Why Oral History

Uncovering & preserving valuable accounts

Over 50 dedicated volunteers helped create this exhibition, capturing stories of the Irish community in Britain through oral history. This ‘history from below’ involves recording personal narratives in individuals’ own words, providing a vital perspective often overlooked in traditional histories.

Oral history helps uncover and preserve valuable accounts from marginalised groups that may otherwise vanish due to the lack of written records.

Many Irish immigrants who settled in Britain since 1973 are now elderly, risking the loss of their migration memories. We share their voices to ensure their legacies endure.

Students enrolling on the Irish Studies short course, Polytechnic of North London, 1987.
© Archive of the Irish in Britain, London Metropolitan University

Sensitive Topics

As with all human stories, these memories contain sadness as well as joy. Some difficult memories have been locked away as the interviewee wanted them recorded for history but not shared right now.

Other memories you might hear during the exhibition may contain sensitive topics such as discussions related to abortion, adoption, loss of a loved one, displacement and other personal experiences.

If you or someone you know may be affected by these topics, please consider your emotional wellbeing before proceeding. icap operate a free confidential helpline, open to all the Irish community in Britain on: 020 7272 7906 or clinicaladmin@icap.org.uk


Ultan Cowley.

Ultan Cowley

Oral History of the Navvies

Ultan is a writer and historian who wrote The Men Who Built Britain: A History of the Irish Navvy. He first moved to England in the 1960s and now lives in Co. Wexford.

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Suandi copyright rif.


Importance of Oral History

SuAndi is a British performance poet, writer and arts curator from Manchester. Her solo performance piece The Story of M (1994) is a tribute to the life of her second-generation Irish mother from Liverpool

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The Journey

Alex mcdonnell.

Alex McDonnell

1980s Irish Migration

Alex was brought up in Newcastle to Irish parents. He worked for the GLC in their Ethnic Minorities Unit, and Arlington House, and was one of the founders of The Aisling Project, which helps long term emigrants to resettle in Ireland.

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Angie Birtill.

Angie Birtill

Why Women Left Ireland

Angie was born in Liverpool and moved to London in her 20s where she became involved with the London Irish Women’s Centre.

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Ann Lawler.

Ann Lawler

The Miracle of Moving Home to Ireland

Ann, originally from Co. Donegal, left Ireland in the 1980s, but always dreamed of returning home one day, something she achieved in 2020.

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Ann Lucas.

Ann Lucas

I nearly died of Homesickness

Originally from Co. Limerick, Ann moved to Scotland to work as a nurse before moving to South London. She is the former mayor of Bexley. She has been honoured for her dedicated service to the Irish community.

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John Giltenan.

John Giltenan

An Emotional Send-Off

Proud Limerick native, John Giltenan moved to England 35 years ago, and is the Hon. Secretary of the Council of Irish County Associations London (C.I.C.A).

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Claire Hagan.

Claire Hagan

Nothing to do Here for a Lesbian

Growing up within the Protestant community in Portstewart, Co. Derry, Clare moved to Leicester in 1989 to train as a nurse before becoming an actor.

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Katie doyle.

Katie Doyle

Never Returned From Holiday

Katie was born in Ballyfermot, Dublin and grew up in an industrial school. She moved to London in the 1980s, lived in Denmark for 10 years before returning to London where she is the Survivor Support Liaison at the London Irish Centre.

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Margaret Carolan.

Margaret Carolan

Coming off the Boat at Night

Originally from Crossmolina, Co. Mayo, Margaret moved to Manchester in her 20s where she spent her career as a carer and volunteered for Irish community organisations.

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Mark T. Cox.

Mark T. Cox

The Irish Lens on the Queer World

Mark is a cabaret artiste, pianist, entertainer, storyteller and comedian from Lissycasey, Co. Clare who moved to London in the 2010s where he also leads Queer History Walking Tours of London.

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Richy O'Gorman.

Richy O’Gorman

Bond between Windrush and Irish Migrants

Richy, hailing from Thurles in Co. Tipperary, and his partner, Taurayne McKen, of Jamaican heritage, designed “More Blacks, More Dogs, More Irish” T-shirts in response to the historical discrimination signs.

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Rosemary Adaser.

Rosemary Adaser

I Didn’t Have a Choice

Founder of the Association of Mixed Race Irish, Rosemary moved to London in 1977 having been raised in Mother and Baby Homes and industrial schools.

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Sean Cloherty.

Sean Cloherty

Left to Help my Mother

Sean grew up on a small farm on Lettermore Island in the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking region). He moved to Britain when he was 16 and worked as a pipe-layer and now lives in Liverpool.

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Siobhán McSweeney.

Siobhán McSweeney

Every Immigrant Thinks They Never Left

Born in Aherla, Co. Cork, Siobhán is a BAFTA-award winning actor, best known for playing the iconic Sr. Michael in Derry Girls and her roles in Holding and The Great Pottery Throwdown.

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Teresa Gallagher.

Teresa Gallagher

Crying Into Their Pints

Teresa is the founder of Immigrant Counselling and Psychotherapy (icap). She was born in Co. Donegal and trained to be a psychotherapist in London after serving in the religious orders.

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Tess McGuire.

Tess McGuire

A Decision Made For Me

Tess McGuire, from Co. Waterford, is currently Treasurer of the Council of Irish County Associations London, and co-founded the Irish Association of North London in 1973.

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