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The Hayloft Stable

The Irish Influence:

Migrant Workers in Northern England


About this book:

  • ISBN: 9780952328254

  • Published 2000

  • Price £4.95 + postage

  • 62 pages

  • Illustrated with black and white photographs

About this Book:

Harold Slight was born, quite literally, in the workhouse. His father was a hero of the First World War, who returned to Cumbria disabled, so the family lived in a rented house at Brampton Workhouse, near Carlisle.
Later his parents moved into Carlisle where Harold won a scholarship for further education; but horses were the love of Harold's life. Every day before school, he would get up to help the milkman with his horse drawn float and one day he decided not to go back to school but to go and work on the milkman's farm.
From there he was hired out to many farms in the Eden Valley between Carlisle and Appleby. He met his wife, Ella, while working in a turnip field. Eventually the couple had saved enough money to buy their own farm near Caldbeck.
Here he ran sheep and suckler cows and, during the 1950s and 60s, when many of the work horses were being sold for dog meat, he began to rescue Shire horses from this fate, allowing them to have a peaceful retirement on the Caldbeck Fells.
The author's life has been an interesting one, full of characters he feels priviledged to have known. Having a photographic memory he has been able to chronicle most of these people and events.
His grandparents on both sides were Irish. His grandfather was an Irish cattle drove by the name of Blair who later settled in Carlisle. His Irish grandmother, Annie Cunningham taught her grandson a great deal as did Joe Fawcett, a man he greatly admired.
This very special book tells the story of how the Irish helped to build the North of England and of the many characters who left their mark. It is written with the conviction of personal experience, enchanced by memories which go back much further through the generations, giving the reader a picture of what life was like for the Irish workers in Cumbria in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Reviews: Irish Connection

Harold Slight was born in a rented house at Brampton workhouse where his disabled father and family lived after the First World War. Horses were his passion and he gave up the opportunity of further education for farm work at various places in the Eden valley. Eventually he was able to buy his own farm near Caldbeck where, among other commitments, he provided a refuge for retired Shire horses.

Harold has always been interested in the Irish connections of his family. Using personal experiences, memories and other sources, he has written The Irish Influence, an account of migrant workers in northern England.

Their contribution to the communities they worked in was enormous. Their occupations ranged from cutting canals and building railways to laying water pipes and digging out potatoes, from harvesting and drainage to horse dealing and cattle droving.

Apart from reminding us of the demands and techniques of these various occupations, Harold gives us an insight into the social and domestic life of the Irish immigrants: the food they ate, the tools they used, the hardships they endured, the clothes they wore, the pay they received.

Lots of vintage photographs illustrate this potted history, which is bursting with information - a stimulus, perhaps, to delve more deeply into a fascinating subject. Keswick Reminder, September 2000


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