Sunday, February 13, 2011

Oh, Mary, this London's a wonderful sight

The Irish newspaper, the Tribune, reports the following horrendous news:
Hundreds of impoverished Irish people with no known family are buried in unmarked mass graves in London every year by their local councils. 
In a case recently highlighted by the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain, working under the auspices of the Irish Bishops Council, Galway native Patrick Duggan would have been buried in a 'pauper's grave' by Southwark council, had not outreach workers from the chaplaincy been able to trace Duggan's family.

The Irish Elder Persons project, based in the Camden Irish Centre and run by the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain, tracked Duggan's relatives and his remains are to be returned for burial in Ireland.
I took the title of this post from the old song, "The Mountains of Mourne":
Oh, Mary, this London's a wonderful sight,
With people all working by day and by night.
Sure they don't sow potatoes, nor barley, nor wheat,
But there's gangs of them digging for gold in the street.
At least when I asked them that's what I was told,
So I just took a hand at this digging for gold,
But for all that I found there I might as well be
Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.
And the above photo I took in 2007, while in Ireland. My eldest brother lives a few miles from this beach, with the Mourne Mountains in the distance.

Research into migration has uncovered quite different patterns from various ethnic groups. Young Italian men would often arrive in the U.S. in the 19th century, single, then work for a few years before going back to their home village to find a bride to marry. They would then re-emigrate with their new wife, back to the U.S.

The Irish pattern shows single Irish immigrants, perhaps the eldest son or daughter, moving to the U.S. or U.K., where they worked hard and long hours, sending money back home to support a large family. The family became more familiar with the weekly or monthly money check, than with the person sending it, who often remained single, solitary, isolated. Though younger siblings might follow as immigrants, just as often the family might move on, change, disperse, older relatives die, and in a far-flung corner of the U.S. or Australiz, or New Zealand or Canada, or not so far away, in England, these single immigrants might endure but not assimilate: the focus was always working hard to provide for the family.

So it goes.