In part one of this memoir, Tom Dunne revisits his early life, first explored in the award-winning Rebellions: memoir, memory and 1798 (2004). The author attempts to understand the causes and sometimes damaging consequences of becoming a ‘Good Boy’, one who manages life by winning people over and avoiding emotional confrontations. The key to this personality trait may be found in the patterns established by his mother from her experience of dealing with her father’s alcoholism. He looks at his life in small-town, post-war Catholic Ireland, and goes on to offer an analysis of his time as an aspiring member of the Irish Christian Brothers, including a critique of how the ethos that contributed to the sexual and physical abuse of vulnerable children by some Brothers – and that was crucial in his decision to leave. Part two of the memoir follows the life and problems of ‘the Good Boy’ in a series of thematic essays covering his personal life, spiritual life, working life, his relationship with the Irish language, his experience of retirement and of old age.
Although written by an historian, this book is not a conventional history, nor is it an attempt at historical reconstruction. It is, rather, a reflection based on memory, an attempt by an eighty-year old to remember his life, so as to understand better those aspects that concern him most.
The greatest outside stimulus has come from the discursive, unstructured essays of Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), particularly those written in old age, with which the essays in this memoir are in part dialogue.
Tom Dunne is a graduate of the National University of Ireland and of Peterhouse, Cambridge. He has published widely in Irish political and cultural history, including Art History. He won the Ewart Biggs Memorial Prize for Rebellions. Memoir, Memory and 1798 in 2004. He is a Professor Emeritus of History at University College Cork.
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