RAISED ON SONGS AND STORIES
An Irish community has existed on Tyneside for nearly 200 years, with the significant increase coming in the latter half of the 19th Century. Many people born on Tyneside can trace their roots back to those early immigrants. With this migrant community comes a long tradition of music, dance, literature and drama, which is embedded into the core of the Irish people. As the Tyneside Irish Cultural Society, it’s our aim to ensure that this long tradition of Irish culture is upheld, embraced and enjoyed by the whole community.
As the Irish emigrant population gets older their stories and experiences will be lost forever, it’s therefore important for us to target the older population of the Tyneside Irish community to collect their oral histories/stories and preserve these experiences in the form of a theatrical musical performance, which will benefit and inform younger Irish descendants of their cultural heritage and will enable the wider community to understand the remarkable effect Irish migration has had on the region.
As part of the research and development stage of this project we have selected seven marginalized and deprived areas where the Irish migrant communities settled. Hebburn/Jarrow, Low Fell, Consett, Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Cramlington and Birtley, all have a vibrant and active social club/scene with a number of members of first generation Irish immigrants aged between 50 to 80+ years old. We believe that this work will highlight the positive role that older people can play in re-enforcing a cultural legacy by passing on their personal stories and customs, thus stimulating the audience to be interested in their own family histories. In doing so we hope this will also develop our research in the experiences of the older members of the Irish community and to learn about their circumstances, needs and any barriers they find in participating in events or community life, we then hope to address these needs in future projects.
The Raised on Songs and Stories project is progressing nicely and we’ve had some fantastic times at Cramlington, Hebburn and Middlesbrough.
Here’s some feed back from the events
Maureen O Donnell from the Castle Barr, Achill Island, County Mayo – “the day I came to Newcastle I loved it and I never wanted to leave it. I have been involved in the Irish Centre for years and it has been a big, big part of my social life and making a home. Dancing has been a huge part of my life here [...] they even sell red lemonade over here now. Going in on a Sunday night is like walking into your family.”
“I’ve just met people today who I know from back home and I haven’t seen them for years and years, possibly 40- 50 years. Their aunt lived in our village and they stayed in our village for a while… my sister used to go to school with their cousin. And when I walked in he said, “I know who you are! You are the image of your mother.”
Bridie - who first arrived in Blackpool in 1955 and worked as a Clippy on the buses before moving to Coventry and meeting her husband, who was from Gallway. After moving to Barnsley and getting married, the couple then moved to Middlesbrough with work, and made connections with the Irish community here, who have been, “so very important to our lives here”.
Patrick McMahon, originally from Limerick, first arrived in London. He remembered finding that times were hard when he first arrived. He remembers his first digs, “which slept 6-8 people in one bedroom, and I saw a man sat on the bed who was polishing the back of his legs and I wondered why until I saw him put his socks on and there was hole in his socks! I thought I’m getting out of here! So, in 1954, I moved here and I found a touch of Irishness in Middlesbrough, and I felt it as soon as I came here, and I have stayed here ever since.”