Mark O’Callaghan – Salesian Past Pupil Slays the Dragons!

Mark O Callaghan, a resident of Don Bosco House in the mid 1980’s reached a high point in his career when he appeared on RTE’s Dragons Den Programme in April 2012. One of the Dragons, Gavin Duffy took a 40% share in the business venture he presented on the night. The venture is an exciting Football Board Game designed by Mark and is called Tactico.

Mark’s achievement is all the more remarkable, when you look at the start he had in life and the adversities he had to overcome as a youngster. Recently on one of his visits to Dublin from his home in London, where he lives and works, Mark visited Don Bosco House in Clontarf and shared his story with a gathering of current residents and care staff from the various care homes which this service provides.

Through tragic circumstances his parents were unable to care for him or for his brother and three sisters from an early age and consequently they were all placed in care.  Some of the orphanages and hostels where he stayed he said were very rough places.

However at St. Clare’s, Harold’s Cross, he and his siblings were placed under the care of Sister Francis, a nun who was to have a remarkable impact on his life. “ I am here because of her, it’s as simple as that. She was loved by everybody. My God, every kid in the home called her ‘Mother.’

Mark moved into Don Bosco House at 14 years and stayed for about two years. He is remembered as a likeable out going teenager with a strong will of his own and a steely determination. Although he was a bright young man, he struggled in the school setting at that time.

Later on he went through a difficult patch where he experienced homelessness. It was then that Mother Francis helped him out big time, getting him Orphans Pension, which enabled him to get a flat. She enabled him to go to private school in central Dublin and convinced the nuns to pay the substantial school fees.

After his Leaving Cert and with unemployment rampant in Ireland and university unavailable, he went to France and then to Germany where he worked for 5 years. He lived for the first year in a tent and moved into proper accommodation when he could afford it. Following a tip off from his brother that third level education in the UK was free, Mark joined his brother in London and took an Electronic Imaging Science Degree at Westminister University.

Subsequently he joined his brother working on the new Wembly Stadium as an Electricians Mate. It was there walking around the hallowed turf that the idea for Tactico popped into his head. “ I just thought, ‘nobody has invented a board game based around football’. There followed 18 months of hard work, trying out mock ups of the game with work mates and later with focus groups before he came up with the final version of Tactico.

Since the screening of the Dragons Den programme Mark has appeared on TV and Radio a number of times to tell his extraordinary story, and one cannot but be struck by the fine person he has become and the spirit of generosity and gratitude he exudes. On these occasions he has gone out of his way to publicly thank Mother Francis and the care he received both at St. Clare’s and at Don Bosco House.

At Clontarf recently we were at the receiving end of Marks’s kindness and generosity when he told his story to our young people and engaged them with empathy and sensitivity and gave them many reasons to have hope in their lives.

Well done Mark and thanks! And well done Sr. Francis, and thanks!

In gratitude to Sr. Francis, Mark O Callaghan is hoping to have Dublin Corporation erect a plaque in her memory in Harold’s Cross Park and a park bench where orphans can feel they have a sense of place.

If you would like to help him achieve his goal, please follow the link below

“Mother Francis Memorial in Harold’s Cross Park Dublin, Ireland”
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/mother-francis-memorial-in-harolds-cross-park/