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(ANS – Dublin) – Mark O’Callaghan is today a successful businessman. This would have been difficult to imagine 30 years ago when as a result of family problems Mark moved into “Don Bosco House” in Clontarf. It is a success story involving contributions by the Irish Salesians and other religious.
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 were very rough places,” explained Fr Val Collier, director of Don Bosco House, Clontarf between 1982 and 2011.
However at St Clare’s, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, he and his siblings were placed under the care of Sr 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,” said Mark. “She was loved by everybody. Every kid in the home called her ‘Mother’.”
Mark moved into Don Bosco House at 14 years of age and stayed for about two years. He is remembered as a likeable outgoing 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. They were important years as they helped form his character and his determination
Later on after leaving Don Bosco House he went through a difficult patch where he experienced homelessness. Mother Francis helped him out again helping him get a flat. She also enabled him to go to a private school in central Dublin. Then with unemployment rampant in Ireland and university unavailable, Mark went to France and then to Germany, living for the first year in a tent, and then worked for 5 years The in England Mark joined his brother in London and took an Electronic Imaging Science Degree at Westminster University, after which he worked for a time in the film special effects industry.
Subsequently he joined his brother working on the new Wembley Stadium as an Electrician’s Mate. It was there 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 workmates and later with focus groups before he came up with the final version of Tactico. Experienced game manufacturers were found in the USA and China to deliver the metal, plastic and laminate parts needed to ensure a quality product.
Finally in late 2010, Tactico – Football Edition arrived on Irish and British shores from Hong Kong, and soon became a success.
In recent weeks Mark has appeared on TV and radio a number of times to tell his extraordinary story. 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. Recently he returned to Clontarf where he shared his story with a gathering of current residents and care staff from the various care homes which this service provides and engaged them with empathy and sensitivity and gave them many reasons to have hope in their lives. He also left some sets of Tactico which have provided the present residents of Don Bosco House with endless hours of entertainment. At present Mark is also working on spin-off board games for rugby, cricket and American football for the international market.
He is now hoping to have Dublin Corporation erect a plaque recording Sr Francis in Harold’s Cross Park and also a park bench to her memory where orphans can feel they have a sense of place.