DOUG (V.O.) How you doing? I'm Doug Devaney and you’re listening to The Plastic Podcasts, tales of the Irish Diaspora. Now here at Plastic Towers, such is my athletic prowess that on any given day, I can be seen engaging in the regimen of hup-two-three, down-two-three, then the other eyelid. So it's no surprise that our guest today is a follower of and participant in all the great physical arts. Patrick Osborne is a writer, playwright, and poet, but more importantly, a referee with the Football Association of Ireland. Patrick's debut novel “Baxter's Boys” is a riotous tale told among the ne’er-do-wells and jackanapes of Sunday League pub football in Dublin, and has been described as Fever Pitch meets The Snapper with a dose of Shameless thrown in for good measure. As we speak he's come hot-foot from the stage after having directed his comedy Bin Wars. So we'd better get started before he hot-foots it elsewhere by asking Patrick Osborne, how you doing?
PATRICK (Int): Yeah, yeah, it went really, really well, but it was a darkly comic farce about two neighbours fighting over wheelie bins. So I suppose quite common in this day and age and all set to classical music, of course. So, like I suppose I envisaged an opera, a modern day opera and, yeah, we got a standing ovation and so pretty good - or maybe they just stood up to clap to tell us to get off. I don't know, but I'll take it.
DOUG: You directed it as well as writing it didn't you?
PATRICK: I did. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
DOUG: What was that like?
PATRICK: It was a very long process because it was all set to music and the timing made the show, you know, like as one person come in one door, another person went out another door. So I kind of, I had to give the actors a kick up the backside a couple of times. Now they were brilliant, but you know, when it's your baby you want it spot on, you know, and you think you'll never get there. The actors knew they'd get there. It's just, I was a bit, I suppose I wasn't as patient as them, but, no, they were brilliant. They were absolutely super, but a lot of work.
DOUG: It's not your first play?
PATRICK: No, I did one: “Sam Who?” Now I don’t know whether you're familiar, Doug, with the Sam McGuire Cup? So it's like the Premier League of the Irish Gaelic Football Association competition. And so “Sam Who?” was the Irish “Hangover”. That's the best way I can explain it. So two guys wake up with this cup. At first they don't know what it is. And then they're in - not only are they in the wrong hotel room, they’re in the wrong hotel in the wrong county or Shire. And the story is told in, you know, backstory. So, that was a brilliant - I totally enjoyed that. That was my dipping my toe into that whole thing. And that was - I learned an awful lot. So yeah, I've done probably four at this stage. Now they’re short plays, you know, they're probably 15 to 20 minutes in length.
But “Sam Who?” we had dancing and music as well, and that. I actually acted in it, but I don't like acting in them. You know, that's not - I acted by default and believe you me, very few of us could actually dance. So, that was different.
DOUG: I never understand dance. I can move. I can't dance.
PATRICK: Yeah. Yeah. I can freestyle but, no, this – We had a woman in to choreograph us dancing and she came in with really high hopes to begin with. And after a couple of, well, I'm going to say hours, probably minutes, she decided that she'd pare it back and make it as simplistic as possible. And even at that, we struggled at times, but we got there. And look at the audience. That's the thing about plays: the audience, they don't know the script. They don't know exactly what's going, you know, what you're supposed to be doing. So if you miss a mark, or if you, you know, miss a line, you can get over it and get away with it. Especially if it's a comedy, you know. The audience, especially at amateur level, they'll allow you a little bit, you know, little bit of mistake or a little bit of a - I suppose kind of a small breakdown, ‘cause they're not quite sure it’s a part of it.
DOUG: But when you're writing, inevitably, you’re a kind of solitary agent.
DOUG: You're also a horticulturalist. I'm presuming that's a fairly solitary occupation as well.
PATRICK: Yeah, it can be. I'm an amenity horticulturalist. So I suppose the difference is, you can have a commercial horticulturalist, which would be producing massive amounts of plants, like for nurseries and garden centres or market gardening. Amenity horticulture is like landscaping. I work for like a parks department. So because I'm in a parks department situation, you're always interacting with the public or, you know, you have colleagues milling about. Now there are certain jobs you do that you will do on your own. Like we've a very large rose garden, so it could be pruning roses or feeding roses, but there are certain jobs that we would interact and overlap with. So sometimes, yeah, it's great that you can actually say, you know what, I'm going away and I'm doing this job. I'm going to the potting shed and pot up a few bits and pieces. So you can choose to kind of step away from the public, if you like, and then at the same time, if you want to go and have a chat and you want to meet people, ‘cause people are always asking questions when you're in a park situation, you know? So it's great like. So it can, again, it can be a solitary thing if you want to take a step back or if you want to meet and greet, yeah. There's no problem.
DOUG: But then you also do this most public of things. You're a referee.
PATRICK: Yeah. Yeah. I'm a glutton for punishment. I'm a glutton. Yeah, I'm a referee now about, I think about eight years. Like, I love sport. I love sport in general - sport plays a big role in our household. Like my dad, would've been an All Ireland Boxing champion and he's still involved with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association. And he's been all over the world with him and it's gas. Like I remember the first time, the very first trip he went on, he came in and told us, he told myself and my wife - my wife is a nurse - and he says, “Oh, I'm going next week to somethingistan”. He hadn’t a clue where he was going, you know, ‘cause he's real kind of laid back. And we were saying like - we eventually guessed that it was Kazakhstan, that's where he was going, you know? - and of course my wife said,” Oh, have you to get shots? Did you get, you know?” And he says, “I don't know.” He says,” I didn't get anything”, he said, “but sure there’s a doctor going with us. So I presume he knows the story.” And really casual went, you know? He's been everywhere, Russia - you name it Canada, Hungary, everywhere.
But so I said, boxing is his thing. Now, I never took up the boxing. I said I was a better runner, but I love football. When I gave up playing, not that I was any good. I was very good - I could see everything that was going to happen - but unfortunately my body wouldn't be quick enough to do anything about it. So when I took up the refereeing and I suppose more to keep at kind of a level of fitness and it definitely keeps the mind sharp, you know? It tests you at times, because you're dealing with, obviously the fans, parents, coaches, all the sideline antics, and then you're dealing with the players. Now I mostly referee underage games, boys and girls, before they get to the age where they all think they're Pele or whoever. And so I, yeah, I enjoy that. From the fitness point of view, both physically and mentally, and the exercise.
DOUG: So your dad was a boxer?
DOUG: And what did your mum do?
PATRICK: My mum is a carer. Well, she's retired. Like my dad, my dad's still alive. Both my parents are alive fortunately. My dad's 83 and he's still the Vice President of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association. So he's still heavily involved. He's like, as I said, he's like the little old lad in Rocky, and he is only a small little fella, you know?
My mum, she worked as a domestic in a hospital that specialized in brain damage. You know, they did everything but they had specialists. So she worked in the intensive care unit there. And then as a carer in the community, when that hospital amalgamated with another hospital and moved. So care in the community, and my mom then is, like – whereas my dad's a sportsman and I get the love of sport from him - the love of education and writing is definitely from my mum. My mum writes poems and short stories. And my mum is 81 this year or so. And she still plays bowls, indoor bowls, and she still plays pitch and putt and you know a very outgoing woman.
And education is always her. She kind of instilled in us the importance of education because she had it tough growing up. She wasn't diagnosed with dyslexia until she was probably 60, and then she went back to, like - she would've left school, couldn't read that well, could kind of read, but definitely couldn't write, couldn't spell - and then she went back to adult education in her sixties and has ended up: she sat state exams subsequently, and then she's encouraged other people who have literacy problems too. She became kind of like I suppose a life coach in one of these educational places, you know? And no matter, like, there was a lot - there's still a lot of young people coming through the system that are poorly educated, you know? Cannot read and write which is a shame, like it's a crime in this day and age, but they are still coming through the system. And so she encourages people to get involved with that. So I love that.
And I love that about my mum, that she's definitely a very caring person but a very proactive person. If she wants something, she'll do it, you know? Like she learned to drive in her sixties, you know? And I'm not that terrified when she gives me a lift, she's actually a good driver. But, you know, if she wants something, I suppose, like - is it Gandhi? Was it be the change you want to see, or be the change in the world you to see, you know? If she wants something, she goes after it and does it. And yeah, I like that. I like that about her. Yeah.
DOUG (V.O.) You're listening to The Plastic Podcasts. We all come from somewhere else. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Given that Patrick Osborne's father was a keen boxer, as well as his mother's engagement with literacy, it's perhaps no surprise that he turned to writing a novel, and a sporting novel at that. But “Baxter's Boys” has its genesis in more than just family...
PATRICK (Int.): I was brought up in Dublin's North Inner City in the 70s and 80s, and as I said about late 70s, heroin epidemic hit Dublin really bad. And particularly the North Inner City. And as I said, the youth became like zombies overnight with drugs. I mean, it really went really bad and the community realized that, you know, nobody's going to save us, nobody's going to save our kids if we don't rally together and do something and be proactive. So they set up a few things, but they set up a football team, Dorset Boys, ‘cause the place was Dorset Street where we were living at the time. And so the men in the area coached the team and, you know, coached the lads and the kids, and the women did a lot of fundraisers. You know, cake sales and all of this kind of bric-a-brac and all that.
So it was a whole community effort to try save the kids, you know, because I said there was no help. I mean, they really were abandoned. It was like managed decline. Even, you know - just neglect of that part to Dublin and really, really run down. As I said, nobody seemed to care. So the community of themselves got together and said, right, well, we're going do our utmost. You know, there were ordinary hard -working people. Like, we were very close to the fruit and veg markets and the fish markets and the docks. So like a lot of people worked, but they weren't high end jobs. You know, my dad was a truck driver, so they weren't necessarily high- end jobs, you know. They were ordinary jobs, ordinary working class people, but they rallied round.
They set up these kind of clubs. They got people playing sport got involved. And then these same lads then we’ll say if they kind of showed that they were disciplined enough to attend training and get involved and the lads’d try to get them jobs then as they, you know - cause most of them didn't do state exams. They left school probably 14, 15, but the lads’d try to get them apprenticeship, you know, try to get them jobs. And it was just something to help. Try, as I said, to steer clear of the epidemic that was the heroin, you know. It was all the drugs, but particularly heroin. So I have really vivid memories of that.
And Baxter's Boys is about a dysfunctional pub football team that gets their new pitch in the middle of one of these neglected inner city communities and they’re distrustful of the community at first. And they don't want to play there. They’d rather play in, you know, a nicer place, but eventually the community wins them over and they win over the community and, and they kind of helped. They give them a sense of hope. So that goes back to the Dorset Boys and what my mum and dad and the brilliant people of the community did in the70s and 80s in that part of North Inner City Dublin.
DOUG: That can be reflected an awful lot of the stories that took place in British cities and around about the same time, in Liverpool or wherever. Heroin suddenly became a huge pandemic problem. And of course, Pa Baxter’s a scouser.
PATRICK: Pa Baxter’s a scouser. I was a huge fan, as were my parents, of Boys From The Blackstuff. So all of these things, you know, we grew up with a lot of obviously English TV, you know, and like even Auf Wiedersehen Pet, And so you know all of that type of shows, but, but definitely, Boys From The Blackstuff made a huge impression on me. So hence the Liverpool manager, but that was also to give it a different voice.
We don't quite know why he's left Liverpool, but he's now in Dublin and the lads are in their 20s and he's kind of probably 50s but he still thinks in his head he's in the 20s and he kind of wants to mix it with the lads, with their, as he said, “Birds, booze and ball. That's all in life that's worth living for,” you know, but he becomes - he gets his Road to Damascus moment as well. And, you know, he becomes a better person for it, so that's the scouser in it, yeah.
And I love the whole comedy, like that - dark humour or gallows humour that is. As you said, you can find it in any inner city, in the UK or Ireland, you know - it's a very, very similar humour and it's a working class humour, so yeah. So that was the tie in there.
DOUG: When we were talking back previously, and you were saying that your family history was one that went backwards and forwards across the Irish Sea. Is that right?
PATRICK: That's right. Yeah, it's a very strange setup in a lot of ways. Like my great grandfather, he was a London man. Islington, and his family were costermongers. I had to look it up: greengrocers. So, they were all around Islington and Bethnal Green, you know, they would've all come from there. And they were all greengrocers and my great grandfather, he signed up for the British army. They copped he was too young. They threw him out. Six months later, he was back in and he would've joined legally, if you like, I'd say about 1912. And then he was part of the expeditionary forces went over in World War One, you know, 1914 and wherever. And he had signed up to initially the Royal Horse Artillery and then the Royal Field Artillery. But somehow along the line, he ended up marrying my great granny.
And she would've been from Tipperary in like, southern Ireland - the south of the island of Ireland , but there was a massive British barracks there. Now, we haven't been able to find out where they met, how they met but there was a huge, big British barracks or garrison set there in that part of Tipperary. But he ended up then relocating after the war when he finished up with the British Army. I think he left in 1919 and he resettled then, in Ireland. And like, when you think of, like, it was the height of like – 1916 Rising had taken place. First of all, you had, you know, the war against England or Britain. And then when they kind of got their independence as such, then there was a massive civil war.
So the civil war was raging around 1920, 21, 22, so he actually joined the Irish army, the Irish Free State Army in 1922. Now, if you can imagine: this guy had a Cockney accent, he was about six one tall, blonde headed guy. Snowy was his nickname. Cockney accent. And he's joined the Irish Free State Army in 1922. So I would say the way it split: the IRA didn't accept the treaty and were still fighting then, and The Free State – so they accepted - so Michael Collins’ side would've accepted the treaty, De Valera’s wouldn’t - so they were all fighting.
And in 1922, Michael Collins then was killed. So here's this fellow from London, joined in the Irish army. So he actually had to lie to say he was born in Ireland and he had picked up the accent while working in the UK while working in London.
And the other thing about that is that a lot of - the British Government had given the Irish Free State Army a lot of their weapons to fight the IRA. And, of course, what happened was they were looking for guys then that were capable of using these weapons to a high level. And of course my great-grandfather was – he had plenty of experience in it. So he shot up through the ranks of the Irish army and he, actually, my mum remembers his funeral. He had the tricolour over the coffin and the volley of shots, you know, rung out. Now he died while still in the army. I think he was a quartermaster. Well, he moved up the ranks anyway, but a big part of that was because he knew weapons inside out. Yeah, he was very experienced that way. So that was peculiar, as I said, a London man coming this way.
And so I had a lot of people going the other way. I seem to have an awful lot of my family involved with the army, whether it be the British army, obviously going way back and then subsequent the Irish army. But, one of my relatives, my three times great-grandfather, would've been a fellow called Henry Horton and I have his records. He fought all over India back in the day, and he actually reached the age where he became a Chelsea pensioner where, you know, he got the pension. So we have brilliant records of him and then his children. So my great-great-grandfather then was born in India.
Like a lot of his brothers, his siblings were born over there because their father was moving from - like my great, great grandfather was born in Peshawar, which I think is now Pakistan, but it was all India at the time. So the different siblings were born and, you know, along different routes, along the rail routes. So, that was the interest. And so they came back, but some of that family then left for Liverpool. So I had loads of relatives then in Liverpool through, through the Horton side, and then my mum and dad, they moved to England in the late 50s, early 60s. My mum and dad got married in Birmingham. So they, they dispelled there like a lot of other Irish people working there and then they came back home. So there's a lot of back and forth. Yeah. I would have a lot of relatives that I can trace over the last 150 years went, from Ireland to the UK , mainly England, mainly Liverpool. And then as I said, mainly the London gang then coming the other way.
DOUG: It's a strange thing, isn't it? I mean it's not the first thing that I was expecting when I started the podcast, but large numbers of interviewees where, “Oh yeah, he joined the British army” and you go ‘really?’
DOUG: You'd think somewhere along the line, that probably caused a few arguments at Christmas.
PATRICK: Oh, most definitely. Well, it's funny you should say that. Like, so where my family lived, like, if you can imagine we were right in the centre of the city and I can remember talking to my, grandad, to his brothers and all, and they lived in tenement houses. So like going back in time, like I know Ireland and Dublin at that time in, around the late 1800s start of 1900s, they had the highest, infant mortality, definitely in Europe, one of the highest in the world, like it was incredibly poor, you know. I know those parts of Liverpool, those parts of Glasgow similar. So it was horrendous. So a lot of fellas joined the British army for a job, for money, you know, and - but I remember my grandfather and his brothers telling me that they used to be made to wear the poppy for Remembrance Day and all, and this would've been around the 1940s. When the vast majority of people were not accepting of that, or even if you had relatives that were in the British army or had been, you didn't say it.
I'd another: my grandfather's brother, Tommy Woods. Woods would've been my Granddad’s surname. He got off Dunkirk - he was one of them rescued off Dunkirk - and his uncle was left behind, presumed dead and was found about three years later. The Red Cross wrote back to say, no, he was in a Prisoner Of War camp. But in the meantime, his wife had started a new relationship. So you can imagine like, it's so unbelievable that there's stuff back and forth, but a lot of people, now - a lot of people wouldn't have spoken about the British army connections, but there's a hell of a lot more people did join, as I said, was it was a form of adventure? Yeah, definitely. To make a living? Yep. Escapism? I mean, they're living in like slums, a lot of them, but as I said, you can imagine these young kids having to wear the poppy. ‘Cause their grandfather was saying you're wearing the poppy.
And then, on the other side, another great-grandfather - him and his brother joined the Royal Navy for during World War I, and they were demobbed in the Mediterranean 1919, I think it is, but they did that to get a job in Guinnesses. So the Guinness family - and obviously the big, huge brewery - they hired an awful lot of ex British soldiers or Navy or RAF or whatever. So Irish men and women that would've served, they were given preference for jobs in Guinnesses. So it was a kind of, you know, it was a way of doing an apprenticeship. Go to war. And if you survived and come back, you had a better chance of getting a job with the likes of Guinnesses.
DOUG (V.O.): We'll be back with Patrick Osborne in a moment. But first it's time for The Plastic Pedestal, that part of the podcast where I ask one of my interviewees to pay tribute to a member of the Diaspora of personal, cultural or political significance to them. This week, Father Bernárd Lynch talks about an individual who may not be diasporic, but is certainly an inspiration: President Michael D. Higgins.
BERNÁRD (Int.): Yeah. I mean, he is one of my heroes. It must have been 1990 – I published my book 93 or 94 - I was in Galway and Michael D was the minister for the Gaeltacht and he was to open a club at Galway University called Pluto, which is an acronym for People Like Us Totally Outrageous. It was LGBTQI, so it was called Pluto and he was to cut the tape for that. And he couldn't do it because as a minister, he was otherwise engaged. And so I had to stand in for the minister and that was my first association with him. And I followed - he's from the same county, as you know - I followed his career. He is always been an advocate of human civil rights for all people. And so to be awarded the Presidential Distinguished Service Award by him, I really was, I really am grateful as an exile because as you know, I've been an exile all of my life and I was deeply touched, and am by his attitude and his unquestionable integrity and statesman - he's probably one of the greatest states people in the world today. And, the fact that he's a freely elected head of state and carries, you know, the poet president with such intelligence and such a comprehension of world events. I could not speak audaciously enough about the man. I am proud that he is the head of the country of my birth.
DOUG (V.O.): Father Bernárd Lynch there, and if you want to hear more of what he has to say, then take a listen to his interview. Simply go to the Episodes Page at www.plasticpodcasts.com, click on his name and listen at your leisure. Also available on Spotify, Amazon and Apple Podcasts.
But while you're on the website, why not subscribe? Go to our homepage, scroll to the bottom, insert your details in the space provided. and one confirmatory email click later, the Plastic Loot of the world will be yours. Tell them Doug sent you.
Now back to Patrick Osborne, and following our discussion of the complex relationship his family has with Britishness, we talk about that curious product of colonialization, the notion of a mother country and those places where the two nations meet and diverge.
PATRICK (Int.): It's a love-hate relationship. Like the people that are most similar to the Irish in my experience of travelling and I’ve travelled - I have been lucky enough to travel quite a good bit - I would have a lot more in common with English people than any other nation. And I've always found in my experience English people to be very fair.
I think the Irish is a bit more conniving, I don’t know but I found it to be, more black and white, you know, in your dealings with them. Whereas there's definitely a bit of a roguery with Irish. Maybe that was a survival thing. Maybe we had to work harder on our wits to get by, but there's definitely like, you know, whether it be the gift of the gab and sure we’ll embellish things and this, that, and the other, so that's what I found there. Yeah. I don't think, like - the Irish people would definitely not see England or the UK as being the homeland, you know, definitely not. But having said that would still have a lot more in common than any other nation.
DOUG: It's not just language then?
PATRICK: No, I don't think it's just language. I like, I mean, obviously America, you know, like we'll say you've obviously a huge, huge Irish community. You know, you have huge communities over whatever nationality. And so they're all speaking the same language. Canadians Australians, New Zealand. But, maybe that could be true. The fact that so many Irish people say went to work in England and even something simple, like start following football clubs, you know? That sounds mad, but now you had something in common. And to this day, the vast majority of football fans in Ireland will support - even if they support the local club here – guaranteed they'll support a club in the UK.
DOUG: Oh yeah. There's certain clubs that are definitely very Irish clubs. Man United, I think, is one of them.
PATRICK: Yeah. Glasgow Celtic, massive. Liverpool - it's like you even see in the parade now the last day when Liverpool, when they were doing their victory parade after the two cups. They were saying it was up to half a million people there. That's an incredible amount of people, but I know of Irish lads that went over for the parade. Not for a match, you know - they go over quite regularly for matches - but they went over specifically for a parade and they've built up great camaraderie with fellow scousers or fellow people coming from everywhere to Liverpool, but the common denominator will be the football club. And I think that has definitely gelled a lot of relations between the two countries. So it could be as simple as that.
DOUG: For the sake of Niall who runs the bar at the Liverpool Irish Centre, yes there are an awful lot of Irish supporting Everton as well.
PATRICK: Oh, I've good friends support Everton as well.
DOUG: Other football clubs are available.
PATRICK: Yeah. Yeah.
DOUG: You were talking about Boys From The Blackstuff and Auf Wiedersehen Pet and so forth, and that puts you very definitely kind of into watching TV in the 80s. About how old would you have been then?
PATRICK: So I was born in 1971. So we'll say, when I was watching the likes of, Boys From The Blackstuff, I was only 9, 10, I'd say. You know, and most of it went over, well, I'd say 90% went over my head, but who didn't love Yozzer Hughes, you know? “Gizza job”. But, obviously, it was very sad, but we didn't like, as kids, we didn't see that, but our parents and all understood it, you know? But yeah, like definitely like, like an awful lot of films, like even just simple as the Carry On films, right? You know, we would've watched more, definitely more British TV than Irish TV. Like during the 80s - now people well, look, you have thousands of channels now we say, right? But during, I'm trying to think when it opened up, but definitely during the 70s, we had one channel in Ireland. Then it doubled probably around - I'm going to say around 82, maybe, but I could be wrong there - but we had, if you're in Dublin and if you're on the East coast of Ireland, you had a better chance of getting BBC and ITV. So that's where we got the programmes, and the programme - although there were little gems on Irish TV, you know, there was some outstanding problems on RTE in general - the comedy programs that we went to, the go-to were all English based.
So we'd say Porridge, we loved it. Like we absolutely adored. I mean, I'd say that was probably dad's favourite programme. Steptoe and Son, we adored it. You know, I couldn't believe then years later that ah, what's his name? The little elf was from Dublin. And he was actually like quite a, like a thespian, a Shakespearean actor. Like he was -
DOUG: Erudite Dublin actor, yeah.
PATRICK: Yeah. A Dublin actor, but Steptoe and Son, as I said, Porridge, Open All Hours, you know? All like we were getting that comedy. The Liver Birds would've been even a little bit earlier, like that was dynamite. And so we were fed on that, but that was definitely the East coast of Ireland. Like my wife now is from the West coast and they didn't get any of them channels till I'd say the late 80s. Right? So when, if we were out having a conversation, there's a huge amount of people in Ireland, I'd say from the age of 40 plus would have no idea, really, of most of English TV channels- back in that if you know what I mean - of the 70s and 80s. They wouldn't have been exposed with the experience that - so yeah. But we did on the East coast.
DOUG: That's an odd thing to think of, isn't it? Because nostalgia is often about those things that you remember from kind of that time when you're 10, 11, 12, and what have you, and there, you all are in the same country. And about half of you doesn't have half the references.
PATRICK: Yeah. Oh, I'd say, like literally I think there was a transmitter up in somewhere in the North of Ireland and it's up around Belfast maybe. And that's how we got it beamed down, you know, like technology wasn't, you know, obviously that good. So I'd actually say 90, I'd say 90% of the island of Ireland didn't get British television in the 70s and the early half of the 80s. Just didn't exist to them, you know? So as I said, it's amazing. So I think I was very fortunate where we lived in being in Dublin. We got all these programmes and as they're comedy gold, you know, that's what we were brought up on, you know?
And even tough gritty stuff like Minder - well, Minder was later, sorry - like The Sweeney - I was probably too young to be watching it, but I watched it, but then Minder, you know, like, poor Dennis Waterman only passed away there recently, but I love them in them programmes, you know?
And what was he, George? Not George Cole. Is it? The sidekick?
DOUG: John Thaw.
PATRICK: Yeah. Brilliant. And obviously the Girls of Saint Trinians, we would've got all them programmes. All being now, Saint Trinians obviously was black and white. We’d have been seeing them, like, it definitely would've been late 70s, early 80s. It is, it's a very unusual thing to think that probably 90% of the country weren't watching what the capital city was watching, if you like, from Belfast down to Dublin.
DOUG (V.O.): You're listening to The Plastic Podcasts, Tales of the Irish Diaspora. In interview, Patrick Osborne has talked of a lack of enthusiasm for literature in certain parts of Irish society. Given that, and his mother's dealings with dyslexia, does he think there's an issue there?
PATRICK (Int): No, I don't. I think there's a very, very good education system in Ireland, you know, really, really good , but unfortunately there's still, like, there's still huge class - there's still this huge thing of a hierarchy and, you know, jobs for the boys and that. These guys that go to these colleges or these schools where they're playing rugby, then. Particularly in Ireland, rugby is more widespread maybe in the UK, but in Ireland, rugby was generally only for the posh schools.
And then they’d be the lads that will be becoming the solicitors and the doctors and so forth. So that still exists, you know? There's still a huge working class mentality, you know, them and us, that still remains. I think the people - the system is there to be educated, but I think the people don't take advantage of it, or don't - they could learn more if they wanted. But as I said, their reasons maybe for not putting the effort in, I can understand as well, because they feel they can only go so far regardless.
DOUG: We talked about Boys From The Blackstuff and Auf Wiedersehen Pet and so forth, but also you're writing about Ireland and Dublin, and the Dublin that you knew and grew up in. Do you think that like, what you're doing, whether you're doing it consciously or not, is bridging that gap of the Irish Sea?
PATRICK: Yeah. Probably, like, as I said, it's a peculiar thing. ‘Cause like, especially during the 70s and 80s, I would say Dublin, culturally, would've been closer to the UK. In fashion, in music, in television. Like Top Of The Pops - again, we all watched, right? But like Dublin was definitely more modern than a lot of the country. The rest of the country, like Ireland was obviously a lot more agricultural back then as well. It’s all the same: look, if you went outside of London and you went to surrounding areas that were more agricultural. Cities are fast, usually - you know, they change quicker. They're first to the fashion, like, you know - evolves a lot quicker and they're a bit quicker on the uptake with trends and stuff. And you would see then, ‘ cause my wife, as I said, is from County Kerry and she came up to work in Dublin and it was like an eye opener, you know?
So, like Irish people going to work, in London, the bright lights and you know, it would've been like that for a lot of Irish people moving from more rural parts of Ireland to Dublin and then being exposed to that culture. So, yeah, I suppose, as you said, bridging the gap to Ireland and England. Yeah. That's a huge part of who I am and it's a huge part - definitely what made me is them cultural references, you know?
And again, with the football. I'm a football fan - Liverpool fan, you know, but there are other teams in Liverpool, but I am a football fan and that played a huge part. My dad's Man United. So there was obviously a great bit of banter in the house and all, but that whole cultural thing, yeah, I do it cause I enjoy it, you know? And I like the links, as I said, but I definitely would've been closer to a lot more of what was going on in English cities than most of Ireland outside of Dublin.
DOUG: Do you think that's changed, then, for Ireland since?
PATRICK: Yeah. It's definitely changed. Yeah, I think with social media, I think with the extra television channels, I think the kid that's now in rural anywhere, whether it be rural UK or rural Ireland, they're on the trend straight away as well. Now they mightn't be as showy as city kids, ‘cause city kids are, you know, seem to have a bit more jib about them - a bit more, you know, that they're not as shy or they hold back a bit. But definitely culturally aware. I don't think it matters where you're living now that you'll be up to date. You'll be on the mark. You know, I'm sure kids in the middle of nowhere know who the Kardashians are, as much as the kids in the middle of a city
DOUG: In the end, do these divisions of country matter when you've got technology that can provide you with the entire rest of the world on your doorstep?
PATRICK: Well, I still think with say - and again, maybe it's just from where I was in Dublin because there's other parts of Dublin that would be, I won't say more standoffish, more reserved maybe or wherever - so maybe, maybe it's not so much a country as opposed to an economic status that a working class person might be as close to a working class person somewhere else. ‘Cause we've a shared struggle, if that makes sense.
You know, because I've nothing in common with certain sections of where, you know, the country I live in. Exactly the same as - you know, like we'll say in the UK, , there's a lot of people that, the likes of the Conservatives, they don't share the same values, so I think it's probably an economic thing.
You know, it's a class thing despite what country you're in. If that kind of makes sense, you know? Now I do think the Irish have a great sense of humour. I do think in general we have the gift of the gab. I do think we are more, not that we play tricks, but you know, we're more open to - we're less reserved. You could take a lot of typical Europeans, they'd be a bit more conservative, you know, but I do think the Irish generally as a race – we’re a bit more, we get involved and, we'd probably be First up to sing a song at a party or give a dance. That we don't take ourselves too seriously.
Now I love that in general, about the Irish people. And I think that's quite unique in ways. Now the Irish then that have made their homes in anywhere they go, I think they're quite as easy to get up and do a jig in, you know, even generations later, they still have that bit of devilment as we call it over here, you know? So, yeah, so we are still distinct, you know. There is still definitely differences you can see, but I suppose the single most, the single biggest difference I see with the Irish is that sense of humour and that sense of carefreeness, do you know ? That “Sure. Feck it. We'll get on with it, we'll find a solution, you know? We won't take ourselves too serious. “ So I like that.
DOUG: I've got a final couple of questions to ask you. You mentioned the Irish would probably be the first to get up and dance. What would be the song that made you get up and dance?
PATRICK: One of my favourite songs - and totally comes as like left field or whatever - Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe, Barcelona. ‘Cause I love opera, as in Carmen and you know, which is very strange for where I grew up, believe you and me. Like, you know, opera and stuff like that, and obviously who didn't love Freddie Mercury singing and you know, obviously Queen, but his voice was unbelievable. And that, to me, that combination was just like, again, two different worlds meeting and what a collaboration.
DOUG: Under normal circumstances, my last question would be; what does being a member of the Irish Diaspora mean for you, but I don't think that's necessarily appropriate right now...
DOUG: ...So, you mentioned just a moment ago two worlds colliding as one, and I think that's very much where you're writing and you kind of come from. So you talk about being working class and opera and this sort of thing. We talked an awful lot about differences and changes and all this sort of thing. But if the two worlds, if the two countries of England and Ireland do clash and collide and bounce off each other and so forth, what do you think the best of both of them is?
PATRICK The best of both of them? Well, as I said, I do love the honesty of the English people I've me. As in black or white. You know, it's right or it's wrong. And I do like that, you know, like there's not the same BS or cajoling that goes on in the Irish people. I know, you know, whether it be roguery or whatever. So I love that. I love the whole sense humour from the Irish culture. I love that. Like, I love that creativity from Ireland. I don’t know whether it comes from the Celts or I don't know, but there seems to be a certain magic that Irish people have, whether it be communicating or getting drawing the best out of people, fun wise, or getting people on side with them, you know, and as I said, trying to see the best of a bad situation, do you know what I mean?
As I said, like gallows humour, but they make the best of it. Yeah. as I said, I think like if you go back like the countries, both Ireland and England, obviously, they're evolving. But I actually loved the spirit of the English. You know, you not really got the spirit and say , during the blitz, you know, going back to that kind of World War II spirit, I mean, they were really, really brave people and they really put their country first during those dark times. And I loved, I loved that spirit.
Now that's probably changing, and the whole world is changing, but I love that old school doggedness that the English bring. If you can understand that, do you know what I mean? That kind of, you know, like - even when you read all of these experience that they had of - now I'm talking about England of World War II era, if you like. That kind of well one of, all of us, we’re in it together , we'll fight them on the beaches we will fight them in the fields - but that kind of we can tackle anything.
And even going back like Victorians, like a lot of this, cause I'm a horticulturist I've worked in a lot of big manor gardens and all, you know, that would've been owned by - whether it be the Guinness family and so forth or not. And they were very inventive people. And I still think there's really, like, whereas we're more creative or an artsy, the Irish, and I know that's a generalization, but I found the English were more - they'd stick to a task and they'd finish a task. They'd be more dogged in their resolve: if this was the job, we'll do the job. We we'll keep going straight till it's finished. And they'll trust the process. But you know, the process is important. ‘Cause process gets you there anyway.
You know, it's as I said yo a fella, if you don't know where you're going, if you don't know your destination, any road will take you there. So I think the English always had, like, they knew where they wanted to go or they knew what they wanted to do. Or the process of getting from A to B was brilliant and look at all the inventions they did. I think they were world leaders in inventing.
Now as I said, countries have changed. And I think if you sprinkle that with the Irish madness and happiness and magic and, you know, the jovial kind of spirit with that kind of English efficiency or doggedness or whatever, I think that's a magic combination.
DOUG (V.O.) : You’ve been listening to The Plastic Podcasts: Tales of the Irish Diaspora with me, Doug Devaney and my guest, Patrick Osborne. The Plastic Pedestal was provided by Father Bernárd Lynch and music by Jack Devaney. Find us at www.plasticpodcasts.com. Email us at [email protected]
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