My East End : Memories of Life in Cockney London, Paperback

My East End : Memories of Life in Cockney London Paperback

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


Gilda O'Neill's "The East End" traces the East End of London - cockneys, criminals, street markets, pub singalongs, dog racing, jellied eels.

London's East End it is a place at once appealing and unruly, comforting and incomprehensible.

Gilda O'Neill, an East Ender herself shows there is more to this fascinating area than a collection of cliched images.

Using oral history and more traditional sources she builds up a powerful image of this community - bringing to us, with wit and honesty, the real story of London's East End. "Every page is a delight. Every chapter made vivid by a writer who has poured heart and soul into her book". ("Daily Mail"). "A rich tapestry ...a finely detailed examination of our not so distant past.

Her book is as much a piece of history as the accounts it contains". ("Time Out"). Gilda O'Neill was born and brought up in the East End.

She left school at fifteen but returned to education as a mature student.

She wrote full-time and continued to live in the East End with her husband and family.

Sadly she died on 24 September 2010 after a short illness.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 384 pages, 24pp b&w illustrations
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: British & Irish history
  • ISBN: 9780140259506



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The East End of London is a nearly mythological neighborhood. From Jack the Ripper to jellied eels, from the 'mockney' of Hollywood to the true Cockneys, dock workers and mothers and criminals (think the Kray brothers), from the street markets to the neighborhood pubs, nearly everyone has an image of what the East End is like. O'Neill, who was raised there, has done an admirable job of bringing it all together in an affectionate and nostalgic portrayal. It may err slightly on the side of romanticism, but on the other hand works heard to do away with many of the cliches. The book is a combination of traditional memoir, historical/anthropological writing and oral history. Her research and breadth is impressive, although the combination of mediums isn't entirely successful. While her own writing is clear, concise, focused and engaging, the same can't be said for the oral histories and no matter how intriguing some of the details were, some of it is repetitious. It feels at times as though it's part of a student thesis, which detracts from it's considerable charm. Still, for anyone interested in the area, the history or the people, it's a good read, a fascinating glimpse of a lost way of life and an inspiring portrait of resilience and community.Some of the most powerful passages were those in which the author explored the truly horrific conditions that resulted from not having any social net-- no welfare, no national health medicine. The suffering, disease and deaths that resulted should provide a brutal wake-up to anyone who supports a free-market capitalist solution to social problems. Want to see what North American society would look like (and in some cases already does) without social programs? Think Dickens. Think Victorian-era East End London. For that reason alone the book is more than worthwhile.