Rory & Ita
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From the internationally acclaimed, bestselling novelist -- his first ever non-fiction book: a poignant, illuminating journey through a century of modern Ireland as told through the eyes of his parents.
Ita Doyle: “In all my life I have lived in two houses, had two jobs, and one husband. I’m a very interesting person.”
Rory and Ita tells -- largely in their own words -- the story of Roddy Doyle’s parents’ lives from their first memories to the present. Born in 1923 and 1925 respectively, they met at a New Year’s Eve dance in 1947 and married in 1951. Marvellous talkers, with excellent memories, they draw upon their own family experiences (Ita’s mother died when she was three -- “the only memory I have is of her hands, doing things”; Rory was the oldest of nine children, five of them girls); and recall every detail of their Dublin childhoods -- the people (aunts, cousins, shopkeepers, friends, teachers), the politics (both came from Republican families), Ita’s idyllic times in the Wexford countryside, and Rory’s apprenticeship as a printer.
When Roddy’s parents put down a deposit of two hundred pounds for a house in rural Kilbarrack, on the edge of Dublin, Rory was working as a compositor at the Irish Independent. By the time the first of their four children was born, he had become a teacher at the School of Printing in Dublin. Then, their home began to change (“Kilbarrack wasn’t a rural place any more”) along with the rest of the country, as the intensely Catholic society of their youth was transformed into the vibrant, complex Ireland of today.
Rory and Ita’s captivating accounts of the last century, combined with Roddy Doyle’s legendary skill in illuminating ordinary experience, make a story of tremendous warmth and humanity.
This magnificent book is not only a biography of, but also a love letter to Roddy’s parents, Rory and Ita.
around, would laugh heartily, and then Andy would retrieve the pipe and put it straight back into his own mouth.* I also remember, when I was in Kilmuckridge and my father was with me, he went down to the creamery in the village with Uncle Mike. He was standing around, chatting to the men and listening to them, and this one particular man said, “It’s going on too long. Why don’t they just sit around the table and lay down their specifications?” And my father came back chuckling; it was the
hair. Oh, consternation – the nuns didn’t like it one bit. Terrible show of pride; so the mother was sent for, and she arrived in the next day with the hair all frizzy, because it had been permed, but no longer quite like Shirley Temple’s. ‘I have a photograph of myself in my school uniform, and my hair was fair and I had a clip holding it back on one side. I always wanted to grow it long but it was never thick enough. It would grow so far, and you could see daylight through it, so it was better
and he’d be polishing his buttons and his boots. I still remember the oxblood polish for the boots.‡ I think he was in Portobello Barracks. He was a private at first, and I don’t think he rose much higher than that. He was in the Commandos, a wireless operator. He was in the Army right through the War, and it was only afterwards that I heard about some of the hardships. There was one story; they were camped somewhere, and the camp was flooded out and they slept on sodden mattresses, which can’t
for granted in other people’s houses; we built up the home as we went along. ‘On the day after we arrived, or the next day, we were going for a walk, and I met a man I knew from the School of Art, Harry Burton, a very good artist. He was living down the road, with the Mays, and he introduced us to Ena and Barney. Their next-door neighbours were Leo and Sheila Mulvaney. Then we discovered that we had Scottish people on the other side of us, the Winks, and they had a young boy and a little girl.’*
nobody was trying to get me out. But Rory was on his own. He never complained or suggested that I retire, but I felt, myself, that he was on his own all the time. So, I said to Martin Kennedy that I thought I’d retire. He was always a very agreeable man, and he said, whatever I felt. And Gladys decided that she’d retire too; we’re the same age. Martin had a little evening for the two of us, and I ended up with so many bouquets I didn’t know where to put them. I was putting them in buckets and