Evelyn Doyle: Evelyn

I’m in the throes of reading Evelyn by Evelyn Doyle. She had a very rough time growing up in adverse times in Fatima Mansions in the early fifties. FM, which she decries as being far from mansions that rich people live in – consisted of several grey concrete four-storeyed blocks of flats, with concrete balconies running along each storey of flats. They were specifically built by the government during the fifties in order to house people who had been living in slum areas [old tenements] in the inner city. Incidentally, FM is not very far from Goldenbridge.

Evelyn had three brothers. They all had to forage for food for themselves as the neighbour Mrs. Sullivan – who had thirteen children – said, it was a mystery as to where the mother went when her husband Dessie was in hospital with lead poisoning. The neighbour would find herself feeding four more mouths. All the children had a healthy respect for the woman who went around with a slipper in her apron. She was the first one they went to if there was ever any trouble. She was won’t to telling off Evelyn’s mother to her face about the neglect she was causing to her children. Even to the point of bringing tears to her mothers eyes. Then the mother would get it out on the boys afterwards because ‘she was in a fecking temper’. She knew well to leave Evelyn alone as she would tell the father. In order to keep the fire alight, lino was torn from the corners. The three siblings were very adept at foraging for food to keep the hunger at bay. They were very cunning in their bartering techniques. For example, a shop-owner who felt sorry for them would give them large empty currant/tea-chests, which they then sold to a neighbour. They were left to defend for themselves when the mother went off gallivanting and it was during one of these occasions that one of the boys, Dermot, got very badly burned.

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