Sunday, September 07, 2008

A telling tale about A Telling Year – Belfast 1972 (Malachi O’Doherty)

The Telling Year - Belfast 1972 by Malachi O'Doherty

I found Malachi O’Doherty’s book The Telling Year (Belfast 1972) quite scary for two reasons.

Firstly, it was scary how little I knew about what the Troubles had been like in 1972. Born the following year, only the occasional event has made it onto my timeline. To be unaware of the sheer level of violence, scale of bombings, and the number of people and families affected in those days troubled me.

The second scary aspect involved the details of what Malachi personally witnessed and experienced as he lived in his family home, and as he started work as a journalist on The Sunday News alongside colleagues Jim, Stephen, Paddy, Rick and Eddie.

It’s a dark book about a dark time in Northern Ireland’s history. As Malachi looked back at the paper’s output from that year with the benefit of hindsight, he found analysis that was surprisingly accurate alongside stories that failed to get to the truth of situations and events. And then there were the stories that titillated the normally conservative NI readers as they pored over their Sunday paper.

While its daily stable mate, The Newsletter, can still be safely described as a unionist paper, The Sunday News was less easily characterised, employed a mixed staff and reported a wider range of opinions and stories.

For Malachi, normality meant living cheek by jowl with IRA volunteers who sometimes wanted to spend the night hiding in his front room to throw off the scent of the army. It meant being able to drink in republican establishments. It meant hearing things and seeing people that somehow didn’t feel right to bring up in conversation or stories in his working life at the paper. The moral dilemma was real, and Malachi doesn’t shy away from examining it in the book.

Those familiar with Malachi’s voice off the radio (or his occasional podcast) will hear his tongue in cheek tone each through the pages of the book. It’s a fascinating – if disturbing – read, with enough levity to dilute the more traumatic passages and keep you reading to the giggle at the very end.

Update - August 2011 - The Telling Year (Belfast 1972) is now available on Kindle.


Anonymous said...

It was a troubling time indeed. I also was born the year after and it seems to have taken decades for the nation as a whole to understand the sheer ugliness of what went on in our land as the politicians and leaders in our communities for the most part stood back and watched it happen.

I will definitely be picking up a copy of this book to remind me.


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much Alan; very kind of you to share your thoughts on my book, especially since you liked it.

Malachi O'Doherty

Alan in Belfast (Alan Meban) said...

Looking forward to seeing what you do with Empty Pulpits towards the end of September.