Pat O’Mara’s The Autobiography of a Liverpool Slummy is a published autobiography about life in the city of Liverpool in the beginning of the twentieth century. O’Mara gives a voice to the working class in his writing which makes this published text an important one at that, as it exposes the reality of poverty amongst Liverpool’s ‘slummies’ (27). In addition to this, it gives insight to the Irish working class, the riots and the relationship between Catholics and Protestants during this time. Thus, O’Mara’s story gives a brutally honest insight into his life which makes it a very interesting read due to O’Mara’s writing style and his experiences through childhood. As a writer, O’Mara gives an important representation of the Irish community in Liverpool as both of his grandparents were from Irish backgrounds. It gives insight into this important community during the Victorian period, which provides a historical background into modern Liverpool’s history and the experiences in his life.
O’Mara’s struggles stemmed from the poverty he endured as a child. Throughout his childhood O’Mara tells of his experiences with his father who was sent to prison in Walton for repeatedly beating his mother. O’Mara’s experiences of violence and poverty become an emotional and difficult experience for him and his mother, as the domestic violence in O’Mara’s home meant that his family had ‘acquired quite a neighbourhood reputation and nobody wanted to take us in’ (32). The poverty O’Mara and his family faced meant that throughout his life, O’Mara was moving houses regularly throughout Liverpool. He begins to shape his experiences by allowing readers into a look into the strained relationship he had with his father. It becomes an interesting point of view into the history of violence, riots and police during his father’s time in jail.
The history of the Irish and the British allow an interesting look into O’Mara’s own sense of identity as the tensions between the two evoke feelings of confusion and tension for an Irish child living in Liverpool. O’Mara attends a Catholic school where he begins to realise the importance of religion for himself and the people around him. During his time at school, he begins to separate himself into two people. At school he is Pat O’Mara with a love for Britain, forgetting his Irish roots, but recognises how his school had ‘patronised and Britishised’ (57) him until he returned home to be ‘Irishised’ (57) by his mother. O’Mara seems to speak for himself and also the many other Irish children living in Liverpool. This autobiography becomes a fight for social acceptance along with O’Mara’s sense of identity being explored throughout this text and speaks for the many Irish settlers in Liverpool and is therefore, an honest representation of that community.
O’Mara, Pat. An Autobiography of a Liverpool Slummy. The Bluecoat Press. Liverpool. 1994.
Image: O’Mara, Pat. An Autobiography of a Liverpool Slummy. The Bluecoat Press. Liverpool. 1994. p124