Geese in the Hammer

Scott McKendry

Seamus Heaney Centre, Queen’s University Belfast


Owing to governmental neglect and local paramilitarism, the Shankill Estate in north Belfast is amongst the most socially deprived residential areas in north-western Europe. This contribution – an autoethnographic essay and three poems – drawing on journalism and the author’s own childhood experiences of growing up there, forms a meditation on the recent social history of this inner-city district. The essay interrogates the significance of the flocks of greylag geese which have wintered in the area both historically and over the past decade, postulating on the paradox of how their coming and going forms both an analogy with political disruption and the longing for social cohesion.


Autoethnography; Class; Belfast; Paramilitarism; Deprivation; Redevelopment; Housing; Wild Geese

Citation: McKendry, S., 2019. “Geese in the Hammer”, Irish Journal of Anthropology, 22(1), 147-160.