The Mayors Office has organised a parade for St Patrick’s Day in London. In addition, there is a range of activities happening over the coming weeks including a couple fo documentaries ‘I only came over here for a couple of years‘ and ‘Lost generation‘ being shown at the Tricycle Cinema on the Kilburn High Road Kilburn. I Only Came Over for a Couple of Years: Interviews with elderly Irish men and women in London intercut with footage of the 2003 London St. Patrick’s Day Parade. These testimonies of coming to London between the 1930s and 1960s constitute a moving and valuable record of a rapidly disappearing section of the London population.
Lost Generation: An RTÉ documentary screened in Ireland in December 2003 but never shown in Britain. The programme which depicts the plight of elderly Irish men in Britain is a serious indictment of Irish government policy towards the Irish in Britain and after heated debates in the Dail, has resulted in a recent reassessment of the level of grant-aid to Irish welfare organisations.
Both are particularly resonant for me, I have often heard my parents talk about the way they only came over for a couple of years, in their late 20s/ early 30s yet are now spending the twilight of their lifes in England. They neither have the resources or the will to move back home to Ireland, which had changed physically, economicly and socially beyond all recognition.
The Lost Generaton reminded me of a all the older Irish people I knew when I grew up in Liverpool. Before I was of primary school age, an English accent was something I only heard on the television. When I was in my teens, with the recession in Liverpool I was very conscious of the amount of funerals my parents went to for forgotten people and the dazed and confused old men with old style flat caps who sat in the shopping precinct and talked to each other in hushed voices. I know more dead Irish people than the living now.
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