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I Wouldn't Start From Here: The Second-Generation Irish in Britain

I Wouldn't Start From Here: The Second-Generation Irish in Britain


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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.

With fiction and poetry from Elizabeth Baines, Maude Casey, Ray French, Maria C. McCarthy, Moy McCrory, Kath Mckay and John O’Donoghue.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781999375317
Publisher: Wild Geese Press
Publication date: 04/01/2019
Pages: 254
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.58(d)

About the Author

Ray French is the author of The Red Jag & other stories and the novels All This Is Mine and Going Under (both Vintage). He is also the co-author of Four Fathers and the co-editor with Kath Mckay of End Notes: Ten stories about loss, mourning and commemoration. His short stories have been broadcast on Radio 4 and appeared in a numerous magazines and compilations, including Best European Fiction 2013. He teaches Creative Writing at the University of Hull. Some of his essays and podcasts can be found on the Royal Literary Fund Website: https://www.rlf.org.uk/?s=Ray+French

Moy McCrory is a writer and academic of Irish parentage who writes about identity and class. As a fiction writer she has had three collections of short stories and a novel published. Two of her books were serialized by the BBC and her work had been translated into fifteen languages. Her short fiction is widely anthologized and she was included in the seminal Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing. She was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Award, and was a Feminist Book Fortnight top ten author, two years running, and one of the authors chosen for the national Save our short story campaign top twenty recommended reads. She is a Hawthornden Fellow, a Senior Fellow of the HEA, has lectured in Bremen University, London University and is currently Senior Lecturer at the University of Derby and is a PhD examiner.

Kath Mckay has published two novels, three poetry collections, and short stories. Work includes Hard Wired (Moth, 2016), Collision Forces (Wrecking Ball, 2015) and Telling the Bees (Smiths Knoll 2014). Her short stories are anthologised and in magazines and have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She taught creative writing in London and now lectures at the University of Hull. Her most recent book (co-edited with Ray French) is End Notes: Ten stories about loss, mourning and commemoration (2017).

Table of Contents



Ian Duhig – The Road

Sean Campbell – Dweller on the Threshold: Kevin Rowland, ‘Irish–English’ in-betweenness, and Dexys Midnight Runners’ Don’t Stand Me Down

Graham Caveney – The Scandalous Health of Shane MacGowan


Elizabeth Baines – The Uncertainty of Reality

Ray French – Rage

Weighing the Past:

Remembering the Past – Kath Mckay interviews Tony Murray about the Archive of the Irish in Britain, and the Irish Writers’ Summer School

Marc Scully – Negotiating Irishness – Ray French interviews Marc Scully about his research into hybrid identities

Maude Casey – An Untold Story: Writing as Resistance – Moy McCrory Interviews Maude Casey

John O’Donoghue – The Place Of Asylum

Truth, Lies and Memory:

Moy McCrory – Memory and Authenticity: imagining the past to understand the present

Kath Mckay – Under the Influence of Liverpool, an Irish city: a ‘very close first cousin’

Fiction and Poetry:

Elizabeth Baines – Family Story

Maude Casey – Extract from Over the Water

Ray French – The Two Funerals of Patrick Cullen

Maria C. McCarthy – More Katharine than Audrey

Moy McCrory – Combustible World

Kath Mckay – Specimens/Light Waves/Volume 52, Issue 8/Stella Maris

John O’Donoghue – A Mystery of Light: A Heroic Crown of Sonnets – On The Occasion of His Fiftieth Birthday



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