Dressed head to toe in black, mourners gathered around the coffin of ‘Timothy the Dead Boy’ as they came to pay their respects to writer and artist Kevin McHugh at the launch of his latest haunting book on Sunday afternoon (October 22) in Charlie’s Bar, Enniskillen.

The ‘wake’ began shortly after 4pm in the bar’s upstairs chamber as chief mourner, Noelle McAlinden, High Sheriff of County Fermanagh, led the proceedings.

In his roles of undertaker and author, Kevin took to the stage and read from his poetically dark book, paying tribute to poor Timothy as his illustrations of the tragic character were displayed as a backdrop.

As sandwiches were passed around, the wake continued with Noelle interviewing Kevin about ‘Timothy the Dead Boy’.

During their conversation, she asked him about the inspiration behind his fateful protagonist, to which the author replied: “I think I’m Timothy, to be honest.”

Speaking with this newspaper previously, Kevin had elaborated on how he identifies with Timothy, who he describes as a “misfit”.

Artist, Kevin McHugh. Photo: Donnie Phair.

Artist, Kevin McHugh. Photo: Donnie Phair.

“I think I always write from the perspective of the odd one out because that’s how I’ve always felt myself and still do

“The central character in all the things I’ve written has always been that little weirdo in the corner,” he said, adding: “Since I’m all grown up now, I have started to embrace it, and the last 10 years or so I actually love the fact that I’m a little bit different from most people.”

He said that when he was a teenager, he was never one to surmount to peer pressure at school.

“I just didn’t think it applied to me and I couldn’t think how other people thought it applied to them.

“Because who cares what other people think of you?” said Kevin, adding swiftly: “That’s a frivolous thing to say, because of course I did care what other people thought of me – but not enough to follow the rules, follow their leadership, so to speak, to be one of the cool kids.

“It’s hard when you’re at school; it’s only when you grow up and sort of find that your ‘weirdar’ [weird radar] starts spinning and picks up other wee weirdos, and you realise this is actually the best position to be in, because you’ve already sort of started forging your own path.

‘The best feeling’

“That just gets stronger too, and then when you meet other little weirdos, it’s just the best feeling in the world. I ended up marrying one,” he said with a laugh as he referred to his wife, Jolene.

The wake concluded with a sing-along around the coffin as Kevin, Jolene and Phil Cassidy – three members of the funeral punk band, Cadaver Club – performed an acoustic set of macabre melodies, marking the perfect send-off for ‘Timothy the Dead Boy’.

Grateful for the support for his wake-themed book launch event from Noelle McAlinden, along with Noelle McAloon of Enniskillen BID and Una Burns of Charlie’s Bar, Kevin said: “Noelle McAlinden had offered months ago, as soon as she knew I had the book out, to help launch it.

“I suppose my lack of sort of confidence in myself, and ‘impostor syndrome’ takes over.

“The more time I have to think about something, the more time I have to talk myself out of it!

“In a wave of confidence, I just went, ‘I’m doing this’, and I got in contact with Noelle and straightaway she said yes.

“I knew once I asked her, there was no going back, I knew it was happening,” he laughed.

He explained that Noelle McAloon of Enniskillen BID helped with not only moral support, but the cost of things as well.

“Noelle McAloon has just been brilliant to work with, because you come with a mad idea and she’s up for it. Like this,” he said, referring to the ‘wake’ of ‘Timothy the Dead Boy’.

Kevin added: “It’s great having people around you that you can spark off. When I get full of enthusiasm and then you meet somebody else who’s full of enthusiasm too, it’s like, ‘Right, let’s go for it’.

“That’s how the murals and all started, so it’s nice to get that support.”

Kevin is well-known across Fermanagh for his art, from his intricate illustrations to his large-scale murals that help brighten up Enniskillen.

Illustration by Kevin McHugh as featured in his book Timothy the Dead Boy.

Illustration by Kevin McHugh as featured in his book 'Timothy the Dead Boy'.

But what incited his passion for art?

“Technically I’m self-taught but it was started by my older brother, Noel,” he said, explaining how his brother would set him up at the kitchen table at their family home on the outskirts of Donagh and show him how to use watercolour paints.

“He’d say, ‘Today we’re going to draw a lion, and we’re not going to do it from the side, we’re going to do it from a 45 degree angle’,” laughed Kevin.

‘A great start’

“He taught me how to draw everything in wire-frame, to get the angles right. He gave me a great start, and my uncle Paddy showed me a pile of drawing tricks as well.

“That was the start of it. I then just sort of kept teaching myself, using library books and things like that. Anything that had techniques and tips,” he said.

From then, Kevin has been developing his artistic skills and now works as a self-employed artist

He noted how Sliabh Beagh Arts were the first organisation to employ him as an artist when he decided to go self-employed.

Grateful to Arts Co-ordinator Donna Bannon for pushing him out of his comfort zone, with Sliabh Beagh Arts he has been involved in creating powerhose murals, also known as reverse graffiti, and painting murals on numerous bus shelters in rural areas of Fermanagh.

Over the past few years he has been commissioned by Enniskillen BID to design and paint murals on buildings across Enniskillen town centre, his most recent being a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party-inspired mural on the walls of Jenny’s Coffee Shop.

However, although he loves creating art, Kevin says that writing is his “favourite thing”.

“Of course, I love to paint and play in the band, but writing is my favourite thing of all time. It’s just me and a pen and paper. It’s my happy place,” he said, explaining that he loves to write “really dark humour, but it is just a joke”.

Although his dark sense of humour runs through ‘Timothy the Dead Boy’, Kevin explained that it does have an important message at its core.

‘Wicked sense of humour’

“It is a bit of fun, you need a sort of wicked sense of humour, but there is a message in there too, that you just find out at the end.

Illustration by Kevin McHugh as featured in his book Timothy the Dead Boy.

Illustration by Kevin McHugh as featured in his book 'Timothy the Dead Boy'.

“It might make you go back and read the book with a new perspective then, to think about how you treat people who are different.

“That’s really what it’s about,” said Kevin, adding with a smile on his face: “So, just be careful how you treat the misfits.”