Thursday, 23 August 2012

The General Hospital

Julia Sullivan, known as Shelia, came to Leicester on Sept 13, 1955. She already had two sisters here: one was working as a nanny for an English family and the other, Eileen, was married to an Englishman, Eamon Snee.

Julia was one of eight children and the youngest of six girls. She was educated at the Convent school back home in West Kerry and longed to pursue her interest in horses. However, her father felt it was not a career befitting a convent educated girl and expected her to get something better.

When she first came to Leicester she lived with her married sister on Duxbury Rd, off Uppingham Rd and later moved into nurses’ accommodation at The General Hospital on the outskirts of the city near Evington. 

The General Hospital, Gwendolen Rd.

Coming from the country at home she loved living on the outskirts of town, as it was then, and hearing the animals and horses in the morning. The new Goodwood Estate had been built but not yet around the General Hospital where you could still see working farms.

Shelia earned £7/17/6d a month and the highlight of the month  was going to Brucciani’s on Horsefair St. for coffee and cherry cake. She could also buy a new skirt in M+S for 29/11d and a blouse for £1!

She loved to go dancing at the “Irish venues”: Sacred Heart, The Co-op Belgrave Rd, The Trade Hall  St. James’ St., St. Peter’s parish hall on King Richard’s Rd and the Corn Exchange (which she remembered didn’t have a bar). And of course there was always De Montfort Hall on St. Patrick’s night. She and the other nurses would search the drawers for odd 3d. bits at home to give them the money to get in to the dances. 

Sheila belonged to the Pioneer Association, a Catholic temperance group, and she had taken a pledge not to drink. She kept this till she was 23 when at a nurse’s party she held onto the same drink all night so that the others wouldn’t keep on at her!.

The nurses had an English lady, May, who looked after them in the nurses' home and lived on St. Saviours Rd. She treated them all well and the girls would bring her back presents from Ireland when they went home. Sheila remembers May having a particular present from Ireland with Irish writing on it that said…Made in Japan!

One year there was a polio epidemic back home in the National schools and Shelia’s mother told her not to go home for the annual holiday in September. Sheila was given permission to take her holiday ay Christmas which was unheard of. She travelled back with another nurse, Mona Carey from County Clare, and turned up at Holyhead without a ticket and had to wait two days with no food to get a ferry home. When she arrived in Dublin she was due to stay with another nurse, Marie before carrying on home to Kerry the next day. This arrangement fell through and Marie arranged for Sheila to stay with a blind friend. Sheila spent a long night worrying if the friend would be able to wake her up on time in the morning….. which of course she did!

Sheila says that most people at home in West Kerry were self sufficient and lived a much better life that the city people: city life in Leicester was new to her and she had never had chips or seen a Brussel sprout!

If you'd like to be involved contact us on 0116 276 9186 or pop in to:
The Emerald Centre, Gipsy Lane, Leicester. LE5 OTB

We're now also on Twitter: follow me on  @irishleicester

Click here to view a map of The Irish in Leicester.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Work places

Just a few  places ( where photos allow) that The Irish in Leicester have worked in over the years...
Tommy Holt

Briggs Tannery.
Thanks to Dennis Calow at Vanished Leicester

Biggs Tannery.
Thanks to Dennis Calow at Vanished Leicester


British Shoe Corporation. Thanks to

Foxes Glacier Mints

Sheila Sullvan
The General Hospital. Thanks to

Dunlop building. Thanks to
Northbridge Engineering. Thanks to

The Hillcrest hospital. Thanks to
The Towers Hospital. Thanks to

Patricia Morton
Imperial Typewriters. Thanks to

Chris Conlon

The collieries of Ellistown.
Norren Jones

Cherub's.Thanks to Colin Hyde.

Thanks to Colin Hyde for the photos: East Midlands Oral History Archive

Vanished Leicester is part of a fantastic resource, My Leicestershire , which is part of The East Midlands Oral History archive 
If you'd like to be involved contact us on 0116 276 9186 or pop in to:
The Emerald Centre, Gipsy Lane, Leicester. LE5 OTB

We're now also on Twitter: follow me on  @irishleicester

Click here to view a map of The Irish in Leicester.

Friday, 17 August 2012


After a summer away from blogging I'm encouraged back by a tweet today from

I love their regular posts about the 100 most popular Irish surnames and always retweet them, hoping that someone out there sees their own family name. I've seen names that remind me of primary school: Cunningham, Cullen, Barry, Foley, Kenny, O'Keefe and names of those that I've been lucky enough to meet in their later years through The Emerald Centre here in Leicester: Higgins, Brady. Of course what I'm waiting for is my name and today I got a little closer.

When my parents came over, Paddy Callaghan/Sarah Hill, they came to Leicester because my Dad's sister was here, Greta Callaghan/Tommy Holt. Tommy Holt had an aunty here Annie King/John Moran and today MORAN showed up as the 56th most popular Irish surname!

My sister and I have very English names, Lynda and Sandra. I understand, now, that giving us those names was part of assimilating into a new country and culture but as I child I desperately wanted to be called something like Bernadette: something that would seal my identity as Irish. (By my confirmation though, I was clearly developing my "where do I belong" internal crisis and chose Lucy as my confirmation name!). 

Callaghan, however, could not be mistaken for anything else but Irish and I loved it. My Dad's full name was Patrick Joseph Callaghan and I couldn't have been more proud.

Grandma Callaghan, left, and my Dad, Patrick Joseph Callaghan.

In those days it was assumed that all us girls would dutifully marry and change our names and I can remember trying out other surnames and worrying that if I married an Englishman all traces of my Irishness would be lost: Lynda Jones? Lynda Smith? I couldn't bear the thought. 

Of course, for a while we had Jim Callaghan as Prime Minister so thankfully, everyone could spell my name.  (Dirty Harry Callahan just confused things).These days it's back to spelling it out every time and correcting the various versions that come in by post and email.

So I'll continue to look forward to the next post from the 100 most popular Irish surnames, thrilled that a name within my family circle has appeared but secretly pleased that my own will appear higher up the scale  (I hope!)

Find out more about the name MORAN and look through for your own at Your Irish Family 
Read more here about Greta Callaghan/Tommy Holt and Annie King/John Moran  and their early lives in Leicester.

If you'd like to be involved contact us on 0116 276 9186 or pop in to:
The Emerald Centre, Gipsy Lane, Leicester. LE5 OTB

We're now also on Twitter: follow me on  @irishleicester

Click here to view a map of The Irish in Leicester.