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The book is not a sad sack of tales, rather an introspective and often amusing look at bad times and colorful characters. It is a story of resiliency. The book is written in present tense, transporting us to the rough city streets of s Dublin, returning occasionally and briefly to the grown-up Ellis musing in retrospect. The Irish brogue is sweet and strong, the language street-smart and salted to taste. The prologue alone is gripping, the writing evocative, rising above the grit and grey. A soul-satisfying epilogue and an overview of the orphanage history end the book.

This is a tender, bruised story that will take you through the gate and back out with hope. Oct 08, Ross Martin rated it it was amazing Shelves: recommended.


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The Boy at the Gate is a deeply personal memoir. It speaks to the lost child in every soul by channeling a boy's confused, innocent, desperate voice to convey the story, then weaving an adult's wisdom and perspective into the book to fill in the gaps and contemplate the life lessons that can be drawn from such a harrowing childhood.

This review is not without bias: I consider its author, Danny Ellis , a friend--mostly because we share a common experience of having our personal journeys palpably af The Boy at the Gate is a deeply personal memoir. This review is not without bias: I consider its author, Danny Ellis , a friend--mostly because we share a common experience of having our personal journeys palpably affected by the music and life of David Wilcox.

We have only met on two occasions--once at a vocal workshop a couple of years ago and more recently at a house concert where I bought this book. But Danny's open and gentle spirit makes it easy to feel he is your friend even after single meeting.

Danny Ellis - Book

He has also been in my house virtually on a number of occasions as he gave vocal lessons to my wife via Skype. The reading of this book helps me understand and appreciate more fully the depth of his insights into vocal technique through his decades-long study of the breath. I have given very few books five stars on Goodreads and I give this five-star review not because Danny is someone I know, but because The Boy at the Gate is an amazing example of memoir done right.

Were I to have done a similar review of the CD Voices on which this book was based, I would probably have given it a three- or four-star rating. Despite my affection for singer-songwriters and story songs, I never quite got into Danny's CD, though I loved the openness he displayed in sharing his songs about his experience of being abandoned by his "Ma" and left in the oppressive and abusive environs of the Artane Industrial School in Dublin, Ireland. Now, having read his remarkable account, I look forward to revisiting that CD and taking those songs in with new appreciation.

The Boy at the Gate is Danny's gentle and forgiving telling of what can only be described as a heart-wrenching, soul-crushing and physically abusive childhood. Danny grew up in a home of neglect in Dublin and then, in , was thrown into a Lord of the Flies world with more than other boys from ages six to sixteen. The Artane Industrial School was even worse than being lost on an island with a bunch of boys because there was adult supervision - supervision in the form of severe physical abuse and emotional neglect handed down by a staff of just forty members of the Christian Brotherhood.

The abuses of Artane have been well documented by the Ryan Report. It is also the story of the redemptive power of music and how Danny was able to survive the trauma of the Artane prison by pouring himself into the Artane Boy's Band. Music keeps him grounded and gives him hope. Music gives him a constructive place to push his energy, his anger, his cries of anguish.

Music gives him a future--something that many of the sixteen-year-old graduates of Artane were unable to find as the perverse social skills really, survival skills they developed on the desolate playground of Artane prove utterly ineffective outside the schoolyard walls. I found many aspects of this book remarkable: Danny elegantly captures the voice of his little boy self. We see the streets of Dublin through his child eyes and hear it described through his voice of innocence in the truest sense of the word innocent. Even as he recounts his childhood criminal escapades of stealing food for himself and his two younger sisters and twin baby brothers, you understand how limited is his comprehension of the events he witnesses and the emotions he feels.

Danny effectively moves back and forth between his child voice and his own adult voice as he tells the story of how these experiences ultimately unleash a torrent of emotions and memories that quickly take the form of a collection of songs--his Voices CD and, still later, this memoir. The echoes of that young voice resonate with the voice of his adult self and the co-mingling of these distinct voices is a tribute to Danny's gifts as a musician and arranger.

That he is able to accomplish this same richness in prose--his second language--as in music is a thing to behold. I broke my habit of night-time reading to finish the last 25 pages this morning. The closing revelations were truly surprising and moving. His Epilogue, Author's Notes and Acknowledgements appending this memoir were not afterthoughts; they complete the story by adding important context and perspective to the emotional portraits and landscapes he lovingly crafted in the prior pages.

Those final pages also demonstrate the remarkable writing abilities of the adult-voiced Danny. The contrast of the early pages with the latter reminded me of experiencing a Monet retrospective; I was dutifully appreciative of Monet's impressionistic works, but came to see them on an entirely new level once I saw his earlier works that included lushly detailed paintings. I was able to see that his Impressionism works, like Danny's childhood recollections, were not lazily slapped together, but were deeply artistic and telling communications of the essence of the captured moment. Perhaps what was most remarkable to me was the redemption he creates in the telling of it all.

He leaves me wanting to be that same spirit--one who understands the human condition and stands ready to forgive and receive forgiveness from others and from myself. View 1 comment. I loved this book. Writing through his child's eyes half a century later, musician and songwriter Danny Ellis relives the pains and joys of his early childhood in Dublin in the s, and his betrayal and abandonment at the age of eight to an orphanage, one that already has an ominous reputation among Dublin children: the Artane Industrial School for Boys, run by the Irish Christian Brothers. Ellis's indomitable spirit is amazing, his story one of abuse and survival, of suffering and crushing di I loved this book.

Ellis's indomitable spirit is amazing, his story one of abuse and survival, of suffering and crushing disappointment, but ameliorated by friendship and inner resources: a good heart, an eye for beauty, and a childlike faith. Music, which he discovers at Artane, becomes his saving grace and, not surprisingly, is also expressed in the lyrical quality of his writing.

I would add that the language used by the boys at Artane is, well, realistic. While it lends authenticity to the narrative, some may find it offensive. But it does not prevent me from highly recommending this rich and deeply moving book. When your mother abandons you, your father is working in another country, and you've been thrown into an orphanage run by an order of Christian Brothers who are infamous for harsh treatment and abuse, you need something to hold onto.

Danny Ellis, a young Dublin lad, found that something in music, and it has served him well ever since. He learned to play trombone at the Artane Industrial School, and was good enough at it to make a living in various bands throughout Ireland. He now lives in Western When your mother abandons you, your father is working in another country, and you've been thrown into an orphanage run by an order of Christian Brothers who are infamous for harsh treatment and abuse, you need something to hold onto.

He now lives in Western North Carolina, where he has used his childhood experiences to seed both his music he is a singer-songwriter and this memoir. The book is well-written and for me, at least, makes one want to hear the music inspired by the experiences. It is at once heart wrenching, achingly poetic, and heart rendering. In the voice of young Danny Ellis, abandoned at age 8 to the care and "keeping" of the Irish Christian Brothers at the Artane Industrial School in Dublin Ireland, a story of unspeakable cruelty, redemption and healing is told effortlessly and even with humor.

Music is Danny's savior. One wonders what saviors, if any, the other young boys found? I wish I had been able to attend an event held here in Fernanadin I loved this book. I wish I had been able to attend an event held here in Fernanadina Beach last month, and heard Mr. Ellis speak. His writing in this memoir has been compared to the "lyric and melody" of his music, which I will be certain to seek out.

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Thank you Danny Ellis, for sharing your story. Very interesting book about the life of an eight year old boy who has just been sent to a Christian Brother's School because his mother can no longer care for him. As an adult he has tried not to remember this time in his life, however it comes back to haunt him. A professional song writer as an adult, it comes back to him in the form of a song. Oct 21, Mary rated it it was amazing. Harrowing, sad, funny, enlightening, an 'unputdownable' book. What more can I say Jan 06, Leslie rated it it was amazing. Wonderful writing, moving story, best I have read in awhile.

Good read Starting this book I was prepared for a book similar to Angela's Ashes. Really no comparison but I learned of the orphanages which I had not been aware of. Enjoyed the book and can recommend it. Happy that Danny Ellis found a happy life in spite of his difficult childhood. Jun 19, Christine Davis Mantai rated it really liked it.

Heaven’s Gate

The author tells a fair story. No whining, no self pity. Human and humane. He is currently living in North Carolina. Having received the book as a present I must admit I was a somewhat apprehensive in reading, believing it would be depressing, exploring a dark period from 20th century Ireland however I was very much mistaken. The book is written through the eyes and innocence of a child, perhaps showing a side of these institutions that is rarely heard of and yet never hiding the underlying fear and brutality that co-existed within the school walls.

Ellis holds nothing back exposing his own vulnerability and highlights even further the treatment of these abandoned children by Church and State. Artane Industrial School was established in July with the purpose of caring for orphaned, neglected and abandoned boys. However this grand concept soon changed when the enormity of the task was realised. It closed in Due to lack of cooperation from the Catholic Orders the report took nine years to complete.

The positive thing to arise from Artane is the Artane Band that is still active today and performs at football matches and state occasions. It was through the music of the Artane Band that Ellis writes was his refuge on surviving the institution that was Artane. There appears to be little in the way of reviews of this memoir. It tells the story of Danny Ellis from his early life living with his alcoholic mother in a disfunctional home and his subsequent separation from his family to spend eight years in the Artane Industrial School.

Danny tells it like it is, about his life in the poverty of the Dublin slums in the s; the abandonment of his mother and how he survives the sometimes brutal life of the orphanage to find his gift for music. He is a chil There appears to be little in the way of reviews of this memoir. He is a child who nobody wants and it is through the friendships that he makes with the other boys in the orphanage that he develops strategies to survive. He finds when he leaves the orphanage that these strategies are not acceptable in the real world and has to find a life for himself.

He must keep up or be swallowed by the amoebic nature of orphanage existence … or by his delusions of being reunited with his mother, sisters and even his father. The two friends race around in playground kickball and poker games, through tussles and courtyard interrogations. To do so, Danny must learn to read music.


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Danny must also avoid a bully, Fatser McBride, who pesters him for no good reason. Once accepted, Danny improves and rises in the ranks. He even travels to play shows outside of Artane. During such trips, he rooms with sponsor families that feed him, clothe him, and offer him bus fare. Understandably, glimpses of a stable family life remind Danny of his abandonment and abuse—the only stabilities he has ever known.

One particular band excursion takes him across the Atlantic to New York, where his father has been living. Their reunion proves sobering for Danny; his embittered father reveals the truth about his ma, even if Danny suspected it all along. What little hope Danny has of love and family through his father dissipates in the spell of Guinness that surrounds his old man.

So, young Danny retreats again to his trombone lessons and the wilderness of Artane. The Boy at the Gate proves most compelling when conveying the power of friendship under intolerable circumstances, as well as the saving grace of a purposeful life.

Symbol of the Stolen Generations

The final third of the book covers the next five to six years rather quickly, yet Ellis manages to gently usher the reader out the door rather than shove him. Also, this final section introduces new characters, who play into an ending that Hollywood could easily conjure … though never pull off as sincerely as Ellis does. Throughout The Boy at the Gate , though, Ellis explores the villain within us all.

Through one Brother Columbus, Danny discovers that the Brothers, though often tyrants, share many traits with the boys in their care. Columbus spots Danny, but spares the strap. I can find no rest here any more. Can evil really draw out the good in people? The Boy at the Gate reminds us that all humans embody Potter and Voldemort. Sometimes one wins out over the other … or eventually succumbs. Joseph J. Schwartzburt is a writer and literary performer based in Savannah.