FALLS MEMORIES: A Belfast Life by Gerry Adams


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Adams, head of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army, offers both a history lesson and his personal reminiscences of Belfast, particularly the Catholic section known as the Falls Road. He begins with a sentimental look at old Belfast, but politics and history are never far from his mind. Adams quotes Sir Arthur Chichester, who bragged in 1599 about his extermination of Catholic culture: ""We kill man, woman and child, beast and whatsoever we find."" Adams reminds us that bounties were offered in the 18th century for Catholic clergy: £20 for a priest and £50 for an archbishop. Examining the growth of the linen industry in the 19th century and how that growth brought Catholics from all over Ireland to Belfast for jobs, Adams discusses the importance of the Irish labor movement, noting how Catholic and Protestant at one time held ranks together for decent employment conditions. He examines turn-of-the-century Republicanism and the power of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (the Fenians) and their elite and secret organizations, pulled together by Seán Mac Diarmada (McDermott), who would be shot in 1916 for his part in the Dublin uprising. But all is not politics and gloom, as Adams recalls playing in the streets of Belfast and many of the children's chants: ""King Billy had a cat,/It sat upon the fender,/And every time it saw a rat,/It shouted 'No surrender.' "" He tells tales of the fairies and traditional in-house wakes: ""Isn't she a lovely corpse?...She looks just like herself."" Adams has a terrific ear and captures Belfast slang with perfect pitch. A man who knows his city and the ""Prods and Micks"" who inhabit it, Adams has written a lovely volume that is valuable not only for its content and vision but for the glimpse it offers into what makes him -- politician and revolutionary -- tick.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1994
ISBN: 1568331916
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Roberts Rinehart