Pat O’Mara (1901-1983) Reading & Writing – Writing Lives

Pat O’Mara (1901-1983) Reading & Writing

As we know, Pat left school at fourteen and interestingly, his mother couldn’t read or write, so it’s incredible to read such a beautifully written autobiography considering Pat had ‘taught himself’ (O’Mara 7) how to write. Pat’s time out at sea had inspired him to document life during the 20th century and from previous blog posts, it’s clear to see that Pat had a lot to write about from the war, riots and the poverty he grew up in. 

There’s no denying that Pat found pleasure in reading and he seems to be a natural when it comes to his writing. Working on the ships had an impact on Pat’s desire to write, as he reveals how lonely he felt working away from home. His time on the ships had fostered ‘one big urge within (him) ­­­– the desire to write’ (O’Mara 175). Though this doesn’t come as a surprise, as Pat was living in the middle of a war and at the time, a lot of working-class writers were documenting their experiences. The war provided opportunities for ‘writers, dramatists, painters and poets to produce work that was deeply informed by the conflict.’ (Simmonds 2011).

Signed Edition of The Autobiography of a Liverpool Slummy

We learn that Pat would work on the ships during the day and at night he would practise his writing in secret because ‘your shipmates would think you quite mad.’(O’Mara 176) Pat’s inability to write when he wanted seemed problematic and he dreamed of a shore job where he would be able to write without judgement. During his time working on the ships, he writes letters to his mother regularly about his experiences which probably ignited his passion for writing as he refers to his letters as ‘genuinely imaginative writing.’ (O’Mara, 181) With time, Pat’s writing improves and it’s clear to see that he was made for writing as his autobiography is so well–written and it seems hard to believe that Pat had no experience writing beforehand.

When Pat eventually moves to America to work as a taxi driver, it gives him the freedom to write that he so desperately craved from his time working on the ships. He was his own boss which gave him enough time to enjoy writing and reading and it was something he was ‘very much in need of’ (O’Mara 220). It would have been interesting to find out what kind of books Pat was reading during this period in his life and I wonder if anything he had read had inspired him to write his autobiography. From the letters he wrote to his mother, I assume he enjoyed writing about his life and it’s possible this inspired him to publish his books.

His time in America gave him a comfortable life where he was able to read and write, and his publications of The Autobiography of a Liverpool Slummy and Taxi Heaven imply he was a man interested in the importance of storytelling and history. His autobiographies reveal a piece of historical writing that has enabled a different perspective of life during the 1900s and I think Pat’s decision to get his books published were to show his journey through the slums of Liverpool to the American Dream. In a sense, Pat’s desire to tell his story shows how he takes pride in his accomplishments and his writing gives hope to the many other people living in the slums.

Pat O’Mara’s writing in his signed edition book


Cuming, Emily and Helen Rogers, ‘Revealing Fragments: Close and Distant Reading of Working-Class Autobiography’, Journal of Family and Community History (2019) 

O’Mara, Pat. The Autobiography of a Liverpool Slummy. The Bluecoat Press. 1997

Pierce, David. Irish Writing in the Twentieth Century: A Reader. Cork University Press, 1999. 

Simmonds, Alan G. V. Britain and World War One, Taylor & Francis Group, 2011. ProQuest Ebook Central,Web: . p162 & 254 Accessed: 3/05/2020

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