Oct 19, 2023
‘superb, really important and moving work’ Dirty Linen: The Troubles in My Home Place is published today by Merrion Press
A personal, intimate history of the Troubles seen through the microcosm of a single rural parish, the author’s own, part of both the Linen Triangle – heartland of the North’s defining industry – and the Murder Triangle – the Badlands devastated by paramilitary violence.
Martin Doyle, Books Editor of The Irish Times, offers a personal, intimate history of the Troubles seen through the microcosm of a single rural parish, his own, part of both the Linen Triangle – heartland of the North’s defining industry – and the Murder Triangle – the Badlands devastated by paramilitary violence. He lifts the veil of silence drawn over the horrors of the past, recording in heartrending detail the terrible toll the conflict took – more than twenty violent deaths in a few square miles – and the long tail of trauma it has left behind.
Neighbours and classmates who lost loved ones in the conflict, survivors maimed in bomb attacks and victims of sectarianism, both Catholic and Protestant, entrust Doyle with their stories. Writing with a literary sensibility, he skillfully shows how the once dominant local linen industry serves as a metaphor for communal division but also for the solidarity that transcended the sectarian divide. To those who might ask why you would want to reopen old wounds, the answer might be that some wounds have never been allowed to heal.
Praise for Dirty Linen
“Epic in impact and domestic in its details: the devastating thing aboutDirty Linen is how Doyle gets into the grain and texture of people’s livesto honour their damage and bring it close. Brilliantly written, fully human,hard to read and harder to put down – everyone should read this book.”
"I thought nothing about the Troubles could shock me but this book has me floored. Doyle evokes the sinister machinations of state collusion, the grim predictability of tit for tat killings and the everyday anxiety of the inhabitants of his small community with humanity and compassion. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the way we lived then."
“Superb, a really important and moving work that brings the reality of the Troubles to life and restores the human tragedy to its proper place in public memory … a vital, potent and moving piece of work.”
“Dirty Linen is shocking, riveting, and compassionate.”
“I have read many books about Northern Ireland, but I’ve never read anything like this; it’s electrifying … historical, political, artistic, Dirty Linen is a phenomenal work.”
“Forensically researched, deeply felt, compelling and moving – Martin
Doyle’s book … knits together the personal and political, the historical and the here-and-now. Sensitive and urgent, Dirty Linen is a must-read that gives readers a shocking insight into what lies beneath the surface of life and death in a conflict zone.”
“I was deeply moved by this work and by the … disproportionate suffering of that part of rural Armagh and Down … The account of what happened to the Feeneys left me shattered. I had to move away from reading the book for three or four days. And yet there is still the enduring grace of so many of the people spoken to – regardless of their faith or political allegiance. Like the buried flax at the bottom of the hole. It’s such a beautiful metaphor and
a poignant end to a really worthwhile and important book.”
“This is the finest memoir of the conflict I’ve ever read. But it is more than the story of the Troubles as they shattered lives in a small place. It is a story of all wars and how they haunt generations. Beautifully written and scrupulously fair-minded, this is an outstanding book.”
“Sometimes the best way to perceive the broader truths of a conflict is to narrow your aperture, and Martin Doyle has done that, brilliantly, in Dirty Linen. By measuring the awful toll of violence on the lives of ordinary people in his own home parish, Doyle offers us a personal history of the Troubles that is as exacting as it is humane. An elegant, haunting book.”
Patrick Radden Keefe
“I have to admit that I’m finding Dirty Linen almost unbearably painful to read. The injustice, the loss of life, the broken families, it’s agonising … [Martin’s] writing is beautiful and unbearably affecting.”
“Dirty Linen will be a landmark book on life and death when violence becomes familiar … Doyle’s melding of his own life story with stories of the lost lives of the Troubles and the afterlives of those left behind will transform how readers engage, intellectually and emotionally, with the reality of violence in our recent past.”
Breandán Mac Suibhne
“All of us with Ulster family, and everyone who cares about Ireland, needs to read this fascinating, powerful, utterly moving book.”