Friday, 27 March 2015

A Glorious Weekend in Dublin - Andrew Crofts





The organisers of book festivals have been getting a bit of flack from authors recently for their lack of generosity and for generally making us feel we should be grateful to be invited in the first place. The Mountains to Sea Festival, held last week in Dun Laoghaire, in the picturesque outskirts of Dublin, is a glowing example of how things should be done. A well organised festival, a beautiful location, delightful, generous people, I can’t recommend them enough. If they come knocking on your door with an invitation bite their hands off and take the opportunity to spend as much time in and around the city as possible.

The visit was filled with happy co-incidences. In April a book that I ghosted, Secret Child by Gordon Lewis, is being published by HarperCollins. It is based in Dublin and is the inspiring story of a boy who was born and brought up in a secretive home for unmarried Catholic mothers in the 1950s. It was sheer chance that I was invited to be interviewed in the same city a few weeks before publication. On top of that I was being interviewed by Sue Leonard, a journalist I talked to for the first time a few months previously when she interviewed me for the Irish Examiner upon the publication of my memoir “Confessions of a Ghostwriter”.

It seems like the whole thing was just meant to be and on top of that an old friend that my wife and I had not seen for at least ten years turned up in the audience.

Secret Child is a touching story. Gordon had no idea what his mother had gone through before she arrived at Regina Coeli and he had no idea that he was a secret from her family and from everyone else in the outside world. No one outside the hostel knew that he even existed.

In fact he knew nothing of the outside world until he was old enough to start getting out of the hostel buildings and up to mischief in the streets of Dublin. That was when his mother realised that she was going to have to do something to save her boy from the sort of bleak future that faced so many illegitimate children in Ireland at that time – and save him from the dangers of his own reckless high spirits.

So, at the age of eight, Gordon was introduced to a much older man called Bill and told that he and his mother were going to be leaving the hostel, which had been the only home he had ever known, and travel to England to live with Bill. Over the following years, as the three of them struggled to survive, Gordon came to realise that there was more to his mother’s and Bill’s story than he could ever have imagined.

They had been lovers who had been separated by the religious divides of the time and by the ignorance of their families. Gordon knew Bill was not his real father, but no one ever talked about that, just as no one ever talked about their past life in Ireland. It was like it had never existed. Gordon’s whole life was full of secrets and puzzles and only when he returns to Ireland fifty years after leaving it, is he finally able to make sense of the whole story and understand the full horror of the hardships his mother suffered and the depth of the love story between her and Bill.

It was wonderful to get to spend a weekend in the city that I have been so recently writing about and experiencing so vividly through the eyes of another.



5 comments:

JO said...

Oh lucky man - Dublin and stories!!

Lydia Bennet said...

What a moving story, all that historical cruelty to children makes me so furious. I'm glad it's all coming out now. So much needless suffering imposed by religion. It sounds like a good festival!

Dennis Hamley said...

Fascinating, Andrew. I heartily agree about Dublin! My first wife was Irish and one day years ago we had a phone call out of the blue from a man who introduced himself as a Dublin doctor who had found out he was illegitimate and had traced his mother, who turned out, he claimed, to be my wife's elder sister. She denied it with the sort of spirit that only the Irish can produce. How would the family, stuck out in the far west, have known what their offspring was doing in that dreadful city of temptations? I should have caught the next plane over and written a book about this. Philomena in reverse. It sounds, by the way, a great festival.

@Ruby_Barnes said...

My second wife was Irish, still is, so it's all her fault. Her and her ilk.
I feel I should say hey, you might have let me know and I could have come up from Kilkenny and we might have etc, but that's like someone going to Manchester and someone in Birmingham saying the same thing, so, sorry I missed you!
I'M NOT A ROBOT. Oh, I don't have to type that?

Lydia Bennet said...

Dublin is great, i've called in en route to perform at Irish poetry festivals, and also from Newcastle you can pop over for the day, it's only 50min flight.