Sunday, May 21, 2017

Being from Ballymun

I was speaking to someone yesterday about Ballymun, my home suburb of Dublin. I grew up there and I've spent most of my life there. He asked me if I felt any attachment to it and I said, yes, I increasingly feel a strong attachment to it.

He asked me if there was anything distinctive about Ballymun and I cast about, unsuccessfully, for some kind of tangible distinctiveness. It used to be very distinctive, with its brutalist architecture surrounded by large "green spaces", its roaming gangs of kids, its horses, its van-shops. Now, however, that's all gone, and it's pretty much like any other Dublin working-class suburb.

"No", I had to admit, eventually. "Nothing really." 

And yet I feel like a Ballymunner to the tips of my toes. Even the sound of the name is evocative to me, reminding me of Pushkins's excellent couplet:

Moscow; those syllables can start
A tumult in the Russian heart.

I'm also reminded of this O. Henry story, where a snooty cosmopolitan who spends most of the short tale laughing at local pride ends up getting into a bar fight because someone insults his home town.

Maybe all local patriotism is completely irrational.


  1. There seems to be a substantial history attached to the area; apparently we used to live in Santry, but I was only one or two at the time. My father wanted me to look up a chapel that they went to sometimes in Ballymun named after an ancient saint who lived in the district, to see if the chapel was even there still. St Pappan's. There was information about a St Pappan's built before 1800 but no picture to confirm if it's the same place. I imagine a church that's so old would be preserved even if it's size or location is impractical for use?

    1. You were spelling it wrong-- it's St. Pappin's and it's now a nursing home.

      The name is still used for the parish, though-- in fact, it recently became the name for a wider parish, as three Ballymun parishes were amalgamated.

  2. Unfortunate in a sense, but better than a wrecking ball. There's two (protestant) churches in the city centre of Perth now turned or being turned into lobbies or front entrances for high rise buildings being built around them. One of them, (the image is never lost on me)has a shop front next door currently being used for yoga classes and fire shaping. Of course this doesn't necessarily sum up the entire state of spirituality in the Western world (the closed Baptist Church could only hold very few people, no parking,-I don't know the overheads of keeping a church open and operating in the heart of the city) but, passing in the bus, the image of the closed church and operating yoga centre-it's hard not to reflect on