Out For Coffee… With Anne Ingle

anneAnn Ingle’s idea of a coffee consists of lunch, and so we meet in Dublin’s Bewleys Café on Grafton Street. As we enter the hall, it looks like a lustrous scene straight from the movie ‘Titanic’ – with its old wooden staircases, stained glass windows, and quaint atmosphere – it makes the outside street seem tame.

Ann, who is the Chairperson of the Sponsoring Committee of Sandymount Community Services, sat directly across from me wearing a long cream jacket, which she took off as she sat.

Brought up in Hackney in East London, she marvels at how big the place is compared to her home here in Dublin. “London was a great place to be, but not a great place to bring up a family because it’s so spread out. You could live in London, and it’d still take you an hour to get to the West End where a play might be on,” she says.

It was in Cornwall, in the early 1960s, where Ann, and her husband, would become avid fans of the beat generation – generally associated with popular bands of the time that emerged in the gritty towns of Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham. “I thought it was a band,” I said unknowingly. “How would you know what it is?” she replied. “Think of Jack Kerouac and ‘On The Road’ we were pretenders really, both hanging around living in tents,” she finishes to have a taste of her tomato and basil soup which smelled pretty nice.

The couple would make several trips back and forth to Ireland, eventually settling here to raise a family. “What did you make of Ireland when you first came here?” I asked. “Oh, I thought it was a crazy place, so backwards, it’s not anymore of course, Dublin is a very cosmopolitan city now,” she said.
The lunch had now progressed – although Ann was still relishing the soup – she shifted gears to talk about her working life. “I was a secretary in the University of London. I went to work for one of the lecturers, John Burrows,” she said.

I probe about the teacher. “what did he teach in?”

“He used to say to me ‘you’re too old for toys and too young for boys.’ He was a lecturer in sociology, and gave me loads of books to read, he was a great inspiration,” she said. “That kind of environment was good for me because I was into reading but needed a mentor and that’s what he was like to me,” she says as we engage in a meaningful conversation about the type of books John gave her. “He would have introduced me to D.H. Lawrence, Arnold Bennett, and John Steinbeck,” she said.

Reading played a pivotal role in shaping the kind of woman Ann is now. She has a calm and polite demeanor whose intellectual capacity to inform and relate are second to none. The feeling you get when you sit next to her is that on the inside there’s a novelist or academic just yearning to get out.

“I say, I did want a life as an academic, but with bringing up children that all went out the window. I was born to be a mother,” she said. Ann did embark on a journey to spark the inner academic by studying English and History at Trinity College. “My two favourite subjects,” I remark.

“It took me three years to get into Trinity,” she said. After a brief stint in Ringsend College where she took the Leaving Certificate, Ann went on to Pearse College in Crumlin before applying and getting accepted to Trinity. “I loved it, I adored going into the whole place, I loved being with the younger people. It’s a great life. The four years were hard, I loved the challenge of it,” she said.

Trinity came into Ann’s life after she had spent six years as Editor of NewsFour, which filled her intellectual capacity enormously. “How was your lunch?” I remark. “The soup was lovely, I’d recommend this place to others,” she says as we conclude our lunch.

By Liam Cahill