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Monday 22 September 2014

The Finglas Boy

Published 20/01/2013 | 06:00

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It's safe to say he's Finglas's most famous former resident. Yet Ballymun also claims him as one of its 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'.

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"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. Depending on who we were getting a hiding off, we would say Finglas or Ballymun. I remember a terrible beating in Finglas, a big gang of boot boys, skinheads, running actually towards us and they stopped and they said, 'Where are you from', and I said the better angle is to say Finglas, so I said Finglas and they hammered us."

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.

"My mother's sister and closest friend, Ruth, had moved there and so she wanted to be over in that area. Both my mother and her sister, they knew Finglas because they both worked at Merville Dairies. I had a great time growing up. I remember the sense of newness in the suburbs.

"It was before I realised that they weren't the best-planned housing estates, but to us they were amazing you know. They were new, whereas our grannies and all our relatives were in old houses. So there was that newness, that brand spanking newness was a feature. The feeling on a sunny day was just like no other. We just felt we were on top of the world.

"At the back of our house we had fields and we'd love to go into the fields, climbing trees. Eventually, at the back of those fields they started building the Ballymun flats. And that slightly changed things because as it became more and more built up we had less and less fields to play in.

"I remember when they were building the Ballymun flats, going and playing in the foundations. I was a tiny kid with my brother, it was a great adventure. And then there was that kind of fear because as you'd be walking along the field people would jump out of the trees. It was a bit wild too."

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.

"He lived in a very eccentric situation because they had so many kids in the house. But that wasn't what made it eccentric. What made it eccentric was their father, Robbie Rowen, was big into the Evening Herald small ads, so he was sort of a compulsive buyer of motorcycles and old cars. "So there was this kind of extraordinary place on the street, this kind of playground of motorcycles and there was a big Dodge, a big American car, parked on the street and then these kids which were our mates were just a lot of fun and really smart. So a lot of my memories are about that."

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