‘Did Ye Hear Mammy Died?’ wins Biography of the Year at Irish Book Awards

Derry author Séamas O’Reilly’s in-demand memoir ‘Did Ye Hear Mammy Died?’ has won Dubray Biography of the Year at the prestigious An Post Irish Book Awards.

By Laura Glenn
Friday, 26th November 2021, 9:00 am
Seamas O'Reilly
Seamas O'Reilly

The lauded win means Séamas, who lives in London from where he contributes to the Irish Times and The Observer, and is features editor at The Fence magazine, is now a finalist in the Book of the Year category, which is decided by public vote.

Speaking to the Journal, Séamas described the win as ‘both unexpected and really nice’ and admitted how the runaway success of the book has been a surprise and a delight.

“I came back home two or three weeks before the book came out and read it to my da. I read five or six chapters and thought: ‘I quite like this.’ I had fixed a few problems and things I didn’t like, but, even still, I didn’t think anyone was going to read it. The fact there are so many people talking about it and getting in touch to say they’re enjoying it was really unexpected - not just to me, but also to my publishers!”

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‘Did Ye Hear Mammy Died’ relates how Seamus, his father Joe and his 10 siblings somehow processed the worst thing that had ever happened to them, the death of their mother, Sheila, in her early 40s. Both moving and very funny, it also chronicles growing up in a big family in Derry in the 1990s and has proved hugely popular with readers around the country,

“Ireland and Derry, in particular, really threw themselves being it and got involved with the material. We didn’t have much of a push promotionally but it seems like the success, especially in Derry, was by word of mouth, Jenny in Little Acorns Book Store would be ringing me up giving updates.”

Séamas was humoured to find that the chapter most people in Derry talked about was the one referencing Westside Stores and Crazy Prices.

“The thing I’ve discovered about the book is that people read it from where they are. Here, in Derry, people have had that recognition and nostalgia and then, the nice thing is, those who haven’t been there enjoyed it in a different way. It’s a slice of life people can’t imagine.”

Séamas added how he never takes for granted how people ‘have attached themselves to the story and that’s down to my dad and family and how they were able to get through everything.’

If you have material like that, it would be pretty stupid not to write it.”

*You can vote for the book for Book of the Year at www.irishbookawards.ie