Belfast to Baillieston | Charlie Gracie
Belfast to Baillieston is a family and industrial narrative that takes as its core the life of Jimmy Gracie, the grandfather of Charlie Gracie. This series of poems and short stories illuminates the harshness and the joys in the lives of this working-class family in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries on both sides of the North Channel. The lives in this book are unique in that they are Gracie lives, but they are the lives of almost all the people involved in the production of linen and coal and therefore of the vast wealth of their employers. In this honest reflection, Charlie Gracie draws on his own and family members’ memories, detailed research and creative imagination to lay a path from the mid-nineteenth century to today. Jimmy Gracie, like many others, felt the weight of international capitalism, sectarian violence and political oppression yet managed to build a platform, with his wife Mary, on which future generations have built their and their children’s lives. Belfast to Baillieston explores how poverty, migration, fortitude and love all mingle to form the wholesome, honourable lives that families like Jimmy Gracie’s create from hardship.
‘Charlie’s gift is as a poet-storyteller who can crystallise in his evocation of a scene or an incident a breadth of personal, social and political histories. These observations drill into the particularities of the times and character of his forebears—resilient people but complex and contradictory people too who strived and struggled through the intense hardships and discriminations of working-class life in Belfast. This is a painstaking work of memorialising that is written both with sparsity and lyrical verve and—for all its unflinching gaze—shot through with love. A book as tightly woven as the best of Ulster linen.’
—Neil Young, poet/publisher, Drunk Muse Press & The Poets’ Republic
‘Belfast to Baillieston is a marvellous book about family and transformation. Here are poems that illuminate history from the inside out, carefully observing the realities of poverty, migration and loss alongside quiet, everyday acts of survival. Gracie is a compelling witness. This book will touch your heart.’
—Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Poet & Editor
‘I had the privilege of reading many of these poems as they were written & was moved every time: by that lethal combination of the personal & the political; the coming together of things Irish & Scottish; and time and time again the voice, the voices. A shout out too for the crackin wee stories included here. And as for “Thaw”—God forgive ye & pardon ye, Charlie Gracie!’
—Donal McLaughlin, author and translator
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