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Pauline Lee's Desert Island Discs

Updated: Jul 20, 2021

A Life in North Dublin Inner City

Picture: Pauline Lee (right) as a young girl in Dublin's Summer Hill in the North Inner City in the 1950s with her mother Elizabeth, her younger sister Angela and her father Wallace Lee / Credit: Pauline Lee

North Dublin Inner City

This episode of Desert Island Discs couldn't be more personal to The Hub. Our guest is The Ma Herself, Pauline Lee, speaking to us from her first floor Dublin City Council flat next to Temple Street Children's Hospital, her home for many decades.

The flat looks onto Dublin landmark St George's Church, where the Duke of Wellington was married. It is a short walk from Eccles Street where Ulysses author James Joyce was born. On the other side of the church is Hardewicke Street, where Pauline's parents lived in their later years, alongside numerous family members, and the setting for The Boarding House, one of the stories in Joyce's The Dubliners.

Around the corner is north Parnell Square, the site of the Garden of Remembrance, The Hugh Lane Gallery and the Irish Writer's Centre, at the top end of O'Connell Street. Heading away from town you will soon bump into the family church St Francis Xavier and the iconic Croagh Park Stadium home of Gaelic sports, on opposite sides of Mountjoy Square.

Walk along from Croagh Park and you will alight upon Summer Hill, a long, windy terraced avenue known for its poor tenement dwellings where Pauline was born in 1945. The road leads onto Parnell Street and then O'Connell Street and opposite, The Ambassadors Cinema, the Rotunda Maternity Hospital and the Gaiety Theatre on south Parnell Square.

Lily, Pauline's second daughter, and The Hub's sister, was born in the Rotunda. The Hub would spend many a happy Sunday before lunch, on visits back to Dublin, sinking a pint of Guinness and sharing stories with Pauline's older brother, Sammy, in a pub opposite The Ambassador.

YouTube video: Luke Kelly and his fellow Dubliners singing The Auld Triangle

Rebel rousing writer and local lad, Brendan Behan, set his anti-capital punishment play The Quare Fellow, famous for prison song The Auld Triangle, in Mountjoy Prison a hop away on the Royal Canal. The Quare Fellow is also a blog on The Hub.

Land of My Fathers

YouTube video: Give Up Yer Aul Sins - Oscar Nominated Irish Short Film

The playlist opens with the stirring sounds of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Old Land of My Fathers), the Welsh hymn and national anthem, in what may be a surprising first choice for some.

Pauline Lee was born in Dublin's North Inner City in 1945, and lived with her parents and brothers and sisters at no. 98 Summer Hill. She went to Rutland National School, one of the schools where the audio used in Give Up Yer Aul Sins, a 2001 Oscar nominated Best Animated Short Oscar film, was recorded in the 60s. The film was made by Peig Cunningham and released by EMI.

Pauline's parents were born in Wales. Her mother Elizabeth "Lily" Meredith was born in Aberystwyth, mid-Wales, in 1909. Her father Wallace "Wally" Lee, "a full-blooded Romany", was born in Dogellau, north Wales, in 1888. The couple met in a fish and chip shop in north Wales and stayed true to each other from then on.

YouTube video: Llanelli Male Voice Choir - Land of my Fathers

The couple moved with their older children to Dublin in the 30s. After Harlech Television (HTV) arrived in Dublin in the 60s they would leave it on until the last bar of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau was played at the end of each day. On hearing the hymn again, The Ma says: "These are beautiful memories that I have from way back then".

Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher

The Ma's first official choice, as Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau was a cheeky bonus, is Jackie Wilson singing "(Your Love Keeps Lifting me Higher) Higher and Higher".

"I love Jackie Wilson," says The Ma. Her first job, as a waitress, came through her mother's connection with the manageress of the first Wimpey Bar to open in Dublin, on Burgh Quay overlooking the River Liffey in the centre of the city. One evening she overheard Wilson singing on a small transistor radio in the office. "Oh, his voice just got me."

The Ma's other song choices are Love Me With All Your Heart, Caravans, If You Love Me,

Walk Hand in Hand, Somewhere, Passing Strangers, The Lion Sleeps, Un Amor.

Audio Interview

You can listen to The Hub's interview with Pauline Lee by clicking on the link below.


You can listen to Pauline Lee's Desert Island Discs' playlist, A Life in North Dublin Inner City, by clicking on the link below.


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