Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Forgotten Irish, forgotten stories

I recently attended the launch of Maria McCarthy's latest book, a collection of stories called As Long as it Takes. The stories are told from the perspective of the lost generation of Irish women who sailed to England in the middle of the 20th century to find work. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but Maria's work is usually of an excellent standard and while Maria can write beautifully she doesn't pull her punches.

My family don't speak much of their time in England when they first came over. There is a lot that they won't say, don't want to rake up the past. I feel so ignorant, and that ignorance shames me. There is a whole generation of stories and experiences that have been missed, and will be lost forever if they are not recorded.

Image credit: Chelle


Take my mother, for example, she emigrated to England in the 1950s and then trained as a nurse. In the 1960s she worked in Northern Rhodesia as it was called then, just after independence. She was part of a wave of nurses called "The Sunshine Girls" who went out. But I have not been able to find much in the way of information or stories, or any recording of the experiences of other Sunshine girls. Do you know of anyone who was a sunshine girl? (I think I feel a project coming on)

The one mention I've found online about Sunshine girls is on the Great North Road messageboard
The Forgotten Irish Campaign details are online here

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Image source: http://www.morguefile.com