William "Billy" French

(30/11/1927 - 22/01/2020)

Born in Crumlin, Dublin, on 30th November 1927., William “Billy” French worked all his life as a bricklayer, eventually becoming an Inspector of Bricklaying in Local Government. His life as a bricklayer can be read in “The journeyman : a builder’s life”.  He is also a novelist, poet, songwriter and playwright and wrote books focusing on his life growing up in Crumlin Village, his love for this family, his work life, characters in the area and events he lived through.

In his books, Billy reflects upon the profound metamorphosis that has swept through the once quaint Crumlin village where he spent his formative years. With a tinge of nostalgia, he paints a vivid portrait of a time when the village echoed with the laughter of familiar faces, and the timeworn buildings stood as silent witnesses to generations past.

As the pages turn,  Billy delicately unfolds the narrative of a village in flux. He bemoans the encroachment of modernity, recounting how new faces have replaced the familiar ones that once graced the local corners and shops. The fields replaced with concrete and the once-sturdy historic structures, now replaced by modern edifices, stand as mere remnants of the village’s cherished history.

The charm that once enveloped every field, street corner, every weathered doorstep, seems to have evaporated into the winds of change. Billy mourns the loss of the vibrant community spirit that once bound neighbours together. The pulse of the village, once steady and harmonious, now beats to the rhythm of an unfamiliar tune.

Yet, amid the lamentations for what once was, he seeks to capture the essence of the village’s enduring soul. Through his prose, he invites readers to reminisce with him, to stroll down memory lanes that wind through both the idyllic past and the complex present. In documenting the transformation, he implores us to recognise the inevitability of change while cherishing the indelible imprints of heritage that persist in the collective memory of the village.

Through the lens of Billy’s poignant observations, the reader is transported to a village where time has left its mark, and yet, beneath the veneer of change, the enduring spirit of the place beckons, whispering tales of a bygone era to those willing to listen.

We meet at funerals.
Men and women-
Who have grown up in Crumlin Village,
A heavenly oasis of earthly people.
Once surrounded by tillage.

But now strangers walk our land
Hardened by concrete,
Burying deeper
The ghosts of the past.

Outside the church we stand,
Not uncertain – but certain
In the knowledge that are known.
Hands reach out – not gentle
but eager friendly hands.

Strengthened by hard work
And warmed by natural blood.
Hands that grip and hold,
Hands of the not-so-young,
Hands of the very old.

A remembrance – a smile.
How is the family?
Your sisters?-
And Brendan the brother?
Was it you who found the Mother?
A good woman– a great neighbour
May God rest her soul
A irreligious thought occurs
And dances before you,
Should spirits be resting?
A stranger appears before you,
But as he speaks his name
His large body is dwarfed

And a boyhood friend appears
Then grows with the years
Contact with the dead.
As the small body of people
Move off following the coffin,
The faces are happy. content.
Love your neighbour as yourself

Curious strangers stand and stare,
For they with little roots-

Cannot see our roots-
Buried deep.

The remembering one’s
Will tell stories
Of happenings long ago.
Tales that have laid.
In the dust of men’s minds.

Hidden behind the cobwebs of time„
But now shining new,
As they are taking out,
And retold-
to an ever diminishing few.

As tread the path
of the old graveyard

And see the names on Tombstones
Green with age.
We are aware of a joyful peace.
Because we know-
This cannot be the end’!
For these names we see
Are the very names.
As those-
That were once familiar to us
Around our own fireplace.
We are only carrying home
A friend;
– Memories of my Ireland gone forever, Billy French

Billy contributed to the best-selling “No Shoes in Summer (Wolfhound)”, wrote” Growing Up in Crumlin Village” and “Memories of my Ireland gone forever” amongst other fine pieces of work . He wrote many short stories for magazines and was a frequent guest on RTÉ radio. Billy taught creative writing to young people on rehabilitation schemes.

He passed away in 2022 survived by his wife Maeve and children Geraldine, Willie, Mary and Maeve

In the face of loss, we remember Billy as more than a storyteller—he was a conduit of connection, a bridge between the past and the present. As he takes his place among the names on tombstones, green with age, we find solace in the knowledge that we are only carrying home a friend. Billy French, a guardian of Crumlin’s tales, may have passed away in 2022, but his stories endure, and the echoes of his words linger, promising that the spirit of Crumlin lives on.




Person Photo
Connection with area: Bricklayer, local historian and writer who grew up and wrote books about Crumlin life