This is the first book to showcase second generation Irish writers in Britain. In the past, many Irish immigrants kept their heads down, but here, second generation writers, not quite British, not quite Irish, tell their own stories. Essays about music, family, and history lead into new fiction and poetry that take us beyond shamrocks, leprechauns and pints of Guinness.
The writers explore questions of identity and belonging and ask: where is home – here or Ireland?
Ian Duhig charts how the ‘tough-lived’ life of his parents’ generation finds its way into the ‘dream-songs’ of his poetry. Sean Campbell focuses on second generation Irish musicians in England and explores how Kevin Rowland used the music of Dexys to express his Irish identity. Graham Caveney examines how Shane MacGowan’s mouth came to epitomise the figure of the drunken Paddy, obscuring more interesting ways of seeing him.
Moy McCrory explores what authenticity and belonging mean to a writer, and reflects on a Catholic past with its imagery of saints and miracles. Elizabeth Baines writes about her father, ‘caught between two stereotypes, the contemptible rough Irish peasant and the romantic Irish charmer, desperate to bury the one but unable to help playing up to the other’. Ray French’s father dreamt of leaving a Welsh town ‘clotted with factories, docks and noisy, crowded streets’ and returning to the simple life in rural Ireland.
Tony Murray discusses how the Archive of the Irish in Britain preserves the heritage and achievements of the diaspora. Marc Scully focuses on diverse Irish communities in Britain today, and how they sustain their hybrid identities. Maude Casey looks back at her experience of activism and the increased hostility towards the Irish community in Britain in the 1980s. John O’Donoghue claims asylum in poetry and by recognising himself as ‘a child of the diaspora … in a city as real and big and dirty as London’. Kath Mckay probes the Irish influence on the ‘most un-English’ city of Liverpool, her home town.
With wit and elan, these writers hold up a mirror to the diverse and complicated experience of the Irish in Britain.
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