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The Boy at the Gate: A Memoir

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  168 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Danny Ellis is a survivor, strong and resilient. An acclaimed singer/songwriter, he is proud of the way  he handled his difficult past: poverty in the 1950s Dublin slums and the brutality of the Artane Industrial School. He felt as though he had safely disposed of it all, until one night, while writing the powerful song that would launch his highly-praised album, 800 Voice ...more
Hardcover, 376 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by Arcade (first published 2012)
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Ross Martin
Oct 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommended
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
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
At the age of eight, Danny Ellis was separated from his siblings and dropped off at the most notorious orphanage in Ireland. The Artane Industrial School housed over 800 orphans and delinquents that nobody wanted—a noisy, ragtag bunch of “humanity’s lost children.” His ma said, “I’ll be back for you at Christmas.” He saw her briefly one more time, then never again.

“Boy at the Gate” is the poetic prose version of singer/songwriter Ellis’s “800 Voices” CD. Some of the lyrics are interspersed in th
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 1950s, 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 ...more
Mar 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Merry Rassman
Mar 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. 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
Frances Johnson
Mar 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Harrowing, sad, funny, enlightening, an 'unputdownable' book. What more can I say .... everyone should read this. ...more
Jan 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful writing, moving story, best I have read in awhile.
Feb 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
I again picked up a book thinking it was about something else. It's a memoir of a singer and songwriter named Danny Ellis, whom I've never heard of! He had a very hellish childhood, and was eventually sent (?) to the Artane Industrial School which was run by the Irish Christian Brothers. This "orphanage" was notorious for physical and sexual abuse. Danny buried much of his memory and only upon disclosure in the media of abuse many years later, did he start to remember his formative years, before ...more
A. Perry
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Danny has taken the reader through a journey that puts them totally in the mind of the young Danny and orphaned Danny. The sorrow and hurt of abandonment, again and again, the leather strap and threat of, in some instances, brought tears to my eyes. The memoir reveals cruelty while leaving room for some good even in an environment where choices have been eliminated. A must-read. It will keep one wondering if that one thing is around the bend. While researching the author, I listened to the 800 v ...more
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Christine Davis Mantai
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author tells a fair story. No whining, no self pity. Human and humane.
Aug 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Enjoyable read.
May 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very fascinating and emotional..
Ben Kesp
Jul 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On completing the book, the words “Beautifully Written” came instantly to my mind. “The Boy at the Gate” is a memoir written by Danny Ellis who has beautifully captured his life in Ireland’s notorious Artane Industrial School that was run by the Irish Christian Brothers. Ellis is a touring singer/songwriter, teacher of voice and song writing workshops. 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
Apr 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: life-story
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 1950s; 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 ...more
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All, but musicians in particular.
Recommended to Brenda by: Read a review in local newspaper
A powerful book full of grit. determination, suffering, and deliverance, Danny Ellis' memoir is also a spiritual journey, a look into and an understanding of the depth of his soul. Black Daniel and the Gas Man appear as symbols of toughness and fear, threads that run through his life, especially at the Artane Industrial School. His story is compelling and his writing is a joy to read. While punishments meted out at the school are unbelievably cruel, there is also compassion in the most unlikely ...more
Jul 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a remarkable story, in that it tells about the brutality suffered at the hands of the priests at the orphanage, while weaving in bullying from other boys, which is so relevant today. At the same time he praises the effect that music has had on his life, something he may not have experienced without the encouragement from the priests at the "Artane School for Boys". He tells about life, such as it was, with his Mother - using the term loosely - and siblings on the streets of Dublin. It wa ...more
Tina Simms
Sep 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A heart-wrenching, touching and beautifully written memoir - a 20th Century "Oliver Twist"! However, like many of his countrymen, the author has that wonderful Irish sense of humor! Though incredibly sad to read what a child so young had to endure at the hands of the Christian Brothers at Artane, there were definitely times I laughed out loud - not an easy achievement given the subject matter. I will now be purchasing his CD, 800 Voices. Bravo, Mr. Ellis! ...more
May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
(Audible; read by the author) Autobiography of youth spent at Artane Industrial School in Dublin that was run by the Christian Brothers. Author spent much of youth to young adulthood reconciling himself to his abandonment by his parents and to his mother's leaving him at Artane. This kind and gentle man, who made it out of Artane with a training in music and shoe repair and without being sexually molested, understands the bad but sees the good. ...more
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Borrowed this from my dad who got a signed copy from Danny Ellis at the soIL Irish Fest when we watched his performance. He had some really good songs. The book started off kind of slow but then i got into it. So sad to read about the things the church did to children that were in their care.
Paul Hart
Jul 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Danny's brilliant story of his life in Artane further brings to life the stories he first put forward in one of the most under-rated albums of the past decade, 800 Voices. His storytelling is easy, personal, and deeply honest. An excellent companion to 800 voices. ...more
Kerry Cerra
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult
Simply heartbreaking, yet heartwarming too. One of the best memoirs I've read. ...more
Jan 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: have-this
Very sad but such a gripping read, an amazing survivor, found it heartbreaking as my adored dad had the same experience but in a different place. My dad was also a survivor and the most amazing man!
Oct 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Very good
LeeAnn Brown
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Feb 08, 2013
Joan Turner Rosner
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Mar 01, 2016
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With over 50 years experience in music, as a songwriter, composer, arranger and performer, Danny is the consummate musician. With a career that started in the orphanage band, then Ireland’s top showbands , a session singer at Abbey Road studios, and touring with Graham Parker, as well as the Foundations, his songs seamlessly blend his Celtic heritage as well as rock, pop, country and blues. His st ...more

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