Page 3, 13th December 1963

13th December 1963
Page 3
Page 3, 13th December 1963 — A higher status

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A higher status

for the Irish who immigrate

The Irish in Britain, by John Arthur Jackson (Rontledge & Kegan Paul, 300.

Reviewed by DESMOND FISHER IRISH emigration is nothing new. As early as 1728, three to four thousand people, mainly from Ulster, were leaving every year for America and the West Indies. In 1876, a pamphlet was issued by Irish settlers in the U.S. for the guidance of intending emigrants.

But it was the Great Famine of 1846/ which began the real exodus, reaching its peak in the 1880's when two-thirds of the persons born in 'Ireland were living outside the country.

Irish migration to Britain goes back to the 3rd century. Bristol had an Irish settlement before 1200 A.D. and Liverpool had one in the 17th century. But much of the migration was seasonal. Irish workers coming for 3 Well to work on the land.

With the coming of the steampackets the flow increased and deck fares averaged fivepence a head in 1824 for the Irish Sea crossing. dropping once in that year to 3d. In Glasgow successive estimates of Irish Catholics were 8,245 in 1819, 25,000 in 1821 and 31,000 in 1831. The Census of 1841 recorded a total of over 400,000 in England, Wales and Scotland.

Today the number a Irish-born in Britain is probably over one million and the Irish-born population of London, for instance. now constitutes" 54 per cent. of the total. The likelihood that the influx will continue and the peculiar problems posed forced the British Government to exempt Irish citizens front the controls imposed by the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962.

Mr. Jackson brilliantly analyses the "push" and "pull" forces of emigration, the economic, social and psychological reasons for leaving and the attractions (often illusory) offered by Britain.

The hulk of his book is made tip of a description of the experience of the Irish immigrant in Britain down the years. In Glasgow in 1842, even before the great wave of Irish emigration began, "is description read: "We entered a dirty low passage like a house door; which led from the street through the first house to a square court imme.dialely behind. which court, with the exception of a narrow paTh round it leading to another long passage through a second house. was occupied entirely as a dung receptacle of the most disgusting kind. "Beyond this court the second passage led to a second square court, occupied in the same way by its dunghill; and from this court there was yet a third passage leading to a third court and third dungheae "There were no privies or drains there and the dungheaps received all the filth which the swarm of wretched inhabitants could give: and we learned that a considerable part of the rent of the houses was

paid by the produce of the dungheaps . . . .

"The interiors of these houses end their inmates corresponded with the exteriors. We :saw halfdressed wretches crowding together to be warm; and in one bed, although in the middle of the day, several women were imprisoned under a blanket. because as many others who had on their backs all the articles of dress which belonged to the party were out of doors in the streets."

One of Air. Jackson's most valuable points is that the Irish were often blamed for evils which were not of their doing. The fact that Irish areas in British towns were centres of overcrowding, vice, disease and squalor was not the fault of the Irish.

"The Irish had the misfortune to be rather over-represented at the bottom of social life but the conditions they experienced were in greater or lesser degree those which were the common lot of the large majority of the working-class of the country for much of the 19th century."

In Manchester an examination of the badly-ventilated, damp and cellars showed 1.500 cases in which three persons slept in one bed: 738 cases in which four persons slept in one teed; 281 cases of five persons, 94 eases of six persons, 27 cases of seven persons, and two cases of eight persons sleeping in one bed. Thirty-one people had no bed at ail.

Filthy and unsanitary conditions bred disease and pestilence. There were other factors more related to Irish customs which appear barbaric to us today—the retention of corpses for long periods because there was not enough money to bury them; the keeping of human


The Latin American Church and the Council, by Francis Houtart (Feres 1 Newman Demographic Survey, 7s. 6d.).

BBETWEEN 1958 and 1962, Fr. Houtart, director of the International Centre for SocioReligious Research in Brussels, supervised a team of sociologists and economists. preparing the first comprehensive study of society in I.atin America set within a framework of Catholic realities and problems there.

The 40 volumes in which the results of that study are being published in Spanish are here condensed by Fr. Houtart into a 72-page booklet, in English. to serve as a quick introduction to Latin America. This summary was prepared as a guide for the Lattn American bishops attending the Vatican Council.

Beginning with a survey of social change in Latin America, it analyzes the impact of this change on the Church, indicating with tables and statistics the new relationships being developed between clergy and laity.

This booklet, if written in a rather dry sociological style. is an absolutely excellent introduction to the region for all concerned with the future of the Church -there. It is recommended without reservation to all engaged in training missionaries for Latin America.


and animal excrement for sale; the use of dangerous sedation for children while the parents were at work and the incentives to infanticide offered by burial clubs which paid 1:3-£5 oa the death of a child which cost II or 30/to bury.

The problems associated with bad housing still exist to some extent today and help to perpetuate the bad name of the Irish in Britain and also to perpetuate the existence of Irish areas with their own subcultural patterns, producing personal and social maladjustment to the British environment.

But generally today, the Irishman and woman is more readily accepted and the change in occupational status of the immigrant w

has helped him achieve new status in the community. In a recent survey of hospitals in South Croydon, for instance, three separate matrons failed to number their Irish employees among the immigrant staff.

Mr. Jackson devotes an interesting chapter to the relationship between the Catholic Church in Britain and the Irish immigrant. Irish people, in whom religion and nationalism were closely fused, and who were generally regarded as indolent, poor and criminal were not welcomed by a Church seeking to establish itself economically and socially in a classconscious country.

Today the Irish difficulty in fitting into the established pattern of Catholic life in Britain may be explained by his difficulty in adjusting from his predominantly Catholic background in Ireland to a situation where his church is a minority group in a largely secular culture, "His drift away from parish life may arise partly from natural revoli coupled with new experiences of urban life in Britain. partly from the opportunities for Sunday employment and overtime wages, partly from the strangeness he may feel in some English parishes and partly from the fact that a large proportion of the immigrants are in the younger age

groups which .... are particularly liable to lose touch with the

church .

"It would also appear that the Catholicism of the Irishman is internalised only to a very slight degree. In general his religious fife is made up of social and ritual forces which through the person of the priest hand him to God.

may understand little about the meaning ofhis faith and is not trained to discuss or justify it. "In addition, in many of the rural communities from which the immigrants come the pressures of eonformity and lie central role of the priest in the community may have served to inhibit a revolt which may well develop in a situation where anonymity can be achieved.

The maintenance of Irish social patterns Ill British cities through pah society, dance halls and close kinship ties no doubt help them to prevent the defection being greater than it might be otherwise." Mr. Jackson, however. deals also with the other side of the Coin and pays a tribute to the contribution to the develop merit of the Catholic Church in Britain.

He has written a carefullyannotated and well-thought out book. All his analyses may not be fully acceptable but the general picture he paints is certainly true in the reviewer's experience. His book will be read with great interest and, one hopes, some profit by both the Irish immigrant and the members of the community to which he has come.

One of our

refinecrst' lady wits

Reviewed by BROCARD SEWELL, 0.Carm. Muriel Spark: A Biographical and Critical Study. by Derek Stanford (Centaur Press: 25s.).

MRS. SPARK has a larger body of published work to her credit than perhaps most of the readers of her novels arc aware of.

Her books are sufficiently numerous and various to justify the writing of a critical survey of them, and Mr. Stanford's studies of Mrs. Spark's poetry and of her books on the Brontes. Mary Shelley, and Masefield are informative and illuminating.

Mrs. Spark is a poet of considerable power and accomplishment, and Mr. Stanford is quite right in believing that some of het poems. especially "The Fanfarla" (published in 1952 in the small hook of the same title), The Rout", and "The Transcendentalist", ought to be much better known.

Whether Mrs, Spark's novels require the commentary which Mr. Stanford offers is more doubtful. Muriel Spark is uadoubtedly one of the "refined'ste wits of the age"; but potentially she is something very much more.

In the end it may be that her lasting monument will be a major work of criticism and interpretation, yet to be written—perhaps that Commentary on the Book of Job which she has long had in mind. The biographical part ("Muriel Spark: a Recollection") of Mr. Stanford's book I found embarrassing in tone throughout, and I cannot think that its publication does either the author or his subject a service.

Mr. Bernard Stone's complete list of the published works of Muriel Spark makes a valuable appendix: but surely it is a Check-List rather than a "Bibliography"? The number of rnisprints in this hook is inexcusable: but Mr. Stanford does seem to be singularly unfortunate over proper names. In a former work of his the great Archbishop Whately consistently appeared as "Whatley"; this time we have a reference to Cyril "Connolley"I


Reviewed by FRANK DAVEY The Story of the Crusades, by Alfred Duggan (Faber, 21s.). NOBODY, perhaps, is better qualified to simplify the complex story of the Crusades than Mr. Duggan, who a year or two ago in "He Died Old" unravelled so brilliantly the tangled life story of Mithra


But even he bas obviously not found it an easy task in 250 pages to present a completely clear narrative for the young, or even the ordinary reader, of the 200 years of warfare to redeem the Holy Places from the infidel.

Where he succeeds, above all, is in portraying the more outstanding dramatis personae on both sides — the shifty emperors of Constantinople, Peter the Hermit, the Frankish Counts in all their variety of character and their rivalries,

There is Saladin who could show more chivalry than many knights, Barbarossa, Richard Coeur de Lion (fascinating to learn that because a victim of mal de mer he preferred to campaign by land!). and the saintly king Louis of France.

These and many others Mr. Duggan weaves most skilfully into the tapestry of the eight Crusades.

Moreover, he describes the tactics, armour. weapons and siege engines used — such things as the well-kept secret of Greek Fire and the fighting methods of the Egyptian Mamelukes — in a way that explains how battles were won and lost.

There were certainly exalted moments, as when the crusaders fought beneath the True Cross or the (more doubtful) Holy Lance or heard Mass at the Holy Sepulchre.

But what a long record of suffering, cruelty, treachery, ambition and self interest, the slaughter and enslaving of men, women and children, and failure through those 200 years!

Mr. Duggan is excellent on the rise and decline of the military Orders — the Tempters. the Teutonic Knights, the Hospitallers. He hazards an intriguing theory that had they been one. instead of three. "a single Order. directly ruled by the Pope, might have kept Jerusalem a Christian city to this day."

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