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on 23 July 2009
The tune was running round my head before I opened this book. "Lilliburlero", the famous signature tune of the BBC World Service. And even after years away from Northern Ireland, I automatically filled in the rest of the words used with it - "The Protestant boys are loyal and true", one of the "Loyalist" arsenal of pro-Unionist songs. For I also am a Protestant boy from the same area as Professor Beattie. When he talks about the library at Ligoniel ("Lag-a-neel" as the locals say), I can see it in my mind's eye, plus the now-vanished wee houses opposite, where he grew up. I remember well his "turn of the road", with the buses snarling up and down it. And the BB boys he confronted at the Mayfair sweet shop were undoubtedly from the BB company to which I once belonged. And that was only the start of the book.

Professor Beattie's major dilemma was the same as mine and, I suspect, that of many other Northern Irish boys (and girls), both Protestant and Catholic. Belfast is a working-class town with some of the best performing secondary schools in the UK and an excellent university - and where can most of the products of these worthy institutions go but away from Northern Ireland? And that's where the trouble starts, with the working-class parents born between the wars, with their poor education, their educated children and the sudden gulf between them and the subsequent incomprehension on both sides. I can empathise with his changed habits and ways of doing things being confronted by a dismissive "It's good enough for me - used to be good enough for you too."

To add to that, there was the embarrassment of being a Protestant away from Belfast during the Troubles, when, in the aftermath of the US Civil Rights campaign, the whole world seemed united in condemnation of the evil Protestant domineering class trying to keep the poor Catholics "in their place". While there was undoubtedly much truth in that, nobody wanted to hear about the working-class Prods whose country it also was, who were no better off than their Catholic counterparts, but who were seen somehow as accessories after the fact (not helped, of course, by "Loyalist" violence). Nobody wanted to hear that it wasn't all black and white, that the story had two sides.

Professor Beattie articulates wonderfully well the frustrations and problems of being a Northern Prod both away from home and coming back home, not to mention the conflicting emotions of living in two worlds in neither of which one fully belongs. He also looks into the background and heritage of Ulster Protestantism. He remembers the "Scotch-Irish" who formed 40% of George Washington's army and who gave the USA 11 Presidents. He remembers the touchstone of the Battle of the Somme where so many Irishmen (Prod and Catholic, North and South) died on that terrible First of July, 1916 and which, with the 1916 Easter Uprising, was to change the course of Irish history completely. He also visits the dark side, the murders during the Troubles, perpetrated by people whom one sometimes knew personally (I still can't get over the skinny, not terribly bright wee fella who used to live in the house opposite being arrested for being a "colonel" in the UDA), the triumphalism of "The Twelfth" and the infamous stand-off at Drumcree.

There are no answers in a book like this, but that is not its point. Its point is to recreate a place and a time, and to preserve it permanently before it passes away. For me, as someone who has been there and done that, it succeeds splendidly.
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on 13 April 2014
I knew the Beattie family from Ligoniel, I grew up near them in Glenbank Drive. Geoffrey does use some poetic licence throughout this book - perhaps to make both himself and his story more interesting? In the book he claims that at the time he passed the eleven plus in St Mark's Primary School, Ligoniel, he was the only pupil in living history to do so. Not true, Evelyn Murray from Oakley Street (near the 'turn of the road) passed the eleven plus in 1952. Evelyn was also a St Mark's Pupil. Evelyn's mother died shortly after and both Evelyn and her sister emigrated to Canada. That said I enjoyed the read - if for no other reason than for the memories brought back by place names and families I recognised. Ben Beattie (Bill to his brother) was a remarkably handsome and fun young boy and the only one of the brothers who as I recall would qualify as 'a corner boy'. Again poetic licence Geoffrey? Sad that Ben died a tragic death - however he died doing something he absolutely loved and in the splendor of the Himalayas.
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on 8 August 2005
This is a very moving and honest account of his childhood days in one of the most dangerous parts of north Belfast. The world of violence and sectarianism sounds terrifying and frightening. The author looks at his family's military history, and the role of the Ulster regiments in the Great War, focusing particularly on the battle of the Somme, where tens of thousands of Ulstermen died. Interestingly, there is time to spend looking the physiological impact of the men who survived, and how their time at war must have left a huge burden for them during the remainder of their lives.
The book ends with his quest to find out about his own ancestors, what they did and where they were from.
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on 7 July 2016
When non-celebrities and non-authors become celebrities, they try to become authors. Usually they suck at both.
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on 12 July 2008
I read the book and found it so interesting. Whilst the author was on a journey through his ancestory the book opened the door for me as a Catholic to a journey through a path never walked before. When he described his home coming and the welcome or lack of it by his mother I was very drawn to the number of mothers like his who had worked hard and sacrificed to get her child a good education and a better life for him or herself and yet that child in adulthood was a reminder of the lost opportunities, the daily drudgery of life and the inevitable loneliness of the mother whose son now lived in another country. What was so poigant for me was that religion didnt come into this. This was an expereince that many ulster women would have had. I think that was the moment I was drawn into his journey of cultural expereinces. His descriptions of the bonfires, the parades his struggle with the rejection of his own community because of his education awakened me to the struggle of the humanity of a group of people whom had been for me a source of bigotry and oppression. I realised that beneath the religious divide as humans we all seek power we all discriminate we all suffer in the struggle to be accepted. I was given a greater understanding of why the Protestants were feeling under threat when there was talk of equality with the Catholics. They were just following their truths handed down from generation to generation like the Catholics who follow their truths. Our stories passed down are our stories and make for our truths but everyone has their own stories and when we can celebrate the different stories then one can be enriched. I ws certainly enriched through the lens of the author
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on 20 May 2014
very enjoyable great read i'd recommend this book to anyone, funny, sad, and easy to relate too ,wife enjoyed it as well
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on 19 July 2015
As described. Next day delivery. Can't say more than that!!!
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on 11 April 2015
Value for the money. Worth buying.
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on 17 November 2015
Good quality!
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