Wednesday, 28 December 2016
I grew up just a 20 minute walk from Trinity College but until my first day as a student there I had never been inside its walls. I must have passed by the front gate on College Green a thousand times, but my curiosity was never strong enough to overcome my feeling that it was a portal to an alien world.
And then in September 1981 I found myself in the very grand Physics building, a first year student in Engineering. I surveyed my classmates with trepidation: the red-faced country lads who all seemed to instinctively seek out each other and sat together; the Chinese group, from Malaysia I later found out, earnest and bespectacled; and the biggest group of guys and a few girls who all seemed to know each other and teased each other loudly in accents that sounded English to my ear.
After I'd cycled home that evening my Mam asked, as she always did when I came in from anywhere, "Did you meet anyone you know?". I replied that I didn't and that in fact there was no one from Dublin in my class - as far as I could tell most of them were from England. It took me a few days to realise that those "English" students were in fact from the southern suburbs of Dublin, products of the private schools of Blackrock College and other mythological places. No one else from my working-class school in Crumlin, Colaiste Caoimhin CBS, made it to University, despite our walking-distance proximity to one of the world's great universities.
Academically I did well at Trinity College, achieving a 1st class honours degree in Engineering in 1985. I made friends with a lot of the country lads, especially the characters in the Mullingar mafia. But I never really clicked with the South County Dublin set. In first year I tried to adopt their accent, but by my second year I had decided to double-down on my flat Dublin tones, my grey duffel coat and my beard. If they were foreign to me, well jaysus I was determined to be twice as foreign to them. My loss, probably.
Most of the tales in this book are written by members of that South County Dublin set. I don't really recognise their experiences - it's like we were at a different place.