My father was born in Carlow but came over to England at the age of 8 to join his father Ned, who, like many Irish immigrants at the time, had come to England to find work. I only found out recently that Ned was forced to leave Ireland because he’d led a strike at the blades factory in Carlow, and was blacklisted as a result.
I also found out that my great-grandfather, Patrick, had led a protest about Catholics not being able to buy land in Carlow, and, after the Free Army surrounded his house, ended up serving 5 and a half months in Mountjoy. He too couldn’t get work after that, and ended up picking reeds and making baskets, walking 11 miles a day, as the only way to support his family of nine children.
I didn’t get to know my Irish family until I was in my late twenties – but it’s good to hear that I come from good radical stock! (On my mother’s side, but going further back, they were also Irish immigrants – my great grandparents had a chip shop in the East End of London, making my grandmother a true Cockney!)
So today I want to celebrate everyone from the Irish diaspora in the UK, whether you’re first, second, third generation, or your roots go even further back. Have a good night!