Monday, 8 October 2012

Border Drive

William Patrick O’Keeffe (known as Bill) from Birr, County Offally came to Leicester in 1956 and stayed with his sister Kathleen.

Kathleen already lived in Leicester at the bottom of Border Drive, Mowmacre Hill. Bill’s mum was over too, also living with Kathleen, along with two brothers Eugene (known as Paddy). The other brother, Bob, followed soon after.

Bill’s father, also called William, was a barber by trade and had died when Bill was just 11. Bill’s mum, also called Kathleen, was a District nurse and as she was out a lot working the elder sister, Kathleen, became a mother figure to the children. The Irish would call such young girls who behaved like a grown up ‘Buddy’.  She is still today known in the family as Aunty Bud.

The children remember their Dad saying he was told”Boots or no boots, you’re going to school! ” - there were no excuses.

Bill had been in the Irish Army and had also worked as a mechanic, a trade he learnt in the army. When he came to Leicester he worked as a bus driver for Midland Red Buses.

Joanie O'Keffe, Border Drive.
Joan Elaine Carlisle, known as Joanie, came to Leicester in 1956 from Nagpur in India to stay with her eldest sister Eileen who was already here living with her young family at 80 Border Drive, Mowmacre Hill.

Joan’s father had been adopted and changed his surname to that of his birth mother, Mary Carlisle.  Joan’s mother was of Dutch descent.

Joan and Bill met one night at the Palais de Dance. In those days men and women would stand on either side of the dance hall: the women waiting for the men to ask them to dance. Joan has spotted William and turned several fellas down before he plucked up the courage to ask her. It was only when he walked her home that they realised they both lived on the same street!

She next saw him getting off the bus they were both on and prodded him in the back with her umbrella to get his attention. Bill didn't sat much when they first met so Joanie thought he was the silent type. Actually he was a bit embarrassed as girls didn't usually understand his Irish accent!

They were both Catholic and got married in 1959 at Our Lady’s Church on Moira Street. They were both well educated: Joan worked as a secretary at the tax office, and later as a medical, then, legal secretary.
The new Mr. and Mrs.O'Keefe
Although from an Anglo-Indian background, Joan embraced Bill’s Irish culture and was known for her fantastic curries and Irish coffees. When they moved up to Stonesby Avenue the kids remember people coming round after a night out at The Eyres Monsell club, their Dad rolling back the rugs and everyone enjoying a good dance.

After they were first married Bill went back home for work and Joan and their two sons, William John (known as Billy) and Paddy stayed with Joan’s sister, Eileen.
The plan was for Bill to call the family back home but things changed and he came back to England instead.
Bill and Billy, Border Drive.
 The family then moved into a flat on Clarendon Park Rd where their third child, Suzanne was born. Their landlord was a Mr Singh.

Just before their fourth child Jacqui, was born they moved to Stonesby Avenue, Saffron Lane. Four years later the family was complete when Siobhan was born.

Bill was reinstated on the buses on his return to England. However he later picked up his old trade of mechanic and worked for Hanger’s Motors on Welford Rd where Homebase now stands. In 1979 he began working for himself at 503 Saffron Lane, next to Burrows and Smiths.
Tom Cullen and Bill O'Keefe, 88 Stonesby Avenue.

All the children attended the new Holy Cross School on Stonesby Avenue in the 70s, where they all made their Holy Communion. Suzanne O’Keefe was in the same class as Marie Byrne. Jacqui was in the same class as Helen Considine and Billy played football with Helen’s brother Timmy. Billy O’Keefe was in the same class as Sandra Callaghan and remembers John Mullholand and Mick Tansey.  Along with the above, other family friends include the Brady’s, the Tyrell’s, the O’Hara’s and the Dempsey’s.

The family knew the Silks, Josie and Tom and the children, and Tom built the extension on their house on Stonesby Avenue.

Their mixed race background was still quite unusual in the 70s and Billy remembers being called” Double Dutch Paddy Pakki “ by other kids.

Billy and Paddy were altar boys at St John Bosco and Suzanne later married her husband Mark Porter there in1981.

Billy and Suzanne remember that if you danced on the bar at St Pat’s club you’d get a bottle of pop and a packet of crisps.

Billy now has a son of his own, named William Michael (known as Will).
All 3 generations of Williams uncannily have birthdays on the 22nd of the month:
William Patrick, January 22: William John, May 22 and William Michael, August 22!

If you know any of the other people mentioned in the O'Keefe story please get in touch and tell us about it. If you'd like to tell your own family's story 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.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

RIP Cathleen

Cathleen and her husband , Don Nolan.

Yesterday was a sad day for The Irish in Leicester: we said goodbye to the lovely Cathleen Nolan.
Cathleen was one of the first people I interviewed for this blog. She willingly agreed to help me and turned up with more photos and stories that I could possibly use here. She had been born around the corner from my own mother in The Liberties, Dublin, and there was more than a bit of me that hoped she might remember Sarah Hill, or more likely her younger sisters. Cathleen went by many names and "Kitty"  Nolan, as I liked to call her, was the name of one of my aunties, so one away or another I felt a connection with her.

She was lively and charming, a singer and a dancer: clearly a beauty in her day and a handsome woman right up to the day she died. She had an eye for clothes and fashion and would often comment on the cut of my coat, the length of a skirt or the turn of a heel. She will be sadly missed.

Cathleen with her own photo on the Ipad.
Read Cathleen and Don's story here.

If you'd like to tell your family's story 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.