Like many of her siblings, Maureen left the family farm near Castledermot, County Kildare, to come over in the 1940s when she was just 16. Her first job was in the kitchen at De La Salle College in Pendleton, Manchester, where she cried herself to sleep every night from homesickness. Several of her brothers came over to work on the M62 which stretches across the north of England, though they eventually returned to Ireland to work the family farm.
A long way from Kildare
She soon moved with her sister Patricia to the outskirts of Halifax in West Yorkshire and took on all sorts of jobs – working as a cleaner, in a laundry, and in a biscuit factory in Sowerby Bridge. This early period of her life in England she described as “very hard”.
Maureen found ways to fight homesickness when working as a film projectionist, telling how she exasperated the cinema manager by playing Irish films and putting on A Long Way To Tipperary or Did Your Mother Come From Ireland between showings!
She said she experienced a lot of prejudice towards the Irish when she first came to live in England, as well as much ignorance about Ireland itself. She later married John Poundford, a local policeman, convinced him they should move to a farm outside of Sowerby Bridge in nearby Soyland – she has lived on this farm now for nearly 70 years and raised her children there.
The greenery and fields of Kildare in the 1930s and 40s were in stark contrast to the heavy industry of her new home in northern England, so the family farm away from town appealed as “the green fields were around me, that’s where I wanted to be”. Her rural upbringing meant she “could never really live on a street or a town”. She also brought some saplings in a suitcase from Ireland and planted them outside her home.
It was wonderful to hear about Maureen’s life and how she was determined to carve out her own corner of Ireland in England. We are grateful for her time as well as to her daughter Jennifer who helped facilitate our socially distanced meeting. Brian was delighted to gift Maureen an ‘Irish in Britain’ membership as our newest Friend. We warmly welcome Maureen to Irish in Britain.
The Irish in Yorkshire
The Irish in Yorkshire have a long history and deep ties throughout the region. Thousands came over in the nineteenth century to work in the mills and many more, like Maureen, arrived from the 1940s onwards to rebuild Britain after the war.
There are also high numbers of Irish born residents in Calder Valley and Halifax, as well as in Huddersfield and Leeds. We have several member organisations from the county, such as Leeds Irish Health & Homes and Halifax and District Irish Society – you can see more on our members list.