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 it..you 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"

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

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