- Dublin made me by C.S. Andrews
Mercier Press, 312 pp, £9.00, November 1979, ISBN 0 85342 606 6
- Home before Night by Hugh Leonard
Deutsch, 202 pp, £5.25, October 1979, ISBN 0 233 97138 6
Most of those who made the new Ireland have gone to their graves leaving no memoir behind them. For this reason alone, the appearance of Dublin made me, the autobiography of Todd Andrews, is to be welcomed. Andrews has been a kind of Lord Robens or Doctor Beeching of Irish life, presiding over the destinies of state companies and exercising considerable influence in the governing Fianna Fail party founded by Mr De Valera. But the story of these years of power has yet to come. This first volume of his memoirs is about the first 23 years in the life of an Irish freedom-fighter who was born in 1901 on the edge of Joyce’s famous ‘Night-own’, known as ‘Monto’ – a red-light quarter with no red lights near Dublin’s wide main thoroughfare. Andrews’s family belonged to the lower middle class, and lived over their small dairy business in a slum area. He grew up close to the kind of people whose talk has been immortalised by Sean O’Casey and Brendan Behan. Indeed, Andrews claims that Fluther Good in O’Casey’s Plough and the Stars was once employed in their dairy. In this ‘most pathetic and apathetic city in Europe’, the slums kept on increasing and the poor got poorer and more degraded. But the Andrews family were comfortable in their modest prosperity, and the author’s childhood was happy. He grew up loving the pavements of his native city. Several times he returns to the theme of only feeling secure when he is there, close to his roots. He has recaptured in enchanting detail the flavour of his life in those Edwardian days: the family outings, the genteel entertainments, the spacious and the seedy characters. There is a Joycean flavour about it. This part of the book will cause the tears of nostalgia to well up in many an ancient Dublin eye.