The search is on for Irish emigrants who settled in Luton between 1940 and 1960 and would like to tell their stories. They were a generation forced from their homeland to look for employment, and thousands moved to the town and decided to stay. Among them were Luton Corporation bus workers James and Teresa Galvin, pictured right in Manchester Street in 1951. James was a driver and Teresa a conductor.
Luton Irish Forum hopes to extend, with the help of Yesteryear readers, its archive of tales from settlers during the Second World War and the 15 years after the conflict ended.
During the first stage of its Catching The Boat project, the Forum held “reminiscence workshops” in schools relating to industries, skills and uniforms.
Reconstruction of the Princess Maud – the ship on which many migrants travelled – and working life uniforms were portrayed in the St Patrick’s pageant and the Love Luton parade.
An exhibition of schoolchildren’s artwork and creative writing relating to the project was held at Stockwood Discovery Centre in July.
Now the Forum has launched the second stage of the project, which includes the memories of individuals, plus photos in the Luton News archive at Wardown Museum.
A grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund has made it possible for the valuable contribution of settlers from Ireland to life in Luton to be documented.
Tom Scanlon of Luton Irish Forum said: “Many of the migrants worked in emerging industries, helping to build up the town’s economy in the years following the War.
“Catching The Boat highlights the immense contribution Irish settlers made to Luton’s skilled workforce, economic development and supportive infrastructures to subsequent multicultural emigrants.
“This is a timely opportunity for a generation of people forced from their native countries in search of employment.
It will allow them to tell their own individual stories – often harrowing, sometimes amusing in hindsight – before they are lost to us forever. We are proud to be part of this great project.”
Robyn Llewellyn, head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said: “This project will help to show how different communities settled in Luton and then made their own special contribution to its development. It’s a story of shared endeavour and achievement.”