Friday, 28 September 2012

Callaghan: No. 43 most popular Irish surname

Finally my name has appeared in the 100 most popular Irish names. No. 43: at least it's in the top 50! says Callaghan...

" .. was traditionally taken to mean 'frequenter of churches', but is now thought to be a much older word meaning 'bright-headed'."

I'll take the older meaning thank you. Do we really just hear what we want to hear?

Of the many Callaghan images available I've chosen this one because it doesn't have all the heraldic symbolism, suits of armour etc. Despite the historic bloody battles and feuds I''ll just take a wolf passing through the trees.

Thanks to for their continuing information.

If you'd like to tell your family's story ontact us on 0116 276 9186 or pop in to:
The Emerald Centre, Gipsy Lane, Leicester. LE5 OTB

We're now also on Twitter: follow me on  @irishleicester

Click here to view a map of The Irish in Leicester.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Slums of Leicester

Last Friday I went along to Beaumont Leys Library to hear a talk by local historian Ned Hewitt on The "Slums of Leicester". I'd already had this book out of the library and had shared it with the Irish Elders at The Emerald Centre. ( Ironically it was sitting in the back of my car with a £3 overdue fine while I was listening to Ned this morning!).

Upper Conduit St. 1966: I think my old house is the one on the right.
The talk focussed on slum clearance from the 19century up to the 1970s and often referenced streets that very few people knew or had heard off. But as he came closer to our contemporary history  we began nodding our heads and reminiscing.

As fascinating as the local history aspect was I was more interested in the emotional investment we have in the places we once lived in. My first question to Ned was " How do you define a slum" because I know that I had felt very defensive about the area I grew up in being defined that way. My friend, who had grown up around Orchard, Wilton, Royal East St, had gone along intending to tell Ned, in no uncertain terms, that her family most definitely HAD NOT lived in a slum!

What was clear to me that there was a great sense of pride and identity around the room in those courtyards and streets which were overlooked by filthy factories, had outside toilets and sometimes very little light. I'm not romanticising the poverty or the overcrowding. Those properties became slums through landlord neglect, poor planning and the political will to change no matter who got in the way: some of the pictures in the book are shocking but not everyone lived like that and many people in the audience remembered  a great sense of community and neighbourliness.
The large Irish wave of immigration that came after the Great Famine settled around Wharf St.

Wharf  St. 1966
 "The Irish settled in Green St. - perhaps attracted by the name - and of course, the neighbouring streets. They would naturally cling to one another, though often at variance. Contention is better than solitude says a Celtic proverb, and Celts are not the only people that hate each other for the love of God. Those that could not get navvying and farm work took to "chip-chopping, mat-making," and "swag". A swag basket is a hawker's basket, and is filled with tapes, matches, cottons, laces, buttons, pins and so forth.The more thrifty took larger houses and began to lodge the new arrivals and the greenceens. ( raw recruits come over for the harvest)" Tom Barclay. The Wyvern. 1895.

Upper Conduit St. 1966, a couple of years after we had been moved out to Eyres Monsell.

The Slums of Leicester: Edited by Ned Hewitt.

Thanks to Dennis Calow at Vanished Leicester for the old photos.Vanished Leicester is part of a fantastic resource, My Leicestershire , which is part of The East Midlands Oral History archive 

If you'd like to tell your family's contact us on 0116 276 9186 or pop in to:
The Emerald Centre, Gipsy Lane, Leicester. LE5 OTB

We're now also on Twitter: follow me on  @irishleicester

Click here to view a map of The Irish in Leicester.