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Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Séamas O’Reilly

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Memoir

By Grace O’Reilly

This memoir was another read for the ‘Page Turners’ Book Club that I am in, with the Co-Operative Housing of Ireland.  Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? a memoir is written by Irish journalist and writer Séamas O’Reilly.  (No, no relation, not that I am aware of!)  The Derry Journal are acknowledged for permitting an article from their paper to appear in the book, and this snippet appears on page 199 of the book.  Séamas writes political and media related materials for the Irish Times newspaper and he is a columnist for the Observer, New Statesman, Guts and VICE.

First published last year in 2021, by Fleet, this memoir book is despite the name both a tribute to his mother and his father as well as a memoir about both of his parents as well.  The book focuses more on his life without his mother and how his father looked after him and his ten siblings.  This book is full of humour and also pulls at the heart stings at the same time, causing tears to stream from several and mixed emotions.

Through the book little Séamas and his siblings grow up, and they are all very loved and cared for by a devoted and caring father who worked tirelessly for his family, as well as holding down a full-time job, and devoting time and love into the community and the church where he, and his late wife and their children were all prominently a huge part of.  You can see from the very first chapter the innocence of that small five-year-old child he was at his mother’s wake and funeral, and how it seemed as though she had simply gone to heaven on a holiday.  It is truly heart breaking.

We see through Séamas’s well written words the troubles in the North of Ireland between the Catholics and the Protestants.  We see how he and his family and the community grew so accustomed to the situation up there that bomb scares were more of a nuisance and an inconvenience rather than a worry.  It’s not that it didn’t affect them or that they didn’t care, it was merely the fact that it happened and still does so often that it was simply just a part of their lives.

As a huge animal lover, especially dogs, the chapter about all of the family dogs made me angry and sad shedding a lot of tears with much cursing and needing to blow my nose.  As I type this book review up, my trusty girl Misty lies faithfully at my feet, and for anyone who is a friend of mine on Facebook you can see that despite my disabilities I am always trying to raise funds for the dog charities.  Dogs are indeed a man’s best friend, – and a woman’s for that matter!

I laughed at the chapter about the family holiday abroad to see his aunt and uncle and the long ordeal to get there and back in one piece, with the car falling apart literally.  I got tired just reading how long that road, and sea trip was.  I also howled at how people would stop, stare and count at all of the O’Reilly clan climbing out of or climbing into their family mini bus.  I can relate to his sister’s car sickness as when I was a child I got car sick.  My daughter Olivia is the same.

The blurb at the back of the book reads:

“Séamas O’Reilly’s mother died when he was five, leaving him, his ten brothers and sisters and their beloved father in their sprawling bungalow in rural Derry.  It was the 1990’s; the Troubles were a background rumble most of the time, and Séamas at that point was more preoccupied with dinosaurs, Star Wars and the actual location of heaven than the political climate.

Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? is a book about a family of arguments, loud musical, sarcastic, grief-stricken siblings, shepherded into adulthood by a man whose foibles and reticence were matched only by his love for his children and his determination that they would flourish.  It is the moving, often amusing and completely unsentimental story of a boy growing up in a family bonded by love, loss and fairly, relentless mockery.”

It is an easy to read book in the sense of its conversational style of writing, making you literally feel as though you are in the book and watching what it happening.  That being said it can at the same time, also be a difficult book to read, evoking the emotions and certainly tear jerking in some parts.

(c) Grace O’Reilly

Order your copy online here.

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