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On Island Profile: Dr. Eddie Donoghue

Oct. 22, 2006– Many people might call Dr. Eddie Donoghue a renaissance man.
At 69, Donoghue has been dubbed "the greatest salesman ever known" by the European press, worked as a dance instructor in Sweden and run his own dance school. He has also designed clothes, dabbled in journalism and now spends many of his days penning pieces such as "Queen Coziah" — a play set to debut next month at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York.
During the week, you can find Donoghue at the Legislature building on St. Thomas, where he works for Sen. Liston Davis. Some days he sits in quietly on Senate hearings, face composed, hands folded neatly in his lap. Most days, however, he flashes his bright smile at people he recognizes and spends time talking about African-American history and culture, along with local politics.
Recently, Donoghue has also talked about his new book, Black Men/White Women: The Sexual Exploitation of Female Slaves in the Danish West Indies, recently published by AuthorHouse Publishing Company
"This is a very exciting time for me," he says, eyes sparkling.
After hearing Donoghue's story, it's hard not to find his entire life exciting. It sounds like something from a movie script or one of his plays.
Born in Montserrat in 1937, Donoghue set off for England in 1956 to study accounting. Not long after he arrived, however, he met his future wife, Eva, and abandoned England for Sweden and the bright lights of the stage. "It called to me," he says. While he studied sociology, economics and a wealth of other subjects on the side, Donoghue made himself known in Sweden as a dance instructor.
"A dance instructor with no formal education in dance," Donoghue jokes.
That didn't stop him from rising to the top and starting his own dance school, however. Additionally, European papers wrote him up as the "greatest salesman ever known" for his ability to convince individuals to purchase a variety of wares at booths he used to set up in public market places and on street corners.
At that time, he also began to work in fashion, designing outfits reminiscent of traditional Asian garb, with high collars and deep hues. Newspapers once again printed his name, but this time recognizing his sense of style and publishing pictures of his patterns.
In 1982 Donoghue moved to St. Thomas, where his mother lived, and began working for the government in the former Department of Social Welfare, along with the Department of Education, among others.
Eventually Donoghue moved on to the Legislature, where he still has time to write and conduct research for his books and plays. "I hope to produce at least one book or play every year," he says.
In addition to the release of his book, Donoghue is currently working on the production of "Queen Coziah," which hits the stage of FIT on Nov. 15 and 16. The play, produced locally by the Pistarckle Theater earlier this year, is now being touted on the mainland by Dana Manno, one of FIT's dance teachers.
"Sprinkled with touches of humor and folklore, 'Queen Coziah' leads us through the liberation struggles of the many exploited coal carriers on the island of St. Thomas during the period of Danish rule," she writes in a recent letter to Donoghue. "There are more Caribbean people in New York City than on some Caribbean islands. Considering both the historical and theatrical content, 'Queen Coziah' is exactly the type of production that would be greatly appreciated here at the university."
Donoghue added three new scenes to the play for the FIT production, which will incorporate traditional African songs and dances.
The V.I. Council on the Arts is also working on bringing the play to Ghana, where it will star many of the original cast members from the territory, Donoghue says..
Coziah isn't the only play on Donoghue's shelf, however. Currently, he is working on completing another entitled "Queen Breffu," about a woman who Donoghue says played an instrumental role in the 1733-1734 slave revolt on St. John.
He added that he's working on having the piece debut locally, possibly at the Reichold Center for the Arts on St. Thomas in order to accommodate the play's large cast — which includes members of the National Dance Company of Ghana.
"I was hoping to do it in July, to commemorate in part, the 50th anniversary of Ghana's independence, along with the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, he says. That in itself was a big mark in the history of human kind..
While Donoghue said Sunday that he is always worried about the "danger of overworking himself," it does not seem as if he'll be slowing down any time soon.
"I have a lot of things in the cupboard that I'm working on, and it's all very exciting," he says. "And I'm looking forward to everything that's coming up."
"He's a doer," his wife Eva adds. "He's always made it all happen."
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