By Maurice Leitch
A description of harsh working class life with insights into the gay scene in Belfast in the early Troubles.
“The work most directly concerned with the ‘‘Troubles”, a term, incidentally, which I feel carries far too much freight of a romantic and possibly sentimental nature, harking back to an earlier and less complex era, I suppose, has to be “Silver’s City”.
Yet to me its period background was only a backdrop to what I hoped was a much more fundamental and long running study of my own Protestant tribe.”
Nan mourned a time when everyone she knew went home in the evening to a small kitchen-house where the fire in the range never went out, winter or summer. Children were bathed on Saturday nights before its glow, in a bath that hung down from a nail in the coal-house the rest of the week. People washed themselves at a thick brown sink in the scullery; the water closet was out in the yard. Her father would say, ‘Ten o’clock, my girl, no later, or the door will be locked’, and she would rush out to put on lipstick before the mirror in the phone box. Four girls jostling, giggling and sharing the same tube of Lucky Pink.
His imagination had constructed an ordered scene of Sunday peace, a neat terrace of houses, each with a coat of fresh paintwork and a concave step scrubbed as a matter of habit. He knew such streets well; nothing had dimmed their image from the past. They existed out there reassuringly, whenever he had cared to think about them in that other alien world of wire mesh and dog patrols. But this was the true terrain of nightmare, fixed in its horrible aftermath. A vista of bricked-up doorways and windows stretched for as far as the eye could travel, for it was one of those immensely long, slightly curving streets, artery for all those little side streets which, together on the map, went to make up a defined city-area with its own nickname and loyalties. But all that was dead and done, merely a memory now. They picked their way through sodden debris and drifts of wind-blown rubbish, past the brutal breeze-block facings in the older brick. There was a reek of soot, damp and escaping gas.
Copyright, Maurice Leitch
Silver Steele, a terrorist, dying in prison, reflects on his life, the sloppiness of his admission into paramilitary life, and the crime which has put him behind bars, the murder of a loyalist who murdered his woman.
This book depicts those who were inducted into paramilitary life as feckless and aimless rather than as the committed political operators their leaders would present them as.
“The escalating Troubles saw the city exploited in a succession of forgettable, ill-conceived thrillers, which avoided richer human drama. In response, indigenous writers sought to represent the city’s deeper complexity. In Maurice Leitch’s Silver’s City (1981) we find a more believable and authentic Belfast, volatile, angry, the prose filled with an edgy black humour.”
Culture Northern Ireland
MacGibbon and Kee
TYPE OF PUBLICATION