Athea Tidy Towns
In the past week some fantastic progress was made at the site of the Goold Monument. The boundary ditch has been cleared and replaced with timber fencing which widens the area considerably and makes the area more inviting for visitors. Also the magnificent piers at the entrance have been raised which allows us to fully appreciate their unique design. A professional cleaner is also currently attending to the monument which will return it to its former glory.
Efforts are continuing on gathering information on our planned heritage trail which will involve erecting plaques at 20 points of Heritage in the village and mapping them in a brochure. This will also include erecting a plaque at Gale View House – the home place of Con Colbert which will coincide with the 2016 centenary celebrations next year.
The committee would like to offer our sincere sympathies to Pat Higgins and family on the death of Darragh Lanigan R.I.P. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.
The “Going to England”
There is a lot of talk, particularly since the fall of the Celtic Tiger, about emigration. There is a big difference between emigration now and what happened in the middle of the last century. After the 2nd World War there was abject poverty in this country which was just trying to find its feet after 800 years of British rule. Everybody was in the same boat except for the few who were lucky and wealthy enough to get an education and become teachers, civil servants etc. Very few went beyond national school and some didn’t even complete the full term there as they were required to work on the family farm or take any kind of work to supplement the family income. Jobs were few and far between at a time when there were big families in every house so emigration was the only answer. England had been devastated by the war and needed building up so there was an opportunity for employment on the building sites and roadways. “Going to England” in those days took as long as going to Australia today. I remember in the early ‘sixties getting the train from Abbeyfeale at 8am on Friday. There was a change at Limerick for Limerick Junction, then onto the train to Kingsbridge where we changed again for Dun Laoghaire. The boat was very primitive by today’s standards and was used to ferry live cattle as well. Most people sat in the open air all night. Arriving in Hollyhead, we took the train to Crewe where we waited for the London train. On then to Rugby and the final change to the Coventry train which got into the station at 8.15am Saturday morning; a full twenty four and a quarter hours travelling ! Those who arrived first made it easier for those who followed on because they were in a position to put them up for a while and point them in the right direction for employment. The Irish were not generally welcome in Britain in those days. Boarding houses often had the sign “No pets, no blacks, no Irish” printed on the front window but they were needed to do the work and gradually became accepted by the majority of the English who are in the main a very fair race, in fact they were much better to the Irish workers than some of their own who exploited them. Girls got work in factories, hospitals and as maids in big houses while the men mainly worked on the buildings. Much of the work was sub-contracted to Irishmen who were known as “subbies”. They would arrive at a central point in the town on a Monday morning where the men looking for work gathered. They took as many as they needed and if any of them did not come up to scratch they were not taken the following day. As in all walks of life there were good and bad subbies, some treating their men well while others overworked and underpaid them while lining their own pockets. Going home to Ireland often was not an option. No cheap Ryanair flights in those days and the travelling time was too long. Many of the men spent their wages in the pub (staying in the digs all night was not an option) and only came back home for funerals. Others sent money every week to help those at home. Indeed many households depended on the letters from abroad to survive. The Irish communities in England gradually grew and eventually became an important part of the country’s development. They became involved in all walks of life, including politics, and made a name for themselves. The beginning though was tough; hard work and the heartache of being separated from family and friends in a foreign land. Today’s emigrants have no such troubles. They are all well educated and are only a couple of hours away at any time. They can thank the early travellers for the opportunities that exist for them today.
Domhnall de Barra