Speaker 0 00:00:03 <inaudible>
Speaker 1 00:00:22 How you doing? I'm Doug Devaney and you're listening to the plastic podcasts, tales of the Irish diaspora. We all come from somewhere else. You can find us and indeed subscribe to us on www.plasticpodcasts.com, journalist novelist, and teacher. Bridget Whelan has engaged in the practice of writing for over 50 years, writing for the Catholic newspaper, the universe in 1971, she moved onto the daily mirror working with a legend that was Paul foot, her novel, a good confession came out in 2008 and it set in sixties, London and Carrie, while her ebook back to creative writing school and her various lectures in both creative writing and non-fiction have inspired and supported numerous scribes from all walks of life. It's a fascinating story, one of constant change. But before we get to that, we talk about her early days in London,
Speaker 2 00:01:11 Uh, up until the age of 11, we lived very near, um, Charlotte as well as theater. And it was the end of the London borough Finsbury. Now part of his Lincoln. So a very central part of London. Um, and then we moved out to the suburbs we moved out to for domestics, and that was sort of my secondary school.
Speaker 1 00:01:34 And your parents are both Irish.
Speaker 2 00:01:37 Yes, my mother, um, was from a small town called a small village. Um, very small village Urkel. Curran's very near Farron for airport and County Kerry. And my father was from the Midlands. He was from Darlington in County awfully.
Speaker 1 00:01:54 And when did they come over?
Speaker 2 00:01:56 My mother came over first. She came over, um, in 1942 to train, to be a nurse. And you think afterwards kind of an accept what your parents did was she came to at one time, the country at peace I'm country. I mean, in the center of London and she, you know, she was bombed out of hospitals and things and, you know, and, uh, why she did that was because she started, she, she was, um, a farmer's daughter and she was working on the farm and she wanted more and she wanted more opportunity than that. And she had an uncle who was a doctor in London. She wrote to him for advice. And at that time on, you had to pay for your training to be a nurse. And he said he would be very happy to pay for her to be a nurse in Ireland.
Speaker 2 00:02:49 But if she wanted to come to London, then he would quite the hospital and he'd, um, help them in every way he could and see her as often as he could. Um, and she decided come to London because she didn't want, she was scared that she wouldn't succeed in the training and she didn't want to be beholden to him. She didn't want him to pay out money that she actually might not, um, um, graduated being a nurse. So that's her reason for coming to London. And, um, she did write about it. She did, or was interviewed about it, her experiences as an immigrant. And so she'd go to London to train at found four and bike alone if she was ready to come back home. But, um, uh, she made it across an estate for 40 years. She knows he was 20 years old when she left 40 years in London.
Speaker 2 00:03:38 And then she retired back for about 20 years coming eventually back to us, to my sister and I, so she could be near us, um, about, um, six years before she died. So the last six years she lived in a, in a sheltered accommodation, very nervous, and then a nursing home. And what about your father? He came after the war, but it was still being a 1940s. Um, and he gained like a lot of Irish men to, um, the buildings lines to rebuild Britain. And they met at a dance in Holloway road and then lost contact with each other because she was going home on holidays. Jalon and, and, um, what the nursing hospitals used to do was flee Irish nurses is give them the holiday in one block. So she went home for six weeks, which is unheard of anyone holiday. Um, but they would do that. So every day that, so you're going to make most use of their holiday going home. And, um, and they'd lost contract and she was always looking out for him. It dances, but never saw him, but he, and she was, she moved, they moved hospitals quite a lot without any Joyce had just were transferred somewhere else. And he waited outside various hospitals and nurses came out and he said, you know, do you know Nancy Sullivan? And eventually he found her. So that's rather nice. That's a very sweet story. Isn't it?
Speaker 3 00:05:16 Your mother wrote about all this,
Speaker 2 00:05:18 But no, she was interviewed for a lovely book called across the water, which was, came out in the 1980s about Irish, uh, um, women's experience of immigration across the world. Yeah. It really was quite groundbreaking. And I've got a lot of reviews at the time.
Speaker 3 00:05:38 So like you say you were raised in Elford, was it?
Speaker 2 00:05:43 Yes, don't put Essex. Oh seven Kings, just look the place outside of it. Right.
Speaker 3 00:05:47 And, um, when you went to school and I'm presumably this is what about the age of 11 or so? Yeah. Um, I mean, you're a kind of fish out of water, obviously. You only just moved into the area. Um, and did your, did your Irish background give you any psych, a greater distance or just out of that sense of isolation or was it not an issue?
Speaker 2 00:06:09 Yes, if I have much felt like being an outsider, we couldn't, we moved just as I was, uh, uh, entered a secretary school. My sister's a year older and there simply were no places in the Catholic school, secondary school, um, in the area. And my mother decided that we, my sister and I would stay together and go to the same school. Um, and so we went to an ordinary date at secondary modern, which was a bit shock as well because, um, in London schools have gone kind of comprehensive. They haven't yet one, so we didn't pop. So we didn't have any, um, 11 plus results to give anyone. And, um, so we only put those in a secondary model and it was very a different, yeah, it was a very different world. Um, I remember, um, I did learn to stop betting myself at mealtimes and things that school lunch wasn't that was, um, that was on. But you had things like, um, you know, observing the Holy days, you know, the days of abstinence, you know, things like that. Um, yes, it was a very different, it was a very different setup. It wasn't something that we're familiar with. It was a different kind of community. Um, and I suppose, um, yeah, and we felt differently.
Speaker 3 00:07:25 This is a more than the Irishness. So was that part and possibly the same thing.
Speaker 2 00:07:29 It's always difficult to define that actually isn't it, if there's most people, you know, who are Catholic are also Irish and that would have been true there. Um, I don't know. I think M I think, I think that those were two so closely identified, I think in my own mind as well. I think part and parcel of who we were, what we did do was go to, um, instruction at the local Catholic church, um, one day a week, one evening after school. So we met up with other children who were in the same position as ourselves and, and, um, and eventually, you know, what the youth clubs there and everything else. So there wasn't a car, uh, community that we could, um, look into, but it was the daytime know school was, it was, uh, it was a very different proposition than the one we had experienced.
Speaker 3 00:08:23 It's come from a period. I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm referring back to my own dad's, um, experience of school, which was out on the West coast, in County Clare at that time in the, in the late forties and early fifties, it was, um, it seemed like a fairly nondescript experience that the really he came out of it without much in the way of a formal education.
Speaker 2 00:08:42 Yeah. I might, my father certainly didn't come out with much. He went to the Christian brothers and he would tell us tales of panel, cruel. They were of how he was a great, um, and he was known it how great he was at truanting and how he would, um, how he could cook hedgehogs in a special form, you know, he would eat, you know, outside and everything else. And he would camp and they'd do anything to avoid school, but eventually, I mean, he did get some schooling maybe, but he, I think he got very badly treated and the story, which I treasure most, which says a loaf a lot about my dad actually, as that, uh, he left school at 14 and he walked down to the school on the Friday to the gate, turned around, went back in and punched his teacher in the face and knocked him down.
Speaker 2 00:09:38 So I can't match my father ever fighting, but he would do that. Yes. For all the blows he had suffered when he was a kid at the school. Yeah. So he, um, so he wasn't that much interested in education. One. Good. It, any interest he had was beaten out of him? Um, couple that with men dyslexia. Um, yes. And he, he, um, went on at the time to be an apprentice butcher, um, which I don't think he enjoyed much when he did his apprenticeship, but he never really worked in the trade. Um, and then worked on, uh, the turf cutter for war pneumonia. Um, and then as I came over to England and worked on the building sites until he, um, you're very good at these hands. I mean, if, you know, he would have been a great, he's a terribly good handyman. He could be really, um, for someone who had all those, these feet absolutely understood lots of things.
Speaker 2 00:10:37 So you could fix a television. He could, he, he probably could rewatch, it would be able to rewire a house, although he wouldn't do it because he, you know, I mean, he has too much respect for the retros, a teacher without being Jack, but, um, um, he understood all that. He would have been that he should have been all electrician or something like that, but, um, he became a wood machinist as sort of maintenance person, um, on Roy from 1960 onwards. Was it his job, which was, um, which had a great, wonderful benefit of allowing us cheap fares to Island, which meant we went home to Ireland every year.
Speaker 1 00:11:17 <inaudible>, you're listening to the plastic podcasts, tales of the Irish diaspora, subscribe to [email protected]
Bridget weaving's career took her from Catholic weekly to fleet street and beyond. And it all started with her mother finding an advert in the universe
Speaker 2 00:11:41 School. And I'd gone on to a sixth form college and was having a great time there. And, but I was still 16 and I decided that this is enough that's, that was enough education for, to have, and I should really be working. Um, so that's what I did. I went for the interview. I wasn't, I wasn't best pleased. I didn't want to go, I didn't want the job. I was, I like to go to interview at. And, um, and they gave me the job because there was, you know, this is early seventies, he got a job so easily, you know, if you lost one, you get another one, my husband, um, what, um, he worked in the newspapers and print all his life. And he said, you remember, what was your job on a Friday night and not feeling at all worried. Cause he knew he'd just be able to walk in somewhere Monday morning and get another one. Um, and it's, it's, um, it sounds made up, it sounds fairytale, but it was, uh, I think an extraordinary period of full employment so that if you wanted to work or able to, you could, it was, yes, it was a time from full employment with, um, with possibilities and prospects, I think.
Speaker 3 00:12:51 And did it help that you, uh, you, you were Catholic to work for the universe? I mean, w th did that,
Speaker 2 00:12:58 I think that was essential.
Speaker 3 00:13:00 Did that reignite your involvement with the church or did that create more distance?
Speaker 2 00:13:04 No. No, not really. Um, uh, I think you probably had to just because it would just, there would be so much to learn, you know, if you didn't have all that background. Um, but, uh, no, I wasn't, uh, I just stay there for five years and, uh, but no, it was, it was, it was, it was going good, fun. And it was, um, a very interesting bunch of people to work with. Um, the news editor was absolutely brilliant journalist. I mean, very good. I mean really good professional people. It was a nice place to work. Um, and, uh, yeah.
Speaker 3 00:13:46 And then you moved, did you move straight across to the daily mirror after that then? Or
Speaker 2 00:13:51 Yes, but not to, uh, not to a journalistic role. I, I went there to, um, um, be, do you want a team of advisors on the Marjorie Proops advice column? So basically we were there, um, answering the, the letters, the many, many letters she would get in. She was very, a lot of people wouldn't, maybe wouldn't even remember her name now. Um, but she was, um, very famous, um, agony art. Um, so that, yeah, so that was very different. I got involved with the trade unions or trade union in, um, the daily mirror, which is fascinating closed entry shop. Um, you, uh, I mean, you couldn't get a job unless you, um, also agreed at the same time to join a trade union. I mean, you wouldn't, you know, human resources would not personnel would be good. Uh, you know, you just wouldn't, it wouldn't happen.
Speaker 2 00:14:55 And indeed a lot of the jobs you got that the employment agency as such was the trade union. Um, and it was probably one of the best organized industries, um, in terms of trade union membership, um, probably in Europe. Um, and that was a very interesting experience. Was that the NUJ? No, this was not as I was saying, this was, I did forget I did become a, or did we join Anuj again? Um, but, um, this was, um, it was not SOPA what's no longer, no longer exists and which eventually merged with so GAT. So one of the major pre print unions
Speaker 3 00:15:36 Was that, so at 82 in the end
Speaker 2 00:15:39 That's right. Yeah. When they did it, that must have been right. Yeah. That was right when we go into the dinner. Yeah. That would've been it. Yeah.
Speaker 3 00:15:48 You worked with <inaudible>. And also when we were talking, um, prior to this interview, we were talking about the kind of pastoral care that our newspapers seem to have for his readership.
Speaker 2 00:15:59 Yeah. This, um, we had, and I, I became a welfare advisor for the reader service department indeed. In, towards the end, uh, the deputy manager of department, which was, I think we had a staff of about 30, which was a large training pool. And I don't know about 1516 advisors. And this wasn't unique. My understanding is these departments were curated and a lot of the newspapers after the second world war in response to social need in response to them, people returning from the force being demobbed, uh, needing advice about so many things, um, housing would be a major, uh, item without the citizens vice-versa without me many advice points anywhere else. And so this was a large department, it also fed news stories into the newspaper. People would write, um, to us and we'd investigate. And if it seemed like something, we could make a new story out, it would be sent over to editorial.
Speaker 2 00:17:13 It also meant that all those letters that came into newspaper, which would never make a story anywhere, and shouldn't, didn't just get filed or thrown away. They got a proper reply and even couldn't help, they wouldn't get the benefit of saying, you know, it being acknowledged. Yes, you can going through a hard time. I'm sorry about that. But most of the places we took up cases all the time and we battled with the authorities. Um, we got people rehoused, we campaigned on their behalf. Um, it was very proactive. Um, we explained the law, if it was something complicated, um, you like, um, uh, social security benefit as it would have been at the time is that is always a complicated area. We'd investigate whether they were getting people getting the right benefits. It was an incredible service to provide. Um, and I think the daily mirror was the last newspaper to help to relate. And that ended in, I think it would've been 1985, maybe 1986 when Robert Maxwell took over the daily mirror and he closed it down,
Speaker 3 00:18:24 But this was the period as well. And so like a, of Murdoch at his height as well as maximum and so forth. And the, the, I mean, this isn't the focus of the podcast. Salvias if we're going to just touch on this more than anything, but I suppose it's the fact that a culture was changing.
Speaker 2 00:18:40 Yes, it was absolutely the same time. It was the, the, um, the experience in warping, which just happened. Uh, the, um, the times, uh, in moved over, it was Murdoch was, they were various people deliberately break. I mean, they were breaking, they were clearly what they were doing, um, with breaking the power of the unions within the print industry and changing newspapers. And, um, and that combined with a new technology, which involved journalists, um, which cut out a whole suede, the workers, um, and to, and the way printing was done, uh, everything was changing there. So that was that even if the intent had not been an attack on trade unions, things would have changed any way. Would inevitably changed working practices changed?
Speaker 3 00:19:29 I think there was a particular turning point. Um, or do you think that was just an ongoing zeitgeists
Speaker 2 00:19:36 I'm not sure a lot of things came together in this country. I mean, I'm not really sure for how, how the same sort of conditions played out in other countries, but certainly the fact that Maggie snatcher was in power would have happened, had an important impact. Um, I, I mean, I w I think the daily mirror wasn't important loose paper. I think it still is important, but I think it's as, uh, but at that time it was, it clearly had an agenda which was different to many newspapers. And one of them was that you champion, you are always critical of whoever is in authority, but you are labor supporting and you are left leaning. Um, you, you jump, you kneel on the dog. You, you look at social, you are interested in social causes and things like that. And it had a fantastic, I mean, it used to be page five, which was devoted.
Speaker 2 00:20:33 I kind of think to, for news and, you know, they would write a paragraph about what was happening in Indonesia, which is probably all you need to know, but that was great. In fact, you could do it. And it was written in a certain style that it would have been that my father would, all his difficulties would have been able to read it. Yes, that takes enormous skill and the villages. And, um, I, uh, I, I was there for a year in, uh, Robert Maxwell between, well, but often Robert Maxwell died. And before what really, we would have said was the back taking over, there was a kind of year hiatus, no one knew what was happening. At one point, it seemed that perhaps another member of the Maxwell family would take over whatever. I
Speaker 1 00:21:23 Think Maxwell died in 1990, didn't he?
Speaker 2 00:21:26 Yes. That would have been right. Yeah. In a way the editors took the in-charge for a year and really they would want to work towards an editorial buyout. It never happened, and it probably wouldn't have been allowed to happen. Um, and Maxwell it's kind of, I mean, the banks really owned it and they, they came in and put their own people, but that was, you know, a wonderful time. And I also was working at that time with Paul fought in his office. He had a weekly column, um, which was, um, uh, very hard hitting, very thoroughly researched and get investigative, uh, devoted to investigative journalism. And he would be looking at corruption and things like arms deals and things happening, um, anywhere in the UK, in any field. Um, and that was a wonderful experience. Um, and one of the things, I mean, the phone never stopped there. It was always ringing people, ringing him stories and everything else, and it was called alternative newsroom, his office. Um, and one of the things about Paul was that he never bought a story and people would ring up. And I, you know, maybe someone like me, I mean, the team was terribly small. It was, um, four people, including the secretary.
Speaker 2 00:22:53 And, um, we'd ring up and they'd say, um, you know, I've got something very big to tell them, but I want money for this. And I said, well, you know, if you'd like to tell me what it is and, you know, uh, you know, Paul will try and ring you back or something like that. But, you know, to be fair to you, I'm going to tell you this, you know, as expenses, of course, you know, if you have to come and see him, when train fair will pay your brain fair, but Paul never buys a story. And I never knew anyone to stop talking. Then I said, well, okay, I'll give it to him. Please pull forward.
Speaker 1 00:23:26 <inaudible>, y'all listening to the plastic podcasts. We all come from somewhere else. This is the section of the podcast where we ask our guests to raise up on the plastic pedestal, a member of the diaspora of either personal or cultural significance this week, Janet Bian,
Speaker 2 00:23:47 I came up with breech Grannon, who is a fantastic, wonderful actress. I was hurt. I don't know if it was her understanding, but I was an understudy at the national theater when they were doing it dancing at Luna cert. And I just remember sitting in rehearsals and watching her work and just so fascinating. And then I saw her not long ago in the fairy man. She played this granny far away. I think she was caught or something, just the facial. And she played Beatrice. I'm very, very lucky that she said she would play Beatrice in the first production of, um, uh, the plane. She couldn't do the second one. He was doing something else, but, um, yeah, she's, she's a fabulous, fabulous actress. Uh, you've seen Hackney, I think did it, did, did it, he did it. She used to live in Hackney anyway, and I think she probably still does. Yeah, she's great person and a great actress.
Speaker 1 00:24:44 And is there a particular quality of hers that you most admire?
Speaker 2 00:24:47 Honesty she's um, she's funny, but she's PSN honest.
Speaker 1 00:24:59 Lovely. Thank you very much, Janet, being there now, back to our interview with Brigid Whelan, and we talk about the changes that she's seen in the approach to the Irish in this country. And if there was actually a turning point in the history of the Diaz
Speaker 2 00:25:14 Gets, um, uh, one turning point. Well, I mean, and what sort of in the middle of that, it wasn't just no blacks, no hours got changed. That kind of changed. We know we got laws, we, you know, rules nothing rules. Then we became, if it wasn't a sick day, it was the, um, the dangerous who are you? You're the one, you know, you know, the RAs out of campaign on in Britain, um, was incredible influence on our lines simply because the way he was treated and that w you know, uh, a suspect, a suspect community, and I think the Irishman response to it, and it was very, and it was, um, the PTA, the P uh, functional chairs, um, was very instrumental, was this was that it was pressed, you know, don't put your head above the water, don't do anything to upset people. And I think in incredibly important events were things like, um, um, the Guilford for, um, the Birmingham six, the McGuire family, uh, being arrested and long before the first appeal, it was through people in the community, knew these were innocent people.
Speaker 2 00:26:42 And it was very influential. My mother retiring back to Ireland. I remember that now, and her big thing was Annie Maguire. She is so identified with Ernie McGuire, the mother of the family, of the aunt of Jerry Conlon, who was dragged in by the police and not over here in the seventies where it did feel that you, um, you were guilty of being honest before anything else. And, and her comment about Annie McGuire was that, and I can not hear the sense of wonder to about Annie Maguire in the conservative club. And they took her, she said, I would never have the confidence to walk into the conservative club or to a conservative club, if they could take the money regardless of this world and not feeling safe in this country. I really didn't. I don't, my mother said I don't think felt safe. Um, and she, I mean, she, she, she, she would tell her, she steady telling me off about the way I did things.
Speaker 2 00:27:49 Like I would have couple of hours polo or an Irish paper, and I wouldn't have it hidden in my hand, but no, it wasn't do that. Don't display it. Don't tell him. And what she was say about itself as always have the right change for the bus. So you don't, they don't hear your Irish tax, and this is living in Elford Messicks and going about her normal work. Um, don't buy Irish newspapers in an English news agent. You go to the time, God for the Indians and the Pakistanis, they came over and took our news agents that meant you could go buy an Irishman vapor. Um, and I think she was not alone. I think that's just, I mean, I know, I mean, because you, uh, because she was interviewed for the book I mentioned, but she was, um, because she told me, I didn't realize that she had lived her life like that, but making those little decisions in the same way that women make decisions about which streets you walk down, you don't hardly even notice it.
Speaker 2 00:28:49 But you, you, you, you were aware of certain things that you're more vulnerable in a certain married and another place or time of night, whatever, that her voice, her accent made her suspect at the very, the very beginning. And I certainly, I remember hearing someone saying it in a laughing, joking, it's a joke thing, but I mean, talk about me and some other guy that I was friendly with who was, um, from Roscommon. Oh, it's funny that those two are rich. People got together at her, isn't it? You know, they could be, you know, they could be an IRA sell, like deliberately come here to, you know, it's funny how that they've got to know each other. I'm going to have to ask, when did, when was that late seventies, late seventies. And I do remember, um, that predictor go. I remember having been in a pub with him in that same sort of, um, menu, that same sort of people.
Speaker 2 00:29:47 And, um, it, um, it was the time of, uh, Bobby's arms people would about him. And he said, someone was like, no, you know, you've lost. And you know, Bobby sands, he said, don't say that it's Mr. Robertson's MPU. And that was kind of important. You know, he got the ballot, he did get the what for, and, uh, and actually, but it was even he, I mean, he went, what, you wouldn't tend to talk about it in the pub like that, because you would be, again, we was as a suspect community and you know, he, you don't put your chin out too much. You don't put your head above the water, it just keep quiet and things like the hunger strikers there, um, gave you Wharf eating that. No, actually you can put your shoulders back and say, look, it doesn't mean we're following the group, but look what you have to ask the question, why is it happening? And that's not the question you're asking, we're asking. Um, but I think if you're looking at plate points of change, real fundamental trends about the way the Irish road regarded and its country, you can pinpoint it almost exactly to one particular day and you can look it up and see when it is. Cause I wouldn't remember, but they, 1990, when they are rich team played in Rome.
Speaker 2 00:31:21 And for me, it was, um, when the, um, the Italians won the winning goal of that, that much, and the Irish fans sign Viva not wrong, but for someone else, I know there's an argument. He said, no, it was when Italy had strict ban no alcohol before any match, but they lifted it for that much. They said we can trust the Irish. And it was suddenly that people saw them as performing on a world stage, but also, but it wasn't, it wasn't the team, it was the fans, it was the sport that this is how you behave. You support your team. Don't diss. Anyone else, you're not rubbish. You can get drunk if you like, but you don't, you don't smash up the bar. You buy the man behind the bar, a drink if you're going to have one. And it was, it was absolutely.
Speaker 2 00:32:19 I remember being there at the time and I met and, um, it was people. So there was another kind of cliched view of, um, what it meant to be Irish. And it had nothing to do with bombs. It had nothing to do with politics. It seemed to be a way of doing things, which was an, you know, and everyone could recognize it was an okay way of doing something of actually being able to take the best out of that moment, but not steal it from someone else. Yeah. You're a better doing the mask. We're just grabbed it. It's just been great to be able to play with you. Um, and I remember not long after that, I must be commuting in London and very near in Tottenham court road. I saw that new sandwich bar I'd opened up and this would have been 1991 92.
Speaker 2 00:33:07 And they call themselves an Irish sandwich bar and he's like, Oh my God, it was only 10 years ago. You wouldn't put your name in front of the bar if it was our resounding, because you'd be afraid of a brick through the window, do you actually advertise because it became, and then what happened, of course was also coming at the same time in England, in London, pretty much in London was a rhino generation of immigrants and they weren't coming off the boats, um, looking for work in low paid jobs. They were coming well-educated and they were working in the finance sectors. They're working in banks, they were working there with professionals and they were earning money. And that was, um, and those are the people who were in the bars, cheering on their street. So what it looked like, it was a whole change. It was a different images of what being Irish meant. The other is still they're still down in a place, but there was other ones, more positive ones being put alongside them. So I'm not never been that keen on sport, but, um, um, but I think football, uh, I think sport has done, um, or perhaps the way we deal with sport, um, has been important in our store in this country.
Speaker 3 00:34:28 There's an irony there, of course, because there was a huge diaspora element to the Irish team during that year. I mean, off the road, it was, it was managed by Jack Charlton and there was quite a bit of fuss at the time about the number of players coming over from the English teams.
Speaker 2 00:34:44 I'm I'm, uh, you know, uh, I remember saying to someone, I said, well, you know, we put the same ones that apply to everyone else, you know, same or joining you to your national team. It's just that we've got more of them than you. We got more immigrants, we got more, you know, that's, that's what you get for 200 years of sending out your youth of losing that generation every time. Yeah. But 200 years, young people left and, you know, I, my parents moved back to Ireland in the early 1980s and it was unwell. Obviously I go visit them as often as we could, but I remember being there at Christmas and seeing one Christmas and there was a news report and it was the Eve of Christmas Eve the day, a few days before Christmas. And there was only one item on the news report they're coming home. And it, the crowds waiting there from sons and daughters to come home as a difference between that generation and my parents' generation was they could come home. My parents were lucky. They were able to come once a year, but it was, you know, uh, uh, for these will be people who work in America, get back and make the connection, hopefully twice a year. That will be what they're aiming for.
Speaker 3 00:36:03 W w we're talking about 200 years of, of immigration. And then there's a period where for economic reasons, as much as anything, and probably also the Celtic tiger, I imagine the, uh, the amount of support that, that Arlen gained from the, from the European union that it could, that it was that it got the, the, the, the, the leg opposite, where to be able to, I don't know, as I go see eye to eye with any other European country on a financial basis on an economic basis, as much as anything.
Speaker 2 00:36:29 And also that combined, of course, with technology, meaning that being a small Island of European mainland was no longer a fantastic disadvantage. Um, if you're, um, you know, uh, a computer call center, you might as well be, you could be in Kilkenny as anywhere else. You didn't. So patient no longer was the be-all and end-all of, um, many industries we've seen that. Um, so that was another factor in it. Yeah. I mean, that would say incredible thing was, um, my, again, I quote my mother cause I, I do, I did, I appreciate that she, she didn't hug her husband. It wasn't always conventional. It wasn't. Um, she, he tried to think things out for herself. And I mean, I remember a long time before the guilty tiger, but you said the one thing that would change Ireland and save on it and make it different was just more people stay.
Speaker 2 00:37:39 And her idea was that it would, you know, once you have more people staying, then you've got more people wanting goods, therefore be more industry and everything else, it would have an incorrect impact, but more importantly, that you wouldn't lose your, you, should we talk? Cause who are those people who go out nippers? Well, that what we don't know much about them, we know they do something, but they're active. They have gone, they have made a decision, um, and they have left and we can think there's another quality they must have. It takes guts to do that. It takes enormous courage to do that. Um, and to keep on doing it,
Speaker 3 00:38:29 You all listening to the plastic podcasts, tales of the Irish diaspora, we all come from somewhere else that you can find and subscribe to us
Speaker 1 00:38:36 On www.plasticpodcasts.com. In my final session with Bridget Whelan, we talk all sorts of subjects. But first we start with the price of both immigration and immigration.
Speaker 2 00:38:49 I remember studying in our studies about immigration requires that there's push factors and pull factors. The push factors from Ireland was the economic situation. There seemed to be so few opportunities if you stayed, but they were always attracted back. Ireland always meant something to me, uh, to them. I think, um, I think something we have in common as Irish people is, uh, a very strong sense of place. Um, and we miss our family. We miss the things we used to when Mr. Wade brought up, we also miss those Hills. We miss those not river. Um, and so there's always this great pool of Irish people to go home as often as they could to bring their children home and, uh, to still feel part and connected with that the country.
Speaker 1 00:39:44 So what does home mean to you?
Speaker 2 00:39:48 Well, I think it meant different things at different periods of my life. I'm now older than my mother was when she returned to Ireland after, um, a lifetime working over here. Um, I think it's, I think it's a difficult load for an immigrant taking her again. She wanted to go home, but who also, there was no hope for, to go back to after 40 years because the country has changed even though she was a regular visitor. Um, and she had the country had changed from the one that she left. Being a retired person is very different to being a 20 year old, going out to make your way in the world. And it was difficult for her to adjust, but for home Portsmouth, me growing up home was never where we lived. It was always Arland and it was always my mother's village and honored.
Speaker 2 00:40:43 Um, I think to, to be honest, I think homeless people and maybe the experience of the lockdown has emphasized that fact more than anything. I think it's made the most of us reflect about what we really want and what we need, and which may in fact will be reflected. Also, in fact, that seems to be a boom at the moment, in buying zoning homes that people reflecting about changing their lives in certain ways. I certainly don't want to change my life. I know where my home is, is in my sons and my granddaughter. And, um, that's where that, if it's think it's where you feel most cherished, where you want to be, uh, where you want to connect with, um, rather than a place I remember I was interviewing, um, for project, um, um, gay men's experience of migration that was sort of the project was about.
Speaker 2 00:41:45 Um, but, um, because of that, I was doing some research about the gay community and nog, and I was struck by, um, New York St Patrick's day parade. This would be nineties, um, refused to have a gay vote, but at the same year, I think it was cool St. Patrick's day parade organizers I've contacted the local RGB switchboard or whatever. And I said, look, you haven't deployed yet to put a float in. You did a great one last year, come on weekend. We got to have it. You know, it was, it was the best one we had. So the idea of, of banning it was not didn't even come into it. They were just concerned that they would, you know, that they, uh, they were going to be properly supported by the local community. And I think that kind of reflects that. There's a, um, uh, what can happen is a sense of your Irishness of a sense of what Island is, can be frozen in time frozen to what you, you're not only just your youth maybe, but an I R I D idealized idea of what that youth was like, remembering the good box maybe, or certain aspects of it, rather than others, for us who were never born there, we are the child and the same, uh, conversation with, um, women from the Caribbean, you know, born in England.
Speaker 2 00:43:27 But you know, we're not all England, but we're not Caribbean either. Yeah, that's right. You know, you don't know enough, you know, you, haven't got all the shippers, you know, no, I didn't go to school. They're getting alone Irish. Yes, I do happen to know, you know, I mean, yeah, I do. I do consider myself hours. That's what I put down on that form. Well, I do that because what else would I put? What else I put that there is no other, um, bought the meter check. Um, and I can't invent another one either. Um, but I think that is part of the immigrant experience is that your children are going to have a 14, two countries and a home and neither effects of immigration. I think go on much longer than we actually appreciate. Um, um, there was a very good study, I think, um, in the late nineties, it might've been 2000, um, done by Dr.
Speaker 2 00:44:32 Mary Hickman and others about, um, research into discrimination against the arts community. I'm going to some incredible things coming out of that. Like let's as a group where the one immigrant group whose health deteriorates on immigration to England, whether that improves and when in light of mental health, that is probably, it goes down to the third generation that then we can see that there was an impact this correlation between, um, perhaps it's not that surprising because we've talked about various things, but until relatively recently being a suspect community, I don't know, knowing to that, you know, we are still, although we speak English, although white, all that we're part of the system and everything else, we are still on the outside, we're still on the edge. And it's, um, I maybe, I don't know why also a way the community that's our health, um, deteriorates on immigration, but maybe it is the idea that we are exiles lost a bunch of events that we have left a country.
Speaker 2 00:45:54 We didn't want to leave all of that. Our parents left the country that they didn't want to leave, or which, which holds is still, um, and we're still balancing in emotional terms if it no other and that in some way, all reluctant immigrants, um, and not perhaps Wayne lay some of the responsibility, the need to immigrate getting a grid, um, on the door of the, um, of English history that let's do. It's the relationship between the two countries, um, corrected that situation. Um, and that's, uh, now with next year, we'll be celebrating, um, iteration of the Irish free state. So it's, uh, these things are long consequences.
Speaker 3 00:47:00 One last question, and it's, it's, it's in two parts essentially, and that is the, we've talked about your sense of being an outsider and having, uh, a foot in two countries, but a home in neither. And do you think that that sense of being an outsider has helped you in, uh, in, in, in writing?
Speaker 2 00:47:18 Well, I think it's a really good place to be. Um, because I think writers always the outsider we're looking on on, we were making a story out of the things that other people are experiencing instead of being in the moment where slightly out of the moment and trying to make connections. So, um, I think writers are often the outsider for some reason, taking a step back, which then leads me on to the last question, which is what does being a member of the diaspora mean to you? It's so closely and twine, to my sense of who I am, that the question you just posed is as difficult as if you'd ask, what does being a woman mean to me, it is who I am. I am part of that. Um, I it's the tune I marched. It's the salt it's, um, it is more, certainly more than the church. It is probably the greatest influence in my life in terms of how it thing can, how I respond to things, how, um, but it is very hard to pull apart because it's so integral to who I am. Why did that case? I'm going to wrap up by saying, Bridget Whelan, keep on marching dancing. I should say dumps.
Speaker 1 00:49:12 You've been listening to the plastic podcast with me, Doug. Today. I'm a guest Bridget Wheaton. The plastic pedestal was provided by Jen Bian I'm music by Jack today, you can find [email protected]
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