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The world's most famous Northsider

Dublin People, December 31, 2012


Finglas – A People's Portrait shows how the area's stereotypical image of a troubled suburb is only one side of its story. The Northside People is proud to bring you edited extracts from the book.

IT'S safe to say he's Finglas's most famous former resident. Yet Ballymun also claims him as one of their own. So where exactly is Bono from?

"Oh that's a very, very deeply upsetting and divisive question. There was a load of rows on Cedarwood Road about that very fact, because when we moved to Cedarwood Road everyone was saying we lived in Ballymun.

"Then at some point, I think when the seven towers were built and had built a reputation, some of the snobs around wanted to say, 'no, no, no we're from Finglas.' So I asked my dad, who worked in the postal service, and he said, believe it or not, one part of the road is Ballymun and one part of the road is Finglas, so you can say what you like."

Born in 1960, Paul Hewson was the younger of two boys. His mother, Iris, and father, Brendan Robert, who was known as Bob, both grew up on the Oxmanstown Road, near the Phoenix Park. They married in 1950 and lived in Stillorgan for a time before moving to Finglas just weeks after their second son was born.

From the age of three, Paul befriended neighbour Derek Rowen. From then on they did everything together, including later changing their names to Bono and Guggi.

It was on the streets of Finglas in their teenage years that Bono, Guggi and a new member of their gang, Gavin Friday, first changed their names. Their assumed identities was just one aspect of the surrealist group they formed called Lipton Village, something they used to embrace their somewhat outcast status.

"To balance the joy and the fun that I had growing up there was definitely always a threat of violence. That's just a fact. I would say it to my Dad later and he would say, 'I don't remember that at all.'

"There was another life. There was a whole other thing going on because teenage boys are full of testosterone. Humour. I do remember a lot of humour, even though there were some people around who you'd have to dodge.

"Maybe they couldn't stand us because we were laughing at them behind their backs, because that was our revenge. Our revenge was humour and we developed a whole sort of surreal way of seeing the world which was sort of part Monty Python and part the Mighty Boosh before the Mighty Boosh was invented."

The friendship they forged and their collective love of music would eventually make the trio among Finglas's most famous exports. But during their early years the local celebrity was puppet maker and Wanderly Wagon star Eugene Lambert, who lived around the corner on Sycamore Road. "The first autograph I ever got was Eugene's. I knocked on the house. I don't know why, we were just messing, sure kids. But I loved that they were there."

Less than a decade later, when Bono's band U2 hit the big time, the tables were turned.

"The first time I did the Late Late show, I came back and went to Superquinn in Finglas and I was mobbed for the first time. I'd love to tell you they were gorgeous teenage girls that were mobbing me, but it was a load of old dears who'd seen the Late Late show and who wanted my autograph."

It wasn't Bono's first memorable encounter with Superquinn. At around the age of 15 he got his first proper job in the supermarket.

"I don't think I did very well. They weren't very happy with my performance. I just remember very long hours, like ridiculously long hours, seven in the morning 'til nine at night, for very little pay.

"This was starting to bother me, so I said I'll go and talk to whoever it was in Superquinn and say, listen these hours are a bit mad for the money. Maybe you could think about upping the money or downing the hours.

"I went in and they said, 'Ah yeah, thanks for coming in and we've been wanting to speak to you, you're fired.' I had a Raleigh Chopper, which was a fairly posh bike, it was a second-hand one. It was parked in the dairy and I was so annoyed that I got on the bike, imagining myself to be Marlon Brando in The Wild One, and cycled through the shop and out the automatic doors."

Bono's mother died in 1974, when he was just 14 years of age. He continued to live with his father until 1982 when he married his girlfriend Alison Stewart. U2's first two albums, Boy and October, were written while he was still living in Finglas.

Dalkey is now the place he, his wife and four children call home. But Bono says he still has friends in, Finglas, and returns to the area at Christmas. He says he is impressed by the changes he sees.

"It's very beautiful. It's grown into itself and it's beautiful now and seems so much more organised and much more sophisticated.

"Cedarwood Road has lost that brand spanking new feel, but it's weathered well and it feels like a really easy neighbourhood to be in."

Bono is now a global superstar, one of the world's best-known musicians and one of the most politically influential figures of his era. He says that Finglas played a big part in the person he became.

"I can't imagine it any other way. The way you see the world is shaped way before you go into the world. It's shaped through the way you see a community. It's shaped through the way you see a street.

"Your relationships on those streets are, you know, you will always behave in a similar fashion when you move out. I live comfortably all over the world and people say it's incredible that you really are a 'wherever I lay my hat, that's my home' person.

"I love being at home. I love being at home with Ali and I love being at home with the kids, but I am partly that because of the way I grew up in Finglas or Ballymun or whatever you want to call it.

"Sleeping on a couch, or because my mother died when I was a kid I was in the house on my own a lot of time, so I'd knock on the door of the Hanvey's at tea time, you know, or the Rowen's at lunchtime.

"I've just become that person who is comfortable wherever I am, through that. It might be London, it might be New York, but that ability to feel comfortable where I am was definitely instilled in me on Cedarwood Road."

This is an edited extract from Finglas – A People's Portrait. The full text of the interview with Bono can be read in the book, which is available in all good bookshops.

(c) Dublin People, 2013.

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