It was my great hope that this book by Peter Sheridan would provide some intriguing insights into the history and development of Dublin, Ireland, much in the way several other books have for Mumbai, Beijing, Edinburgh, and Istanbul. Dublin has always fascinated me, so I was anticipating insights into the city and its residents.
Mr. Sheridan’s book largely concentrates on the author’s family, his youth, and their household dynamics during the turbulent 1960s. The title is based on their home address. That does not mean the book 44 was lacking in references to urban life in Dublin during this decade, they just were not the focus of the book. Here are some of the intriguing references that were gleaned from the text:
“I loved going on messages uptown. I loved the adventure. I loved discovering and finding short cuts. I loved the oul’ wans and the oul’ fellas. I loved the statues and the buildings and the shops. I loved Dublin. I loved everything about Dublin. I wouldn’t let anyone say a bad word about Dublin, especially country people. If Dublin were a woman, I would marry her.” (pages 6-7)
“On the far side of the naller [canal] was a broken ship left there by the Vikings, who plundered and raped Dublin until they ran into dockers from Sheriff Streetand scarpered. The native Dubliner stayed on the north side with the river forever separating the two sides.” (page 41)
“I stood in McGowan’s scrapyard with the letter in my hand. Mountains of metal all around me. Every color and shape. Signs in gold lettering on green everywhere. HOUSEHOLD SCRAP, LEAD, IRON, AND COPPER SOUGHT. BEST PRICES. WE PAY MORE. On the paths between the metal stacks were pools of rust that never dried up. Men with carbuncle faces worked the scrap heaps, men with hunched backs who never straightened up. They inhabited the bowels of the scrap heaps. Always dressed for winter. Long coats and mittens. No fingers. Woolen caps and tap noses. Drip, drip, drip. They looked like they’d been bred for the job. By an iron father out of a copper mother. All the way back. They were born into the past. Outside these walls the city trundled on into tomorrow. In McGowan’s it was always yesterday.” (page 58)
“Shea said starting a group [musical] was like starting a religion. We had to believe we were God to create followers. We had to give them something to believe in. Fans would come and worship at out altar.” (pages 174-175)
“All things country people hated about the city, I loved. The dirt and the grime. The fumes and the smog. The tar and the oil. The gray walls and tenement halls. I raced through dirty Dublin on my bike, delirious.” (page 142)
“He drove straight out to the dump in Finglas. It was a ghastly place dominated by a terrible stench….It was a wasteland. The debris of other people’s lives lay all around.” (page 226)
“The question he posed and left dangling in front of us was, where would the next Beatles come from? Would it be Leeds or Glasgow, Manchester or Cardiff? Or could it be Dublin? (page 237)
As all of us U2 fans know, it was less than a decade later that Dublin would indeed become the center of the rock ‘n’ roll universe.
“Walking home through the tenement streets of Dublin, it seemed a lot of things had resolved themselves. The path ahead suddenly seemed straightforward and clear. Forty-four was too overcrowded, even for me. Ma needed her refugees, and I was glad she had them. I would leave home soon and find my own field of battle.” (page 272)
If you are looking for a detailed read about the history and urban development of Dublin, this book does not contain it. Instead, it presents fascinating snapshots from a moment in time – the decade of the 1960s. If family dynamics is one of your areas of interest, 44: Dublin Made Me may just be right for you.