John

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There was an awful lot of Irish in the 60s working on the buildings and I?ve met loads of people who say, ?Oh my Mother?s Irish, my Father?s Irish, my Aunt is Irish.? There is always somebody Irish and I always say, ?Well who isn?t Irish?? We have this connection.

I came from Sligo in the Irish Republic in 1959 when I was 17. I arrived here in a big city coming from a very small rural town in Ireland. It was very strange. I found a room for myself. There was an awful lot of Irish then working on the buildings. They more or less built Birmingham and they worked really hard. I wasn?t that way inclined, my sort of thing was more on the store keeping, clerical side.

I joined the Territorial Army and I met some friends through that and then I went to live in Small Heath. There was an English family took me into their home and I stayed with them for about 2 years. They were very nice people. I was just like one of the sons and we got on very well.

The 60?s was a very exciting time. I did have a lot of cousins here and we used to go out quite a lot, to the Locarno in Hurst Street and the Shamrock, and the Harp Dance Hall in Walford Road. I missed a lot of that when I went back to Ireland. I think once you are away from that sort of environment things are different. You haven?t got much money in your pocket, there?s no jobs and you think, ?oh I?m away again!? So that?s why I came back here, better quality of life if you like.

I was always into stores, warehousing, checking, pricing, receiving goods and all that type of thing. The thing that really used to get to me was the stock taking. At that time you didn?t have the computers you know. So you had to do it by hand and you had to write everything down. It wasn?t heavy work it was just mind-boggling.

When I joined the Territorial I found that very interesting. The barracks that I started off from was in Stoney Lane and I was in the Royal Artillery Signals Core and I was the wireless operator. We went to quite a lot of different places.

I stayed in rooms or bed sits because there wasn?t flats. At lot of us Irish just rented a room, we were pleased to have a place to stay and we had our freedom. I put my name down on the council list in the 1970?s. They referred me to Moseley and District and said that there were these new flats that had recently been built and would I be interested? I jumped at it. It was a big thing, very exciting.

Where I am now is on the ground floor. I?ve got a garden so it?s like a little house really. I?m 69 now and I retired about 10 years ago. I?ve got health problems but I keep myself busy. I like to be very much involved with Moseley and District anyway. I?ve been Chair of the resident?s committee now for 3 years. I think that is an achievement in itself. That has given me great confidence and has taken me out of myself. It?s kept my brain ticking over.

After 45-50 years if I didn?t think Birmingham was my home, if I wasn?t settled or I didn?t feel happy or belonged, there?s no way I would be here, that speaks for itself. I?ve met loads of people who say, ?my Mother?s Irish, my Father?s Irish, my Aunt is Irish.? There is always somebody Irish and I say, ?well who isn?t Irish?. We have this connection. I go back once a year and when I go back to Ireland they say, ?you?ll have to get rid of that Brummie accent you know?. My accent is now Brummie Irish, the best of both and comes across as you might expect after 40 Years plus! I always attend Birmingham?s St Patricks Day Celebrations which is the third largest with visitors from far and wide and attracts people from all cultures ? it?s a great event.

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