Northamptonshire project seeks Irish stories from the area

Stories of people who came from Ireland to Northamptonshire are being sought for a new project

Northampton Irish Support Group’s Stories of Migration will aim to tell the history of the area’s Irish heritage.

Workers from Ireland were instrumental in many construction projects, such as the M1, and several settled in England long-term.

The writer behind the project, Anneka Shally says there are amazing stories in the locality.

James Joyce’s daughter Lucia. Illustration provided from Stories of Migration.

Anneka told The Irish World: “Working with the support group and meeting the mostly elderly Irish people, you’re hearing about their stories.

“Violet Gibson is buried in Northampton and she was the lady who attempted to shoot Mussolini.

“James Joyce’s daughter Lucia is also buried here.

“And both of those women were sent to St. Andrews, which is a mental hospital.

Illustration of Violet Gibson.

“It’s quite interesting when you start looking into those two separate stories.

“There’s actually a James Joyce quote that he said about Ulysses, ‘In the particular, the universal can be found’.

“The individual stories of those who women reflect how women were treated at the time.

“In the case of Violet Gibson, she was she was declared as insane because her actions were political.

“It was just easiest thing to say, ‘This is a crazy woman’ at the time.

“And then there’s a lot of controversy around Lucia Joyce. It is thought that she was quite a big character and perhaps threatened James Joyce’s reputation. It was after he died that she was sent to St. Andrew’s.

“There is some suspicion it could have been the institution around James Joyce that did that because they thought she might have caused problems for the estate.

“Just in those two individual stories, when you go a bit deeper, you can kind of see the societal problems that were happening at the time within those stories.”

 

Once the stories have been collated by Ms Shally, she hopes they will be published later in the year presented as a mixture of illustrations and short stories.

The writer said there had been similar projects in the past but she wants to see where the stories cross over to tell the more collective story of what caused the Irish to go to Northampton and the part they played in Northampton in the last century.

“There have been a few projects done in the past but always telling individual stories.

“What I’m doing with this is giving it a single narrative voice

“It’s interested to piece together all these different stories and one narrative voice.”

It has been interested for Anneka, who has family in Galway and Roscommon, to find out more about her heritage.

“My dad  is Irish, my mum is half- Irish. I was kind of aware of the journey over here but it’s only now that I’ve really started looking into it. It’s interesting for myself as well.

“I think in the modern world, everything is changing so quickly.

“Even when my dad tells me a story, it’s quite unbelievable to think that is just one generation ago that my dad grew up the way he did, living off the land and getting on a donkey and cart and stuff like that.

“Within one generation, so much has changed.”

 

Anneka is aware of the discrimination suffered by early generations of Irish immigrants and believes little has changed in that respect except the communities suffering such treatment.

“There were a lot of advertisements in the pubs in Ireland for jobs in England.

“Post-World War Two there was a shortage of people to do the work that needed to be done.

“I think especially early on, like the 40s and 50s, the racism was quite bad.

“Now the Irish are very much integrated but it was certainly a massive thing when they first came over.

“And it kind of shines a light on the racism that happens now with say the Polish community or Eastern European Communities. It’s just the same thing happening again.

“There are jobs here that need to be filled and countries that haven’t got the best quality of life.

“It’s naturally what humans do.”

If you would like to be part of the project, you can contact Anneka by emailing annekashally@gmail.com.

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