Friday, 7 February 2014

Bakewell St.

Peter Joseph Breen outside 26 Bakewell St.

Patch Breen’s father, Peter Joseph Breen came from County Wexford. He had volunteered to join the British Army and served in the Dublin Fusiliers. He fought in WW1 and sadly lost a leg in battle in France.

Rose Lawson, Patch’s mother, was an English girl from Leeds. Her family had moved to Leicester and they rented a house at 26 Bakewell St. in Highfields.

Rose Breen

Peter and Rose met in 1945 at the Wolsey hosiery factory on Abbey Lane where they both worked. He was a sweeper up, she was an overlocker.  They went for drinks in a pub on Conduit St. opposite The Jolly Miller, called The Hare and Hounds run by Harry Callaghan. As far at Patch knows it was frequented by Irish and Scots drinkers.

She was a Protestant and he, a Catholic. This never seemed to be a problem although sometimes “ if she was in one room and he was in another my dad would ask me to go over and ask her if she’d become a Catholic. But there wasn’t any real seriousness in that I don’t think.”

There was quite an age difference; he was 65 and she was 45 when they were married in 1947 and they had Patch two years later on March 17 in 1949. “As far as I know I think the neigbours thought that Mam and Dad were too old to have a child. It was her first child and she was 47 and Dad was 67.”

Once they married, Peter moved into Bakewell St. with Rose and her father. Patch doesn’t know why his father came to Leicester but does know that the marriage certificate states that he was living in Slawson St. at the time.

 26 was a corner house and had several rooms that Rose’s family would rent out and Peter and Rose carried on. It was rented for £1 from Spencer’s at the time.

In the 50s, because of Irish migration, there were lots of Irish lodgers and Patch remembers a particular couple of Irish lads that lodged with them when he was a child: Paddy Holly was in his 20s and stayed with the family for about 10yrs. Pat Deveane stayed for a few months and later became Entertainment Secretary of the Spinney Hill Working Men’s Club.

Rose would tell a story that Pat forgot his keys one night and had to climb up the drainpipe. Patch has an idea that his Dad met the two lads, and other people that stayed in the house, at The Imperial pub in Highfields on Mere Rd, just round the corner. It wasn’t too far for Peter to walk with his bad leg.

Paddy Holly worked at Pollards in the Engineering on St. Saviour’s Rd. again not very far from Bakewell St. Patch remembers that he didn’t drink but he used to back the horses.

Across the street lived an Eastern European family: she was German and he was Czech, "as we used to say." They had a lodger, an Irish girl called Brenda. She was single and in her late fifties and had been a ballet dancer previously in her life.

An Irish couple lived next door at 24 Bakewell St; Minnie (nee Reid) and Alex Pryor. There was another Irish family down the road at No. 18, The Merrymans.

“The street then was cobbled, it wasn’t tarred, so on Bonfire night you could have bonfires in the street. I remember that we played out a lot on the streets but when they tarred them you couldn’t, which was probably in the late Fifties.”

Patch and his Mam, Rose, on holiday in Skegness.

Patch went to Sacred Heart School and would go to Saturday night mass at Sacred Heart Church with his father. He remembers Cannon Lindboom visiting one time and the Cannon died in the pulpit giving a sermon! “ I imagine he died there and then in those days there were no paramedics.” The parish priest was Father Murdoch.

He was taught by nuns at Sacred Heart; Sister Columbo was the Headmistress with two other nuns, Sister Joan and Sister Gemma, who each had a year class. There was a convent on Mere Rd above Bakewell St. and they’d walk from the convent to Sacred Heart everyday and back again.

Patch remembers
“ having a bit of a roll about  on the floor, a fight, not a real fight with my Polish friend Schindler, I can’t remember his first name. The two nuns passed us and didn’t say a word. The next day in assembly Mr. Riley called us out. “The two boys who were fighting on Mere Rd yesterday can they come to the front of the hall" and all the rest of it. Then we went to see the Headmaster, Mr. Blacklock. Sister Columbo must have left by then. He did nothing, had a quick word with us and that was it. I thought we were going to get the cane!””
Patch Breen, centre left, with his Mam, centre right, having a drink in a pub on the front at Skegness.

Further down from Bakewell St. on the corner with Chatsworth St, there was Lee’s newsagent where Patch’s friend Tez Lee lived. There was another newsagent, Bert’s on Hartington Rd, the other end of on Bakewell St. Tom Dorral ran the Post Office where Peter went for his pension.

“ We were near the railway on Bakewell St. and we used to play on this place called the Rally Banks. It was right near to the railway line, on top of Melbourne St, if I can remember. It was a steep embankment really and we just used to climb up it and slide down it. And there were lots of sticky sort of things. Any plant that was growing there used to stick on you but it was black with soot. Your trousers got black but you didn’t think about it as a kid really.”

Patch married Breda Maclean from Belfast in 1976. They met because they both worked on Dorothy Rd, on the other side of Spinney Hill Park. Patch worked at Consort Press, a printers. Breda worked in the office for Crypto Peerless at the other end of Dorothy Rd. They made machines for kitchens and offices and Breda worked in the office.

 “I was a van driver at the printers, I was always outside loading the van or driving. That’s how I met Breda, when she was walking by to the Post Office round the corner on St. Saviours Rd."

Patch’s father died in 1961 when Patch was 12. His mother Rose died in 1975 when he was 25 and he continued to live in the same house on his own. When Patch and Breda got married in 1975 she moved in too. Some years later when she became pregnant Patch realised just how damp the house had become and he felt ” you couldn’t bring a baby up in this”. So they had to find somewhere else to live.

The East Midlands Housing Association got them a house on Frederick Rd. This was great and just in time for the baby, Damien, being born in June 1982. But in Frederick Rd. they had a neighbor who made a hell of a lot of noise, ‘you could hear the bass coming through all the while”. There was nothing they could do about it and lived there for a year. A friend of Patch’s, Johnny Maloney, lived on the next street, Grove Rd. When he wanted to move out Patch asked the Housing Association if he and his family could move in and they agreed. The lads had a couple of bikes and cycled down to Narborough Rd. to hire a van. They put the bikes in the van, came back and moved the two houses on the same day!

Patch playing steel pans at Leicester's Caribbean Carnival mid 80s

For others who live on Bakewell St. click here.

If you'd like to be involved 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 or join The Irish in Leicester group on Facebook.

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


  1. Hi Lynda I found the Irish in Leicester very interesting. I need to correct you on one item, Minnie Pryor (nee Reid) was married to Alex Pryor ..Minnie was my Aunt, she died in 1984, predeceased by Alex ,I don't know what year he died.
    Also to the best of my knowledge No.26 is not a corner house it is in the middle between Berners St, & Buxton St. Good luck.., Annie Feeney. (nee Reid. ).

  2. Thanks for your comments and I'm glad you're finding the blog interesting. You're information is exactly the kind of " getting the details right" we need and I will amend. Did you know Patch and his parents Peter and Rose?

  3. Annie, are you related to the Patsy Feeney in the photo in this post?

  4. Hi Annie do you remember Minnie's cat Bella, she used to spend a lot of her time on the wall between Minnie's and our house. I remember Minnie calling her in for her food when I was a kid.