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‘Geordies – Wa Mental'
David John Douglass
Publisher: Christie Books, ISBN: 978-1-873976-34-0

Published: 29 Sept 2008 , Price £9.95

 

 

How do you make a communist revolutionary Marxist who has sympathetic views to the anarchist left?

Answer? You take a young boy who was delivered of a parentage of Irish/English and true Geordie, who was born in Jarrow and thrust into the post war cauldron of the working class struggle against oppression and victimisation and then ground under the heel of an ignorant and arrogant school system. You threaten his eternal soul with all the hell and brimstone that Catholicism can muster, and then throw what's left to the dole queue.

Dave Douglass has written a number of books, including this autobiography; "Geordies - Wa Mental", briefly published by Trade Union Publication Service, before it was disastrously inadvertently pulped, as the company moved premises and then went out of existence. Now it reappears published by Christiebooks and represents the first part of a trilogy containing the complete and unabridged life story under the collective title Stardust and Coaldust. Which reflects and contrasts his spiritual and proletarian political influence and experiences and the conflict of ideologies and idealism.

In ‘Geordies', Dave tells us of his beginnings and describes his life as a child in the 1950's. He tells the reader of his Irish / Northumbrian ancestry and of the visits to Ireland to see his Gaelic grandparents and cousins, their own political ideas as far apart as Cromwell and the Irish Confederate Catholics had ever been, with one part of the family sympathizing with the IRA and another being English Loyalists! He tells of his Irish grandmother, who always greeted guests to the house with, “Will ye no be having a spud?” and of how the visiting ‘English side of the family' was always treated with a kind of reverence.

He tells us of his childhood battle with TB, of the cockroaches, the squalor, and the outright poverty, which was normal for the working class people of Jarrow. Dave writes of his earliest memories and lays them bare for the reader, sometimes lingering on a topic about a particular memory or incident and sometimes in a pouring forth of brutal honesty, the like of which is rarely heard on this side of the confessional box, which in itself left its own indelible imprint on the young Douglass. And yet, despite the stories of bullying, wanton violence and the horrors of the playground jungle, one soon realises that Dave looked at the world in a more open and questioning way than any of his pompous middle class schoolteachers could ever comprehend. Whilst condemning him to life in the lowest grades they had little idea that by the age of 7 he was already questioning the ethics of killing and eating our fellow creatures and had become a committed vegetarian, or that whilst his class mates were getting to grips with learning to read, Dave was reading about Karl Marx and the history of the Russian revolution.

Between the anecdotes and rhymes, related mainly in Standard English and interspersed with local Geordie dialect where Dave deems it necessary, is an account of the history, which shaped the North East of England, and the people who live there. Throughout his book, Dave, through his reminiscences of his mentor Jonty, tells how his homeland was influenced by the Romans, Vikings, Scots and Angles, making it a unique fusion and stamping an independence of character on the ‘Geordies'.

Dave has managed to create a book which is entertaining, touching, fascinating, and above all, honest. His stories have you laughing out loud at certain characters and their situations, filling your eyes with tears as you feel the sadness of those involved, and squirming with embarrassment at revelations, which you wouldn't admit even to your best friend. It is a book about a Geordie Lone Ranger, mad bastard Geordies, Geordies who wear their Geordie identity as a badge of hardness, Geordie meedmen.

Geordies – Wa Mental?

Indeed they are.

 

Adge Covell is a former miner and union activist who worked with Dave down Hatfield Main Colliery in Doncaster and engaged in the thick of the epic 1984/5 strike. He is the site manager of the unofficial rank and file miners' website www.minersadvice.co.uk


 

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