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Dermot Bolger’s “the Ballymun Trilogy Essay”

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Dermot Bolger’s “The Ballymun Trilogy Essay”

Dermot Bolger’s “The Ballymun Trilogy” consists of three separate plays, “From These Green Heights”, “The Townlands of Brazil”, and “The Consequence of Lightning”. Each of these individual plays reflects their own separate problems experienced by the inhabitants of the Ballymun Towers. Families that were offered to live in these flats saw it as a chance for a new start. Most of the new tenants saw this as the perfect opportunity for a brighter future and as a way to get out of their current unstable homes which some have even collapsed and claimed the lives of several people. Although in each of these plays, the residents of the Ballymun Tower all experiences different situations, each play are cleverly linked to each other in one way or another.

Throughout “From These Green Heights”, the play oscillates between two time frames, the 1960’s and early 2000, each focusing on a period of Dessie’s life. At the start of “From These Green Heights”, Dessie, as a child, along with his parents, Christy and Carmel, were one of the first families to move into the newly constructed Ballymun Towers. Although the towers were far from finish, which was promised shopping centers, schools, medical clinics, and a playground for the children, the families moving into these flats had high hopes for their new home. As expressed by Christy, “We weren’t just moving up in the world – we were moving skyward” (p.4) and stated by Carmel “Moving to Ballymun seemed almost as classy as moving to America” (p.6), the Ballymun Towers were a new beginning for many families.

However, the hype of their new home soon faded and reality kicks in as problems arose immediately shortly after moving into the towers. Christy realizes that they were unable to control the heating of their new flat and that the elevator shaft would occasionally break down especially in critical situations, such as a funeral or Carmel’s miscarriage. After several years of living in the Ballymun flats, many of the residents soon lost patience with Ballymun as none of the promises were being delivered and their aspect of the Ballymun Towers changed almost immediately overnight. Many of the residents were forced to question their choice of moving into the Ballymun Towers, as expressed by Christy “Will Ballymun ever feel like home?” (p.15) and new terms such as “high-rise blues” (p.23) was used to express some of the darkest hours experienced by one living in Ballymun.

Things took a turn for the worst as Ireland fell into an economic recession and many workers, including Christy, lost their jobs. Ballymun quickly turned into a slum as more and more people moved in for dumps all around the city. Crime, drugs and violence soon became heavily associated with Ballymun as outsiders despised the people from here, while the residents were ashamed of themselves for belonging here. While many residents of the Ballymun Towers dreamt of escaping to a place where Ballymun has never be heard of as express by Marie, “Pack your bag come away too, somewhere where they’ve never heard of Ballymun” (p.57) , few had the adequate financial resources to do so. While many of the younger generations of Ballymun turned to drugs, such as Marie’s sister Sharon which eventually died from a drug overdose, others looked toward education. Dessie graduated college and eventually worked his way up to a “full-time union official” (p.89) with a vision to change Ballymun for the better. The play ends in the year 2004 as “They’re going to knock down Ballymun, brick by brick, start all over again” (p.101) while Dessie, along with his new family, his wife Marie and daughter, Tera packing and getting ready to move out of their Ballymun flat and into their new home.

The play, “The Townlands of Brazil”, starts off with 19 year old, Irish girl named Eileen leaving home in 1963. She picks fruit for living for the O’Rourke family in an area called Brazil. While working in Brazil, she falls in love with a man named, Michael. He has immigrated to England for work and Eileen has agreed to go there but was afraid to write to him because she had just found out she was pregnant. Then she writes to him and finds out Michael had been working on a building site and therefore finds out he died working there. When her parents found out about the pregnancy, they decide to consign her over to nuns, hoping no one will find out. Her parents did not want her to leave because all of her siblings have left but they had no choice since being pregnant and unwed is unacceptable in their society; this is the reason why she runs away. Eileen wants to start a new life in England. At the start of Act 2 of “The Townlands of Brazil”, Monika dreams of an event that occurred four years ago where she lost her husband, Thomas who passed away while he was only 25 and she was 25 weeks pregnant. Since the accident, Monkia now lives with her roommate Anna and she would occasionally have nightmares of the incident. Monika’s daughter currently lives with Thomas’s parent in Poland while Monika, along with Anna, works for Carmel O'Rourke picking mushrooms, sending home every spare change she has back to her daughter. She is ultimately torn between financially supporting her daughter and being with her emotionally. Although Monika is beautiful and everyone always seems to pay attention to her, she does not like the attention, most likely because she has not been able to get over the death of Thomas. Oscar, a demolition expert, who admired Monika secretly from afar, finally builds up the courage to ask her on a date. Hesitant at first, Monika later agrees after Oscar claimed to have known Thomas. During the two’s meeting at a race track, Oscar informs Monika that he has lost his wives and kids because of his gambling and does not want Monika to end up lonely like him so he offers her his calling card to call her daughter. Not too long after, Anne calls Monika informing her that she has been arrested for stealing shampoo and she has also called Carmel to bail her out. Monika, along with Oscar picks her up from jail and while walking home past the Ballymun Towers, they are notified by Matthew that an anonymous caller told the police she has left her child in the building that was scheduled be demolished. Oscar enters the tower in search for the missing child while Monika awaited anxiously back at home. Matthew would later stop by bearing bad news. The report was false and Oscar had died in an accident while searching for the missing child. Monika and Matthew returns to the tower to pay their respect to Oscar.
There, Matthew begins to reminisce his childhood when he and his mom had to steal food to survive, eventually causing social services to take him away from his mother. As years go by, he attempted to locate her without success.The play ends with Monika having Matthew promise that he will never stop searching for his mother while Monika calls her daughter in Poland that she will bring her back to Ireland and start their new lives together. The third and final play “The Consequence of Lightning” revolves around Sam, a recovering alcoholic in his death bed. Even being unconscious, Sam regrets for not having been a better father to his sons, recalling that he was able to “give them everything except comfort” (p.233). Sam became an avid drinker the day he lost his wife and as a result, it heavily strained his relationship with his sons. The day Philip, Sam’s younger son, died of a drug overdose, Frank, Sam’s older son, filled with resentment and “Was sick of sob stories and excuses, sick of people thinking the world owed them a living” (p.200), abandoned his father, left everything behind including his former lover, Katie, to escape from Ballymun in pursue of a new life and to rid of his past. Although Sam lost most of his immediate family, he is taken care by those who considered him a friend, Katie, Father Martin, Annie and Jeepers. The day of Sam’s death, even though against Sam’s wishes, Father Martin confronted Frank and attempted to persuade him to go to the hospital to see Sam, who he hasn’t seen for twenty-one years, before he passes away. Frank has made a success of himself away from Ballymun and fearing that it will jeopardize his success, he was a bit hesitant at first because he has left that part of his life behind and no one in his new life, including his wife, knew about his past.

After a short debate with himself, Frank arrives at the hospital along with Father Martin. There, Frank and Jeepers, who felt that Frank’s abandonment of his father was inexcusable, gets into a minor confrontation. To Jeepers, Sam was not just a friend but more like a father figure feeling that he gave up drinking for him. Jeepers remembering “He could see I was scared and he hated himself for that. When I came back the next day, his door was locked. I didn’t see Sam for a week and, when he came out, it was like he’d been through a war. He was shaking but he’d won. He did that for me.” (p.227) Once everything settles down, Frank goes towards his father and forgives him by saying “What’s gone is gone, Da, you’ve struggled enough, all those years of struggle. They’re over now, finished with, we’ll be fine, you’ll be ok. It’s okay to let go now” (p.244) and shortly afterwards, Sam passes away.

As part of Sam’s wish for his last day on Earth, he hoped to be waked at Katie’s home. Everyone soon gathered at her house with Frank attempting to amend for what he had done to Katie twenty-one years earlier. Frank later confronts Katie about Annie being his child and after a few arguments, Katie confesses that she had miscarried Frank’s child shortly after he left and Annie is the daughter of a Kerryman, which angered Annie. The play soon ends with Katie having Frank promise her several things: to meet her at the basement of a tower to make love one last time and to shake hands with every one of the mourners at the funeral, just the way Sam would have wanted it. Annie also forgives her mother and planned to have a housewarming party with Blue Nun and pancakes, the same thing her father did for her mother the day she was conceived.

In “The Ballymun Trilogy” Bolger focuses on certain social issues such as poverty, pregnancies out of wedlock, and family relationship. Although many residents of the Ballymun Towers dreamt of escaping, many more called it a home. Bolger shows that in life, there will be problems and how one chooses to face these problems is one’s own choice. Bolger also expressed through Maria and Frank that sometimes avoiding these problems can be easier said than done. Both of these characters chose to escape from Ballymun and yet they both ended up back to the same place they once tried to break away from. One can always run from their past but the past is what makes who you are and instead of running away, one should face any problems head on.

Works Cited:
Bolger, Dermot. The Ballymun Trilogy. Dublin: New Island, 2010. Print.…...

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