Monday, 22 July 2013
BEYOND PULDITCH GATES book review
Published in 2001 by Wolfhound Press
There are too few novels on work that are written by working class people. Henry Hudson was from 1969 to 1999 a worker in Dublin’s power industry. The Transport and General Workers Union member used his experiences to good effect in an amusing, occasionally hilarious, book that is based around three decades of construction worker Timmy Talbot’s life from the late 50s onwards.
Pulditch Gates power station is a bleak place made bearable by the comaraderie amongst those who work there. Each day is a constant battle of wits between the men and management. Amongst the latter is the husband of the daughter of one of Ireland’s richest men and who in addition to having unsuccessfully tried to force himself on Talbot’s wife, Patsy, has also left her former friend pregnant and imprisoned in a convent for ‘wayward women.’
When a mix-up ensures Talbot and his mates end up getting permanent jobs they use their good fortune to collectively organise for better pay and conditions. But, as Ireland’s economy hits rock bottom they find themselves chucked in jail for threatening electricity supplies. The court rooms scenes in which they are sent down, their imprisonment and their release under a shoddy, compromise deal are amongst the best bits in the book and are highly amusing.
Other scenes will also hit a chord with Irish workers who can recall the 60s and 70s when management’s ‘right to manage’ and a lack of abortion rights were challenged. Hudson’s novel thus celebrates the lives of those men and women who challenged poverty, ignorance and fear.