John McGuckian

Paddy Lambe’s In Paradise

ISBN: 9781851322145

Paddy Lambe, somewhat like Stewart Parker, tried to have an ordinary or normal life during the violence of the Troubles. As a schoolmaster in Belfast, running inter-community football and college teams he managed to dodge live bullets and mayhem, but was injured in the Mint Imperial explosion which lead to a loss of his essential sense of security and even his sense of self. John Montague claimed that he spent most of his life wandering around the world searching for ’self’. This doesn’t work for Lambe, who travels from Ballymena to Bolognola, to Paris, Lisbon and Visby; from Dinn’s Inn to Deerfin. Instead, he escapes into the past and into childhood, constantly returning to the thoughts of his first home, his mother’s birthplace. Eventually he wonders if ’Baile Bhuí and the sea over Antrim basalt’ is close enough. The laughter of grandchildren lightens his heart, but still the ’yellow bird’ must escape the hawk and the hare the hounds, the grandson the Tuatha de Danaan! For Paddy, Paradise.



McGuckian’s use of dialect helps him to see beneath the surface of the cultural schisms by which he is surrounded and to celebrate our shared inheritance … he elegises the landscape of Ulster.

– Nessa O’Mahony, Poetry Ireland Review