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Patrick's Story

I came over to England from Northern Ireland in 1953. The reason was because of the scarcity of work in the place where I lived which was Newry, County Down. The dole paid my passage over as I had found a job in a Spinning Mill, which was Knowles Mill in Slater Street. I had written off for the job and they accepted me. They also found digs for me. When I arrived at my digs the landlady told me I had to go for a ration book as some things were still on ration.

When I first started in the mill I felt that the Irish were only tolerated for their labour. We were also looked upon as drunken louts who squandered their wages on beer.

One day in the mill one of the machines broke down and all the side piecers had to go to help piece all the ends up. When we had finished on the machine and were all going back to our own jobs a spinner on his own machine called out to one of the lads to come and piece an end up, the lad felt that he should do it himself and told him so. For answering back the spinner got together all the other spinners, went to see the overlooker and told him what had been said. The Irish lads went to see what was being said about them. But the office door had been locked. By this time I had lost my temper because I thought we were being victimised, so I put my foot through the door and demanded to know what was being said about us. They then sent for the over-all manager of the mill. The manager told me that years ago I would have had my head put in a bucket of water, and said that I should get a clout round the ear. I asked him which one he wanted first, but I would not be responsible for my actions afterwards. I decided to leave the mill on the Friday.

When Friday came and I finished work, all the other sidepiecers decided not to work because I had. I had drawn my wages and gone back to my digs when the personnel officer came to see me, he asked me to go back to my job, so the others would start working again. I went back to work and told the others that I would be finishing at the end of the month anyway.

I had various jobs over the years but I was happiest in the open-air so that meant the building trade. I did not personally come into contact with any prejudice but I know of one or two who did.

For entertainment we went to dance halls. There was two halls where we went and the Irish girls and lads met. Then there were the pubs. What people did not realize was that these were the only places that we seemed to belong. Remember that we had left our homes, our families and friends and sometimes we felt homesick for them.