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Thoughtful Thursday: Memories of the men who built Britain: Reminiscence with Ultan Cowley

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Irish historian Ultan Cowley will discuss the world of Irish male migrant labour in Britain’s construction industry since World War Two.

Thoughtful Thursday: Memories of the men who built Britain: Reminiscence with Ultan Cowley

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As part of Irish in Britain's Cuimhne project a new series of Thoughtful Thursday's will be kicked off by an event with Irish historian Ultan Cowley, a former emigrant and the son of actors John Cowley & Anne D'Alton, stars of RTE’s popular rural soap, ‘The Riordans’. He is the author of The men who built Britain: A History of the Irish Navvy, based on recorded interviews with Irish migrant labourers, tradesmen, British middle management, and family members about their experiences of working in 20th century British construction.

Why was emigration so attractive to young Irish people, especially men, in the 1950s, 60s and 70s? 

  • Why was the construction industry so popular with these young men? 

  • How did these men find work? On what basis were they selected? What was the work like? 

  • What were the attitudes to health and safety on building sites?  

  • What impact has working on building sites had on mens' health in later years? 

  • How important was money sent to the family and national economy in Ireland? 

  • What roles did women take on?

Ultan uses music and imagery to bring his work to life and has produced an audio documentary, CD Voices of the Men who built Britain. For more see his website HERE.

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This session may be of interest to all keen to gain a better understanding of what people’s lives in the construction industry were like. It will be especially useful for family, friends, volunteers and staff caring for our community members living with dementia, to gain insight into the past so as to support conversations and reminiscence activities.

Take a look at recordings of our past Thoughtful Thursdays HERE.