Eithne Browne: From Ballina to Brookie and Beyond...

October 27, 2022 00:50:20
Eithne Browne: From Ballina to Brookie and Beyond...
The Plastic Podcasts
Eithne Browne: From Ballina to Brookie and Beyond...
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Show Notes

Star of “Blood Brothers”, Chrissy Rogers in “Brookside” and – would you believe – Mrs Devaney in Jimmy McGovern’s “Broken”, Eithne Browne discusses memories of Mayo, her Master Mariner father and singer mother, changes in Liverpool and strange Irish coincidences. Plus Patrick Osborne raises James (“Big Jim”) Larkin onto The Plastic Pedestal https://the-plastic-podcasts.castos.com/podcasts/10219/episodes/eithne-browne-brookie39s-irish-queen-of-liverpool
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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:20 How are you doing? I'm Doug Devaney, and you are listening to the Plastic Podcasts Tales of the Irish Diaspora now in its seventh series seven Lorded Law. I remember when it was nothing but greenfields and Covid around here. But speaking of memories, I recall a time when plastic towers was mere a twinkle in this young man's eye back when I was a student in the Land of Scout. Yes. Liverpool in 1984, boasted, three proud achievements footy Frankie and Brookie, and it's to the last of these that we return as Chrisy Johnson. She of that close joins us in the form of actress Ethne Brown veteran also of Corey and Emma Dale, as well as some of the finest of Jimmy McGovern's writing in particular, the drama Broken where she plays none other than Mrs d e v a n e y. She pronounced it devaney. I call it Devaney, but let's not have that get in the way as I ask eth Aetna Brown, Queen of Liverpool. How you doing Speaker 2 00:01:17 Today? It's a, it's a lovely day. I've been working hard or week on a new project in Liverpool, um, called the SCO Trap, which goes on, we open on Friday at the Royal Court Theater. So I'm here with my trusty script Speaker 1 00:01:31 <laugh>. Right? You are. Well, we're going to improvise. Uh, so the Scouts trap. Let's talk a little bit about that from the name, I'm presuming it's an Agatha Christie esque Grmp, Speaker 2 00:01:42 Like a lot of plays like the Royal Court, they think of a name, you know, a name will come up. Um, and, and then the plot will fit around that really. So it is Agatha Christie. I play Miss Inga Marble. Miss Marble. Thank you. Um, so I played sort of the, the old Sleuthy type character. Um, and there are lots of, I suppose, characters that people would recognize. The, um, a lot of suspicious people. We've got an American toy salesman. What's he doing in Liverpool? Uh, we've got inspected Gache, aol. We have, um, oh, let me think. We have Lady Mark Dobson. We have maids, we have all of that. So it's, uh, all of the people staying at the death. Good fun. Speaker 1 00:02:26 You're very much a Liverpool based actor in a lot of ways. Uh, not just the Scouts trap and Brookie, but you appear as a time traveler in the Museum of Liverpool. Speaker 2 00:02:34 Um, the thing is, with me at Liverpool, I, this has always been home. I always thought I might go away and live somewhere else, but I, it just worked out. But I didn't. Um, I had my son at 17. My, some, most of my family here, some traveled away. I have two sisters who live abroad, One lives in New Zealand, one in Scarborough. Um, but mostly the basis of the family was here with my parents. Um, that's not unusual for a lot of people. Is it really? So Liverpool, Liverpool is home. Liverpool is home. Speaker 1 00:03:06 Do you travel much backwards and forwards to London? Speaker 2 00:03:09 Uh, wherever work takes me, Um, that's it. I think sometimes people don't realize with actors, you have to go wherever you're asked. You can't choose to go to various places. Um, I'm lucky enough to have worked all around Britain, and I've worked three times in Vienna for the English Theater in Vienna, which is absolutely beautiful. I did, I, I, I was invited to go to, um, Madeira to do Shirley Valentine, which was just wonderful. This this tiny, beautiful, almost miniature opera house, you know, in the capital, uh, in Madeira. And that's where Shirley spoke. So that was lovely. Um, and yeah, you, you go sort of where, wherever work is really that, that's it. It could be crew, it could be Perth and Scotland. It could be London. You know, you just, where, wherever it is, we, we travel our little traveling bags. I'm a good traveler. Speaker 2 00:04:07 I like being away. I can look after myself. Um, it's wonderful coming home. It's wonderful coming home and you suddenly, you appreciate it all the more you look around it, you go, I live here. This is a lovely place to be. Familiarity breeds contempt. You know, you get used to your surroundings day after day after day. So when you go away, work somewhere, um, you can enjoy everything that's happening around you. But it is very, very nice when you come back home. I like, I like working away. I really do. And I like to fluer around various cities or terms. Um, I'd like to get on the local transport, just get a bus out to somewhere, see how everybody else lives, Uh, that, that's how you fill your days. A lot of people, I think, have problems being away from home. You know, What do you do when the weather's bad or you are in a city that you don't know? I tend to be quite good at that. I'm lucky. Speaker 1 00:05:04 Were you like that as a kid? Speaker 2 00:05:06 Yeah, I was terrible. I just used to go off and not think that my parents might need to know where I was once I had this, Um, we've been away to holidays at holiday camp, and I've made some friends there who lived in Malo, and I just thought, Oh, this would be a Sunday. It'd be a nice day to go visit them. And then there was all sorts of problems with trains and what have you. And I didn't get to Mattlock till five o'clock and then I couldn't get back. So I had to my parents. I was about, I was 13, 13, 14. Um, Mom, where are you? I'm in Mattlock. What are you doing there? And what seemed like a very good idea at the time. I, I've just always, Yeah. Speaker 1 00:05:49 So born, raised in heightened? Yes. Uh, was he your parents who were Irish or your grandparents or? Speaker 2 00:05:54 My father, my father's Irish. He was from BA in Can Mayo, and he left home about 14, 15 and went to wait to see. Not uncommon, as we know. Um, and he sort of traveled the world. He was on board ship with my grandfather, um, who brought him back home and to, you know, invited him in. And that's how he met my mom. So he was, um, he was welcomed into the family, um, you know, as, as, as a guest at my grandfather, really. And met mom, and, and there we are. Dad was amazing. He, he left home 1415, um, and he worked as her to become a master Mariner. He was a captain, um, when he retired and had been a captain for many, many years. He had, oh, he had pilots licenses for various ports around the world. You know, he studied hard. Speaker 2 00:06:49 He was a very educated man, self-educated, um, absolutely brilliant person. Brilliant, brilliant man. And he met mom. Now, my Liverpool grandparents, my English grandparents, uh, were Republicans, um, on Vox Road, which is sort of parallel to the river, the docks. So my grandmother was the Republican and my grandfather was a sailor. Then Docker, then working at the, it still stands to this day, it's called the Castle Hotel. I mean, very different, very different to when we were children. So we used to go down there, especially when dad was away at sea. We'd go down there every weekend from he Devox Road, and Mum would help out in the pub, and she sang, played accordion, played piano. Um, it was a fantastic place for a child to be involved in, you know, crisps, Yay, <laugh>. So it was, we'd spend our weekends there. It was very good, a great place to be able to go out and explore because you had all these massive warehouses to sort of creep around. You know, Taking Lys was along the, as I say, you were only a bit down from the docks, Wonderful buildings to explore and look at. And it was great to be in a different environment, heightened when I grew up, was very green and pleasant. Um, we used to cross a place called Perkins Farm to get to school, so it was, again, great place to just open the door, run out the woods, fields, cows, horses. It was quite contra sighted, but I am going back to the fifties, so I very lucky. Speaker 1 00:08:24 And were you as likers not to get on the stage yourself and do anything? Speaker 2 00:08:28 No, not at all. Mom had the most amazing voice. She sung, uh, in choirs, Mom's rendition of VE Maria, You know, she was a brilliant, brilliant vocalist. Sang Alo would've probably, um, made more of that voice. She would've loved that, I think, uh, to have had more of a performance career. But then it was the war, and then it was a family, and then it wasn't done. But she sang in public at very, very many places. And when I had done Blood Brothers on to New Brookside, if I could ever get my mom in front of a microphone, I'd be like that. Off you go, mother. Um, she loved it. She was a, a born entertainer. I wasn't particularly, I sort of fell into this, but, but Mom had the, you know, the Alan, she had that, all of that going for her. Um, and as I say, self-talk musician, like piano to define standard. And the Accordionist was excellent. A lot of music growing up. We were around a lot of music growing up. One of the first things I remember, I've been quite small in heightened, Whereas, um, we, we had, you know, a record player, obviously, and then these, you know, 33, the thirds. And I remember we had Borjas Slavonic dances. And so we had a lot of classical music and Irish music, as well as the popular music of the fifties and sixties, as sung by my mother. Speaker 1 00:09:56 Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So when your dad came back, what was that like? Speaker 2 00:09:59 E everything changed. It really did. First of all, there was this scuffle over chocolate. Dad always came back, um, especially during the last few years because it would be doubling Belfast, Liverpool. He did that sort of, you know, triangle in the rsc, uh, because by then he would be taking cattle goods, transporting the you from one, um, from on port to the other. So from Dublin there was always a bag of cabs, you know, so like the, those dairy milk size. But you would get Turkish lights or peppermint or you know, the, all of those ones, the, uh, one wants. So there would be a fight over who got what. And the one you wanted was the milk tray, cuz that had one of everything in. But, um, but then it was also, we had to be very quiet when dad was first home, because he'd be exhausted. He would always be exhausted, and it would be, the first day or so would be catching up on sleep, you know? And so there would be a very quiet, pushed reverence around the house. And then when dad was up and running, he did a, he did a lot of the cooking. He was an amazing cook, uh, and Baker. So we always at, well, when dad was home, <laugh>, Speaker 1 00:11:11 Were there any visits back to the family in Ireland? Speaker 2 00:11:14 We, we would visit the family most summers up to a certain point, um, when schools and what have you sort of interfered. And then we weren't working. We would go, we would go back to, uh, Mayo every year. We would normally cross, you know, by boat and then get, um, the train from Dublin up to straight to Ballar. You always changed up Mullingar, Mullingar, sort of in the center of Ireland. I always remember we changed trains there. So all our, all our summers were spent with the Irish contingent. We would grow out to a small island in the Bay and spend the whole day there. We'd pick potatoes, the fathers and the brothers would catch crabs and prawns and all sorts of stuff. What, whatever was going, uh, fish. And then we would crook it over a big open fire. And that's how you spent your days camping. Wonderful. Speaker 1 00:12:07 So were you the eldest, middle youngest? Where where were you in the lineup? Speaker 2 00:12:11 I was number three. I had two older sisters, One particularly who was much louder than everybody else. <laugh>. And then after me was the first boy. So that was it. Oh, the boy of the family. Um, so everything changed. Speaker 1 00:12:25 How do you mean? Everything changed? Speaker 2 00:12:27 Oh, when the, when the boy was, you know, it was, it was, it was very much, we're going back to the fifties and it was to have a, you know, to have a son to carry on the family line, that was still very much a thing. Less so now, I think, in certain families. Um, and plus my mum had lost children as well. Uh, along the way she had, she'd had a few, a couple of miscarriages. So it was a big rejoicing thing that this lovely, healthy, bouncy boy, bright red hair, like his father, um, came into the family. So the dynamic definitely changed. And of course, you know, you go from being the baby to being just another child in a way, don't you? You know, a lot of focuses on the baby and you have to get on your life with your sisters. And that, that's what happens to big families. Speaker 1 00:13:23 You're listening to the plastic podcasts. We all come from somewhere else. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Ethne Brown is seen as the Queen of Liverpool, a face and voice for this most Irish of cities. And that's in no small part because of her association with many of its finest writers. But acting as a profession, she says she more fell into the name Dad. Speaker 2 00:13:46 It's a very well told tale. I was, I was working at the Now Long Vanished Meshi Gallery, an art gallery on both streets in Liverpool. And I was working there, and we used to close on Saturdays at that point. So we closed the shop one o'clock and we'd all bought a picnic and a flag of cider. And off we went. And we sat in the gardens, St. James' Gardens behind the Anglican Cathedral. And I sang a couple of songs and my manager s didn't realize I could sing. And she knew somebody who was looking for a singer for a project. Long story short, I ended up being asked to sing the songs, um, that had been written by Willie Russell for Blah Brothers, so they could be, um, turned into music and then passed onto members of the bank. So that was great. I remember I was asked to do this job. Speaker 2 00:14:44 I was going to get 10 pounds for it. Ooh, hello. Um, but I've got a naturally for harmonies. So when I started working on the music, I was sent, uh, at a place in Doco of all places at this really little studio, in a house in Doco. And Willie Russell was like, Who's this? You know? And I have a similar tone of folky tone at that point to Barbara Dixon, who was the original Mrs. Johnson. So I had to go to meet the director, the director of Blood Brothers, Chris Bond, who was not impressed. He was, why, why would he be, you know, this Clark comes up and starts talking at him, and why would he choose me? But I found out that, uh, he and Willie had done a d and Willie got me, and he got an actress that he liked that Willie didn't. But the best story is that I got to be in Blood Brothers. I went to London to the West End at the show at the age of 28. Ms. Barbara Dixon goes off field one night and I go on in her clothes in the west end of London in the leading role of Mrs. Johnson in Blood Brothers. And then six months before I'd been selling Venetian blinds on London Road. <laugh>. That's completely true. <laugh>. Speaker 2 00:15:59 So, so you never know. But my parents, my parents, You must do this, this must happen. They looked after my son Neil, while I was in London. Um, I would be home every weekend, um, traveling back with the guys from Liverpool. Um, but I'm still great friends with. So it was just a, an extraordinary opportunity that I was asked to take. And, and I did, I did. Speaker 1 00:16:22 That was what, the mid eighties? Speaker 2 00:16:24 Yeah, it was 82, 82, 83. So I'm on the cast recording, and there was a very odd thing, I was on holiday in the visa with a friend and I suddenly went, That's me. And they were playing show tunes, you know, in this bar. We were sat at Nabi and I was just like, that's my voice. <laugh>. Speaker 1 00:16:43 Yeah, it's about five years later you're on Brookie and you're there for what, about six years? Speaker 2 00:16:48 Only about four. Yeah. They were looking for something dramatic. So I actually walked out on my daughter's wedding day, Um, and that was, and I came back a couple of years later to bury my husband. And so that was it. And apparently I went off to live in Japan, so that was about as far away as I could send me. Speaker 1 00:17:08 That was nice for you. Speaker 2 00:17:09 Yeah, I loved it. It was great. I always wanted to come roaring back into Brookside, close on the back of a motorbike in addressed in a kimono and that. But, um, I mean, that, that's what happens. You know? You, you can't always rely, rely on on being there forever, forever. No acting job. Very, very few acting jobs to people. Stay in it all the way through. Speaker 1 00:17:31 Liverpool seems to be a, a city where people know each other an awful lot. Uh, it's, it's not like say Manchester or London. It, it appears to be much more meshed. I mean, there you are singing on your day off and your manager knows someone who knows someone who knows Willie Russell. And bang, six months later you're in Blood Brothers. Speaker 2 00:17:46 It is funny cuz that that was a curious journey. Um, I've, I've shortened it. It wasn't, you know, it sort of wasn't that straightforward, but, but that was a curious journey. But, um, it's what's happened since then, really, that solidifies that. I, I had a phone call from a very good friend whose husband was in the sixties, groups, still goes out there on the road today singing. Um, and it was the daughter of her goddaughter who was appearing on stage. And you'll never walk alone for the first time. I love these little ties that you find all over the place. It's six degrees of separation in Liverpool. It tends to be just about four or even two. You know, it, it, it's that I am not, I'm not one of those people who goes, Aren't all scouts great, but the best city in the world and stuff like that. Speaker 2 00:18:31 I, I don't do that. I, I like being part of the world. I have liked more being part of Europe still. But it's lovely that you get to meet people whose families are involved and you know them and you can help them. And it, it's that sort of thing. Um, and I think, yeah, Liverpool is quite a compact city in its way. You're boarded by water, you know, it's not going much further. So you do get to know a lot of people. And let's face it, I'm really 70. I've been here a while doing it. Speaker 1 00:19:01 I'm wondering if it's not similar to Irish towns in that sense, where everyone seems to know each other. Speaker 2 00:19:06 I don't think there's anything I, and we should never, ever, um, try and minimize the impact Irish people have had on Liverpool. Um, and certainly the post-war years as well. There was a great I influx of people, It breaks my heart to see the Wellington Rooms, which was the old Irish Center in a state of such disrepair. We would, we, we went every weekend. You, it was a place of your meeting. Um, you would go there and meet people that you knew, that knew your relatives that came from there, there, there, it was such a communal place. It's a place of unity and strength and friendship. You would go for Irish dancing classes, you would go for music classes. Um, there would be poetry readings. You get your Irish papers from there. And it was a home away from home for so many Irish people. Speaker 2 00:19:58 I know they still do that at the Irish Center, which is, um, up in Boundary Street. There's still a very, very big, um, search to keep all of that going. The Irishness of Liverpool. You, you come again, say it, Little Dublin, call it what you will. And this was a port where a lot of people, when they were leaving Ireland for the first time, they had to come through to go on to America, Europe, wherever. And a lot stayed. People came here and a lot of poverty a lot of the time at the turn of the century. And I did a piece recently where we talked about the prejudice of the fifties and sixties and beyond, where it wasn't unusual. No dogs, no blacks, no Irish. That prejudice existed. And you have to work through that. My, my father who was this amazingly, you know, wonderful man, fully respected, um, was given a certain amount of abuse in a council chamber because he spoke with an Irish accent. And this was in the eighties. He's like, What do you have to do? You know, That's wrong. That's wrong. That's another reason I, I like to think about Liverpool as being a little bit more global than, you know, than tight. Um, but the impact the Irish people have had on, on Liverpool is, is there, It's in the street names, It's in the, you know, the names of the people that you work with, you live with. Were there. Speaker 1 00:21:31 We'll be back with Eth Aetna Brown in the moment, but now it's time for the Plastic Pedestal. That part of the podcast where I ask one of my interviewees to talk about a member of the diaspora of personal, cultural or political significance to them. This week, horticulturalist and author Patrick Osborne sidesteps us before paying tribute to a historical idol with his own Liverpool connection. Speaker 3 00:21:54 Well, for one summer when I was, when I was trained, and I trained in the National Platonic Gardens in Glass Nevin, and that backs onto Glass Nevin Cemetery in Dublin. And Glass Nevin Cemetery has, uh, it's basically Irish history because e everyone that was anyone as such is buried. You'll find them buried in, in Glasson Cemetery. Now, when I, so I worked there for one summer between, you know, for my summer holidays when I was in college, and it was fantastic place to to, to, uh, to work. But I remember like certain graves now, but Michael Collins is buried there, right? You, Um, and there was no tours, you know, there was no, there was no real interest at that time of, uh, of a cemetery being a place that you'd go to for a tour. You know, that would be, you just went to do the, the, the, the Barry nrc, you know, pay your respects now. Speaker 3 00:22:51 But this whole idea of genealogy and an interest and oh, who's Barry there? And we do these guided tours. So that has come into it now. But I remember Michael Collins' grave, you really wouldn't know. There might be a few flowers around it, but it was kind of stuck to one side. So he would be one. But I suppose Jim Larkin, so a big Jim Liverpool born two Irish parents, and he had a huge cultural effect on both UK and Ireland, north and south of the border. You know, he made a lot of noise in Belfast as well. <laugh>. Um, and for, for people that probably aren't too familiar with Jim, Jim, Jim helped from the Irish Labor Party and the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. Um, and as well as at the Irish Citizens Army, which were set up to mind the lads when they went on strike. Speaker 3 00:23:45 So he was very instrumental and very involved in that whole 19 tour. Dian lockout, which was basically against, there was a guy called Morphy from Carr County Clark, and he ran newspapers and all. And what they did is they got the tram walkers to strike the, the la not cause they were look at pain conditions in the whole lot, like this, this internal eternal fight that unions and management and all will have. So they, they, they stopped the city, like, and then, uh, the Morphy and, and his gang. Then they brought in the heavies, and there was, there was several people killed in riots during the, the lockout. And then people were, there was lists drawn open, there was people blacklisted. Um, so there was lots of stuff going on. And Jim then went Jim la and the went to the States, United States to, to muster up support, both for an armed, an armed struggle and a political struggle. Speaker 3 00:24:41 He actually got arrested. He spent time in singing in New York for his struggles. And what saved him, he would've been, he would've been, he like the 1916 leaders then were all executed and killed Mayim, uh, jail. But he, he, he wasn't there. He was still in the States, so he avoided that, if you like. But he came back and he'd done an awful lot of, like, he was a revolutionary, and like if you weren't on his side, you thought, Oh, this fell is a nuisance. He's causing sabotage and this, that, and the other. But he ended up becoming, uh, a td. So the equivalent of an mp, the TD in, in, in Ireland. He died, He died in Ireland. He died about 1947. And he was born, I think around, I wanna say about 1874. So born in Liverpool, but definitely to, uh, Irish parents, and again, into poverty, into walking class. Speaker 3 00:25:34 So that sparred him to, to, to get the people to stand up. Um, and he's buried, he's altered and barely does it in glass, Nevin. But he was widely like, like, like he, he was wide. He, he was wide, like what he's done was widely claimed or acknowledged or, uh, understood. Like he's a big statue now in, in, in Oola Street. And he has his arms out famous. He, this, you know, big, big. He was a big, uh, a brilliant auditor. And even George, I think, I think George Bernard Haw Shaw said, So you're talking about the guy from the literary world, and he said he was the greatest Irish man since, uh, Charles Stewart Parnell, who would've been a reved Irish man at the time, really tried to help the, the underprivileged walking class or poor people or whatever of Ireland. So I suppose Jim, yeah, Jim, Jim, Jim, be good, Jim. Jim, Jim. Put it up to the man <laugh> Speaker 1 00:26:32 Patrick Osborne there and Patrick's debut novel Baxter's Boys is available online. And also, if you want to hear more of what Patrick has to say, why not check out his interview on our [email protected] Hey, why you there? Why not subscribe? Scroll down to the bottom of our [email protected] Pop your details at the space provided, and one confirmatory email later, or the plastic lu to the world blogs, the latest podcasts and details of our fresh adventures will be yours. It's that simple, honest. Now back to eth Aetna Brown. Inevitably when you talk Irishness and Liverpool, you end up talking about the mop tops, those four boys that shook the world. But Eth Aetna has a broader perspective on music and dance in her home city. Speaker 2 00:27:23 Music in Liverpool is very intertwined. My grandmother had a dance set on the bar of her pub in the fifties, and a lot of the sailors would bring back, um, all the 70 eights, you know, Little Richard and stuff, you know, it was, the place was full of music, full of music. I was 15, 16 when we first went to the Caribbean clubs in, in Parliament Street. They're fantastic. The Ebo Yoruba, the African Clubs, Caribbean clubs down there, and, and you would be dancing with people from completely different races. And oh my God, it was fantastic. And I, I lived in that area for a while as well. The Somali Club, you know, it, you might not find that in places like that, but because of the, um, because it was a port and open to the rest of the world, all those musical influences came into Liverpool. Speaker 2 00:28:10 Uh, and, you know, pretty much were welcomed. There were Greek clubs. I used to go to a Polish club with my father, um, on Catherine Street, like the old club, um, African clubs, certainly, you know, and you could eat food from around the world. There's a Greek church, Greek Orthodox church next to a Catholic church, next to a Church of England, next to a world's church. That area of Catherine Street had about eight or nine churches in a, you know, you could walk from one to the other. Um, a lot of them, a few of them had been demolished, but quite a small, small space churches of very different denominations. Welcome to Liverpool. Speaker 1 00:28:51 Uh, you mentioned the Irish Center. Did you do any of the, uh, Irish dancing and that sort of thing? Speaker 2 00:28:56 Yeah, I Irish danced. I, I once, um, re Irish dancing lessons there. Um, I once results to perform at, I went to Broon Hall Conference School. I was asked to perform my Irish dancing. Our sister, Mary Agnes played the piano. What we hadn't decided on was the time. We knew when we were starting, but we hadn't decided on a time and place where we would finish. So she carried on play. I carried on just bombing up and down stage. <laugh>, I collapsed almost. That was really very fun. But, uh, but that was it. People would go, um, you know, and then the penny whistle, uh, the violin, the accord, the piano, traditional music, the bar was played there. It was wonderful. You had all these marvelous noises coming out and smells as well. You had to shop where they would sell the white pudding, uh, soda breads, um, foods, tato crisps, foods that you couldn't get, you know, um, in Liverpool would be brought over from Ireland to sell to the people there to remind them of home, which is what we do. Speaker 2 00:30:00 Uh, it was a wonderful place. I went to concerts there, readings. I spent a wonderful New Year's Eve there with my parents at the age of, I think I was 20, 21. And I was just my mom, dad, and I there at the Irish Center, surrounded by everybody else. Uh, and we walked home all the way to do that night. It was wonderful. Just lovely. So I have, I have, um, I have wonderful memories of the Iris Center. When you walked in, there was space, it was elegant, uh, again, a pride taken in and how it was built. And they looked after it as, as well as they could. And then declined fortunes, no support. And it got taken off them. I, I mean, I don't know the story of why that building was lost to the Irish Center. Uh, somebody will, and now of course, it's just been left a lot. Speaker 2 00:30:51 I know personally of friends and of people who've inquired about taking it over to make it a going concern again. But I walk past there two days ago, and there's a bodily, a tree, not just a bush. It's a, they, you know, they're letting it rot and it will be demolished and something very tall and very square will go in its place. I would love to be proved wrong, Please. Somebody proved me wrong. The Wellington rooms also had a history in the First World War, because when people went, that's where men went to sign up. And to be given five pounds to sign up, they went to the Wellington rooms and were making part of the Liverpool regimen, you know, so it's not just that thing about Irish people or whatever. It has a, it's space and place in Liverpool history that shouldn't be forgotten. Speaker 1 00:31:39 Ireland's become a different, far more liberal place than it was 40 years ago. I mean, do you get back to Ireland at all? Speaker 2 00:31:46 Not recently because of work and what have you. The last time I was there, I was actually on tour. Um, so I was able to go over and, uh, visit relatives in the west of Ireland. Um, and then I actually ended up in a hospital in Belfast with food poisoning. So I had to be, I had to come out of the tour for a week. It was hilarious. It was really, really funny. Um, but I got to see my family over there. My eldest sister spent quite a bit more time in Ireland than we did when she was younger and could in fact speak Gaelic. She went to school there for a while and then, um, uh, could speak Gaelic. So she has a firmer connection with, uh, my relatives that they were of the same age. They used to sort of hang out together. Speaker 2 00:32:28 Um, oddly enough, there was a player I was doing early this year, and it mentioned it that, um, during the sixties, seventies, there was, there was weekly because England needed more nurses. So if there was a drive in Ireland and they'd bring Irish girls over to become nurses, they'd put them up, they'd pay their, um, wages, obviously they'd be put up in nurses' homes, and they, you know, they would be trained at hospitals. So two of my director close cousins ended up in Yorkshire working over there as nurses. Another went, worked to live down south. Um, and the island, I think up to a certain point, was still seen as a place where young people left to find opportunity in other places. New York, you know, New York's another little Irish enclave, isn't it? Um, I think the Celtic tiger changed things, and that young Irish people could see opportunities for them making a living for themselves, still remaining in the country of their birth, rather than have to leave and find it somewhere else. Speaker 2 00:33:28 And you're right, it's a lot more liberal than it used to be. Um, I, I've got, I've got a very good friend, Irish friend here in Liverpool. Her and her two sisters were sort of like the Irish equivalent to the Beverly Sisters in the sixties and seventies. And they came over to work in Liverpool. Uh, and they live in Liverpool, but they first came over and worked in ish. I think they, they toured with Mr. Engelbert, humping no less. But one of the bits of advice were given was by a nun to one of these young women coming over leav home. Do not sit on a seat when a man has vacated it. You could get pregnant. Who knew? Who knew if the seat was still warm? It was dangerous. Speaker 1 00:34:09 Anang left a lot of warm seats. Uh, meanwhile, Liverpool has opened itself out more. I mean, people come over for stag and he nights and various tourist attractions. And I think it's less, um, insular, I think is the word than it used to be when I was a student. Is that your take on it, being Queen of Liverpool? Of course. Speaker 2 00:34:26 No, no, no. It, it is. I, I believe in, I believe in being a citizen of the world. Uh, you know, I think we have to just look beyond our horizons. Liverpool is a port. It's always welcome people. And people have stayed, people have moved through. They've, you know, they've left these amazing inferences that have made us what we are. Um, I'm, I'm proudest of Liverpool. When you see, you know, that, that sort of Mosley I national front type thing, not being allowed to leave Blind Street Station, you are not wanted here. And, and it's things like that, um, that make you think that this has come from our past. You will find prejudice here. Of course you will. Cause everybody's here is human. But I, I do take a pride in thinking there's a, an open hand, um, welcoming you in, you know, and, and it's good to do. Speaker 2 00:35:21 So Liverpool's just such a melting pot of various people. I've lived in districts. I, I was living in intox of when the riots were on, uh, in the eighties. And I saw what happened then on the first night, and I was there for the second night, and they heard people coming in from buses all over the place and traveling from that, that that wasn't a right just for people of Liverpool aid. It was a bit of a free for all in the end. What are you doing? What are you doing? And it was people just wanting to woo, you know, get into the middle of that. But for the people who lived in Liverpool Lake was subject to the prejudice and the fear. And I've seen that. I, you know, that, that that's where you want things to change. That's where there must be a change. And I have to say, I don't know the times that we're living now where we're not taking a step or two backwards in terms of racism, um, you know, sexual upsets and stuff like that. Uh, you think we're more liberal and we're moving forward. I don't like that element of things like that creeping back in. We fought a lot to get rid of that. Yeah, Speaker 1 00:36:47 You're listening to the Plastic Podcasts, Tales of the rfd asra, also available on Spotify, Amazon, and Apple Podcasts. Now, it would be remiss of me to chat with Eth Aetna Brown without talking about Chrissy Rogers, her character on Brookside, a rare sight on TV in the eighties, an actively socialist woman. I wonder if she was aware of breaking New Ground at the time. Speaker 2 00:37:11 Probably not, if I'm honest. Because again, when I, when I got to go on stage and the Blood Brothers, I was asked to play Liverpool mother who could sing, you know? So, so it felt very close to who I was and, and who I am. I was a mother with children who was working, who was, you know, um, and her, her beliefs were very much like mine, trainee teacher. She fed her children. Um, I used to joke about Chrissy Rogers that, you know, she was one of those people that you, she was always feeding them orange juice or you saw her peeling potatoes, You know, she, she cooked, She was a mother in that way. And then when it came to bringing the children up, um, one of the reasons the storyline le, was that she did not want her daughter to do what she'd done. Speaker 2 00:38:01 She got pregnant and that, so therefore got married and gave her teaching career up. Don't do that. I don't want you to do that. So she was very much quite a feminist in that way. Um, the thing is, if you're doing something like book site, you are only as strong as the storylines you're given. You know, you don't write them yourself. There were certain things that happened with Christy, and I think she wouldn't do that. She's going to this week, <laugh>. Oh, ok. Oh, ok. Um, but yeah, it was, I suppose she was a, a woman for the age, the woman of that age. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:38:37 Obviously you've been in Dale and Cori, but you've also done a lot of theater. And I suppose when you're in a play, you know what's going to happen every night because, you know, that's in the script. Whereas when you're in a soap, there's a lot more mystery. I mean, you're either at the beginning or the middle or the end of a storyline. Yeah. Speaker 2 00:38:52 With, with Brookside, that was the longest I was anywhere, like four years. You get different script writers every other week. So a storyline might not be as consistent as you'd like because it's now being written by somebody else. So the language is slightly different, the way they approach each other. Um, big dialogue can be different, whereas you write, you know, a play. I mean, I'm, I'm working on a play at the moment, and we started four weeks ago, and they're still having changes, but it was a new play. You know, It, it's, it's, uh, it's not been tried before, so we're still working on it, trying to get it right. Um, and then you're right, that's the difference between television and theater. Theater. You get a couple of weeks to rehearse it and you can sort out your relationships with the other people you are on stage with. Speaker 2 00:39:39 Whereas I, I've, I've, I've gone into television studios and I was talking about one the other day, I was, I was to play the housekeeper of, um, Downing Street, and the Prime Minister was Gabriel Burn, and I'd never met him before. And he's, you know, absolutely wonderful. Had and lovely to, we just had a couple of hours together. Um, but you've got be able to do it and be that person that they want you to be. They can't, you can't hold the whole shoot up. You've got to be able to be flexible and go do that. Gonna be that Coronation Streets. I was somebody with C O P D, my work with my inhaler was a thing of joy. And, uh, You <laugh> this year? Last year? No, last year. Last year. Could I come and be, I will be on this, on the credits as Aging Socialite f the Brown, and it was to appear a couple of hours in a film called Darland with Ben Kingsley playing Darling. Speaker 2 00:40:37 And so you've just got a few words to say and you've just got to be able to go in and do it. Uh, no fuss created. That's what you're there for. I got a thumbs up. They're well done from, you know, Sebe for saying the same thing 25 times in exactly the same way. Um, different skills, but in television, you just got to go in and be able to do it. And sometimes very complex emotional scenes. You might get strip changes the night before. You might be handed you panicky, Um, whereas in theater, you go on stage mostly knowing what you're gonna say that evening. And it should be the same as what you said last night. But then you love two very different beasts. Speaker 1 00:41:19 Yes. But you've also worked with Jimmy McGovern. Speaker 2 00:41:22 Oh, yeah. Yeah. Well, we always said there was a direct called Ken Horn. If you had Ken Horn directing and a Jimmy McGovern script, you were, you were assured of, of, you know, really good value for money there. And it's funny, I saw, um, Jimmy McGovern is, again, Liverpool all intertwined. Jimmy McGovern's wife, Eileen was my mother's Macmillan mess. Um, but years before then, I was doing something, when I was doing Brookside, I was on stage at the field singing Irish song, and I, I was about to sing Sheu for the phone. I said, I'd like to sing it for, um, you know, old gay in the audience, my father. Do you remember going, ran them? You know, it was all sort of slightly intertwined. They'd met each other, they liked each other. And I was going to, uh, the Remembrance for Jerry Marsden at the An and Cathedral recently. Speaker 2 00:42:18 And I found myself walking up the path with Jimmy and Eileen, How are you? How are the family? How is this? And my dad, um, he was losing his sight and he was a place called Christopher Grange where they would do, um, he, he was making furniture, which he didn't have done before. I've, I've still got, uh, I've still got a table he made for me. And, and Jim, and I said, Oh, it's so nice to see you. We've still got the stool, the chair Brendan made for us, and it's now with their granddaughter. And you just like, there's the connection, you know? That's absolutely lovely. A very odd thing happened just the other day, the friend I was saying, you know, that I was, we walked past the Irish Center and he asked about it, and we went into, um, pad's, wiggle the Metropolitan Cathedral, and we're just looking around, um, talking about various things he'd never been in the building before. Speaker 2 00:43:13 And we went over to one of the alcoves, and it was the Books of the Remembrance, one for Hillsborough one, another one. There were three altogether under glass in a glass cabinet. And I said, Oh, look at the wonderful Irish names here. And then I looked over and there was my father's name and my mother's name in the books of Remembrance in front of me. And it was just, hello, You know, they just, they, they happened to be open on that day. I was looking at something else, and there was William, Brendan Brown, r i p, Catherine Mary Brown, who was just lovely. So that was a, a nice, you know, nice little copy of the day. And so to certainly see their names pop up outta the book of Remembrance, very unexpected and quite moving. There's Liverpool, Speaker 1 00:44:03 Do you come across many other Eths? Speaker 2 00:44:06 Um, oddly enough, oddly enough, there was a beautiful and quite brilliant actress, stroke fiddle player called Eth Henigan, who was working in Liverpool as I came up from Blood Brothers. And it was quite funny because the name was so unusual, um, like, and, and two to be in the same sort of city in the same, uh, you know, acting well. And I remember I'd gone for an audition. I was like, You've not brought your fiddle. It's the other one. And she actually did get talk to me about Brother Blood Brothers. And it was like, no, we weren't very alike. There was no rivalry at all. We were always very happy to see each other. And a very odd thing occurred last year, was it last year, was I was asked to go up to Lancaster to come to a company. Um, and they were doing this wonderful idea, uh, imitating the dog theater company. Speaker 2 00:44:56 And it was to do with if Romeo and Juliet had grown up, how would they be as adults? And so I was working with another older actor. He was obviously Romeo was Juliet as older people. We had a wonderful day working on this up in Lancaster, favorite place. And then the lunchtime I'd gone out and there was, um, a busker, uh, playing near the square. A small man had a little scarf tied around his head playing away. And I think he was doing Imagine, and I just put a harmony on as I'm walking past. And he sort of called me, he said, That was really nice. Where you from? Scottish guy. I won't offend anybody by attending his accent. And we got chatting and I said, I come from Liverpool and I'm doing up this. And he went, um, I had a friend from Liverpool, Etna, no, Eth Halligan, who went, Yeah, I, I stayed with her in Cork. That's where ETH Aetna was before she, she died a few years ago. And I was like, I know Esna very, very well. And we talked about her, What a beautiful musician. She'd been an actress. And anyway, long story short, I ended up busting in Lancaster while this guy went off to buy himself some cigarette papers and more tobacco. Speaker 2 00:46:09 So I ended up busting for him because he trusted me. But, but again, that Liverpool connection, I'm walking through a street in Lancaster. I got to, you know, chatting to a musician from Scotland, an old guy. And, um, I may end up talking about Liverpool and somebody that we both know. So I think, I think that actually is Annette in the Brown as well. And I think she's very, very clever. I think she's a scientist. Um, you know, when you see people on LinkedIn or something like that. So I've very much typed that there, people would get us both mixed up. Speaker 1 00:46:46 Finally, it's the question I ask most of my interviewees, and that's What does being a member of the Irish d Asra mean to you? Speaker 2 00:46:53 It's, it's my, it's in my blood. It's part of who I am. I would never want to either make something off or deny where I'm from. Um, my, my, my bloodline, my my family, the history. It's something, isn't it? When you don't know where you are from. I always sorry for people who have that sense of loss. Whereas for me, I, I've got a very good grounded sense of who I am and where I'm from, who made me, why I am the way I am. Um, it's a thing, Can you take pride in where you're from when you don't have a choice, do you, It's just who you are. So it's a lottery, a blood lottery. But I'm very glad that I'm part of this one. I have a sense of the history of my family, where they came from, how they lived. They were people of the land who then, you know, from my father's family went to see. Speaker 2 00:48:03 And we were asked to explore that. We were asked to live with that, to be part of that. It's nothing to be denied or to be made more often than it is, you know, I don't do, I don't like that. I don't like official, you know, like professional paddies, professional scouts, professional anything. I, I love meeting people at face value. And if you have that thing, that connection, you know it, you know it. I've, I've, when I've traveled to places I worked abroad or whatever, and you have that lovely connection, they hear your name, you go, Whereabouts? Where are you from? And you can say it, One of the loveliest things that happened recently when I was on tour, I was at the curb in Lester, and an actor who was performing in another play there had come to see the one I was performing in, been to a matinee. Speaker 2 00:48:53 They came up to talk to me. We started chatting. We've got about my name, uh, his name, blah, blah, blah. And he said, Where are you from? And he went, Mayo. And I went, Whereabouts? And this man in the middle of Lester came from, his father came from Ballina in country. Mayo was standing in Lester, holding onto each other because our fathers came from the same place. And what are the chances and the odds? Um, so I, I like, I like that. That's an answer, isn't it? Somebody's father comes from the same town in Ireland that my father came from. And we were happier for knowing that. We felt we had a connection. We liked each other as human beings anyway. And then that Ballard connection made it. Yes, we've made the right choice. You can be my friend <laugh>. Speaker 1 00:49:45 You've been listening to the Plastic Podcasts with me, Doug Davan and my guest, FNA Brown. The plastic pedestal was provided by Patrick Osborne and music by Jack dva [email protected] Email us at the plastic podcasts gmail.com or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. The plastic podcasts are supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

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