No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish

“When I turned 18 there weren’t too many opportunities in Ireland so I had to go off to London to find work to support my parents. I remember it was a huge deal for me to queue in the shops. I had never had to queue before. One day, I went down to the bus stop and I overheard two ladies talking about me: one of them said, ‘I hate when people jump the queue!’ ‘I know, and the worst ones are always the blacks and the Irish…’ So I kept my mouth shut and walked back to the end of the queue. There were signs in the pubs saying, No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish. It wasn’t a heavenly place for an 18-year-old girl, but here I am… You know, I just got a mobile phone recently, I’m still learning how to use it, but it’s very handy. I remember how we used to keep in touch in my time. I used to write a letter every week and I would put one pound in the envelope, for them that was a lot in those days, and then in the letter would say, for example, ‘Be down at Sweeney’s Hotel at 6:30 in the evening on a Saturday and I’ll ring you’. I would have to go out to the nearby phone box, hoping nobody was using it and I would call them and we would talk a few minutes. It sounds so complicated now, with all this technology but back then it was so natural. It took a little planning but people weren’t late for meetings like they are these days!”