Our Story: A History of the Irish in Derby video transcript
Daithi MacMahon, Senior Lecturer in Media:
Dia dhuit agus céad fáilte, is mise Dáithí MacMathúna.
Hello I'm Daithi MacMahon and welcome to Our Story, a history of the Irish in Derby.
I'm originally from Inchicore in Dublin but after stints in Canada, Paris and County Kerry I've been a resident here in Derby these past four and a half years. Our Story is an oral history project that I'm proud to be part of with the support of the Irish community here in Derby, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and the University of Derby.
The project aims to collect the personal experiences of the Irish diaspora and act as a celebration of the links between Ireland and Britain. We're keen to understand what impression this film has had upon you so would be grateful if you could take two to three minutes to complete the short survey on the website below and if you would like to share your story with us we'd be delighted to hear from you so please do get in touch.
So now, without further ado let's get to the film and first Martin Cassidy will offer a bit of background to the project.
Slán agus beannacht.
I'm Martin Cassidy. I'm one of the members of the Derby St Patrick celebration committee.
The project is called 'Our Story: A History of the Irish in Derby.' Our main aim is to capture the individual stories of the Irish community, um in terms of them moving to England and settling and making a life for themselves in Derby. We really want to find out about people's individual stories, uh to hear about you know their, their, why they came to England, to hear about them settling and making a life for themselves and their family in Derby and, and really it's about them telling their personal story.
The, the project overall is called Our Story because we feel that's made up of the individual stories of the community in Derby and we really, really would like people to come forward to participate in this project. If you're interested in participating in the project then contact myself, Martin Cassidy or Mary Murphy or any of the other members of the Derby St Patrick's celebration committee.
Patrick Francis Dwyer:
My name is Patrick Francis Dwyer and I come from a little village called The Swan in County Meath.
I live in Littleover now and I first came to the UK in 1954 when I was 14 years old and I worked in London. So I came to England to a place called Shepherd's Bush in London where I stayed with my uncle for a while and then I got a job in the Post Office selling postage stamps and, and um sending out telegrams but I didn't like it. I only stayed there about five weeks and then I got a job making sausages, Walls sausage factory and I gradually went from one job to another.
I stayed a long number of years with them lads and then I moved up to Manchester in about 1960 and I got a job in the mine, working down the coal mines. In the, in the mine there had to be a certain fellow appointed for to handle the explosives and I never thought for one minute that a fellow with an accent like mine and come from Ireland would be put in charge of explosives but that was my job. For every time we would drill the holes in the tunnel, I would do the blasting.
When I came over here and I went to work in the coal mines some of the lads got a wind of it that I used to do a bit of boxing so there was a fellow there he was, he used to be a trainer and he asked me to join their troop and I joined it and I think it was about 1963 I won the light heavyweight champions of the NBC, that was the National Coal Board and the trainer said to me after the bout and I got the medal he said 'look' he said, Patrick he used to call me he said 'you'll always be a fighter but you'll never be a boxer so I knew it was time to hang them up. he was right.
My name is Ellen McGraw. I was born in a place called Clonbrick which is in the parish of Solloghod in County Tipperary but I first of all went to school in a place called Isle, Isle Cappawhite. It was the national school and our head master there was Mr O'Donovan, a very fine teacher but he had a great love for Irish history but a bit slanted. So I grew up with a very republican outlook and I got rid of that when I came to England.
I, I love my primary school with Mr and Mrs O'Donovan, it was only two of them, it was only about 500 yards from where we lived and we could come home for our lunch which was a big treat. Not only would we come home but my mother would have six or eight other youngsters who had forgotten their lunch because my mother's bread was better than their mothers and she'd come in and do them bread and butter and jam and they'd love it.
There was a lot, there was only 70 nuns in Derby when I entered. They didn't really give me much choice about what I wanted to be but what I didn't want to be was a nurse. I didn't want to be a nurse so they said then in that case you can be a teacher. So I began to, I went to Digby Stuart Training College in London and spent two years there and came back and I was only back probably six months when the superior said to me I want you to sign this paper. So I said to her, I had great courage, I said to her 'well my mother said I mustn't sign anything unless I know what it is.' When she said 'it's where you're going to teach' and I said 'where is that?' she said 'Swadlincote.' Well I'd never heard of Swadlincote and it was 18 miles outside Derby, a little place in mining area and so I signed up.
My name is John Devaney. I come from Pontoon Road in Castle Bar, outside Castle Bar and I left there when I was 18, to come to England, to Leeds. Good life, yeah right. No one had any money but it was a great life somehow. You didn't need much did you because no one had much. Your neighbours didn't have big cars or anything like that did they? They had nothing. A train journey it cost 3 pounds 17 and 6 pence to get from Castle Bar to Leeds. That was the boat, train, train back down yeah.
Leaving me parents and that at home and my brothers and sister wasn't too nice but leaving, when you saw the lights dimming and then there was none, that was probably the saddest part. So you were going into the unknown then wasn't you really.
Er my wife, myself, my wife uh Sue and Ken and Christine and Paul and we go out every Saturday night somewhere, it could be Matlock, Belper, Duffield, Derby Willington anywhere. Someone will say 'well that's where we go Saturday night' and we go and that friendship has lasted 18 years and we still go out so very nice, very nice yeah.
The name is Paddy Condon from Killeenduff, Easkey, County Sligo I first come to England in 1965.
It was quite sad actually, my sister Kathleen was a nurse in London in Edgeware General that she come home to get married on St Patrick's Day 65. She was going with her intended to pick the cake up the day before and he got killed in a car crash along with a cousin of mine. My sister wasn't badly injured at all thank goodness.
My brother, younger brother and sister did get badly injured but my sister decided to come straight back to London to carry on with her nursing about three weeks after the accident and I came with her to give her moral support if you like.I suppose yeah I was toying with the idea of coming over anyway because I was working about 75, 80 hours a week in the general store for a fiver a week which wasn't great money.
Then in 1969 I come to Derby got a job on the buses as a conductor. I mean where I come from is a lovely spot like I say, right beside the sea so Derby is quite a way, a way from the sea so yeah I missed that yeah.
I remember going to the King's Hall to a meeting along with about 800 others hoping to convince Brian Clough not to go to Brighton, to come back and stay with Derby County but it was too late he'd already signed for Brighton.
My name is Monica Dwyer and I'm from County Roscommon and I now live in Derby after traveling many many places such as Australia we live for seven years.
We started off in Manchester where I met Paddy and we went from there to Australia and back to Ireland then back to Derby and back to Ireland again, then lived in Buxton, had a guest house there and back down to Derby and that's where we were at the moment.
We had in Ireland, we had a little farm and a shop, grocery shop so I had a stepfather and he used to go out in the van to all the houses and deliver the groceries and all that but things weren't working out too good so we decided, well my mum decided, we should be moving to Manchester which we did.
The journey over I don't remember a lot of it. I do remember being on the boat and it was absolutely freezing cold. It was very rough, I remember people being sick including myself and I remember getting off the boat and coming on the train to, from Holyhead I would imagine, it would be Manchester and it was like three o'clock in the morning and I thought, I was just bewildered. I was you know, didn't know what to expect. I was only 14 and a half not even 15.
Well my husband was in the building trade and it wasn't going too well at the time in the 80s so he decided to come to Derby. He had a sister, older sister and um she was saying 'you know you should come over to Derby, probably work is good here' and uh we're here since and that's about six.., 17 or 18 years ago.
My name is Peter O'Sullivan and I'm originally from West Cork, a place called Kilnamartyra it's in the Gaeltacht and it's, it's halfway between Killarney and Cork almost halfway, halfway um and at the moment now I live in, I've been in Derby now for quite a while and I live in, over in Littleover.
I suppose your childhood you do id, id, idealize it to, it to a degree and it was, it was out in the fresh air and we did have a poultry farm that kind of made us stand out a little bit from the neighbours because we smelled different you know. Every time that the chicken muck used to get spread in the field everyone knew about it but it was, it, it was an enjoyable childhood um but it was a farming childhood so we we didn't really ever have holidays, it was always working.
Um my parents only had a very small farm there's only I think it was 26 to 28 acres and the land was so bad and this is the truth, the cows used to sink in the fields, some of the fields and we have to dig a trench from them and try and rescue the cattle before they ruin their legs.
Well moved over to the UK, um it was October the 5th in 1991 and we landed in Hull and that was to do my last year of schooling and then moved to Derby then on July the 17th 1992 and started work on July the 20th 1992.
So I've been here since then and um so the settling in was um, it was a process but it's, it was fine and I think what actually helped when we moved up, when I bought my first property in um Wheeldon Avenue there was a network there, there was some really good neighbours and that kind of embedded in yeah you can become part of this place even further.
Stephen Gallagher, Aughnasheelin, that's in County Leitrim in the province of Connacht. Since January 1960 there will be 59 years in Derby, in Derby this January.
If you start to reminisce we had a fantastic young life. There was nine in our family, three sisters and five brothers who were out in the wilds in Leitrim where we had our own small holding and we had of everything you needed. We had the mountain above us, Sliabh an Iarainn, then we had the river out the back where we was to fish for trout and that and then with the fish in the lake for pike and shade and all the different types of fish. We used to do a lot of hunting up for rabbits and after foxes and badgers.
We had a great youth life which some mightn't agree with now but that's the life we had, that was it then. There were great times and there's a lot of families and friends around and everybody helped everybody.
Well my first job when I come to Derby with the Irish community was I used to get the pioneer book from Dublin and I used to go to the hall every month and sell the irn, the pioneer books to the all these friends that you would know when people were pioneers then and then we carried on, Father Tim come to Saint Mary's in 1961 and he was always disappointed that there was nowhere for the Irish to meet or have of their own, so we started having meetings at our house with the hope of one day we would get our own premises which we did 30, 33 years ago now.
Sarah Anne Coleman:
I'm Sarah Anne Coleman. I come from Knock in County Mayo, Ireland.
1955 I came over here. All my friends had gone, my and my two brothers had come over, the oldest and my sister god rest her, as she had, she was working in the town so it was just me left with my father and I didn't leave him on his own and I said I wanted to go because everybody else was going all around us, It was a bit lonely really.
So one of my brothers, they used to come home regular from England and I got him at home and he went to visit one of his friends and when he came back I had gone because I wouldn't, he wouldn't have let, they didn't want me to go.I could have stayed there and had the farm but I just wanted to go because my sisters are gone, they were gone as well and my brother stayed at home then with my father.
I did like Derby, it was different then it is now it's but I still like Derby. I must have, I stayed there. I was always treated with respect, I don't know about everybody else and my family has always been respected and they've, I've made them respect every, you know what I mean you bring them up to respect people and you, they respect you, you respect them. That's it.
I could have stayed there and had the farm. They wanted me to, I didn't want to. I'm glad I didn't because well it was lonely, I think when everybody around where, everybody was going away and we didn't, didn't want to leave I was lonely my father, but I knew my brother wouldn't leave him on his own you see so he, he got there but he was all right yeah.
Declan McGuiness uh born in 1961 in Daingean, County Offaly a small town in Offaly between, halfway between Tullamore and Edenderry and born um into a big family, family of 12 children living in a small two bedroom cottage outs, about three mile outside the village. A corrugated iron roof and no water, no toilets indoors.
We had to head down the fields when nature called because we were in that house until I was um nine or ten years of age and then we got a new house in in the village of Daingean, a council house three bedroom, a toilet um near the school etc.
It was a massive, massive change in, in my life. even at so young. Eventually I um just decided to make that phone call to my uncle which, who lived in London and made the decision to, big decision to leave. Heart-breaking really saying goodbye to my mother and it happened several times after that and it was a horrible experience. It was probably the worst bit about is leaving your mother in tears on the doorstep yeah that was, it wasn't, that wasn't the straightforwardest of uh immigrations really.
The Irish club um the thriving Irish club, when we came visiting um yeah we, we went to the Irish club all the time. Um also the church because we were Mass goers and you meet people there. We had um my sisters already living here and their families so through them you get to know people but yeah the Irish club was really thriving at the time and with second generation Irish as well as you know immigrants like myself um so it was, it was an easy place to meet people, to meet people with lots of stuff in common.
Sheila Galvin from Cork, County Cork, Blarney County Cork.
There was no work in Ireland so I came over in 1954. I don't know how you'd explain it. It was very, it was very different because uh Blarney was a sort of a country place and that and Derby was a town. I associated with the Irish. I, the English don't get me wrong, I was, I was very pleased with English and the way the Irish, the IRA were carrying on, I was very pleased they have English, didn't do me any harm they were ever so good, they were so every so nice to me.
The people in Derby were very nice people yes. I was over here to fortnight and I wrote to my sister, my mother was dead at the time, I wrote to my sister and I told her I was here so she said what you're doing in that foreign land, what are you doing in the foreign land? She said you don't know anybody over there, you know anybody over there so she says come back and no I'd never came back, I never, I go over as often as I can otherwise well, I mean I've brought my family up here so this is for have made me home since.
Eamon Murray originally from Roscommon, Ireland and now living in Derby.
Well a bit apprehensive really. I was traveling with the, a chap I met, he was home from holiday, Jim Martin, he was on holiday from England. So I met him and he said come back with him, plenty of work in England yeah.
When, when they bought the Irish Centre in 1985 in Beckett Street I became a member. I was a committee member for a while as well, a couple of years. The first dance of winter was the Ritz ballroom, off Normanton Road and that's where I met my wife to be actually, in 1956.
Yeah I mean they got crowds up to 42 000 in the Baseball Ground. There'd be all the different, different areas of the the ground you know what I mean? There was a, the Osmaston end, the Normanton end, there was the, the Popular side as they called it and all the young, the younger generation within that.
It was all standing as well, there was no seats so it was a, I think more exciting than sitting, sitting down watching them, everyone was close together you know. For us now the struggle to get 28, 29 they're all sitting you know.
Yes I'm Marie Jetson um from North Kilkenny, Ballyragget parish.
This matron was coming over from London to interview staff at the Clubhouse Hotel in Kilkenny and this friend Joan and I went along and we had an interview and we were accepted to come to Redhill in Surrey to do our nurse training. Our managers at the hospital, matrons they were in them days or assisted matrons or whatever, they were all Irish as well so we all felt very at home you know what I mean and we were looked after and cared for, we had our board and lodgings, our wages was something like 13, it was 13 pounds for the, for the month.
We came to Derby you know, when we came to Derby uh people were very friendly.
Um we live, we set up home in Littleover where I'm still there uh 40 years later and um but I do remember arriving in Derby and being there about a year when I was sitting at Derby Bus Station and waiting on a bus and there was a gentleman sitting beside me and it was the funeral day of the Lord Mountbatten and he had the paper and of course they were carrying out the coffin and I had kind of made some kind of a comment this gentleman, saying what a, what a tragedy and how awful and suddenly he said 'are you Irish?' and I said 'yes' very timidly and he said, wondering what was going to come next, and he said well the best player that ever played in the Baseball Ground was an Irishman. I didn't, I think I was so shocked to get that reaction that I didn't think of asking him who was the, who was the player.
England has been good for me and my family and I'm glad you know, I came to England when I did. I'd gone to a fortune teller before I came over here who said you mustn't cross, you're thinking of crossing the water and you mustn't because you will regret it but I have no regrets.