Yearning to Breathe Free” Changing Attitudes about Immigration 1880-1920 Kate O’Mara



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Appendix G

Interview with an Irish Immigrant



The following excerpts are from an interview was conducted by John F. Sutherland, of Manchester Community College's Institute of Local History. He is speaking with Lucy Addy Richardson, formerly of Portadown, Northern Ireland, and long time resident of Manchester, Connecticut, on June 5, 1980.

…Dr. Sutherland: Why don't you tell me how you happened to come to America? That must have been a big family decision.

Mrs. Richardson: Well, I can't remember to much about it, because I was young, and I didn't realize too much about it. We were excited that we were coming. Parents didn't discuss things with children in those days. You understand? That's why there's lots of things I wish I had known, but they didn't discuss them because you were sent out from the older people if they were going to discuss things.

Dr. Sutherland: Do you know why they decided to come to America?

Mrs. Richardson: All I can remember is that work was scarce, and the family was getting bigger, and the boys were getting older. As far as I know, they wanted something different, somewhere where they could earn a living better than there. …

Dr. Sutherland: On the trip to America, did the whole family come to America.

Mrs. Richardson: Not at the same time.

Dr. Sutherland: Why don't you describe for me how.

Mrs. Richardson: If I can. Well, I know my father came alone. And of course, as you know somebody had to vouch for you, your character and everything else, I suppose, otherwise you couldn't come. So my father came to one of his cousins. In that time, he came over and then he lived with my cousin in Manchester. Families would keep boarders. That's the way they lived. They would have about half a dozen boarders from the old country, and then those boarders would help them with clearing up the meal table and doing lots of things in the house. But anyway, my father went and lived there with one of those cousins. He worked in Cheney's, as far as I know, a velvet weaver. Then, he sent for one of boys and again he sent for another and then again until there was....but during the interlude he went over home, back to the old country to see his family, and he brought some of the boys with him coming back. That was three boys and my father were here. Then they planned to bring others; we still had six people to come. So this is all surmising, I never thought much about it. At the time I don't realize the responsibility of these things. So we got a boat; it was the Campania. It was its last trip, it was so old. My father, with the boys, they had saved enough money, and they rented a home here for us to come. When we got here, we had a home. So we came over on the boat. I was sick most of the time, between seasickness and toothache, I don't remember too much about it. We came second class. That meant that we didn't have to go down in steerage. Steerage was where you stayed there, and you didn't get up on deck. It was really a terrible thing, and we used to look down at all those people, and see them and realize that we might have been down there. So finally we came over here. It took us a week. During the crossing, that was the time in 1914 [sic], when the Lusitania was sunk and the British started to fight.

..........

Dr. Sutherland: When your father first came over and lived with the cousin, did the cousin live on the same street or the same area [where your family lived after you arrived]?

Mrs. Richardson: On Winter Street.

Dr. Sutherland: Did most of your relatives live in that area?

Mrs. Richardson: Yes, there was one or two uncles had lived there, Turkingtons.

Dr. Sutherland: Were there lots of people from Portadown?

Mrs. Richardson: In this town and Bann Foot, a lot of the people came from the Bann Foot or the surrounding villages. It really was Irish - one third of the town or maybe half was Irish. There was lots of Italians at that time too. Then I got in with a lot of girls my own age. I started to get used to the place. ….

Dr. Sutherland: Why do you suppose so many people from Portadown came to Manchester?

Mrs. Richardson: Because there was a lot of their kin here. A great lot of them. That was the reason.

Dr. Sutherland: Had most of these people that you knew, worked in textiles in Portadown?

Mrs. Richardson: Oh, they had, yes. I knew a lot of them.

Dr. Sutherland: Did members of any other ethnic groups live in the neighborhood you lived in? Were there any Irish Catholics or Italians?



Mrs. Richardson: The majority was Irish, I would say. Over North, that's where the ethnic place was, the Polish, the Lithuanians, and there were some Italians over there, too. …

.......


Dr. Sutherland: Did you come over with your mother?

Mrs. Richardson: Yes. There was my mother --; when I talk about my family, I figure where they were. My mother and my oldest sister and my younger sister. I was in the middle of the family. There was five children and my mother.

Dr. Sutherland: Did you go to work as soon as you came over here?

Mrs. Richardson: Yes, I had to, and at that time I looked so tiny. The landlady that my father had, she said, "you know, you're gonna have to put your hair up; you'll have to get a long skirt, because they won't give you a job." So finally I went, and I got the job. And weaving, imagine, and silk weaving is entirely different to linen, that I was used to. Oh, I hated that job! And I really didn't care whether I worked or not. I was only young, seventeen, and I had girlfriends and, sometimes we'd go to the ladies room, and we stayed there for a half hour or so. I always remember, sometimes I would leave my loom going, and when I'd come back there would be something damaged in the web, and it would have to all be ripped out again, and oh! I got scolded for that. I hated the weaving! (Tape recorder turned off because of lawn mower outside). Finally I didn't want to work at the weaving anymore. It was hard to be shifted from one job to the other. I didn't seem to be very well. I was having trouble at the time with my system. I got a job over in the spinning mill, the Clock Mill. And I started as a doffer. Then I stayed at that for quite a while, and finally graduated to a spinner and I liked that pretty well. Before I was married, I wanted to change my job again, the spinning was quite heavy. I went into the doubling; that's another process of the silk. They double threads. So I learned that, and I stayed on that until I got married.

Dr. Sutherland: Why did you dislike weaving so much?

Mrs. Richardson: I never liked it really. It was too much responsibility. When you did something wrong with a cloth, it would keep coming through and then a thread --; for instance one of the warp --; would break, and the loom wouldn't stop and then when you'd come back, if you went away, that all had to be ripped out. And it was a hard task to do. I was young, and I didn't feel much like it. It was a job, that's all I thought about it. And I didn't earn much money; sometimes I'd earn about $5.00 a week.

SOURCE: William, Mark. Connecticut History on the Web. http://www.connhistory.org/newcomers_reading.htm 23 May 2015






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