Friday, 30 May 2014

Cottesmore Rd

Katrina Creighton’s Mum and Dad came here in 1956. Her Dad, Harry, was from Abbeyleix in the midland part of Ireland, and her Mum, Molly (Clarke) was from Drogedha. Her brother Bobby came here first in 1955 when he was 18. He was on his way to Liverpool with a friend and his friend wanted to meet somebody here in Leicester, another friend. This friend said, “There’s loads of work in Leicester. Why don’t you stay here?” So he did.

Bobby’s other sister, Marie, and girlfriend, Deidre, soon followed and they lived in a flat on Mere Rd. At the time there were notices up saying "No blacks, No dogs, No Irish". They all found jobs and Bobby worked for Frears biscuits and his sister worked for Imperial typewriters on East Park Rd.

In 1955 Katrina’s parents decided to move here. She and her Mum arrived first while her dad stayed in Ireland to wind things up.

“I don’t think my Dad really wanted to come but my brother and sister were here so they were writing and coming back. They came back for a visit and I remember my sister bought me a load of sweets, English sweets which I thought was great, different.  But I think he was kind of a bit reluctant to come over.”

They stayed with her Mum’s friend’s cousin who they’d not met before in a house near Frog Island. It was two up two down and she remembers it didn't have a bathroom. It had an outside courtyard containing a block of three toilets which was shared by all the other houses. She remembers a very large wooden toilet seat that was squared and they smelt awful!

"I went to Slater St School. Coming from a girls’ convent and being taught by the nuns I was so shocked when a boy said he wanted to kiss me-the joys of being eight! I soon decided I didn’t like Leicester. We left what was a Corporation house in those days in Crumlin in Dublin, which was a semi with a large garden and an upstairs bathroom and a huge green with loads of kids to play with so I missed all that –it was horrible. I hated coming here. “

St. Peter's Rd

When her Dad arrived about a month later the family rented a bedsit on St Peter’s Rd. It was a large Victorian house. They had one room with two single beds, a table, a chair and a sideboard. They had to share the bathroom with three other sets of people.

Medway School, St. Stephen's Rd.
“My Mum and Dad slept in one bed and my sister and I slept in the other. Dad got us an electric ring for Mum to cook on and we washed up in the bath. I changed schools and started Medway Junior School and I remembered I hated it. My family all had work and saved every penny so that they could buy their own house. I remember the estate agent, I think it was Henley and Son, Mr. Henley, lending me Dad fifty pounds to put into his account so he could get a mortgage to purchase the house, our first house. He was ever so kind. Me Dad never forgot that.”

The next house was on Cottesmore Rd. It was cheap and disgusting. Katrina remembers it was damp, it had cockroaches and silverfish and the family had to go back to all sleeping in one room. It took them six months and several fumigations to make it habitable before it was fit to live in but resulted in her Mum having a breakdown. She changed schools again, this time to Sacred Heart on Mere Rd.

She liked living on Cottesmore Rd; made friend with the local kids and the teachers at school were nice.
“There were two nuns who taught us; they were nothing like the ones in Ireland. I was always getting the cane there. I was hopeless. I couldn’t do the work, only later to discover I was dyslexic and I was always talking. “

East Park Rd WMC
She remembers

“ We shopped in Green Lane Rd, Paddy’s Swag shop. They sold everything-a kid’s dream. My parents went to East Park Rd Working Men’s Club on a Saturday night and I remember going there many times, watching the acts and eating mushy peas and vinegar. Meanwhile my eldest brother Harry and his new wife who had remained in Dublin decided to join us here in Leicester a year later. They lived with us and Harry soon got a job at the BSUM British Shoe Company, Belgrave Rd. They saved and rented a house on Prospect Hill. A year later my sister-in law’s whole family moved over. She was the eldest of nine-they all lived around the Charnwood St. area. That’s the Houlihans.”

Prospect Hill

Prospect Hill

Harry returned to Ireland in fifty-nine. He’d made enough money to set up a business and he lives in Ichicore and celebrated his eightieth birthday last October.

Katrina’s father first worked at the Post Office and then he was a cobbler so he probably went to work in a shoe factory. He was the first one in the country to set up a “Heel Bar” in Lewis’. He was possibly working for Steadman’s. He worked for them and they asked him to do it. He did key cutting as well which was a new thing. She remembers him going down to London to set one up.

"The Wrafters are quite talented artists and musicians. Grandad was a musician and he had an audition and was accepted at the London School of Music but his wife wouldn’t let him go. He taught music all around Ireland but that sort of talent has moved to the grand daughters now and they’re all kind of like musicians. It’s amazing, and also one of his brothers was an artist and my brother in Ireland he plays the trumpet and he is a fantastic musician so that’s passed to him. Unfortunately he’s deaf now.”

One of her uncles  went to New York; "well he went to Canada and legally went to America, illegally went to America like they did. They’d just crossed over the border but he could never leave America ‘cos he couldn’t get back in. So that’s Paddy. “

Wrafter with a W is unusual name and Katrina has started a group on Facebook called 
“Name Wrafter” to see how many Wrafters were out there. She has around one hundred and forty in Canada, America, Australia.

“I had actually cousins who’d never met but worked out their family trees. It’s been really interesting because most Wrafters are an R.”

She feels there was nowhere to play in Leicester… “There was nowhere, we just played in the street whereas in Dublin we went from, it was a Corporation House. They were clearing the slums in the middle of Dublin so built all these new housing estates after the war. It was a really nice area. It’s still there now and I go visiting sometimes. But there was a big, massive big green you know to a little kids it was massive and it was just full of grass and they just mowed it and we used to...I remember going round and round on me scooter with all my friends, loads of kids, typical Dublin and I loved it there, it was lovely.”

Coming to Leicester was very different.

“Well you’d got no friends. I mean we had that awful house we went to the first sort of month, I think it was or three weeks, it was horrible. We lived with that woman and she, we didn’t know her, her and her son. He was a bit older than me, and the four of us slept in one bed when we first came over and you think well, they’re strangers!  And she had a lodger, he slept in the other room.”

Imperial Typewriters.
Katrina worked at Imperial Typewriters too when she first left school in the correspondence office, making the tea and taking the post out.

In terms of anti-Irish feeling she remembers..
“ The only time was when the IRA started their bombing. And my Mum used to go the Conny club near where they lived, near Cottesmore Rd, Uppingham Rd way, Worcester Rd. They used to go to the Conservative Club even though my Dad always voted Labour. Anyway, when the bombing started they had a go at her and she was absolutely devastated, they were like her friends. People said horrible things to her, took her a long while to go back. That’s the only prejudice we’ve ever come across. Quite a close community aren’t we really.”

“Me Mum loved Leicester. She said Leicester was good to her and her family and she wouldn’t hear anybody say anything bad about Leicester. The streets were clean, you know, she, she fitted in very well. “

Thanks to Colin Hyde for the modern day photos: East Midlands Oral History Archive

If you'd like to be involved in The Irish in Leicester project contact us on 0116 276 9186 

or pop in to: The Emerald Centre, Gipsy Lane, Leicester. LE5 OTB or Duffy's, Pocklington's Walk, Leicester, LE1 6BU

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. 

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Moat St, Wigston.

John Myers was born May 10th 1935 in  a little village in South Limerick, Athlaca. “Well about a mile from Athlaca. My actual address was Tunnelby but Athlaca was the national school what I went to. “

He remembers it was pretty rough at the time. 
“I worked on the farms because my area was all farming, horses and beef really to be honest. Well, nearly everybody that I went to school with, in my class, they all had emigrated to different parts of the world. Some had gone to Canada, some had gone to America, quite a few in England and I was about the second last one that was left really to be quite honest. But we had a bit of trouble at home so really and truly, I suppose, at the end of the day, I’d got no choice. My mother come with me. The two of us come over together in1958.”

He came to Leicester in 1958 for two reasons; he’d got a sister already living in Market Harborough and his school friend had come over 12 months before that and was driving for the Midland Red, in Wigston. John actually wrote to him and he said “Well come over, I’ll get you a job.”

“So, he got me, he was in digs in Wigston, and he got me digs there. We had a lovely old lady called Mrs Glenser. And then I stopped there, (in Moat St) till I moved digs after about 12 months I went to Wigston Magna and I stopped with a Mrs. Morris till I actually got married.” 

 “I’d been over here about six months in the digs like and I come back from work one night and Mrs Glenser says to me “I’ve got a friend come over, he’d be company for ya, cos I was the only body that was in the house like. I walked in and there was this other chap there and he was from Dublin, Paddy McCormack.” So John  knew him ever since he come over as well. Paddy was in the digs for  nearly six months. He was a plumber by trade and he found a job in Enderby. When John first started he was working with a little building company in Blaby. When Paddy came over  he was working in Enderby going around all over the Midlands doing pipe work. John changed jobs and went to the Gas Board, on Aylestone Rd and was there for about three or four months.

“After every shift I’d have two and a half days off and you know, what do you do? You just walked about and I got fed up with it. So my mate said to me  “We’re doing a job in Kettering, which is in Northhamptonshire,  and my boss wants a bit of help for two days. Would you be willing to help?” I said yeah and I went with him for two days doing pipe work at filling stations, petrol stations and I enjoyed the job and after two days I come back and another and he says “ We want you again next week on your days off” so I went in again and when I come back after the two days he offered me a job, this other job.”

The company was a small company called John Weekfields with only three or four employees. John stayed there for twenty nine years until his health went and he had to stop at fifty four.

 “But I really enjoyed it, great. So that’s why I never moved out of Leicester cos I liked Leicester from the first day I come in. I went to the sister in Market Harborough, me and my mother, and when I was coming into Leicester to meet my pal Joe Burns, I loved the place, well it was lovely then I will admit. I loved the place and I said I’m not leaving here. And I did meet a lot of Irish lads when we used to go around the town at night and every time, the following week you’d go down and you’d say “where’s so and so?” “Oh, he’s moved” and then they all started moving out of Leicester to London, Birmingham and Manchester. But I never, I stopped where I was.”

“Leicester was lovely and clean. It was lovely to go into the town, I always lived up in Wigston and it was lovely going into the town, it was lovely and clean, the shops were great. Not like it is today really, to be honest, you know, beautiful. Well that’s why I stopped in Leicester. I had chances, you know, to move to Manchester and that, you know. I was offered work up there but I wouldn’t do it, you know. I said I’m happy where I am and that’s it. Cos me mother was in Market Harborough as well and I was able to get to see her at the weekends. She was living with my sister. So that was one of the reasons I suppose I didn’t move.”

John met his wife, Christine Hyland, from Dublin, coming out of church in South Wigston.

“We used to meet Paddy McCormack sometimes after mass, after 11.00 mass in South Wigston, and I seen him walking down the footpath. It was him and his missus, cos his wife had come over to him. And there was another girl with them so he spotted me and he come back and he says “ I’ve been trying to find you all week.”  I says “Why what’s the matter?” He says “There’s somebody here from Dublin, would you take her to the pictures tonight?” I says “ What are you on about?” you know. He says, “She’s been over here for a week” (she worked with his missus in Dublin at Lemon sweets). So I said all right then. So that’s how it started. She went back after the holiday and I never heard no more for about nine months and she used to write me in that time. All of a sudden I got a letter saying “Can you find me a job? “and that’s how it all started. So she come over and she was living in Wigston as well so. Eventually we got married but unfortunately I lost her when she was forty-two; a massive heart attack and that was know.”

John's wife worked at, in South Wigston at Frear’s biscuits and they bought a house on Lothair Rd.

"I had good times and bad times. I had some rough times over the years like, you know, with losing her and having 3 young kids to bring up; it wasn’t easy but lucky me mother was there for me, you know. And after when I lost the wife, twelve months after I lost me mother as well. So she went as well. I think cos they were very close actually. It was amazing how close they were and, em I lost her as well so I went through a very bad patch for about five years and, but for the sake of the kids you’ve got to carry on haven’t you?"

John didn’t go back for a long time but his daughter, when she was about eight or nine  said   “ Daddy, why can’t we go back to where you come from?" you know. And eventually he went. He used to go back to Dublin to his wife’s family, but never went down to where he came from. And eventually he went down one one weekend with his brother in law  but  “I couldn’t get out of the place quick enough you know. I didn’t like it. And I went back last year, not last year, the year before, for three weeks and I lived, and I had a cottage in one of the villages near my village at home, and I went around all the old haunts where I used to go, the usual, but I just couldn’t, I couldn’t hack it. There was nothing there to remind me of anything, you know, and anybody I met, they were all strangers. You walk up to somebody, you know, "Do you know so and so? Did you know so and so?" Never heard of them. That was it.”

John tells a very personal tale of the fallout from the Birmingham pub bombings….

‘When I first come to England I was very shy like, I’ll admit it, but then I usually, I got to know people.  I found it very hard when them bombings were in Birmingham and all that, you know, cos I had very good friends and they were all English people. I used to work part-time behind the bar at South Leicester club down near the football, the old football club, and I worked there for about eight years behind the bar. I went in one night; we used to meet every Wednesday, we used to play skittles for the club. and he walked in the door  and he said to me…. I’d always see him come in, I knew what he drank, so I’d pull his pint ready and he come up to the counter and he looked. I didn’t know that these bombs had gone off in Birmingham and he come up to the counter and I says “ There y’are Bill (or whatever his name was). I says “ready for you as usual” and he says “ I don’t, I don’t ever again want to see you for what you’ve done. I looked at him and I says “I’ve done nothing. What are you on about?” Well he says, ‘You’re like ‘em all.” He says, “You just pretend.” And the steward like, Johnny Fawkes at that time, he said, he come round, I says "Bill Roberts has just ignored me completely" and I told him when I went off and Johnny said “Haven’t you heard then?’ and I said “No, what?” and he says “Well, there’s a bomb went off in Birmingham last night and a lot of people have been killed by the IRA.” I says “Oh my God.”

South Leicester Working Men's Club, Burnmoor St.

I didn’t believe in that at all. I couldn’t, I never condoned that even when I was in Ireland. He said “That’s what probably, you know….” He said “Go home, forget it. “ So I went home. I had a couple off weeks off. He come back behind the bar again I just said Hello, the same as usual. So he had his pint, he come back and when he come up for the next pint he says “I’m sorry.” So I said “For what?” and he says "The way I spoke to you." And I says "that’s alright Bill" I says “I can understand, but I didn’t know what had gone on.” He says “Are we friends again?” and I says “Course you are” I says, you know.

That really upset me really to be quite honest with ya because for a long time after that people would ask me where I come from and I wouldn’t, I wasn’t frightened but I wouldn’t say where I come from. But we were the best of friends again after that.

Well I’ve enjoyed life in England even with the ups and downs. You’ve just got to get on with it"

If you'd like to be involved in The Irish in Leicester project contact us on 0116 276 9186 

or pop in to: The Emerald Centre, Gipsy Lane, Leicester. LE5 OTB or Duffy's, Pocklington's Walk, Leicester, LE1 6BU

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.