It was a windy afternoon on the East Pier at Dún Laoighaire when Cllr Sally Mulready, member of the Irish Council of State, unveiled a plaque to the ‘Forgotten Irish’, the purpose of which was to commemorate those who departed from the historic Carlisle Pier in years gone by. They left to seek work, and many never returned to the land of their birth.
The plaque, its installation, and the associated commemorative event were organised by a group of volunteers known as ‘Friends of the Forgotten Irish’. Margaret Brown, a native of Mullinalaghta, is a member of this group.
“Every St. Patrick’s Day we run a function in St. Joseph’s Pastoral Centre, Glasthule, with Fr. Billy Farrell, a native of Edgeworthstown,” said Ms Brown who now lives in Sandycove, Dublin.
She continued: “We decided that we would put something up to commemorate everyone who left from the old historic Carlisle Pier. These were people who left post World War II (during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s). Back then Ireland was in a very poor state.”
In explaining the plight of these Irish emigrants, Ms Brown said: “Most of them went to London and a lot of them went to the Irish Centre. Some had no money, only bags tied with rope, and didn’t have anyone to meet them.
“They worked hard and sent money back home. Everybody was waiting for the post and the money to come as people were depending on it here.”
For many, their destination was London and other urban centres throughout the United Kingdom. Having played an active role in assisting Irish emigrants in the UK, Cllr Mullready was the ideal person to undertake the unveiling. She also has strong connections to Granard.
Friends of the ‘Forgotten Irish’ contacted Dún Laoighaire Harbour Company to ask if it would be possible to erect the plaque. They received permission to do so, and also a sum of money from an unnamed sponsor.
“This plaque is our way of remembering them (the emigrants) and the contribution they made to Ireland,” said Ms Brown.
Also speaking at the event was Mr Brian Boylan of St. Gabriel’s Community Centre, London. Mr Boylan, a native of Kilnaleck, County Cavan, spoke about the “loss” experienced by the Irish emigrants.
“He commented on the fact that they all suffered from ‘loss’. Loss of country, loss of family,” said Ms Brown who has spent the last 25 years running a free Christmas lunch for people living alone.
The plaque, which now stands on the East Pier (near the bandstand and the Victorian shelter) depicts the ‘Old Hibernian’ ship in 1949. The church in the background is the nearby St. Michael’s Church.
“When it comes to Christmas we’ll light some candles there and these people will be remembered as we look out over the waters they left upon,” said Ms Brown.