Firefighters of Belfast

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 18 Jun 2019

Member Reviews

Free of commentary, this book is a compilation of verbal accounts from firefighters who served during the height of the Troubles in Belfast.   The testaments are told in an understated fashion, free from the politics of the time, with a laser like focus on the human devastation caused during that period.  

The testaments of the firefighters in their quiet, matter of fact style was extremely affecting and I did find myself taking breaks from the book just to absorb the destruction afflicted on the people and communities of Belfast during that time.

What perhaps is the most painful aspect of this book is that at the time of writing due to Brexit shenanigans, The Good Friday Agreement seems to be in jeopardy.  What should be a glimpse into horrifying past could easily be a long hard gaze into a future of sorts.


With thanks to Netgalley and Luath Publishing for the ARC.
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It a takes time to read a book of this magnitude and range. Outside of Belfast these events where headline news at first. Over time unless it contained a political note; fires, bombings and the like passed the rest of the U.K. other than major atrocities or heavy loss of life.
It is a unique story; not just one person’s biography but the whole fire service during his time there which coincided with The Troubles.
As a young 18 year old he like other raw recruits were supported and benefited from older hands who had endured the Second World War bombing of Belfast.
The Troubles soon brought everyone quickly up to speed and the years carried a cost and the servicing personnel had to find their own way to get through one way or another. I loved the honesty in his conclusions regarding the use of alcohol, medication to combat stress and talking with your mates often through dark humour.
PTSD and counselling interventions were not understood at the start. As a teenager danger, even risk to life were just seen at times at part of the craic.
The detail of each call out and the use of first hand accounts bringing these incidents to something real made for a difficult read. The numbers of casualties and lives lost were more than significant statistically but they were real people. The neighbours, school friends and relatives of the serving firemen. 
It is chilling to realise that someone wearing a hoodie asking that the fire engine turn back may know your name and where you live. Belfast was and is a small city and the fire service were generally drawn from the same working class areas trouble brewed and others acted differently.
A timely read when we consider the cost of peace and the political impasse in Northern Ireland and the uncertainty of Brexit. You will not just gain respect for those in public service during these times but you will marvel at the spirit of a people who struggled on and deserve to now live in peace.
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A brilliant history, as well as stories about the heroes that helped keep a beautiful, torn country intact during the Troubles.
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