Emigration 1950s and 2011

The involuntary emigration of tens of thousands of our fittest, best-educated, most qualified and most enterprising of our youth, has sadly resumed.

Perhaps we ought to reflect on that of an earlier generation. 

The words are those of a German writer Heinrich Böll who loved Ireland greatly, as evidenced in his Irish Journal (1957) …

‘These farewells at Irish railway stations, at bus stops in the middle of the bog, when tears blend with raindrops and the Atlantic wind is blowing: Grandfather stands there too – he knows the canyons of Manhattan, the New York waterfront, for thirty years he has been through the mill – and he quickly stuffs another pound note into the boy’s pocket, the boy with the cropped hair, the runny nose, the boy who is being wept over as Jacob wept over Joseph: the bus driver cautiously sounds the horn, very cautiously – he has driven hundreds, perhaps thousands of boys whom he has seen grow up, to the station, and he knows the train does not wait and that a farewell that is over and done with is easier to bear than one which is still to come.

He waves, the journey into the lonely countryside begins, past the little white house in the bog, tears mixed with mucus, past the store, past the pub where Father used to drink his pint of an evening: past the school, the church (a sign of the cross – the bus driver makes one too) … the bus stops … more tears, more farewells: Michael is leaving too, and Sheila .. tears, tears ..

The journey by bus and train from here to Dublin takes eight hours, and what is picked up on the way, the ones standing in the corridors of overcrowded trains with cardboard boxes, battered suitcases or duffel bags, girls with a rosary still wound around their hands, boys with marbles still clinking in their pockets – this freight is only a small part, only a few hundred of the more than forty thousand who leave this country every year: labourers and doctors, nurses, household help, and teachers – Irish tears that will blend in London with Polish and Italian tears – and in Manhattan, Cleveland, Liverpool and Sydney too.’


Let us recall others who were brought out of their own country to a different form of slavery ..

At least that’s my excuse for including this splendid piece of choral singing !

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