The 1950s were a dismal time in Ireland. While the economy tanked, the Catholic Church, at the height of its power, maintained strict control over social life. Desperate to find a better life, many long people emigrated. 500,000 people, a number equivalent to 80% of people born in the Free State between 1931 and 1941 left. This was a level of emigration unseen since the Great Hunger of the 1840s.
The vast majority of these emigrants went to Britain with many making London their home. However they found the English capital isolating, lonely and unwelcoming. The poster in boarding houses stating ‘No Dogs, No Blacks, No Irish’ embodied the racism they faced. While many of the 1950s generation are no longer with us, in the late 1990s author Catherine Dunne recorded their stories. The experiences of these emigrants were the basis for her book An Unconsidered People – The Irish in London.
In this moving episode Catherine recounts the experiences they shared with her, the racism they faced as well as the isolation and loneliness. She also reveals the importance of solidarity within the Irish community, the legendary Irish clubs such as the Galtymore in Cricklewood and how many made a better life in the face of adversity.
You can find Catherine’s book An Unconsidered People – the Irish in London here.
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