Archive for Irish Emigration

By the end of March 1963, forty-five families had purchased houses. – Casey

Some of you may know that I worked with emigrants. When I read the work of many selfless men and women I commissioned a book which was researched and written by Dr. Patricia Kennedy of UCD. What started out as an objective work on her part opened her heart and mind to these amazing folk one of whom was Eamonn Casey. If we had their kind around today we’d have the migrant crisis near sorted.

Here is an extract from her book entitled ‘Welcoming the Stranger’:KENNEDY

© 2015 Patricia Kennedy
Fr Casey soon recognized that Slough had a housing problem as acute as anywhere in the country. He found that a few young couples had, on the arrival of their first baby, been evicted from the singleroom flat they had rented for £5 per week. A close examination of their problems, their pattern of employment, savings and future savings potential, disclosed that with a little financial assistance they could secure a mortgage and a house of their own. He spoke of the thousands of families in caravans who had given up hope and had ‘staked out pathetic little gardens’.7

He recognized that many had lost any hope of homes, families, having children, and reunificationwi th their families. He also realized, however, that a house could be bought with a £200 deposit: ‘This amount was the difference between
appalling conditions and a “normal” life.’ He discovered that people had a difficulty, not with repayment, but with getting money for a deposit. Explaining the origins of the scheme, he laughed at his own enthusiasm and innocence: he had walked into a bank in Slough,and in forty minutes, standing at the counter, he convinced the bank manager to back his scheme. ‘I went into the bank where the church
had its account and I asked to see the bank manager. I explained what many Irish parishioners were facing when trying to buy a house.’ He asked, if he were to lodge £1,000 (which he had received from his own father) as security and wanted no interest, would the bank loan amounts of up to £400 to individuals who had already saved £400
for their deposit, up to a total of £5,000—which would help twelve couples.11 He went on: ‘When the first £1,000 was committed, I lodged another £1,000.’12 He encouraged people to save systematically. He set up his own Parish Savings Scheme, a facility with a dedicated volunteer
which stayed open late on Friday evenings to accommodate the return of men working outside Slough on the motorways and other building projects. They gave Eamonn Casey money, which he put in the bank. Once they had saved £50, eighty percent of it was put into a building society. This helped the individual to save with both bank and building society and establish a reputation as a saver with both. Fr
Casey explained: ‘All these guys would not get home until about nine on a Friday night. They were out working on the roads. I opened myow n savings scheme and a volunteer attended it for fifteen years from 8 pm-12 am on a Friday night.’ In the first year of Fr Casey’s scheme, the bank advanced a total of £4,865 on the strength of the original £1,000 deposit.14 Nineteen families were enabled to purchase their houses. Encouraged by these results, in July 1962, he made another £1,000 deposit provided by local
fundraising efforts and another £1,000 given by a donor, in January 1963.

By the end of March 1963, forty-five families had purchased
houses.

 

 

 

 

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Saint Patrick’s Day in Bondi

 

A few thoughts on St. Patrick’s Day for 2017…memories from Bondi and published in this month’s Messenger…

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Saint Patrick’s Day Bondi

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RTE’s A Living Word, Friday, the 20th January, 2017. ‘The Ultimate Migration’

 ‘The Ultimate Migration’

To listen to Alan’s reflection click here.

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St Catherine of Sienna was known for her bluntness. Once she said,

We’ve had enough of exhortations to be silent. Cry out with a hundred thousand tongues. I see that this world is rotten because of silence.

The power-brokers of our world want us to be silent about migration and migrants. They don’t want any more photographs of children dying on beaches; they don’t want newsreel of people dead in trucks or containers. The slick operations now sinks migrant boats and takes people to camps where the local community remains unaware of the conditions of those who live there. And from those camps the complexity of the situation grows as the odour of illegality surrounds the surreptitious placing of people in country towns and villages.

In this year’s letter for World Day for Migrants and Refugees. Pope Francis refuses to be silent and he consistently refers to the plight of all migrants and in particular this year to the plight of those who are young and unaccompanied;

 The condition of child migrants is worsened when their status is not regularized or when they are recruited by criminal organizations. In such cases they are usually sent to detention centres. It is not unusual for them to be arrested, and because they have no money to pay the fine or for the return journey, they can be incarcerated for long periods, exposed to various kinds of abuse and violence.

Pope Francis has chosen to keep the plight of migrants to the fore despite the inertia of many of his followers. Why? Well one reason I suppose is that his life is a celebration of the greatest migrations of all time which is that of the Son of God who entered directly into our human condition so that he can bring us all to the Father of love…about this wonderful mystery which is the ultimate and most cherished migration… there is little room for silence.

Fr. Alan Hilliard, 20th January 2017.

Artwork by Francesco Piobbicho of the organisation ‘Mediterranean Hope’.

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RTE’s A Living Word, Thursday, the 19th January, 2017. ‘Kindness’

‘Kindness’

To listen, click here  -Thursday Alan Hilliard

http://www.rte.ie/radio1/a-living-word/programmes/2017/0119/846247-a-living-word-thursday-19-january-2017/?clipid=2377866#2377866

red-faces

We were standing at the edge of St. Peter’s Square in Rome just beside one of the homeless shelters run by the Missionaries of Charity. It was that time of the evening when those who were to spend the night in the shelter were gathering prior to its opening. Many of the accents were not Italian. They were mostly migrants. Their accents betraying origins in places such as Eastern Europe, Africa even parts of former Russia.

Unbeknownst to her one of the straps of a friends hand bag had slipped off her shoulder revealing her purse, passport and a few other items of value. One of those queuing to get into the shelter noticed what I also had noticed and he moved towards my friend. And yes you guessed right – he tapped her on the shoulder and said in his broken eastern European accent, ‘miss your bag is open and some-one could take something please close it’. He refused any reward and re-joined the queue.

On the 19th of April last year Pope Francis tweeted that ‘Refugees are not numbers, they are people who have faces, names, stories, and need to be treated as such’.

Where some have suggested that we find only evil and terror I fortunately, have mostly found goodness, humanity and forgiveness. The Christian vision for our world today rests not in labels or categories or even in theories or great homilies but in our mutual respect for one another as brothers and sisters who share a common home, a mutual respect that I saw so beautifully expressed  in the kindness of a homeless migrant in St. Peters Square in Rome. His simple actions opened my eyes to the true heart of the Church in the midst of its great columns and piazzas.

Fr. Alan Hilliard, 19th Jan 2017.

Artwork by Francesco Piobbicho of the organisation ‘Mediterranean Hope’.

 

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RTE’s A Living Word, Wednesday, 18th January, 2017. ‘Tying the Knot’

‘Tying the Knot’

To listen click here – Wednesday, Alan Hilliard

http://www.rte.ie/radio1/a-living-word/programmes/2017/0118/846248-a-living-word-wednesday-18-january-2017/?clipid=2377868#2377868

red-knot

‘Ah sure they’ve tied the knot’.  This is a phrase often associated with marriage in Ireland. However it has other origins. In parts of rural Ireland in the midst of a conversation someone might say…’I haven’t seen Micheál or Nora for a while’. The reply might be, ‘ah sure, they’ve tied the knot’. The expression referred to the silent emigration of the poorer members of the community from their home. To ‘tie the knot’ referred to the last act a person carried out before they left their dwelling. A person in the better off part of town might have had a suitcase into which they packed their belongings. In a poorer home a few pieces of clothing and a few small items of memorabilia were wound round one another and tied together with a piece of string. The knot was then tied on the all that the migrants owned and possessed.

The photographs and film clips of those arriving on the shores of the Southern Mediterranean show that even if they had a piece of string there’d be little to wrap up. I know one man who was returned from the UK to Rome under the Dublin Convention (Ironically enough) with nothing only the pyjamas that he wore.

I’ve been fortunate to meet many migrants whose wealth cannot be tied into tidy parcels because their wealth lies within them. Having lost everything, they see their world differently and they live with a profound sense of God’s providence. Like Abraham, Moses and many, many, others in scripture, their uncluttered lives reveal a passion for life that possesses every limb and sinew of their being.

Fr. Alan Hilliard, 18th January 2017.

Artwork by Francesco Piobbicho of the organisation ‘Mediterranean Hope’.

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RTE’s, A Living Word, Tuesday, 17th January, 2017 ‘Ships of Hope’

‘Ships of Hope’

To listen, click here – Tuesday Alan Hilliard

http://www.rte.ie/radio1/a-living-word/programmes/2017/0117/846249-a-living-word-tuesday-17-january-2017/?clipid=2377871#2377871

red-boat

In his book Self-Portrait, John B. Keane talks about emigration. He tells of his journey across the Irish Sea and he puts into words what he observed happening all about him on the boat:

Underneath it all was the heart-breaking frightful anguish of separation. It would be a waste of time for me to launch into a description of what went on. A person had to be part of it to feel it.

A person had to be part of it to feel it. It is so easy to separate ourselves from the plight of those who are people before they are refugees, asylum seekers or migrants. Today many travel in boats that are laden with their fellow human beings, clinging to one another in sometimes silent and more times chaotic desperation.

Is there much difference, other than time, between the words of our own John B. Keane that we have just heard and those of the Somali poet Warsan Shire:

 

you have to understand

that no one puts their children in a boat

unless the water is safer than the land

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

I think that those who make a migratory journey, whether that journey is from West Kerry to Camden or from Aleppo to Ballaghadreen, that they hope for one thing. They live with the hope that what they gain in moving to a new place will outweigh what they lose in leaving the place formerly known as home. This may be difficult for us to grasp, especially if we’ve never wanted for anything but as John B. says, ‘a person had to be part of it to feel it’.

Fr. Alan Hilliard, 21st January, 2017.

Artwork by Francesco Piobbicho of the organisation ‘Mediterranean Hope’.

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A Living Word, Monday,16th January, 2017 ‘The Cittle’

‘The Cittle’

To listen, click here – Monday Alan Hilliard

http://www.rte.ie/radio1/a-living-word/programmes/2017/0116/846250-a-living-word-monday-16-january-2017/?clipid=2377873#2377873

red-ocean

She spoke with the best Queen’s English when she described her work with elderly Irish Emigrants in the Heuston Station area of London. Years spent in religious life and service to the community had given this sister an instinct that saw in these elderly Irish gents the need of for understanding, care and practical aid. She gave out bed-clothing, warm clothes, radios and whatever else brought a modicum of ease to their lives. She also knew their need to tell stories about home and their journey.

‘You came from the west of Ireland’ she recalled asking one elderly gentleman, ‘I did sister and I came with the cittle’. ‘Oh…so you like making your own tea!’ ‘Ah sister…no…you took me up wrong…the cittle was in the bottom of the boat and we were on the top!’

In the midst of their misunderstanding he was absolutely right. It wasn’t an emigrant ship that travelled from Dublin to Holyhead…it was a cattle ship. Emigrants were a secondary consideration. The ‘live’ cattle were loaded and the people followed.

This week we mark the week for Migrants and Refugees. It is an initiative of the Catholic Church and it is a worldwide program of awareness of behalf of those who journey in hope. This year Pope Francis asks us to pay attention to the plight of all migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers and in particular to the plight of ‘unaccompanied minors’.

I don’t know who you bring to mind when you think of young people who travel alone to new locations. My mind and heart think of my uncle, who despaired at the lack of opportunity in Ireland in the mid 1950’s. Five           years previously he witnessed the death of his mother in a hospital bed. Like many others he followed the cattle to Dublin Port and walked up the gangway towards a new future. He had just turned fifteen years of age.

Fr. Alan Hilliard, 16th January 2017.

Artwork by Francesco Piobbicho of the organisation ‘Mediterranean Hope’.

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