Digital archaeology — the retrieval of Camden Town’s lost stories
Resurfacing after twenty years, interviews with the Irish residents of Arlington House, London’s biggest hostel for the homeless.
Back in 1998, I was too caught up in the dizzy excitement of the bright new digital world to give these interviews the attention they deserved. The internet was just opening up in an electric ocean of endless possibilities and was going to change everything we knew. I was determined that I was going to be a part of that bright new future. I didn’t understand that in the yin and yang of the web there was a dark side too.
I did put the stories together in various forms and some were published in The Irish Post and Force Ten. There were many different draft versions of a book I put together, but which didn’t quite work out at the time. I kept copies on some floppy disks — including one which had been repurposed from CompuServe, an early Internet Service Provider (forerunner of AOL). These disks were sent out in their millions to promote the brand and contained early ‘dial-up’ software. I flipped the little tab at the back of these ‘read-only’ disks and used them for storage instead. And then the disks got stuffed in a box and forgotten about.
The disk and its stories followed myself and the family as we moved many, many times, and finally ended up in the bottom of a box in a garage in Australia. Another disk contained fragments of my own short stories and their foreword by Shane MacGowan. That was my starter on digital archaeology.
The digital archaeology of Life Before Death & a leaking foreword from Shane MacGowan
In 1994 I published a small collection of my short stories in a Xeroxed pamphlet / chapbook / fanzine edition called…
Many thousands of miles away from Arlington House, I finally got back to those stories. During Covid, I some had time to dig out the interview transcriptions and drag them into shape. I like to think they offer insights into some extraordinary lives, and a neglected history, the lives of working people, the people who built the motorways, and sailed the seas and helped to create our modern world.
I hope you enjoy them.