Though it has to be said that the stewards, in their efforts to clean up the terraces, are probably a little too zealous in their sanitization policy as they clamp down (outside the hallowed Stretford end) on the ribald banter traditionally associated with football fans. I saw one quite innocent fan being ejected from the stadium for jumping up and down from his seat singing risqué football songs.
Ironically this assimilation into English society was promoted by the main organization that the majority of the Irish emigrants trusted, namely the Catholic Church. Though the Church did Trojan work looking after the spiritual and social needs of the Irish, many of its native hierarchy wanted to ensure it maintained its indigenous ambiance and made every effort to have the newcomers became first and foremost ‘English Catholics’. Of course they could not totally kill off support for Irish separatism. In fact it was in this northern city that one of the most famous episodes in Irish republicanism mythology occurred- the Manchester Martyrs. The hanging of 3 Fenians in 1867 for the accidental killing of a policeman during a successfu
Yet there was always a hard core of dedicated volunteers that promoted Gaelic sports, music and traditions in Manchester.
But they were too often swimming against the tide with many wanting to adopt lock, stock and barrel the key characteristics of the majority population. For some, Ireland was too closely identified with poverty, ruralism, backwardness and a lack of modernity. For others it was a sense of bitterness towards Ireland for forcing them to leave family and friends behind and endure a life of loneliness in order to eke out an existence of sorts in a foreign and often hostile land.
Oddly enough, a song written by an English Communist Manchurian of Scottish extraction about a district in Manchester became one of the most famous Irish traditional ballads of all time. Ewan McColl wrote Dirty Old Town about his native Salford. But it secured such international status when it was covered by the Dubliners in the 1960s that its lyrics were deemed to refer to Dublin.
British & 'British Irish' Contribution to the Recent Global Popularity of 'Irishness'
From the early 1980s though, there was a marked revival in Gaelic culture amongst the young Manchester-Irish as a counter-reaction to the demonization of the Irish during the emergence of the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland particularly during the period of the Hunger Strikers, the rise of radical Sinn Fein and the harshness of special legislation such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act towards the Catholic Irish community. This was strengthened by the growing global popularity of English-Irish bands such as the Pogues; the Irish soccer team with its English-Irish soccer players (John Aldridge, Mick McCarthy, Andy Townsend etc) led by an Englishman Jack Charlton and the phenomena of the Irish-American inspired Riverdance with its attractive sensual Irish dancing. Yet it was courageous English political activists such as
Note: Many thanks to the Manchester Irish.com website with its Manchester's Irish Story
Plus! Check out the website for Irish supporters of Manchester United at www.irishreddevils.com