton, through Amesbury, past Porton Down, to Glastonbury, Dartmoor, the west of Cornwall and Brittany.

Mike O’Leary has been a professional storyteller for 25 years and his post-fairy tale vividly knits together the knuckers, hags, wisht hounds and dragons of folklore with more contemporary concerns of roadkill, hitch-hiking, migration and abuse.

The result is a very adult story that investigates the whole idea of story in our lives and in our search for meaning.

"The Pilgrimage of Piltdown Man" is written for readers of contemporary adult myth and folktales, as well as radical-, artist, performance- and everyday-walkers, who know or want to explore the landscape of Southern England and Brittany.

First edition copies available from the publishers, please email Mike to arrange for your copy to be signed with a personal message, you will just need to cover the cost of postage once you have received your book from Triarchy Press. Please visit them to get hold of your copy! https://www.triarchypress.net/piltdown.htm

Hampshire Folk Tales for Children" by Michael O'Leary

If you love magic and adventure, here is the book for you. In this treasure trove of tales, storyteller Michael O' Leary has collected stories from the Hampshire Downs (which are up), the New Forest (which is old), thecopses and coppices, fields and farms, villages, towns and cities of Hampshire. Inthese stories you will meet dragons, giants, knights, princesses and some vile Vikings- and of course the Liphook fairisies. From 'Once upon a time...' to 'Happy ever after' you will be transported to Hampshire, where even the stones have stories to tell. Publisher: The History Press Ltd ISBN: 9780750964845

"Hampshire & Isle of Wight Ghost Tales" by Michael O'Leary

l The stories in this haunting collection are as ancient and modern, powerful and fantastical, ambiguous and ambivalent as the ghosts they feature.

Here you will find tales of headless horses riding moonbeams, an entrance to another world on Marrowbones Hill, drowned sailors and ghost ships, and a girl riding pillion on a motorbike driven by her dead boyfriend - all told in the distinct voice of noted storyteller Michael O'Leary who, for years, has wandered the highways and byways of Hampshire, immersed in the layers of ghost stories that have accumulated in this ancient county.

Richly illustrated with original drawings, these tales are perfect for reading under the covers on dark, stormy nights.

Publisher: The History Press Ltd ISBN: 978075096366

"Sussex Folk Tales" by Michael O'Leary

With screaming demons in Wealdon copses and dragons lurking in bottomless ponds, the folk tales of Sussex truly represent the diversity of the area. Meet knuckers and willocks, mawkins and marsh monsters, the Piltdown Man, Lord Moon of Amberley Swamp and the princess of the Mixon Hole.

There is also something terrible crawling to Crawley from Gatwick, which develops a degraded appetite in a bin …

From ghosts and madmen to witches and wise women, Michael O’Leary reveals many of the hidden horrors of Sussex – horrors that can be found in the most beautiful places, or that lurk beneath the seemingly mundane. Amid these dark tales are stories of humour and silliness, of love, lust and passion. - See more at: http://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Folk Tales by Michael O'Leary

These beautifully told folk tales, brought vividly to life by Marcel O’Leary’s graphic illustrations, have been collected by the author over his years of working as a greenkeeper, gardener, teacher and storyteller in Hampshire. Many are published here for the first time, and others have evolved through countless retellings in Hampshire schools, festivals, fêtes and events. (Book launch December 15th 2011 at a fund-raiser for the Art House Cafe in Southampton)

Featuring dark tales of murderous kings and commoners, wild women, screaming skulls, galloping plague coaches, dragons dancing themselves to death, giants, and wandering corpses, combined with humorous stories and evocative tales of love, lust and passion, this book takes the reader beyond the written page and reveals the wonders that lie within the Hampshire landscape. The future holds "Sussex Folk Tales"

If you live in the Southampton area, tune in to Unity 101 to catchMike telling his two minute stories throughout the day.

"Thank you so much. I've asked several children what was their favourite part of the day (thinking it would be the ice cream van) , and they said the story teller." Karla Bellamy. [Mike told stories at her wedding!]

"Amongst other complimentary comments students told me you were 'funny' 'unique' and that they felt 'brought into the story'. One student was 'expecting someone with a book just to sit down and read it' and was delighted that this was not the case. Another stated that you were very good in how you 'expressed the details of the story'."

Chris Woodacre, Arnewood Secondary School, New Milton

"Bringing our teddies, Teddy Michael and Snowflake, into the story you told at our wedding, made it all the more part of a very personal but shared experience, thanks for being a big part of our great day!" Dr John Bullas, Southampton [who is still Mikes webmaster!]

"Mike was brilliant on the PA... a great story teller....Once again many thanks to everyone for making it a success." Lisa Ward -Sponsorship & PR Manager - Newbury Racecourse (May 2008)

Read about how Mike became a storyteller in his article (PDF here) in Familes - Solent East (they have a website too: www.familiessolenteast.co.uk)

Michael O'Leary is an experienced storyteller and teacher based in the Southampton and Portsmouth area, in the county of Hampshire in the UK.

He shares stories with children, teenagers and adults in homes, gardens, schools (both special and mainstream), colleges, universities, prisons, pubs, clubs, forests, fields, museums, libraries, hospitals and shopping centres.

He has featured on BBC Radio Solent, Radio Bristol, Southern Counties Radio, RTE, Radio Northern Ireland, Radio Art Asia and Unity 24 Community Radio.

Unity 101 Community radio

Mike is working with children from Mountpleasant School in Southampton, so that they can tell their own stories on Unity 101 Community radio. Please see their press release

Mike told stories in schools and playgrounds to both children and adults as part of the 2008 "Bringing Stories to Life" project: read about his involvement here (PDF)

"My day with Michal O'Leary was a laugh. He told us two funny stories that got everyone giggling. He especially likes telling stories about dragons. I don't know how but he always had a trick up his sleeve to make us jump......When it was time to go, everyone was sad. We wanted one more story but that was it. Alex"

Southern Daily Echo July 2016

When in mid-life he became a teacher, the value of sharing these stories became obvious.

He became a professional storyteller almost to his surprise, as if that's what he'd been training for all along. He also found that stories were needed not just by children, but by adults, and that there was a need for a storyteller to "shorten the road" in an incredible variety of situations

"Stories, listening to them and telling them, have been part of my life for as long I can remember."

"Michael O'Leary has travelled the length and breadth of his own back garden, and occasionally as far as the nearest pub, in his search for stories." (more)

"Michael's storytelling style is informal, and he uses an array of interesting sound devices and instruments to add dramatic effect to the stories. Many of the tales he tells are ancient in origin. Spanning the centuries to a distant and misty past, he brings the beliefs, fears, and wishes of a people now gone back to life for a present-day audience." Purbeck Gazette Oct 2005

Click on a link above to learn more


"Students described your session as very enjoyable, useful, brilliant, inspirational and a good de-stressor!"

Michael Curtin,
Lecturer in Occupational Therapy,
University of Southampton

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