Friday, 30 May 2014

Cottesmore Rd

Katrina Creighton’s Mum and Dad came here in 1956. Her Dad, Harry, was from Abbeyleix in the midland part of Ireland, and her Mum, Molly (Clarke) was from Drogedha. Her brother Bobby came here first in 1955 when he was 18. He was on his way to Liverpool with a friend and his friend wanted to meet somebody here in Leicester, another friend. This friend said, “There’s loads of work in Leicester. Why don’t you stay here?” So he did.

Bobby’s other sister, Marie, and girlfriend, Deidre, soon followed and they lived in a flat on Mere Rd. At the time there were notices up saying "No blacks, No dogs, No Irish". They all found jobs and Bobby worked for Frears biscuits and his sister worked for Imperial typewriters on East Park Rd.

In 1955 Katrina’s parents decided to move here. She and her Mum arrived first while her dad stayed in Ireland to wind things up.

“I don’t think my Dad really wanted to come but my brother and sister were here so they were writing and coming back. They came back for a visit and I remember my sister bought me a load of sweets, English sweets which I thought was great, different.  But I think he was kind of a bit reluctant to come over.”

They stayed with her Mum’s friend’s cousin who they’d not met before in a house near Frog Island. It was two up two down and she remembers it didn't have a bathroom. It had an outside courtyard containing a block of three toilets which was shared by all the other houses. She remembers a very large wooden toilet seat that was squared and they smelt awful!

"I went to Slater St School. Coming from a girls’ convent and being taught by the nuns I was so shocked when a boy said he wanted to kiss me-the joys of being eight! I soon decided I didn’t like Leicester. We left what was a Corporation house in those days in Crumlin in Dublin, which was a semi with a large garden and an upstairs bathroom and a huge green with loads of kids to play with so I missed all that –it was horrible. I hated coming here. “

St. Peter's Rd

When her Dad arrived about a month later the family rented a bedsit on St Peter’s Rd. It was a large Victorian house. They had one room with two single beds, a table, a chair and a sideboard. They had to share the bathroom with three other sets of people.

Medway School, St. Stephen's Rd.
“My Mum and Dad slept in one bed and my sister and I slept in the other. Dad got us an electric ring for Mum to cook on and we washed up in the bath. I changed schools and started Medway Junior School and I remembered I hated it. My family all had work and saved every penny so that they could buy their own house. I remember the estate agent, I think it was Henley and Son, Mr. Henley, lending me Dad fifty pounds to put into his account so he could get a mortgage to purchase the house, our first house. He was ever so kind. Me Dad never forgot that.”

The next house was on Cottesmore Rd. It was cheap and disgusting. Katrina remembers it was damp, it had cockroaches and silverfish and the family had to go back to all sleeping in one room. It took them six months and several fumigations to make it habitable before it was fit to live in but resulted in her Mum having a breakdown. She changed schools again, this time to Sacred Heart on Mere Rd.

She liked living on Cottesmore Rd; made friend with the local kids and the teachers at school were nice.
“There were two nuns who taught us; they were nothing like the ones in Ireland. I was always getting the cane there. I was hopeless. I couldn’t do the work, only later to discover I was dyslexic and I was always talking. “

East Park Rd WMC
She remembers

“ We shopped in Green Lane Rd, Paddy’s Swag shop. They sold everything-a kid’s dream. My parents went to East Park Rd Working Men’s Club on a Saturday night and I remember going there many times, watching the acts and eating mushy peas and vinegar. Meanwhile my eldest brother Harry and his new wife who had remained in Dublin decided to join us here in Leicester a year later. They lived with us and Harry soon got a job at the BSUM British Shoe Company, Belgrave Rd. They saved and rented a house on Prospect Hill. A year later my sister-in law’s whole family moved over. She was the eldest of nine-they all lived around the Charnwood St. area. That’s the Houlihans.”

Prospect Hill

Prospect Hill

Harry returned to Ireland in fifty-nine. He’d made enough money to set up a business and he lives in Ichicore and celebrated his eightieth birthday last October.

Katrina’s father first worked at the Post Office and then he was a cobbler so he probably went to work in a shoe factory. He was the first one in the country to set up a “Heel Bar” in Lewis’. He was possibly working for Steadman’s. He worked for them and they asked him to do it. He did key cutting as well which was a new thing. She remembers him going down to London to set one up.

"The Wrafters are quite talented artists and musicians. Grandad was a musician and he had an audition and was accepted at the London School of Music but his wife wouldn’t let him go. He taught music all around Ireland but that sort of talent has moved to the grand daughters now and they’re all kind of like musicians. It’s amazing, and also one of his brothers was an artist and my brother in Ireland he plays the trumpet and he is a fantastic musician so that’s passed to him. Unfortunately he’s deaf now.”

One of her uncles  went to New York; "well he went to Canada and legally went to America, illegally went to America like they did. They’d just crossed over the border but he could never leave America ‘cos he couldn’t get back in. So that’s Paddy. “

Wrafter with a W is unusual name and Katrina has started a group on Facebook called 
“Name Wrafter” to see how many Wrafters were out there. She has around one hundred and forty in Canada, America, Australia.

“I had actually cousins who’d never met but worked out their family trees. It’s been really interesting because most Wrafters are an R.”

She feels there was nowhere to play in Leicester… “There was nowhere, we just played in the street whereas in Dublin we went from, it was a Corporation House. They were clearing the slums in the middle of Dublin so built all these new housing estates after the war. It was a really nice area. It’s still there now and I go visiting sometimes. But there was a big, massive big green you know to a little kids it was massive and it was just full of grass and they just mowed it and we used to...I remember going round and round on me scooter with all my friends, loads of kids, typical Dublin and I loved it there, it was lovely.”

Coming to Leicester was very different.

“Well you’d got no friends. I mean we had that awful house we went to the first sort of month, I think it was or three weeks, it was horrible. We lived with that woman and she, we didn’t know her, her and her son. He was a bit older than me, and the four of us slept in one bed when we first came over and you think well, they’re strangers!  And she had a lodger, he slept in the other room.”

Imperial Typewriters.
Katrina worked at Imperial Typewriters too when she first left school in the correspondence office, making the tea and taking the post out.

In terms of anti-Irish feeling she remembers..
“ The only time was when the IRA started their bombing. And my Mum used to go the Conny club near where they lived, near Cottesmore Rd, Uppingham Rd way, Worcester Rd. They used to go to the Conservative Club even though my Dad always voted Labour. Anyway, when the bombing started they had a go at her and she was absolutely devastated, they were like her friends. People said horrible things to her, took her a long while to go back. That’s the only prejudice we’ve ever come across. Quite a close community aren’t we really.”

“Me Mum loved Leicester. She said Leicester was good to her and her family and she wouldn’t hear anybody say anything bad about Leicester. The streets were clean, you know, she, she fitted in very well. “

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

If you'd like to be involved in The Irish in Leicester project contact us on 0116 276 9186 

or pop in to: The Emerald Centre, Gipsy Lane, Leicester. LE5 OTB or Duffy's, Pocklington's Walk, Leicester, LE1 6BU

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

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