We're delighted to present an extract from Poguemahone, the new novel by Patrick McCabe, the acclaimed author of The Butcher Boy, Breakfast On Pluto and Heartland.

Dan Fogarty, an Irishman living in England, is looking after his sister Una, now seventy and suffering from dementia in a care home in Margate. From Dan's anarchic account, we gradually piece together the story of the Fogarty family.

Poguemahone is a wild, free-verse monologue, steeped in music and folklore, crammed with characters, both real and imagined, on a scale Patrick McCabe has never attempted before.

Ah, now, but they were grand times surely

in good old London and Killiburn

long ago,

may God forgive me should I play you false.

It was 'as good as a play'

you would often

hear them comment

in Nano’s Famous Club

& which I must concede

it most definitely was that

the night Joe Meek from Holloway

came wandering in

the dark and troubled

but extremely gifted record producer

with the long jaw and gleaming, lathered quiff

in his single-breasted charcoal suit and black tie

& who eventually, later on,

succeeded in shooting

first his landlady

& then himself

& who, on this particular night

had been discoursing at length

on the subject of the ‘little people’,

or ‘the grogueys’ as he called them

confiding to anyone

he could find who was

prepared to listen that

he knew, and always had

that, just by looking at Nano,

gazing into those eyes of emerald-green

that she was

‘one of them’

yes, their own flesh and blood,

that groguey breed and kin.

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Listen: Poguemahone - Pat McCabe talks to Brendan O'Connor

You can believe Joe Meek,

he repeated, emphatically

before starting off again into lost

airmen and their ghosts

and the howls you could sometimes hear

after midnight in the cemetery

in the graveyard opposite his flat

on the Holloway Road

where he recorded the nocturnal

pleas of the souls of

seriously unquiet vampires

along with the plaintive appeals of

many lonely ‘grogueys’ adrift in the dawn

what, it hardly needs stating,

with chat the like of that

it came as absolutely no surprise at all

to any of the customers

when they opened the paper

and saw his chalk-pale face looking back at them

Joe Meek, as it turns out, not so meek

& who had turned the pistol on himself

as his landlady lay there dying at his feet.

But, like all the eccentrics,

for whom our Nano’s had

provided a kind of home from home

everyone agreed he’d be sorely missed

‘God bless you, Joe, me auld

segocia – may you rest in everlasting


someone shouted as they

raised a glass

‘It’ll be all quiet in North London


‘To Seosamh O’Ceansa!’ everyone cheered,

‘God speed to you, Joe, for there’s not a one

in Nano’s as’d ever utter a cruel word against ya!’

With one man making the sign of the cross

as a signal mark of respect for ‘Mr Meek’

& his unique

understanding of all

those other strange &

unearthly other worlds

far beyond this one that we know,

or think we do.

As peace once again

being seen to reign

in Nano’s,

or so it seemed –

because you were never

quite sure

no, never what you might call

one hundred per cent certain

with that unpredictable

giddygoat atmosphere

where you knew that anything

practically anything at all

it could happen at any moment

with the atmosphere


by the dim electric’s shine

on the potted plants

and Nano’s own specially appointed

colour scheme of lurid ‘Irish’ green and gold.

Which had the effect of making you feel

right from the minute you sat down

that you were not unlike the unfortunate

fish that Behan had pissed on

swimming aimlessly

among the artificial reeds,

mindless in warm water.

There were also supposed to be spies

in & out

from time to time

although I couldn’t

vouch for that claim’s

authenticity either.

Kim Philby, they said

was one of them

one night along with

Noel Coward.

Yes, suave as you like, apparently,

in the warm red glow of the

alcove, chatting away to Nano herself

& smoking through an elegant holder.

Ian Fleming will be dropping by

later on,

I remember her whispering behind her hand

that night.

Although, in fact, he didn’t –

at any rate, not while I was there.

But then, like all of us Fogarty

Auntie Nano

didn’t she have a reputation

for being something of an exaggerator,

you might say.

Yes, a dewy-eyed gilder of the lily,


A bit like myself, as my sister Una is

always saying whenever she wants to get

a dig in.

Yes, more self-indulgent raiméis

coming out of my brother’s mouth

a lot of old balderdash

courtesy of our man Dan.

Not that I care what she says

for, as I’m sure you’ll agree,

there’s no one more contrary

when it comes to it than our Una,

God love her.

So, whenever I see she intends

to be like that

I just walk away & go on with

my story

whether it happens to be

about life that we lived

on the building sites

long ago or the fun and games

we had in Nano’s.

Like the night, for example,

she introduced me to ‘the delightful

Peter Sarstedt’.








was the song that he’d had some

success with at the time

I think it may actually

have reached number one.

O Peter!, Nano moaned,

with those emerald-green

peepers twinkling

Peter my sweetheart,







my asthoreen


my own dashing






– why, goodness,

that dear boy,

he is absolutely dripping

with charm!

Peter Sarstedt was born in Delhi, India, in the year 1941,

where his parents were civil servants – part of the old

established Raj, the British administration.

Both parents were classical musicians.

He went to the boarding school in Kurseong in the Darjeeling

district of West Bengal.

I think it was his bushy black staple-shaped moustache that

Nano felt most attracted to – I mean, I have to admit, it was

really impressive.

Is maith an wonderboy, soitheach an-álainn e!

Yes, he really is quite a dish, she used to always say,

in his stylish black knitted polo.

Little did she ever dream that he’d end up featuring in

mine & Una’s story,

with those same plaintive triplets of a French

waltz rendered on an accordion,

swelling at the feet of a bleeding, crucified


beneath a copper sunset on a hill above Jerusalem.

As a leopard with the spread wings of an eagle came

gliding in to land

on the surface of a river

already on fire

but never mind about any of that for the moment

because we can talk all we like about that later on

Poguemahone by Pat McCabe is published by Unbound.