Former international drug smuggler gets high on life
Brian O'Dea talks to IrishCentral about his new autobiography, "High"
Sometimes people take the long way home. If Brian O’Dea, 61, hadn’t pursued his life of crime, then he probably would never have grown as close as he did to his parents, he says.
“Odd that, isn’t it? We were never so close as when they came to visit me in prison. Our relationship was completely repaired before they both died. In fact it got better and I’m grateful for that,” he told IrishCentral during a recent interview.
O’Dea’s parents were Irish on both sides of his family; his ancestors came to Newfoundland in the early 1800s before the Famine.
“They were generations of farmers. My grandfather started a soft drinks factory, which later became a brewery. My dad went on to run it. They’re a reputable, prosperous family in Newfoundland to this day.”
But O’Dea chose a different, darker path for himself. The trouble, he says, all began in school.
As the well-to-do son of one of the most prominent Irish families in Newfoundland (his uncle Jack was the governor, his father was the head of the United Newfoundland Party) O’Dea was set up for life before he even got started. But then something went wrong.
His parents sent him to Winterton School, a non-denominational school for girls and boys, but he pined to go to the Catholic St. Boniface’s. Eventually his father relented and he was enrolled. His first day, at 11 years of age, proved memorable, for the wrong reasons.
“What happened? How did I turn out like I did? That’s the question my parents wanted to ask me for years. I had to write “High” (his new autobiography, published this month) to tell them,” he says.
“I had an incident that happened to me in school that kind of took me off the rails. I’m not blaming the incident, I just know that after it – because of what I had been taught – my mind was a horrible place to be.”
Sitting at his desk on his first day, one of the Christian Brothers came in and announced to the class, “Boys we’ve got Little Lord Fauntleroy here with us this year.” O’Dea was then commanded to come to the bother’s desk, and asked to hold out his hands.
Immediately, for no reason, he was hit with 16 hard slaps of the brother’s leather strap. The shock of it made him urinate and he was sent out into the hall, where another brother, the schools’ principal, happened by.
“I had never been hit by an adult in my life. I was sobbing. I didn’t know where to go or what to do about it. I was completely a wreck,” he recalled.
“The principal asked me what happened and he put his arm around me. Immediately I felt a huge sense of relief. Then he took me to his office, got me out of my clothes, and that led to a year of sexual abuse.”
The circumstances are wearily familiar, but it was what didn’t happen, O’Dea says, that caused him the greatest problems.
“I told nobody. I kept it a secret. I was a Catholic and I thought that I had performed a mortal sin punishable by an eternity in hell,” he says.
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