What's in a name?

Samuel Beckett was born on Good Friday, April 13th, 1906, into a bleak and divided Dublin, with little to offer the common man or woman but to hope for greater fortune the next day.

Image of Samuel Beckett Bridge - What’s in a name?

Samuel Beckett

By the time the fledgling writer looked out from his schoolroom window, fortune had brought the First World War in 1914 and Dublin became a city of goodbyes as tens of thousands departed for the killing fields of Europe and talk of war subsumed his fellow tram travellers on his daily journey into the city. The shy young Samuel celebrated that important childhood milestone, his 10th birthday, by watching Dublin burn from the safe distance of the hills. It was Easter 1916 and school was suspended because of the troubles.

Through Beckett’s teenage years Dublin was largely a war zone - a stage on which battles of the War of Independence and the Civil War were enacted. Hostilities ended in 1923, the year Beckett entered Trinity College the rubble of endgames still strewn upon the streets. For the long suffering tenement dweller, tens of thousands of whom lived here in the vicinity of his namesake bridge, everything and nothing had changed.

Life got harder but that was nothing new. As the saying goes, to be Irish is to know that sooner or later the world will break your heart. You just have to wait. In absurd contrast, Beckett’s own milieu of Foxrock was one of pretty villas and suburban mansions in which obliging servants cooled your drinks and warmed your bed. William, his father, was a successful businessman, a descendant of humble French weavers who settled in Dublin city. His mother, May, whose reduced family circumstances once obliged her to work as a nurse in Dublin’s Adelaide Hospital, was a homemaker anxious to retain the social position to which her marriage had re-elevated her.

They were anxious for Beckett, in time, to enter the family business. Instead Beckett chose exile and writing. Or perhaps they chose him. Either way, whereas the man left Dublin, his writings reveal that Dublin never left the man.

The Samuel Beckett Bridge was so named by Dublin City Council, twinning Beckett with his friend Joyce whose namesake bridge is at the western end of the city.