emigration grief in Clare

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matthewmacnamara
Posts: 112
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2011 6:38 pm

emigration grief in Clare

Post by matthewmacnamara » Thu Mar 26, 2020 12:57 pm

Dear Sheila,

I return to the topic of the experience of emigration, this time on the side of those who left.
In the 1960s a west Clare man was elected to the House of Commons as a Labour MP.
His name was Michael O'Halloran.
He had arrived in England as an emigrant. And in due course got involved in trade union activity.
His experience was at the top of the success scale, like that of many others.
Many others however remained at the bottom the ladder.
I am quite interested in collecting published documentation on
the experiences of our UK emigrants, successful and less successful,
especially on the building sites and lodgings. Their memory is worthy of honour.

Sduddy
Posts: 956
Joined: Sun Sep 26, 2010 10:07 am

Re: emigration grief in Clare

Post by Sduddy » Fri Mar 27, 2020 10:56 am

Hi Matthew

I'm afraid I have very little to contribute. When you mention building sites, Dialann Deoraí, by Dónall MacAmhlaigh, springs to mind straight away. That book left such an indelible impression that I think we forget that many thousands of Irish workers settled into ordinary, comfortable lives.

I must admit I knew nothing about Michael O’Halloran, so I looked at the Wikipedia entry and gather that he once held the seat that Jeremy Corbyn won in 1983. It’s hard to believe that at one time they both belonged to the same party.

Dialann Deoraí describes the day-to-day life of an Irish building worker in England in the 1950s. It was translated into English and published as An Irish Navvy: The Diary of an Exile by Valentin Iremonger. Here is a little bit from that translation:
And what a to-do there was about our bags! You’d think that we were carrying priceless jewels instead of the few old rags we had. There was one man who shoved onto the counter an old battered case that was tied with a bit of rope to keep it shut.
‘What have you got here?’ said the customs officer.
‘Yerra nothing at all,’ said my lad with a grin.
‘Open it up, all the same,’ said your man.
‘Sure, it’s hardly worth my while,’ said the lad.
‘Look here, you’re only wasting both our time. I can’t let you through until you open up that bag.’
‘Fair enough,’ said my lad and drew out of his pocket a bloody big knife with which he cut the rope around the case. The lid jumped up just like a Jack-in-the-Box and out leapt an old pair of Wellington boots that had been twisted up inside it. Devil the thing else was in the case – not even a change of socks. A melancholy wintry little smile crossed the face of the customs officer as he motioned your man to get along with himself. (p 5)
Sheila

matthewmacnamara
Posts: 112
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2011 6:38 pm

Re: emigration grief in Clare

Post by matthewmacnamara » Sat Mar 28, 2020 12:10 pm

Dear Sheila,
There is also the book THE MEN WHO BUILT BRITAIN by Ultan Conway
Wolfhound Press 2001.

For me emigration was a fundamental Irish experience.

Sduddy
Posts: 956
Joined: Sun Sep 26, 2010 10:07 am

Re: emigration grief in Clare

Post by Sduddy » Sun Mar 29, 2020 11:08 am

Hi Matthew
Thank you - I will try to get that book. The author is Ultan Cowley. Sorry I have so little to contribute.

Sheila

matthewmacnamara
Posts: 112
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2011 6:38 pm

Re: emigration grief in Clare

Post by matthewmacnamara » Fri May 08, 2020 10:12 am

Dear Sheila,

I return to Dialann Deorai under another aspect. It is its very positive comments on the on the British NHS. With its choice of doctor at his
surgery it is away beyond the then extant Irish dispensary system. Mac Amhlaigh explicitly notes that this is much more respectful
of the dignity of working people, and indeed more Christian. He is very willing to note, when the occasion arises, positive qualities
of the English people. Another theme is how some Irish emigrants are able to create a good life for themselves in England with regard to
housing, education and business. All of that in addition to descriptions of severe working and living conditions, and of sometimes nomadic quests for
work.

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