Friend, bodyguard, martial arts master, stunt man and actor John Carrigan, a regular cast member of recent fan produced Star Trek movies and more, has been in contact with downthetubes to tell us about The Other Side of Harry, a new e-book he’s written for mental health publisher Chipmunka.
While it’s not a project we would normally cover here, we’re more happy to support John’s work and hope it’s a success for him. Be warned: you may find some of the content of this post as John describes his upbringing disturbing.
“I think my book will help many people overcome the demons of their past as I have had to do,” John tells us. “It has just been published as an e book with the paperback version is out in the summer. Most of the proceeds for the book go to charity, so it is a worthy cause.
“The Other Side of Harry is about the dark illness of schizophrenia which continues to tear people apart even today,” reveals John, “and about the legacy of demons it leaves behind for the families to deal with, demons which take years to conquer… if they ever truly can be conquered.
“But this book is also about love, sacrifice and hope, which against all odds were the only things which brought my family through hell to the brightness of today and the hope of tomorrow.”
The book centres on the story of Margaret and Henry Carrigan (Maggie and Harry), John’s mother and father who were childhood sweethearts and married to have a lovely daughter Susan then son John. “When I was two weeks old and was lying on the sofa by the fire my father, who was also by the fire with my mother, turned to the woman he loved and… began smashing her head in with a poker.
“After that desperate fight for life all our lives were changed for ever.”
Schizophrenia had possessed John’s father turning him from a wonderful man into, the other side of Harry. “Thus began our life of hospitals, police sieges, straight jackets and need,” says John. “Almost abandoned by the rest of our relations, my mum began her sole fight to support us all and never once did she abandon her Harry or give up hope. She worked night and day and was the rock in all our lives.
“After suffering violence and domination from my father, my sister left home at 16 to live with my aunt and try for a normal life. Thus I was left with my mum to witness and take on the full force of schizophrenia, as time and time again my father went through the many stages of madness, and then back again to the man we loved and hated at the same time. From keeping me as an over protected virtual prisoner, to making us sit in darkness for hours with his ever present rantings ringing in our ears, to seeing him kneeling in the middle of the main road praying in the rain with a laughing crowd around him.
“This was all part of the life I had growing up with my fathers insanity, and it was topped off by the constant fear that ‘Harry’ would erupt in violence toward my mother and I would be unable to do anything to stop him. With all of this going on around me the demons of doubt, loneliness and fear would have torn me apart if not for the hero in my life, my mum.”
Not all John’s memories of his father are soured by this terrifying illness. “My father was a lovely well mannered man and a talented pianist,” says John. “His true self without his illness was a gentle intelligent being who would dress in a suit and tie and always look immaculate whenever he could, and that was the man we loved. But not by choice we were torn, and forced to hate his alter ego which could be the most cruel of beings, the being I called the other side of Harry.
“Between being tormented at home with my fathers illness I was also beaten up and bullied at school, and the only things I found in my life to give me comfort were my mother and the TV programme, Star Trek which would turn out to have such an influence in my future life. After one day being beaten up outside my own front door by a group of thugs even my father knew he needed to do something to help his introverted son who was so unprepared for the outside world, so he enrolled me in a martial arts school, and it began.
“I took a journey of self discovery and after years of dedication and struggle turned myself from a timid boy into a black belt martial artist and teacher with my own martial arts school, and a bodyguard to the rich and famous. I went on to become a stunt man and actor working on TV and films, and finally having a guest starring role on a new incarnation of, of all things Star Trek, acting with my childhood heroes.
“In spite of or because of, I have ended up achieving things most people with a normal up bringing can only dream of.”
“My book goes from the old Londoners hop picking days in Kent which was a big part of my family’s life, to the lights of Hollywood,” John reveals. “From the demons and disasters which haunt anyone with my kind of back ground, to triumph and hope for the future.
“This book is a story of struggle and love, of pain and loss, and finally hope,” he feels. “With a message for anyone who lives through their darkest days — that they can make it. The thing which makes a star bright is the darkness which surrounds it, thus sometimes it is only our dark past which can propel us to a bright future, if only we do not give in to the darkness first.”